Of all the mezcal producing regions, Oaxaca is by far the most known and popular place to travel. Infrastructure is relatively well developed and it is very easy to get there as it is served by major airlines (United, Aeromexico, Volaris.) Currently, there are only two US cities that have direct flights to Oaxaca, Los Angeles and Houston, and with most other flights connecting through Mexico City.
The city of Oaxaca is quite charming with its parks, zocolo (main square) and colonial architecture. It sits in a high valley surrounded by mountains. It is a center of art, food and indigenous culture, and often leaves visitors with a sense of magic. In planning your trip you want to allow yourself at least two full days in the city to explore the historic center, museums, markets and artisan shops. And of course you want to eat.
Mezcal has been produced in Oaxaca for at least 500 years, with most of it produced in small towns or pueblos outside of the city of Oaxaca. A vast majority of mezcal comes from the town of Matatlan in the Tlacolula Municipality, a 45 minute drive from Oaxaca and an easy drive, bus ride or collectivo (shared taxi system). Working with a tour guide means you can visit other mezcal producing towns like Santa Catarina Minas, Sola de Vega, Ejutla, Miahuatlan, San Baltazar Guelavia, San Juan del Rio and San Luis del Rio as day trips. You can also work with a tour guide to plan trips that can take you into the Mixteca or Sierra Norte – these generally are overnight trips and are fairly rugged.
Weather in Oaxaca is fairly temperate due to its elevation. The hottest, and driest time of year is March/April/May. The rainy season generally runs from June-October, and smaller palenques may not be making mezcal in July and August because of weather, and because they are planting corn and beans. October-February is fairly mild with temperatures ranging from the low 50s to the mid to upper 70s. Cold fronts are known to come in during December and January and the higher elevations can be very cold at night. Note that most places are not insulated and that heat, and air conditioning, are not readily found.
Important dates for planning purposes
Semana Santa – The week prior to Easter is a huge tourism week in Mexico
Guelaguetza – Mid to end July and the biggest tourism month in Oaxaca
Dia de los Muertos – End of October, it is now close to surpassing the Guelaguetza in terms of tourism
December – Between posadas, Dia de Guadelupe (Dec 12th) Dia de Soledad (Dec 17th) Feria del Chocolate (TBD) and Noche de los Rabanos (dec 23rd), there is so much going on! Christmas in Oaxaca is growing in popularity but does not reach the levels of Semana Santa, Guelaguetza or Dia de los Muertos.
A few things to remember before you set out:
- You will be traveling in back-country, on bumpy roads and in communities that may not have a lot of resources or infrastructure (cell phone/internet coverage, restaurants, capacity to take credit cards, atms, etc.)
- It is important to be mindful of local customs, which your guide can explain, and to be respectful of people – they are craftsmen and highly skilled at what they do. The growth of the mezcal category has placed huge demands on natural resources in Mexico and is fundamentally changing the economics of communities where it is produced.
- As consumers, we need to think about the impact our drinking habits have – touring mezcal producing regions gives you greater understanding of that impact.
Meet Your Tour Guides
Darinel has been creating mezcal tours with Experience Mezcal for several years. He has not only a great knowledge of mezcal, but terrific relationships with producers all over Oaxaca. You can book multi-day tours or the special Pechuga camp through Experience Mezcal or directly with Darinel through his Instagram page.
Anabel has been involved in the food and mezcal scene in Oaxaca for more than eight years. She has helped craft unique travel experiences in Oaxaca for the mezcal and food curious. Because of her large network, she can tailor a tour to meet your specific interests. You can reach Anabel through email
Edgar was the co-founder of Espacio Mezcal where he worked with more than 70 mezcaleros from all over Oaxaca to curate the selections. His tours focus on the relationships he built over five years with mezcaleros and communities, and his breadth of knowledge about not only the production process, but also the cultural and historical importance of mezcal. He can be contacted via email.
Expressions of Mezcal/Vinik Jure Oses Sulvaran
Vinik is an anthropologist who has spent several years researching the biocultural side of mezcal. His tours are incredibly informative and dive deep into the intersection of culture, history and bio diversity of mezcal. He can be reached here.
Leon has been a presence on the mezcal scene forever, working with Los Amantes, Cafe Central and Txalaparta. His breadth and depth of knowledge is as extensive as his charm. He can customize tours based on your interests so definitely check him out! He can be reached here.
Rene Cabrera, Las Bugambilias Tours
René Cabrera Arroyo, a certified tour guide from Oaxaca City, is the in house tour guide for Casa de Las Bugambilias B&B and is available for private and shared tours. He has in-depth knowledge about the local indigenous cultures, mezcal, food, and history of Oaxaca and can tailor your tours specific to your needs and interests. He is continuously looking for different places and new artisans to make his trips more exciting and unique. Contact him here.
OK Maguey was created with the goal of giving guests a holistic view of mezcal and agave spirits. We firmly believe the cultural importance of mezcal can never be overstated. Our goal is to preserve this important tradition through honest and engaging education. Custom tours are available with expert staff. Visit www.okmaguey.mx for more info.
Puro Burro / Asis Cortes
Created by San Francisco bartender / brand manager Eric M. Giardina and Darren Crawford, Puro Burro organizes periodic trips to palenques around Oaxaca. They’ve opened Ofrenda in partnership with Asis Cortes, a great lodging option in the heart of the Centro. Reach out to the Puro Burro team to schedule a tour.
Mezcouting offers intimate and customizable mezcal, artisan, and gastronomic outings in Oaxaca, Mexico. Guide Andrea Hagan brings her years of experience in Oaxaca’s food and beverage scene to crafting tours to immerse travelers in unique and local experiences. All queries can be sent to email@example.com
Alvin Starkman has lived in Oaxaca for the past two decades. He has written a great deal about mezcal over the years and recently published a second book. Additionally he has helped connect mezcal makers with more than 15 brands doing business around the world. All proceeds from his Mezcal Educational Excursions go to various local causes. For more information please see Mezcal Educational Tours linked here.
A project of photographer Anna Bruce and mixologist Brooks Bailey, Rambling Spirits offers unique experiences that can combine palenque visits with hikes, cocktail classes and more. Contact them directly here.
The other half of Mezcal Educational Excursions, Randall Stockton left 20+ years in the Austin, TX bar scene to get fully immersed in mezcal. There is nothing he enjoys more than sharing his love of mezcal with others. And there’s always more to discover. Check out his instagram @mezcaled or email him here.
Yes, we called him the Indiana Jones of Mezcal. No, that’s not complete hyperbole. The guy travels everywhere for mezcal. He knows tons of people in the industry. And he’s got stories to tell. He is also happy to work out some of the more far flung itineraries. Since he travels so widely he is one of the better resources for trips to any of the mezcal regions in Mexico. Get in contact with him through his FaceBook page.
We also have connections with other tour guides who can work with you to craft a unique experience that incorporates not only mezcal but textiles, food, ceramics and more. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Articles on Oaxaca
I first met Sal Palacios and his wife Flor at his family’s distillery in Tlacolula where they make Salvadores. First impressions of Sal Palacios are of a man with a big smile and even bigger heart, which he wears on his sleeve. His genuine enthusiasm for mezcal and Oaxaca shine so much, it is impossible…
Juan Pacheco was living the immigrant dream, then mezcal called A 16 year old from La Noria, a small village in Oaxaca, Mexico, decided he wanted to make his way in the world. There weren’t many opportunities in La Noria, and that teenager, Juan Pacheco, had big dreams. He didn’t want to “just be an…