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The Return of the Souls
Day of the Dead Oaxaca
(For tour price and other information, please see the Trip Details sidebar on this page)

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day of the deadOvernight in a remote, candlelit graveyard, create an altar, cook food, visit  remote ruins, weavers, markets, mescal stills, graveyards, house altars and more all under the ambiance of Oaxaca's most colorful festival time. . .

Trip Features

Travel deep and far beyond the tourist beaten track
Immersion in Day of the Dead festival activities:

Alter building
            Bread baking
            Tamale making
            Mezcal tasting
            Village visiting



A candle-lit night in the graveyard

Visits to festival markets

Cyprus draped graveyards, topsy turvy tombstones

Archeological sites- Mitla, Yagul, and one that is off the map

Spectacular landscapes of red-rock cliffs, blue waterfalls, “frozen” springs, deep canyons, thick oak forests and huge cactus.

Ancestral rug weavers candle makers and tortilla flippers.

And as ever, small group travel (11 or less), person to person visits, home cooked meals  and an intimate look at rural Mexico that is otherwise very hard to find.

Glorious!! The most beautiful and wildest festival of the year! One of the most wonderful places in Mexico and the most beautiful season. Fall in Oaxaca means clear, vibrant air, green hillsides and field after field full of wild flowers.  And Day of the Dead means the markets, house altars and graveyards will also be filled with flowers. This is a journey to celebrate the best of places during the best of times.

DOD OaxacaOur travels will take us into rural Mexico and into the homes and workshops of weavers, candle makers, distillers, cooks and the people who create the items that are necessary to make a festival happen. And of course, this being Day of the Dead, the annual celebration of the return of the souls of the deceased, we’ll visit the bright graveyards to see each and every tomb adorned with flowers, candles, sugar cane, oranges…In every household we visit there will be an altar piled high with food, scented by copal incense and the memories of the dead.

Our backcactus tour is one of a kind for we will spend the night of Todos Santos in a remote village graveyard under a starry sky on the bend of a river in a cactus lined valley far, far from the maddening crowds. While in the village we’ll spend time building an altar, meeting bread bakers, and enjoying food with the villagers. The location is breath-taking, the people friendly and welcoming.

Our travels also will take us to the overflowing pre-festival markets, the biggest market days of the year.  We’ll visit the town of Mitla, the Zapotec “place of the dead with some of the most ornate rockwork in Mesoamerica. We’ll stay in the village of Teotitlan and visit a ceremonial candle maker and see how fine wool rugs are woven. We’llvisit a mescal distiller and pulque brewer, mill cacao and learn to make Zapotec tamales.  We’ll head into the hills to the mineral springs of Hierve el Agua to take in the spectacular springs and views… And more… plenty more. Join us on this trip and you will discover a place that words cannot describe.

Altar-Day of the Dead - Traditions Mexico Tours
Altars are filled with the foods that the ancestors loved.
Where The state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico
When Oct 27 - Nov 3, 2015
Duration 8 days/7 nights
Size 6 to 11 participants
Cost 6 or more pax $1975, 3-5 pax $2285 includes all lodging (double occupancy), most meals, all local transport, entry fees, small group travel Single supplement - $230.



B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner included in trip cost

Day1, (D) Arrive in Oaxaca for our first meeting at 6pm followed by dinner on the town. Evening in Oaxaca

Tlacolula market

Day2, (LD) After breakfast we head to the Tlacolula market, one of Oaxaca’s largest and most interesting markets, and today it will be going full tilt as people from the surrounding villages come in to buy food and flowers for the Day of the Dead celebrations. After getting our fill of the market’s excitement we will retreat to the sanctuary of a silent, tree draped cemetery, unlike any you’ve likely ever seen and a fitting place to find ourselves on our first day of travel on this Day of the Dead journey. We’ll round off the day with a visit to the peaceful ruins of the Zapotec ceremonial center of Yagul.  Evening in the village of Teotitlan del Valle.

Day 3, (BLD)  We spend today in the town out our front door, the Zapotec mega-weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, a town of 5,000 weavers. We’ll see how rugs are woven, learn about natural dyeing methods used by some weavers in the village and visit with ceremonial candle makers to learn how they ply this important local trade. But first we cook our lunch! We spend the morning with a skilled traditional cook learning how to  tamales, salsa and fruit water. Evening in Teotitlan.

Day 4, (BL) An early start this morning  to head into the hills to the little hamlet of Roaguia where  we explore the mineral springs of Hierve el Agua with their “frozen” water falls, pools and broad vistas.Then  off to the ruined palaces of Mitla, once known as the “Place of the Dead”, and legendary for the intricate stonework in the palace walls.  Here we will see the fabulously intact places with their ornate stone fretwork. After a good lunch we’ll visit a family that creates pulque, a a mild, fermented drink brewed from the sap of agave plants. We’ll also visit a still where mescal is made…a not so mild drink also made from agave plants. After that it will be time to look for a hammock and r e l a x!  Evening in Teotitlan del Valle. 

Scene with bike and flowers, Oaxaca - Traditions Mexico Tours
We travel into the hills of Oaxaca during the most beautiful time of year.

Day 5, (BLD) We leave Oaxaca valley and travel into a remote and dramatic corner of Oaxaca where cactus grows as thick as grass. Mid-morning will find us in a place of balmy air and mango and lime trees. We'll stop in a small town market below a cliff and  shop for flowers, fruits, chocolate and other items that we'll need to build our own altar. We then head to a village in a valley beside a desert river, surrounded by tall cactus and towering mountains where life moves more slowly. Here we settle into the simple and lovely adobe cabins that will be our homes for the next two nights. Then a wander into town to meet some of the villagers, see their altars, visit the graveyard and work on our own collective altar. Evening will be slow and relaxed, with time for chatting, perhaps a walk down by the river and excellent potential for stargazing in this dark corner of the earth. Evening in village.

Day 6, (BLD For those up for a hike well make an expedition this morning beyond the village to the  spectacular, but almost unknown and seldom visited  red stone ruins that top a large hill at the convergence of two rivers. These ruins are just now beginning to be excavated and understood. The location and views are breathtaking.  Afterwards there will be time for swimming and we'll spend the afternoon visiting, as is the way during Todos Santos. We'll visit the baker who still cooks in a wood-fired, stone oven and see the unusual technique of pit baked tamales. Then some rest, for this is the night the souls come home, and it is custom here to spend the pre-dawn hours in the graveyard, awaiting the return of the souls. We'll be there with the rest of the village, under the veil of stars and among candles, flowers, hushed voices.  Evening in village.

A market in Oaxaca - Traditions Mexico Tours

Day 7, (BLD) As night becomes day and the sun begins to warm the air we will flow with the villagers back to our homes and the festival for the deceased will continue. Mid-morning we will slowly pack our things and perhaps take a last dip in the river, then say our farewells. As we return to Oaxaca we will visit other cemeteries. Each cemetery is unique and idiosyncratic, small worlds  unto themselves and reminders of the short, sweet gift that are our lives. And today they will be in full glory, adorned with thousands of  flowers and full of care. Today we return to Oaxaca city, settle into our hotel and take a slow afternoon for final explorations of Oaxaca city or simply a nap. We gather this evening for a final dinner together and to share stories about all that we’ve experienced.  Evening in Oaxaca.

Day 8,  This morning catch your flights back home or continue your travels on your own.


All itineraries subject to change without notice.

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Zocalo in Oaxaca - Traditions Mexico Tours
The zocalo, or central square, of Oaxaca



Weaver in Oaxaca - Traditions Mexico Tours
Teotitlan weaver

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