Ecotourism in Oaxaca: Arroyo Guacamaya, Ixtlan District, Sierra
to a Lookout at Oaxaca ecotourism site
Arroyo Guacamaya is one of the closest ecotourism sites to
the City of Oaxaca, accessible by private vehicle in about
an hour, or public transportation. La Guacamaya has most if
not all of the features and attractions of the more distant
ecotourism locales in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, including
mountain biking, nature trails for hiking and climbing, streams
and waterfalls, lodging, childrens facilities, and a
restaurant featuring fresh fish from the local trout farm
all within a community-managed forest promoting sustainable
Getting to Arroyo Guacamaya, Oaxaca Ecotourism Site in
The village of La Guacamaya, while in the District of Ixtlan,
is only a 45 minute car ride from Villa Etla, and thus just
over an hour from the City of Oaxaca. Accordingly, while there
are a number of reasonably priced overnight cabins at Arroyo
Guacamaya, as a day trip from Oaxaca one can easily enjoy
a great deal of what the region has to offer.
There are a number of options for getting to Arroyo Guacamaya
- Hire a tour guide, driver or taxi, although this option
is best for just a day trip since one might end up paying
for the drivers down time if an overnight is preferred.
- Rent a car from one of the several vehicle rental facilities
located both at the airport and in downtown Oaxaca.
- Seek out a Oaxaca ecotourism company, although this option
might entail unnecessary expense, though an attractive option
for those without at least a little facility with the 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 of Oaxaca, 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 or free highway,
keeping to the right rather than going on the toll road (cuota).
About a minutes drive beyond the Pemex gas station at
the entrance to Villa Etla, theres a clearly marked
blue sign indicating Arroyo Guacamaya Ecoturismo, 13
kilometers, with an arrow indicating a right turn off
After leaving the main highway, and until arriving at Arroyo
Guacamaya, one does not make any additional turns. Its
therefore an easy drive and extremely difficult to get lost.
The road begins as a four-lane paved secondary highway, then
narrows to two lanes, and finally, for the rest of the drive
one is on a dirt road, often dusty depending on the time of
One quickly passes through the villages of San Miguel Etla
and then San Gabriel Etla, each with a quaint old stone church
located on the right side of the road. The terrain is rolling
hills, with mixed semi-tropical vegetation.
The pavement ends shortly thereafter, and the balance of the
drive is a gradual climb along a dirt road with numerous easy-to-navigate
switchbacks. The roadway is not particularly conducive to
motion sickness, so one need not be concerned in this regard.
Ascending, the vegetation changes from agave, cactus and mixed
brush, to scrub oak and coniferous forest of predominantly
pine. Note the brilliant yellow and occasional red bromeliads
growing on the trees.
Arrival at Arroyo Guacamaya, Sierra Norte, Oaxaca
About 45 minutes alter having left the main highway and witnessed
changes in vegetation, elevation with corresponding ear popping,
and temperature, one finally arrives. A blue 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 for a couple of kilometers to
the hillside village of La Guacamaya.
Aside from ecotourism and sustainable logging operations,
villagers dedicate themselves to predominantly agricultural
enterprises. For about half of the year the main products
harvested and taken to market (i.e. the nearby Wednesday Etla
market) are fava beans and potatoes, and for the remainder
of the year fresh flowers (in particular azucenas which have
strong cultural significant to natives of the region), berros
(similar to watercress), and ocote (wood used as kindling).
Facilities at Arroyo Guacamaya, Oaxaca Ecotourism Site
As of early 2010, the ecotourism site consists of:
- Five brick and adobe cabins each with lighting, a working
fireplace, washroom with hot water, and beds. Electricity
is provided by solar panels. Beds consist of bunk beds and
double beds. Four of the cabins house up to four people, and
one up to a family of six.
- A restaurant consisting of a large dining room with kitchen,
able to accommodate up to about 50 diners.
- Childrens swings and Jungle-Jim style climbing apparatus.
- An adobe temazcal, scheduled for completion later in the
The dining hall, in addition to serving aluminum-wrapped grilled
or fried fresh trout, serves standard Oaxacan fare such as
meats and quesadillas. Sides include salad, spaghetti with
vegetables and mushrooms, beans and tortillas. The fish broth
is equally as fresh and delectable as the appetizers and main
course offerings. Beverages include water, soft drinks, beer
Ecotourism Activities at Arroyo Guacamaya, Ixtlan, Oaxaca
Adan is a conscientious bilingual guide and resource person,
up on ecotourism matters, and anxious to provide advice and
interesting information. Consider spending at least one afternoon
with him, partaking in the various activities.
The pursuits one can enjoy include:
- Climbing through forests up to the mountain peaks of Siempreviva
and La Portillo, from which exquisite panoramic vistas of
the valleys and numerous hamlets flecking the mountainsides
can be appreciated.
- Mountain biking.
- Walking through the village.
- Learning more about local economic activities and obstacles
to the continued sustainability of the community through ecotourism.
- Visiting the trout farm, its pools fed by fast-flowing waters
from an alpine spring.
- Hiking to nearby streams and waterfalls, over soft, thick
beds of dried pine needles.
- Taking note of and photographing interesting mountain plants
such as sedum and echeveria.
As noted, the temazcal should be completed in the year 2010.
Tourists to the village will have an opportunity to partake
in the ancient healing custom of temazcal sweat facilitated
through the use of 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 the Ixtlan
district of Oaxaca. It stands alongside Cuajimoloyas, La Neveria,
Benito Juarez, Llano Grande, Ixtlan de Juarez, and other similar
yet longer-established village ecotourism sites, and boasts
similar attractions. While still developing and therefore
perhaps deficient in some activities such as horseback riding,
the relative lack of tourist numbers in and of itself constitutes
part of its allure. And of course, theres the proximity
to the City of Oaxaca, a significant bonus for most.
Contact Information for Arroyo Guacamaya Ecotourism Site,
Arrangements for visiting Arroyo Guacamaya in the Sierra Norte
of Oaxaca can be made through ones hotel or bed &
breakfast, or by calling direct: (951) 521-8127. .
Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com
and Arlene Starkman are passionate about Oaxaca. They endeavor
to retain their reputation as proprietors of one of the best
Oaxaca bed and breakfasts, Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast
). Casa Machaya, a founding member of the Oaxaca Bed and Breakfast
Association, combines the attributes of quality Oaxaca hotels,
with the characteristics of a more progressive and personalized
Oaxaca lodging style: owners are on site 24 / 7 (its
and our home), always available
to guests as their personal resources, and willing to go that
little bit extra to ensure value-added service.
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