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Tucked away in the mountains of The Sierra Norte region in Mexico you’ll find eight picturesque villages, called Los Pueblos Mancomunados waiting to be discovered by adventurous visitors and hikers. These Zapotec villages offer a unique experience for everyone looking for a sustainable escape from Mexico’s popular beaches, ruins, and fiestas. And the best part? Exploring and hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados without a group tour and by yourself (yes, even as a solo female traveler) is easy to do!

So if you’re looking for something active to do in Mexico after all the delicious tacos, quesadillas, tlayudas, and Oaxacan cheese, check out our complete guide to hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados solo. From planning your trip to the best itinerary and booking accommodation, we will cover everything you need to know before embarking on this adventure

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: view of mountains along hiking trail

What are Los Pueblos Mancomunados?

But first things first, what exactly are Los Pueblos Mancomunados?

Literally translated, they are the commonwealth villages. They’re a collaboration of eight remote Zapotec villages in The Sierra Norte region near Oaxaca. The villages are: San Miguel Amatlán, Benito Juárez, Cuajimoloyas, La Nevería, Santa Catarina Lachatao, Latuvi, Llano Grande and Santa María Yavesía.

The villages have been tied by culture, economy, and agriculture for years. And when economic times got difficult, they decided to collaborate once again and start an ecotourism project to attract visitors and generate a sustainable source of income for their communities. As a result, they built an extensive network of over 100 km of hiking, cycling, and horseback riding trails connecting all villages. Each village has a tourist information center, guides, home cooks, and accommodation options for hikers. 

In total, they cover an area of 290 square kilometers that includes fields, canyons, caves, waterfalls, and gorgeous panoramic lookouts. And even though they are relatively easily accessible from Oaxaca, the villages remain virtually undisturbed and undiscovered with an annual number of 17,000 visitors spread across the entire area.

And the best part?

The profits go back to the community, whether it’s to build schools, homes, or better infrastructure, the money is used for something that benefits them all. 

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: small square in village in Los Pueblos Mancomunados

How to plan your trip to hike Los Pueblos Mancomunados

As with any hike, preparation is super important. Unfortunately, there is no official website of the Pueblos Mancomunados which makes it a little bit harder to plan ahead if you don’t want to join a tour.

But luckily, you can find plenty of information online and each village has its own tourist information center where you can buy a map and ask for more information regarding the trail.

If you do want the help of an organization with booking accommodations (though for small groups or solo travelers, this is really not necessary, check out the next section for more information) you can contact the Sierra Norte Organization. 

Accommodations in Los Pueblos Mancomunados

There are no real hostels or hotels in the villages. Instead, you simply head to (or call) the information center of each village and ask for accommodation options as you arrive. Depending on the village, they can recommend you a cabaña (a room with a twin bed and a bunk bed, mostly designed for families), a homestay, or a shared room with a shared bathroom which will cost anything between 200-600 pesos per room.

Now, I can imagine that this is not ideal for larger groups or for people who like to have everything arranged before they arrive, so for those I would recommend contacting Sierra Norte, an organization that can book accommodations for you and even help you with planning the right route. Though if you are a solo traveler, it’s really not necessary to spend that extra money and book in advance. The area is still relatively undiscovered there will always be a bed for one.

And if you are traveling on a tight budget or if you love to camp, you could also bring your own tent and stay at the designated camping areas (again, inform the tourist information center of the right location). 

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: small house showing accommodations

Itineraries for hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados

With over 100 km of trails, there are many different hikes you can take from short loops around the villages to a full week hike in which you pass all villages. You could even go for a one-day hike around Benito Juarez and go back to Oaxaca on the same day. Though I would recommend you to stay at least a night in one of the villages to get the full experience.

Below I’ve shared a few different itinerary ideas for you, depending on how many days you would like to go and whether you want to hire a guide or not. Because for some parts of the trails, it’s mandatory to hire a local guide, and for other parts, it’s highly advisable since the trail is unclear. 

1-day hike to Benito Juarez

If you just want to get an idea of the Sierra Norte region, you could just go to the villages for a day and take one of the loop trails. My suggestion for that would be to go to Benito Juarez because it’s the easiest accessible village. You first need to take a bus from Oaxaca to Tlacolula de Matamoros and from there change to a bus or camion (which go more regularly) that will take you up into the mountains and drop you off at Benito Juarez.

From here you can either hike to La Neveria and back, or to Cuajimoloyas and take a bus from there back to Tlacolula de Matamoros. Make sure you don’t miss out on the cool hanging bridge near Benito Juarez. 

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: suspended bridge along hiking trails

2-day itinerary

If you want to spend at least one night in one of the villages, there are two trails you can choose from. The first one is a loop that starts in Benito Juarez and finishes in Benito Juarez (Or Cuajimoloyas if you feel like you’ve hiked enough for the day).

Benito Juarez – La Neveria – Latuvi
Latuvi – Cuajimoloyas – Benito Juarez

The second starts in Lachatao and then takes the trail back to Latuvi to spend the night there and head to Benito Juarez the next day. The hike between Lachatao and Lutuvi was my favorite part of the hike, but if you opt for this route, keep in mind that the bus to Lachatao doesn’t run as regularly as the one to Benito Juarez does. So you will need to ask locals about the best times and days. 

Lachatao – Latuvi
Latuvi – La Neveria – Benito Juarez

3-day itinerary (The one I did)

For this itinerary, you will need a guide (or take a taxi) on the last day of the hike because the trail is incredibly hard to find, and it’s not advisable to go without one (unless you want to get lost). Benito Juarez – Latuvi
Latuvi – Lachatoa
Lachatoa –Capulalpam de Mendez (guide needed)

Capulalpam de Mendez is actually not one of the eight Pueblos Mancomunados, but it’s still a really cute village and it has a direct bus back to Oaxaca which is why I decided to go here for the last day. I had a night bus planned for that night, so I wanted to be back in Oaxaca on time.

But you could also hike further to Llano Grande and take a bus back to Tlacolula and then to Oaxaca.

4-Day itinerary – all villages

If you want to go for the full experience, you can also hike the entire trail and visit all 8 villages. Now, I went for the shortest possible itinerary, but you could also extend it if you want to have shorter hikes per day and have more time relaxing and exploring the villages.

For the full trail, you will need a guide on at least two sections. First between Lachatao (or San Miguel Amatlán depending on where you decide to sleep) and Llano Grande. Even though it’s not mandatory to have a guide at this section of the trail, it is highly advisable because the marks are not clear.

Between Llano Grande and Cuajimoloyas, a guide is mandatory because you’re hiking in a protected area.

You can either start and end in Cuajimoloyas or Benito Juarez both are connected by bus service to Tlacolula from where you can take a bus back to Oaxaca.  

Benito Juarez – La Neveria (8km) – Latuvi
Latuvi – Lachatao/San Miguel Amatlán
Lachatao/San Miguel Amatlán- Llano Grande (guide is advised)
Llano Grande – Cuajimoloyas/ Benito Juarez (guide is mandatory)

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: map of optional hiking trails

Navigating the trail

As mentioned above, some parts of the trail or not clearly marked, specifically between Lachatao/San Miguel Amatlán and Llano Grande, and for others it is mandatory to take a guide (between Llano Grande and Cuajimoloyas).

For the other sections, it’s important to always ask a local or someone who has done the trail before you to show you the route. Either on a map or on an App such as Maps.me or WikiLoc. If you don’t feel comfortable navigating by yourself, you can always hire a guide in every village, so you are sure to arrive at your next destination.

You also can buy a map of the region at every tourist information office, though they’re not great for navigation. In fact, the maps are only good to give you a general idea of the routes between the villages, but they won’t get you very far.

I used Maps.me for the sections between Benito Juarez, Latuvi, and Lachatao and it worked perfectly. I also know that others used WikiLoc which worked for them too. Though you would need to have a subscription in order to use the App offline. Which you will need because there are parts of the trail without reception. 

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: valley view from hiking trails
View Lachao

Is it safe to hike Los Pueblos Mancomunados?

With all that talking about unmarked trails, you may start to wonder whether it’s still safe to hike Los Pueblos Mancomunados without a guide. But don’t worry.

It’s absolutely safe!

Of course, hiking always comes with a risk, but there are plenty of ways to minimize this by using your common sense and bringing the proper safety gadgets such as a power bank or a handheld GPS navigation device. But the area itself is perfectly safe. Even for solo female travelers like me.

You have to remember that the entire region is part of the collaborative eco-tourism plan. Everyone who lives there benefits from it, which means that everyone supports the cause and wants visitors to feel safe and welcome. I’ve never felt more welcome and safe when running into strangers on my hikes. They all want to have a little chat with you, or at least greet you. They all know that if one thing happens to a tourist, it will have an impact on the community as a whole.

But before you run off to the nearest community without any preparation, hear me out.

Just because the area is safe, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take your normal precautions. So please make sure you always follow the safety tips below.

  • 1.       Tell someone what section you’re hiking today
  • 2.       Ask locals about the route you’re hiking that day
  • 3.       Don’t leave late in the afternoon
  • 4.       Bring enough water
  • 5.       Go with a guide or know exactly what trail you’re hiking
  • 6.       Know a few words in Spanish

I only did a 3-day hike along a path that friends of mine already hiked before. They showed me exactly how to walk on Maps.me so I knew where I was going. Theoretically, the trails should be marked, but in reality, they’re not (at least most of them).

So don’t just depend on these. 

Food and drinks in Los Pueblos Mancomunados

If you’re a foodie and you’re expecting high-end restaurants, think again. You won’t find any of these in the villages. Luckily, you don’t have to carry around four days of food in your backpack when hiking in Los Pueblos M either. In each village, you will find some home-cooked Mexican meals that will be freshly made for you. You can expect the typical Mexican cuisine of tortillas, beans, veggies, meat, and Oaxacan cheese (so delicious).

I am a vegetarian myself, and even though the typical Mexican diet isn’t very vegetarian-friendly they were always happy to find another meal for me. And as long as you’re not a picky eater, and don’t mind having the same tortilla, beans, cheese, and fresh veggies every time, you will be fine.

One thing you should definitely try when you’re hiking Los Pueblos is a typical Mexican hot chocolate! I know it sounds like a drink for children, but trust me, do not leave Mexico (and Sierra Norte) without having tried their delicious hot chocolate! It’s made with a tablet of cacao, sugar, and spices that add a special flavor to it. They can make it with just water for the vegans among us, or with milk to get to the full experience. It’s one of the best treats you can give yourself after a full day of hiking and also a fun Mexican souvenir to bring home from your hike.

Each village will also have a tiny store that sells groceries too but don’t expect too much of it. You can find some snacks, a few fresh fruits and veggies (if you’re lucky), and something to drink. So you can stack up for your next hike. If you want some particular snack for your hikes you’ll have to bring it from Oaxaca or simply settle for whatever they offer.

I didn’t drink water from a stream or river (and most trails don’t pass any either, so do not depend on it). I just got bottles at each village before I left, or asked the tourist center to fill my bottle up for me. 

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: cup of hot chocolate
Hot Chocolate

When is the best season to hike Los Pueblos Mancomunados?

The best time to hike between Los Pueblos Mancomunados is during Oaxaca dry season (November to May). That way you can hike without rain, and the trails are easily accessible and not covered in mud.

During the rainy season (May to October) you can expect showers in the afternoon, meaning that you would still be able to hike during the day. Though always check in with the locals if the route you are planning to take is still accessible.

Costs to hike Los Pueblos Mancomunados

A solo trip to Los Pueblos Mancomunados does not need to break the bank. In fact, it fits in easily in a backpacker’s budget for Mexico, especially if you decide to camp instead of book accommodation.

If you do have a larger budget to spare, you can allow yourself a guide for more parts of the trail to tell you more about the villages, the Zapotec culture, and the flora and fauna of the region. Plus you could take a taxi from Oaxaca to the first village and back, instead of traveling by public transport.

Below you will find a list with general ideas of what prices to expect.

300-600 pesos for a guide depending on how many hours
200-600 pesos per room
90-200 pesos for a meal

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler | image: view of valley along hiking trail

Things to bring for hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados

Besides your typical hiking gear, here are some items you will definitely need when traveling to Los Pueblos Mancomunados.        

  • Cash (there are no ATMs in any of the villages)
  • Hiking shoes
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain cover for backpack
  • Extra layers for the evenings
  • For winter hikes: hat, gloves, and thermos layers
  • Summer: hiking shirts and shorts
  • Water bottle
  • Portable charger

So what do you think? Are you ready for your solo hike to Los Pueblos Mancomunados? 

Hi, I’m Lara, the founder of The Best Travel Gifts, a site where I (guess what?) help you find the best gifts from around the world! I’m a 29-year-old travel-lover (but who’s not these days?). I’m extremely clumsy, terrible at photography, and obsessed with world-heritage sites. I love sports, reading, puzzling, researching, and making lists, which comes in quite handy when you’re making lists of travel gift ideas!

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The Ultimate Guide to Hiking Los Pueblos Mancomunados | The Common Traveler shares everything that you need to know to plan your ultimate hike along these magical towns. From what to bring, to how long, to whether it is safe or not, and what routes to take, this guide answers all your questions.

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