Oaxaca is a province full of culture and countryside. If you’re able to pull yourself away from Oaxaca’s beautiful city center, incredible day trips await.
We’ll show you the best and not-so-great wheelchair accessible day trips that you can take from Oaxaca, Mexico.
5 Accessible Day Trips from Oaxaca
We’ve put together a guide on five accessible day trips you can take from Oaxaca. The list goes in order of most accessible to least accessible.
If you were hoping to see Oaxaca’s iconic Hierve El Agua at the top of this list, we hate to break the news, but this site isn’t accessible. Nonetheless, if you’ve got some help and are looking to feed your adventurous spirit, we’ve included details on doing a modified visit.
Psst...make sure to also check out our post on The Wheelchair User’s Guide to Oaxaca.
1. The Tree of Tule
Pop quiz…where’s the widest tree in the world?
Given the theme of this post, we hope you guessed Oaxaca!
The Tree of Tule is ironically named after a small plant. Located in the countryside town of Santa María del Tule and over 2,000 years old, the Tree of Tule is the widest- but not the oldest- known tree in the world.
How wide is wide?
The circumference is about 58 meters (190 feet).
The tree is located next to a beautiful church. In order to protect the Tree of Tule from people climbing, drawing, and taking its branches, a fence now surrounds both the tree and church.
You’ll be able to appreciate the tree from outside of the fence rather well. However, for around 50 cents, you can go inside the fence where you can stroll around the tree.
A cement sidewalk weaves around the tree and through the grounds of the church. The terrain is entirely flat. You’ll be able to go inside the church, thanks to a small, metal ramp.
Getting to The Tree of Tule
There’s a long, rather narrow parking lot near the plaza that’s lined with local food vendors. The parking lot itself leaves plenty to be desired as it’s a free-for-all type of parking style. So, the most comfortable way to visit Tule is to have a driver drop you off at the entrance to the plaza.
When you roll up to the plaza, facing the front of the blue town hall, it’ll appear that stairs are the only entry point. However, just down to the left there’s a ramp that’ll lead you up into the plaza.
The Tree of Tule is the closest site from downtown Oaxaca that we’ll talk about in this post. Therefore, it’s easy to combine a visit there with one or more of the other sites that we’ll be covering here.
2. Visit a Mezcal factory
And by “factory,” we mean a traditional, small-scale mezcal producing farm.
But let’s start with the basics. What is mezcal?
Mezcal is a traditional liquor made from a special cactus-like plant called agave that grows rampant in Mexico.
The mezcal making process is impressive, and Oaxaca is home to this Mexican drink. You’ll encounter countless, local mezcal factories just about anywhere you drive in the countryside of Oaxaca.
No doubt, there’s a good handful that are accessible. However, since we only visited one, we can confidently say that you’ll have no trouble getting around El Rey de Matatlán.
A large, open parking lot sits in front of the open-air mezcal factory. If possible, try to park as close to the entrance as possible so that you don’t have to tackle as much of the gravel driveway.
The mezcal factory tour
Once within the factory, you’ll enjoy a flat, cement surface. You’ll only have to move about twenty feet or so as one of the factory’s guides gives you a free tour of the mezcal making process. Even for non-alcoholic drinkers, it’s fascinating!
Free (and very generous quantities of) mezcal shots are offered at the end of the 10 – 15 minute tour. If you don’t drink, make sure to try the cooked, bark-like agave plant that they’ll give you during the tour. It’s in a pre-fermentation state and has a smokey taste.
A downside to El Rey de Matatlán is that the counter where the free shots are handed out is high. Therefore, they’ll need to bring the drinks around the counter for you to try.
At the far end of the factory they have a great display of mezcal for purchase, including a glass display counter that’s eye level for wheelchair users.
Just one last note- remember that we use the word “factory” very loosely here. The mezcal “factories” are closer to small, open-air barns in Oaxaca’s beautiful countryside.
3. Mitla Ruins
The Mitla ruins are far from a wheelchair user’s dream, but given that they can be easily visited in a day with the Tree of Tule and a mezcal factory, it’s worth including them here.
Before we get into accessibility at Mitla, let’s talk about the ruins’ importance. Mitla was the most important site to the Zapotecs, who were a pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico. This area was the Zapotec’s most important religious area and home to the priest and his wives.
Only a portion of Mitla is accessible, as stairs lead up to the pyramid part of the ruins and into underground caves.
Let’s take a closer look at wheelchair accessibility in this significant area of Oaxaca.
Wheelchair accessible parts of Mitla
Parking at Mitla leaves a lot to be desired. Parking spaces are unmarked, the surface is a mix of dirt and gravel, and it’ll take you around five minutes going fast to roll from the parking area to the entrance of the ruins.
During this journey of getting to the parking lot to Mitla’s entrance, you’ll pass by a variety of food and souvenir vendors. The vendors are friendly and not very pushy with their sales tactics.
Once you pay the fee to enter (around $3 USD), you’ll be greeted by a dirt path that winds through some pretty cacti gardens.
The various dirt paths will get you up close to the ruins where you’ll be able to observe the detailed stone designs. It may be hard to believe when looking at them, but the Zapotec constructed the buildings without any mortar so that they could withstand earthquakes.
There are two open plazas at Mitla, and both have ramps.
Mitla is small, so it won’t take you long to roam around. However, the history is rich. Therefore, if you’re going to go through the effort to get there, we recommend hiring a guide to give context to what you’re looking at.
Side note: The church by the Mitla ruins is not accessible.
4. Monte Albán
Monte Albán isn’t yet a wheelchair user’s paradise, but it’s getting there. These pre-Colombian ruins are located about a 20-minute drive in the mountains above downtown Oaxaca.
Upon your arrival to the parking lot, you’ll come across five accessible parking spaces. From there, head up a stone sidewalk to the left of the stairs and you’ll soon come to the park entrance.
As of right now, only the backside of Monte Albán is accessible. The path is dirt, and to be frank, there’s not a whole lot to see.
However, they’re working on building a stone path that will lead directly into Monte Albán’s famous grassy plaza. This path will wind around the right side of the ruins, but we also came across a wooden ramp in progress around to the left side.
We visited in November 2019 and were told that the projected finish date for the accessible path will be in about three months. Until then, if you want to get to the main plaza, you’ll need someone to carry you up and down a flight of about ten very steep stairs.
Wheelchair accessible restrooms are located by the entrance gate of Monte Albán.
5. Hierve El Agua
Hierve El Agua is arguably the prettiest natural attraction of Oaxaca, but it is by far the least accessible. In fact, it’s inaccessible unless you have assistance.
Similar to Pamukkale in Turkey, Hierve El Agua is created from water that’s oversaturated with calcium carbonate. Over thousands of years, the area has become “petrified” into the shape of what appears to be a waterfall.
Hierve El Agua was never a waterfall.
Wheelchair accessibility at Hierve El Agua
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the parking lot at Hierve El Agua is large and freestyle, with a mixture of dirt and gravel surface.
There are two paths that will take you to the famous viewpoint at Hierve El Agua. The path to the left is the shorter path, which we recommend; the path to the right is the longer path that involves more stairs.
Regardless of the path you take, the only way to get all the way down to the Hierve El Agua viewpoint is by someone carrying you, which will take around ten minutes. The dirt path leading to the viewpoint is simply too narrow and rocky to manage with a wheelchair.
It’s not ideal, we know.
But, if you do make the trip, there’s a bench under a tree that overlooks the famous natural pool. Bring a snack and your camera as you can easily spend an hour or more enjoying the scenery.
From the bench, you’ll get great views of Hierve El Agua’s famous, leafless tree. The reflection that it and the clouds make against the water is breathtaking.
Just recounting these accessible day trips gets us itching to return to Oaxaca. Do you have questions about wheelchair accessible day trips from Oaxaca? Send us a comment and we’ll do our best to help. Have you traveled to Oaxaca as a wheelchair user? Share your experience and tips with us below!
Since you’ll be spending time in Oaxaca, don’t miss our posts on The BEST Wheelchair User’s Guide to Oaxaca and Day of the Dead in Oaxaca: Your Questions Answered.