Excursions are a fundamental part of the Arcos Learning Abroad experience and are included as part of your program. We seek different locations in the program region or country that are of natural beauty or cultural or historical significance. These are day trips or overnight outings, which typically occur on weekends. Excursions support us in accomplishing our goal of connecting students to the experience and creating moments of learning and understanding while abroad. This can only occur by going out into the field and encountering these new places firsthand. The most memorable moments in our lives are from impactful experiences that are unique to our daily existence. Below is a list of our available excursions.
Monte Albán Pre-Hispanic Pyramids
While in Oaxaca, you will visit the pre-Hispanic ruins of Monte Albán. This former Zapotec capital city is considered one of the most impressive archeological sites in Mexico. The well-preserved ruins sit atop a hill outside of Oaxaca City, which allows for amazing views of the surrounding valley. The numerous pyramids and ancient buildings found at Monte Albán fill the site with an air of awe and mystery.
Mountain Springs (Hierve el Agua)
Hierve el Agua (or Boiling Water) is an impressive natural wonder located west of Oaxaca City. The name is derived from the abundant mineral springs that seethe from the ground, giving the appearance of boiling water. These extraordinary springs have been visited for over 2,500 years, with pre-Hispanic cultures revering their natural beauty and therapeutic properties. On this excursion, you will travel down beautiful mountain roads and experience the awe-inspiring views of the canyons and hillsides. After your hike you will have an opportunity to soak in the relaxing springs.
Mitla Pre-Hispanic Ruins
Mitla‘s ancient Zapotec ruins date back to two or three centuries before the Spanish conquest and are one of the most significant archeological sites in Mesoamerica. Walking through the ruins with its intricate architecture and segments of beautifully preserved wall paintings transports you back to a time when this was the area’s most important religious center. Surrounding the ruins is a thriving Zapotec town with a large market filled with locally made handicrafts to explore.
Tlacolula Market & Teotitlán Artisan Village & Ancient El Tule Tree
The central valleys of Oaxaca State are filled with the echoes of the past. Bustling Tlacolula market is Oaxaca's most famous outdoor market where you can find anything from handicrafts to live turkeys. You will visit the classic Zapotec town of Teotitlán del Valle, famous for its time-honored tradition of hand-woven rugs. Finally, before returning to Oaxaca City, the excursion will take you to the gargantuan El Tule tree. Calculated to be over 3,000 years old, this behemoth is considered the largest biomass on the planet.
Sierra Norte Mountains
This expansive range of mountains, found just north of Oaxaca City, provides a stark contrast to the colonial city. Passing through dense cloud canopies and pine forests ideal for hiking, you will encounter ancient mountain villages. During the excursion, students will visit a remote Zapotec community and explore the area. Delicious meals feature the culinary cuisine of the area. A local indigenous Zapotec guide will make this trek one of the highlights of your stay in Oaxaca.
Saint James Monastery (Cuilapam)
Travel back in time to the ancient monastery of Saint James built in 1535 and explore its elaborate Gothic cloister and splendid frescoes. The Saint James Convent (Cuilapam) is rich in history and is the site where Vicente Guerrero, father of the Mexican Republic, was infamously executed in 1831. Step onto the floor of the unfinished church (its massive roof was destroyed during an earthquake 200 years ago!) and search for the tomb of Princess Donají, a Zapotec princess and early convert to Christianity. Legends claims she fell in love with a Mixtec King, the Lord of Tilantongo. It is one of the most ornate yet hidden sites in the entire valley and is now considered a national treasure!
Ocotlán Village & Traditional Market (semester)
Travel through winding roads of Oaxaca's Central Valley with sweeping vistas and visit the famous black pottery village of Ocotlán. We will visit artisan workshops to learn about this ancient and functional art form. Afterwards, we will have lunch at the traditional Friday market (called a "tianguis").
Faculty-Led Custom Program Additional Excursion Options
Visit Mexico’s incredibly vibrant and diverse capital city. Built on a lake where the Aztecs founded their capital Tenochtitlan in 1325, this city has evolved and grown for hundreds of years. In the center you can explore incredible pre-Hispanic ruins and admire the grand colonial buildings and the immense central plaza where there is non-stop bustle and activity. Mexico City has world-class museums and galleries, you can see Diego Rivera’s defiant murals demonstrating contemporary art at its best, and even visit Frida Kahlo’s home where art history was made. Impressive modern buildings surround Bosque Chapultepec, the largest park in Latin America, amazing views of the city can be seen from its fairy tale castle (which didn’t have a happy ending!) or you can just people watch in the cool shade of the trees. Mexico City boasts excellent restaurants and its own special dishes, which can be tried at street stalls or trendy eateries. There is something for everyone in Mexico City!
Pacific Beach Trip
The Oaxacan coast provides you with stunning cliffside views of thousands of small bays that dot its coastline. Unlike other coastal areas of Mexico, the Oaxacan coast remains largely untouched and mainly plays host to local tourism. On this trip, students will visit several beautiful beaches, have the opportunity to snorkel, take a boat trip to see dolphins and turtles, or take a surfing class. This is the perfect opportunity to witness the vast biodiversity the Oaxacan coast has to offer.
Puebla is home to one of the most beautiful and well-preserved colonial centers in Mexico. Take time to explore the historic center and its extravagant gold encrusted churches and azulejos (painted tile) covered buildings. There are endless opportunities to taste Puebla’s unique cuisine and you even get to see where one of Mexico’s most famous dishes, mole, was invented. The region is famous for its bright and intricate Talavera pottery, a tradition, which is still alive after four centuries of history. Visit Los Fuertes, the battle site for 5 de Mayo, with spectacular views across the city and the incredible snow-capped Popocatépetl Volcano in the background. Just outside of Puebla city is Cholula a ‘Pueblo Mágico’ (magical village) which boats Mexico’s largest pyramid and infinite churches.