Become fully immersed in the vital, vibrant, and dynamic Maya culture.
- Dates: Oct. 31 – Nov. 4, 2019
- Duration: One day/each
- Capacity: 3 minimum/12 max
- Location information: Given at booking
About Our Day of the Dead Tours
Five different tours, five different days:
October 31 – Macabre Muertos Mask and the Land of Zapotec Kings
Hallows and ghouls, beware! Just a few days before Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, we’re in the middle of preparations. Work alongside one of the land’s most talented paper maché sculptors to create your own Día de los Muertos mask. Then we’re off to the village of ancient Zapotec royalty to visit their tombs of the past and marvel at today’s traditions. Admire local muralists, see an altar showcase, and join in the festivities while indulging in local treats in the village food market.
Departure: 11:45 a.m. | Duration: 7.5 hours
November 1 – Traditional Altar Building and a Meet and Greet with the Spirits
The spirits of the dead arrive in the village of Teotitlan at 3 p.m. on this day. Our job is to help build an altar of food and flowers before they arrive! Our day is spent in a traditional Zapotec village, beginning with a visit to the workshop of a ceremonial beeswax candle maker (candles like you’ve never seen before). Then, in the cool altar room of a village house, work side by side with a family to build the altar. We also help make tamales, which are so much a part of the ceremonies today. At 3 p.m., the village bells begin to chime, incense is lit, and the spirits arrive. Get ready to greet them! We wind down our day with a late afternoon visit to the village cemetery, where the tombs come to life with color. This is a gracious day in a traditional community, well removed from the urban Day of the Dead circus, and deeply immersed in the old ways of doing things.
Departure: 10:30 a.m. | Duration: 7 hours
November 2 – Village Altar Hopping and Food Treats
House altars are homecoming gifts for the deceased and love-filled works of art, and an altar is nothing without food. We travel between old-time Zapotec villages meeting families, visiting their altar rooms, learning to make tlayudas, and sipping chocolate. Our adventure begins in a graveyard, perhaps the most fascinating, topsy-turvy graveyard in Oaxaca. Then we travel down a rural road to the village of San Marcos to meet a traditional family and soak in the serenity of their ancestor altar, aromatic with flowers, candles, and incense. Enjoy a home-cooked lunch with the family and take a stab at making tlyaudas, which are uniquely Zapotec, extra-large size tortillas. Oh, and this is a family of potters, going back 100 generations, so you get to see how they work with clay.
Then we’re off to the village of Mitla, whose Aztec name means Place of the Dead. How apropos! Here, we meet two more families and visit two more altars, seeing that altars are not the same village to village nor house to house. We learn about the symbolic meanings of the altars and soak in their sweet, solemn beauty. We wind down our day sitting before grandma Lucia’s altar, sipping hot chocolate that she has made the old way and sharing stories.
Departure: 10:30 a.m. | Duration: 7.5 hours
November 3 – Day of the Dead (in a Secret Graveyard), Sip of Mezcal, Taste of Mole
Shhhh! We aren’t naming the sweet little Zapotec village where we take you after sunset when the flowers and candles come out to warm the night. But we can promise it’s not crowded and crazy like the graveyards around Oaxaca city, and it’s authentic, traditional, and sublime. This is what Day of the Dead is like in traditional villages throughout Oaxaca, a gathering of villagers, heartfelt words, and so much beauty in so many ways. But before we arrive at the graveyard, our village host takes you to see how home-cooked mole is made, with a cooking fire, clay pots, stone pestles, and local ingredients. The food is as authentic as the celebration you’re about to witness. We also stop by a village workshop where the aprons worn by village chefs throughout Oaxaca are made, and even before that, we stop in for a visit and tasting at a small mezcal distillery, for this elixir is as much a part of Oaxacan Day of the Dead as flowers and candles.
Departure: 1:30 p.m. | Duration: 7 hours
November 4 – Folkart of the Dead and Tombs Painted with Flowers
Witness artisans inspired by spirits, skeletons, and Mexico’s fascination with death along with a visit to a graveyard where the villagers create floral works of art on the tombs of their deceased. Spend a day immersed in creativity and culture in the valley of Ocotlan. We visit the workshops of three master artisans in three towns, including a family of woodcarvers who show their work internationally and two award-winning potters who do very distinctive kinds of sculpture. One works with the black clay traditions of Coyotepec, often depicting legends of death and ghosts, and the other does paint clay sculptures, often in the beautifully gruesome skeletal catrina tradition. We finish our journey into beauty and death at a graveyard where villagers compete to see who can create the most beautiful decorations of live flowers and petals on the graves of their ancestors. May we all be so elegantly remembered when we go.
Departure: 9 a.m. | Duration: 7.5 hours
- What's Included
- Off-the-beaten-path tour
- Bilingual guides
- Small group
- Transport in private van
- Entry fees and artisan fees
- Hands-on activities
- Not Included
- Gratuities for your guide & drivers
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses
- Alcoholic beverages
- Additional Information
- Small groups: Our day groups are always small, no more than 12 people per tour, so as not to overwhelm our hosts and so our visits can be personal and meaningful.
- Cancellations: You have up to four days prior to your tour time to email and cancel your tour with no penalty incurred. A U.S. $35 fee per person is charged if you cancel less than four days prior to your scheduled tour time. Cancellations less than 24 hours prior to tour date are non-refundable.
- Traditions Mexico takes you beyond the standard sites visited by tourists and travelers and into the wonderful and authentic wilds of back-cactus Mexico. As a result, we see things that other visitors seldom or never see. You should bring with you a willingness to get off the beaten track and a curiosity to see the real world in its true and wondrous colors.
- Our trips are lead by unique individuals who are more cultural ambassadors than guides. They are specialists and aficionados, authors and long-term students of the cultures of Oaxaca, experienced, involved, and totally in love with what they do!
- Minimum numbers apply. We require a minimum of two travelers to run a trip.