Before I traveled to Oaxaca, I’d never heard of Mitla before. Mitla is a really easy day trip from Oaxaca if you have a car. I went on a tour that Luke and I took with Bamba Experience and it included a stop at Hierve el Agua, Mitla, a mezcal factory, and a rug factory in the famous Teotitlan de Valle region. It’s a long day, but I really enjoyed seeing so much and having a guide to learn more about what Mitla is and the importance of the areas around Oaxaca.
The History of Mitla
Mitla is the second most important archeological site in Oaxaca. Monte Alban was famous for being a political center for the Zapotecs (and is a really amazing place that I recommend also tacking onto your Oaxaca itinerary), but Mitla was more of a religious center for them.
An interesting fact that our tour guide told us was that most of the sites around Oaxaca were destroyed by the Spanish when they colonized. Mitla was almost completely spared because carved into many of the buildings are what look like tiny crosses. The priests that traveled with the Spanish conquistadors believed that knocking down buildings with crosses on them would bring them bad luck.
Thanks to a bit of superstition, these beautifully carved stone buildings have been left in near-perfect condition considering their 10,000 years old.
How to Get to Mitla
Like I mentioned above, the easiest way to get to Mitla is to take a tour. There are tons of tour companies in the city. Most offer them in both English and Spanish. I really liked having a guide for Mitla because I knew absolutely nothing about it before we visited and he had a lot of really interesting stories to tell about it. If you do want to go with a tour company, I recommend Bamba. Our guide for this tour was seriously great.
If you want to go it alone, you’ll have to rent a car from the Oaxaca airport. If you want to book it in advance, I always recommend checking on Expedia. It’s the website I use when I want to rent a car in Mexico and it always seems to have the lowest prices. Alternatively, you can arrive at the Oaxaca airport and simply speak to the people at the different car rental desks.
What to See at Mitla
The tour I took gave us over an hour to walk around the grounds. There are a lot of different buildings that are still intact and allow you to get really close to the carvings. There are also two tombs that you can go down into which are really cool. You just have to wait your turn since they’re really small spaces and they only allow a few people in at a time.
I also really recommend checking out the church – the one you see in the picture above. The Spanish used a lot of the stone from the buildings at Mitla (the ones that didn’t have crosses on them) to build this church. It’s not very big, but it’s one of the prettiest ones I’ve seen just for the aesthetics. With all of the earthquakes that have occurred over the decades since the Spanish built so many of the churches, I’ve found it’s very rare to see a church that is still symmetrical and sits flat on the ground. This is one of those churches that has somehow managed to remain incredibly even and straight.
There’s also a market outside of the ruins where you can buy souvenirs and snacks. The tamales they served here were SO good.
If you’re planning a trip to Oaxaca, check out all of the other Oaxaca posts from my trip!
- A One-Week Oaxaca Itinerary
- The Beauty of Hierve el Agua
- What to Pack for Oaxaca
- A Visit to Monte Alban
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