Agave, Mother of Mezcal





February 17 - 24, 2018



* Early Bird Discount

Revered since ancient times, used for food, fiber, rope, clothing and the holy mother of pulque and mezcal, this sword-branched plant and the culture that surround it are the focus of this quest. We will ramble through the arid valleys of central Oaxaca and into the cool pines of the Sierra Madre meeting the people of agave. Our travels will take us to artisanal, wood-fired mezcal stills where we’ll witness and learn about the process of distillation, from the splitting of agave, aka maguey, to the pit baking, fermentation and distillation. And we’ll visit indigenous pulque fermenters and learn how certain species of agaves are “milked” to make this nutritious plant beer. We’ll meet a baker who uses pulque as a yeast, see art work made using cactus juice and traditional clothing made with the fiber of this plant, hearing stories about this plants important role in Mexican culture.


And more! There will be excellent, home-cooked meals in small villages as well a light sprinkle of urban panache on our cuisine menu. We’ll stay in small villages, travel where few tourists go, peek into ruined palaces of ancient kings, meet old time tradespeople who cure leather, make sandals and weave serapes. This is a trip for people curious about food, drink and culture, for people interested in traveling off the beaten path and into an authentic world of fascinating old ways. Our journey takes us deep with a mixture of lovely lodging to a couple of nights in a very basic hotel that gives us access to interesting regions little visited by outsiders. Agave is our focus, but we’ll discover an entire world.


B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner included in tour price.
Day 1, Sat Feb 17 (D) Arrivals. Our first meeting will be at the lobby of our hotel at 6PM, then we head out to dinner.
Evening in Oaxaca

Day 2, Sun Feb 18 (BLD) The best place to begin a journey focused on food, drink and culture is at the market. Today we do just that, heading to the Sunday market in Tlacolula and getting in over our heads. This is a full on experience of lively humanity, villagers from all around selling all sorts of things one needs, from toasted corn to pirated movies. Post market we head to a nearby village where families of potters have made cookware for centuries. We’ll lunch with one such family and learn a bit about their ancient craft. Then we visit the old church of Tlacochahuaya and learn, among other things, of the role of cactus in decorating this beautiful building. Night finds us at a hotel on the town square of an interesting regional town called Mitla.
Overnight in Mitla

Day 3, Mon Feb 19 (BLD). Today we taste the nectars of agave! First breakfast, home cooked, by a silver haired grandmother in a home kitchen. There may be no better way to start the day! And then to meet a man who “milks” agave plants to extract their sweet nectar, which is then turned into the pre-Hispanic Mexican kombucha called pulque. Fizzy, nutty, mildly alcoholic, wildly interesting, very nutritious, and maybe not for everybody. But you get to try just the same, and see how this old time cider is made. Then off to lunch at a still in the same town (Matatlan, self-described “world capital of mezcal”) where we’ll get a good meal and an up close and personal look at how mezcal is made, including seeing (and if you dare, participating in) the process of filling and covering the agave backing pit. We will come home smoke scented and understanding how a spiky plant becomes a smoky distillate. Mezcal 101!
Overnight in Mitla.

Day 4, Tue Feb 20 (BLD) We leave Mitla and head to the sierra to meet artisans, see the grand vistas of this steep country and head towards the homeland of rare mountain mezcal. In the village of San Pedro Cajonos we’ll meet a man carries forward the ancestral trade of making rope and net bags from a fiber called ixtle, a fiber extracted from the agave plant. In Yalalag, of cobbled streets and tiled roofs we’ll spend time with a crafts person who turns locally tanned cowhide into huaraches, the leather sandals used by rural Mexicans for centuries. Days end finds us in Villa Alta, high on the edge of a deep river valley in a tiny and basic hotel on this sweet little towns main square.
Overnight in Villa Alta.

Day 5, Wed Feb 21 (BLD) We venture to a nearby town called Lachirioag, and then a bit beyond, to a top notch, truly back country old time still. (For you scotch drinkers, there actually isn’t any connection between Lachirioag and Laphroaig…except good distillates!) A 20 minute hike through the forest takes us to the still where we will spend a leisurely day observing the art of turning agave into mezcal, enjoy a still side picnic and, of course, sample mezcal to your hearts content.
Overnight in Villa Alta.

Day 6, Thu Feb 22 (BL) Over the hill and through the woods (quite literally) is the land of the Mixe (MEE-hay) ethnic group. Deeply traditional mountain people who, among other things, enjoy pulque. As we descend from the sierra we’ll stop by a hamlet known for making this brew to give it one more try, meet the salty characters who make it and enjoy a home-cooked meal. Our days travels brings us back to our plaza-side hotel in the now familiar town of Mitla. A great night for going out for tacos or tlayudas!
Overnight in Mitla.

Day 7, Fri Feb 23 (BLD) Most people come to Mitla to see the ruins of the impressive, ancient Zapotec palaces here. We’ve been so busy dipping into the world of rural food, smoky stills, small villages and old time artisans that we haven’t stopped at this worthy tourist attraction. We remedy that this morning. And since it’s only 5 blocks from our hotel, we’ll beat the crowds of visitors coming from Oaxaca City! And then, well, we head back to Oaxaca City to close the circle of our travels. Once there we’ll visit the Oaxacan Textile Museum to have a look at ways agave fiber (ixtle) has been incorporated into traditional clothing over the centuries with a behind the scenes visit to the museum’s collection. A light snack for lunch and then a free afternoon. In the evening we’ll enjoy a mezcal tasting and a delicious final meal in a fun, urban scene, while we are still scented with the smoke and dust of our adventure out into the heart of agave country and into the soul of Oaxaca.
Overnight Oaxaca.

Day 8, Sat Feb 24 (B) Departures.


Date: February 17 - 24, 2018

Duration: 8 days / 7 nights

Category: Culinary

Departing and Ending point: Oaxaca City

Cost: $2,150 usd per person

Early Bird Discount $1,990 usd
If you book 4 months before tour departure

Single Supplement $285 usd

* All Lodging during trip based on double occupancy
* Most Meals (listed on itinerary Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
* Superb Guide
* Transport in private van
* Entry fees

Not included:
* Airfare and transportation to and from the trip pick-up/drop-off locations
* Lodging before and after the trip
* Personal items purchased during the trip
* Alcoholic beverages
* Some meals are not included. On these trips, Traditions Mexico invites you to explore the local cuisine at your leisure.
* Gratuities for your Traditional Mexico Guides may be given at your discretion in response to their professionalism and leadership.
* Industry standard is for each individual guest to tip the guide team 5-10% of the trip price.
* Room Service
* Travel Visa Fees

See Frequently Asked Questions for more details.