Ecotourism in Oaxaca
Arroyo Guacamaya is one of the closest ecotourism sites to Oaxaca, accessible in about an hour. It has most of the activities and attributes of the more popular Sierra Norte nature reserves, including a trout farm, cabins, and nature walks.
Arroyo Guacamaya is one of the closest ecotourism sites to Oaxaca, accessible by private vehicle or public transportation. It has most of the features and attractions of the more distant ecotourism locales in the Sierra Norte, including mountain biking, nature trails for hiking, streams, lodging, children’s facilities, and a restaurant featuring fresh trout – all within a community-managed forest promoting sustainable logging operations.
Getting to Arroyo Guacamaya, Oaxaca Ecotourism Site
The village of La Guacamaya, while in the District of Ixtlan, is only 45 minutes from Villa Etla and just over an hour from the City of Oaxaca. While there are a number of reasonably priced overnight cabins at Guacamaya, during a day trip from Oaxaca, one can enjoy a great deal of what the region has to offer.
There are a number of options for getting to Arroyo Guacamaya ecotourism site:
• Hire a tour guide, driver or cabbie.
• Rent a car from one of the several vehicle rental facilities located both at the airport and in downtown Oaxaca.
• Seek out an Oaxaca ecotourism company, although this option might entail unnecessary expense. It is an attractive option for those with little knowledge of Spanish.
• From downtown Oaxaca near the Abastos Market, take the bus known as the “autobus comunitario de Teococuilco de Marcos Perez”, located at Calle Heriberto Jara #118, Col. Libertad.
La Guacamaya is 31 kilometers from the city, at approximately 9,000 feet above sea level. One leaves Oaxaca driving north towards Mexico City along Federal Highway 190, and continues along the “libre,” free highway, keeping to the right rather than on the toll road (“cuota”).
About a minute’s drive beyond the gas station at the entrance to Villa Etla, there is a clearly marked sign indicating “Arroyo Guacamaya Ecoturismo, 13 kilometers,” with an arrow pointing right, off the highway.
After leaving the main highway, and until arriving at Arroyo Guacamaya, one does not make any additional turns. It is an easy drive and difficult to get lost. The road begins as a four-lane paved highway, then narrows to two, and finally, for the rest of the drive one is on a dirt road.
One quickly passes through the villages of San Miguel and then San Gabriel, each with a quaint old church located on the right side of the road. The terrain is rolling hills, with mixed semi-tropical vegetation.
The pavement then ends, and the balance of the drive is a gradual climb along a dirt road with numerous switchbacks.
Ascending, the vegetation changes from mixed brush to scrub oak and coniferous forest of predominantly pine. Note the brilliant bromeliads growing on the trees.
About 45 minutes after leaving the main highway one finally arrives. A sign directing visitors to the cabins and restaurant is clearly visible with arrows pointing to the left down a smaller roadway. To the right, the road continues on to the hillside village.
Aside from ecotourism and sustainable logging operations, villagers dedicate themselves to agricultural enterprises.
As of early 2010, the ecotourism site consists of:
• Five brick and adobe cabins each with lighting, a fireplace, washroom with hot water, and beds. Electricity is provided by solar panels. Beds consist of bunk beds and double beds. Four cabins house up to four people, and one up to six.
• A restaurant able to accommodate up to about 50 diners.
• Children’s swings and Jungle-Jim climbing apparatus.
• A temazcal, scheduled for completion in 2010.
The dining hall, in addition to serving aluminum-wrapped grilled trout, serves standard Oaxacan fare such as meats and quesadillas. Sides include salad, spaghetti, beans, and tortillas. The fish broth is equally as fresh and delectable as the appetizers and main courses. Beverages include soft drinks, beer and mezcal.
Adan is a bilingual guide and resource person, anxious to provide advice and interesting information. Consider spending at least one afternoon with him, partaking in activities.
• Climbing through forests up to mountain peaks, from which exquisite panoramic vistas of the valleys and numerous hamlets flecking the mountainsides can be appreciated.
• Mountain biking.
• Walking through the village.
• Learning about local economic activities and obstacles to sustainability of the community through ecotourism.
• Visiting the trout farm.
• Hiking to streams and waterfalls, over beds of dried pine needles.
• Photographing interesting mountain plants such as sedum and echeveria.
Tourists to the village will have an opportunity to partake in the ancient healing custom of temazcal – sweat facilitated using steam combined with medicinal herbs – cleansing the body and soul. Some have described the ritual as being akin to the Iroquois sweat lodge.
For children, while the foregoing activities are both safe and educational, Arroyo Guacamaya holds the additional attraction of wooden teeter-totters and climbing apparatus, located steps from the restaurant, cabins, and temazcal.
Arroyo Guacamaya Compared to Other Oaxacan Ecotourism Sites
La Guacamaya is a relatively new ecotourism site in Ixtlan, Oaxaca. It stands alongside Cuajimoloyas, La Neveria, Benito Juarez, Llano Grande, Ixtlan de Juarez, and other similar village ecotourism sites, boasting similar attractions. While still developing and therefore perhaps deficient in some activities, the relative lack of tourist numbers constitutes part of its allure. And there is the proximity to the City of Oaxaca, a bonus for most.
Arrangements for visiting Arroyo Guacamaya in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca can be made through one’s hotel or bed and breakfast, or by calling direct: 52-951-521-8127.
About the Author:
Alvin Starkman has a Masters in anthropology and law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. Now a resident of Oaxaca, Alvin writes, takes tours to the sights, is a consultant to documentary film companies, and owns Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed and Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com), a unique Oaxaca bed and breakfast experience, providing Oaxaca accommodations that combine the comfort and service of Oaxaca hotels with the personal touch of quaint country inn-style lodging. Article source: 111 Travel Directory: Triple1.com (triple one dot com)