Oaxaca's La Guelaguetza with Denver Botanic Gardens (July 17-23, 2021)

Denver Botanic Gardens and Reefs to Rockies are offering an unforgettable trip to Oaxaca, Mexico during its most colorful celebration of the year – La Guelaguetza.The state of Oaxaca is home to 16 different ethnolinguistic groups.  During La Guelaguetza, these communities come together to celebrate the diversity of traditions and cultures found in Oaxaca.  They gather wearing traditional clothing to perform folk dances particular to their region. At the end of the dancing, they throw “offerings” that come from the region they represent to the crowd. 

Oaxaca’s artistic and culinary heartland offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore its rich history and long-standing traditions. We’ve combined an exploration of the city and its surrounding pueblos with demonstrations by artists working in traditional methods and even a special cooking class to create an engaging tour that is sure to get you into the spirit of La Guelaguetza.

Join Yvonne Garcia Bardwell, Community Relations Manager at Denver Botanic Gardens, for this unforgettable experience that acquaints people with the culture, art, and food of Oaxaca, and what makes this region so unique.


Day 1 (Sat, July 17) – Arrival/ Oaxaca ~ Evening arrival to Oaxaca Xoxocotlan International Airport (OAX) and transfer to hotel.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: None

Estimated Drive Time Today: OAX Airport is about 30 mins from the city center.

City Centro Hotel: Located two miles from Downtown Oaxaca de Juarez, Hotel City Centro is a 4-star hotel conveniently located to area landmarks including colonial buildings, the Cathedral and Temple of Santo Domingo. All guest rooms are equipped with modern amenities in addition to a fitness center and 24-hour Front Desk service.

Day 2 (Sun, July 18) – Santa María del Tule/ Teotitlán del Valle ~ El Árbol del Tule (Tule Tree) is a Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) that holds the record for having the stoutest trunk of any tree in the world.  Its trunk has a circumference measuring almost 42 m (138 ft) in diameter and local Zapotec legend says the tree was planted about 1400 years ago.  In 2001, the site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Since 500 B.C., the Zapotecs from Oaxaca’s central valleys have been weaving and trading textiles, and the village of Teotitlán del Valle is world-famous for its fine tapestries and wall hangings. Our day continues with a visit to this charming village for a weaving demonstration and visit to the market.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: Santa María del Tule is approximately 30 mins from the city and Teotitlán del Valle is approximately 45 mins from the city.

Day 3 (Mon, July 19) – Oaxaca City and La Guelaguetza ~ The name Guelaguetza is a Zapotec word meaning “offering”. Its meaning goes far beyond the festival of the same name. In traditional villages when there is cause to celebrate, people attending the party will bring items necessary for the celebration (food, drink, and more).  Each person’s offering or “guelaguetza” allows the party to take place and becomes a part of reciprocal exchange, reinforcing social ties in the community. The streets of Oaxaca are filled with colorful festivities and people gather throughout the city to enjoy the celebration. We’ll spend the day in Oaxaca City joining in on the celebration including the festival at Fortin Hill Auditorium overlooking the city. 

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Day 4 (Tues, July 20) – Ocotlán de Morelos/ Ejutla ~ Our day begins with a visit to La Cocina de Frida in Ocotlán de Morelos for breakfast before continuing to Ejutla for a hands-on, interactive culinary experience.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: Ocotlán de Morelos is approximately 1 hr from the city and Ejutla is another 30 mins away.

Day 5 (Wed, July 21) – Cuajimoloyas ~ The Sierra Norte of Oaxaca is one of the most prolific fungi regions in the world. After breakfast, we’ll head to the mountain community of Cuajimoloyas for a forest hike with a community guide that’ll help us identify the wild mushrooms we find along the way.  More than 340 varieties of mushrooms grow in the region. We’ll learn which species are edible, which are poisonous, and which have medicinal significance. 

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: Cuajimoloyas is approximately 1.25 hrs from the city.

Day 6 (Thurs, July 22): San Martin Tilcajete ~ Oaxaca is famous for alebrijes (brightly colored Mexican folk-art sculptures of fantastical creatures). We’ll visit San Martin Tilcajete and the studio of Jacobo and Maria Angeles for an introduction to alebrijes. Jacobo is a master carver and his wife, Maria, paints trademark stylized Zapotec designs. Their popular alebrijes are shipped all over the world. We’ll even learn how to paint our own alebrijes during a hands-on workshop.

The afternoon is yours to explore Oaxaca City at leisure before our Farewell Dinner this evening.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: San Martin Tilcajete is approximately 45 mins from the city.

Day 7 (Fri, July 23): Departure ~ Transfer back to OAX Airport in time for our flight home.

Meals: Breakfast


Price: $3,595 per person for Denver Botanic Gardens members (double occupancy; two people sharing accommodations); add $100 per person for non-members. Surcharge for private accommodations on single occupancy basis: $695.

Includes: Accommodations, private transportation, full-time local bilingual trip leader, trip host from Denver Botanic Gardens, entrance fees as listed, meals as listed, basic no trip cost travel insurance (pre-departure cancellation can be added at additional cost), gratuities for your trip host and driver, gratuities at restaurants for included meals, purified water in vehicle, and sales taxes.

Exclusions: Flights, passport/visa fees, optional gratuities for hotel staff, optional activities, and personal expenses.

Group Size: 7-9 Participants + DBG Trip Host + Trip Leader

About Your Host: Born and raised in South Texas, with a bilingual-bicultural background, Yvonne Garcia Bardwell brings a great mixture of experiences and knowledge to the tour. As the Community Relations Manager at Denver Botanic Gardens, she is responsible for diversifying the Gardens’ constituency by establishing and strengthening relationships with community organizations across the Denver metro area. Since 2011, she has orchestrated Denver Botanic Gardens’ observance of Día de los Muertos – a celebration that has grown into a vibrant annual event celebrating one of Mexico’s greatest cultural legacies. Her multicultural orientation has developed through not only extensive world travel but also significant work and volunteer experiences as well as an academic focus on international and Spanish-language marketing. This tour offers an opportunity to educate and inspire, to create a connection to our past, and to learn about the cultural traditions of Mexico.