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San Martin Tilcajete

San Martin Tilcajete is one of the two towns in Oaxaca that are dedicated to carving in wood those beings so well known for their great color: the alebrijes of Oaxaca.

In case you didn’t know, this town was the one that inspired Disney to make the movie COCO.

San Martin Tilcajete is a small town with predominantly one-story houses and green mountains in the surrounding area. Everywhere you walk, you will see signs of family workshops dedicated to the elaboration of alebrijes, learning how these figures are made and buying them is the main activity of the place.

What to do in San Martin Tilcajete

San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca

Visit the Alebrijes Workshop “An inspiration of my life”.

In this workshop, which is located near the entrance of the village, uncles and cousins work together, supporting each other and dividing the tasks. One of the young men gave us a demonstration of how they carve the wood, the process involved and the tools they use.

We also got to know the star or distinctive products of this workshop: the dragons and the old shoes. You read that right! Old shoes! This family of artisans put old shoes on many of their pieces; dragons, animal mixtures, even a nativity scene.

After the explanation and demonstration you can stroll through the three amazing rooms to choose the alebrije of your choice and even order one to your liking. We had a great time at this workshop in San Martin Tilcajete.

Jacobo and Maria Angeles Workshop

Further into San Martin Tilcajete is the workshop of Jacobo and Maria Angeles.

Entering this alebrijes workshop is an explosion for the senses. You can hear different guides giving tours in Spanish and English, there is a smell of wood and paint, and everywhere your eyes go you see movement: artisans, tourists, guides and xoloitzcuintles. That’s right, in this alebrijes workshop they have five xoloitzcuintles that roam free among the people.

First we visited the carving area where with machetes and knives they shape the copal. Then we moved on to the decorating area where there are young and old making dots, stripes and an infinite number of patterns. In one area they do it with acrylic paint and, in the area of more experienced artisans, with natural pigments.

Finally, they gave us a demonstration of how they obtain natural pigments. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you it’s like watching a magic trick. Did you know that they use pomegranate to make a color that is neither red nor orange? You would be surprised to see what color comes out of this fruit.

Natural Colorants
Natural Pigments Sample Table

In addition to this tour you can see their alebrijes gallery, discover your tonal and nahual, see the clay workshop, taste some mezcals and take a look at the valuable projects made by the most experienced artisans. We were able to see a bull that reached our chest covered with gold leaf.

If you want to visit an alerijes workshop we suggest using this tour: Alebijes Workshop in Oaxaca

Painting your Alebrije in an Alebrijes Workshop

The Alebrijes Workshop excursion allows you to paint and design an alebrije during the tour.

The truth is that this activity is highly recommended because it gives a plus to the experience of visiting the alebrijes workshops.

Visiting Ocotlán and San Martín Tilcajete on the same day

Ocotlán is one of those places you should consider visiting in Oaxaca. Ideally, visit Ocotlán and San Martín on the same day to make the most of your time.

We recommend using this tour: Ocotlán Excursion.

This tour makes three stops: starting in Ocotlán where you will see the Friday market where people from Oaxaca sell their handicrafts. The second stop is in Santo Tomás Jalieza where they are mainly dedicated to backstrap weaving.

And finally, they take you to San Martin Tilcajete where you can enter an alebrijes workshop in Oaxaca.

How to get to San Martín Tilcajete

There are 3 ways to get to San Martin Tilcajete: By public transportation, by car or rental car and/or using a tour.

For this particular destination we believe that the best option is the tour; however, we share with you more information about each option as well as their advantages and disadvantages so that you can decide which means to use.

How to get to San Martín Tilcajete by public transport

Motorcycle cab
Motorcycle cab

From the zocalo of Oaxaca de Juárez all you have to do is ask where the transportation to Octlán leaves from.

To give you an idea you should go south (to the opposite side of the Templo de Santo Domingo), you will advance about 5 blocks approximately and the place will start to fill up with buses, look for the ones that say “Ocotlán”.

In case you don’t see them, you can ask anyone where the Ocotlán ones come from and that’s it. It always helps us to ask questions.

There are also shared cabs in a cherry color with a white stripe. It will be a matter of asking which ones go to Ocotlán.

In both cases, you will go down to the edge of town from where you can take a motorcycle cab to the center of San Martin Tilcajete.

Advantage: It is the cheapest option to get there.

Disadvantage: It is the most complicated and time-consuming option to get there.

How to get to San Martín Tilcajete by Car

In the age of technology, you can put in any traffic app San MartÍn Tilcajete and you will reach your destination.

Otherwise, head south, take the exit to Avenida símbolos patrios and follow the signs to Ocotlán. You will find San Martín Tilcajete at 40-45 mins.

Advantage: Freedom of time and freedom of exploration to manage yourself as you wish.

Disadvantage: Renting a car would be the most expensive option.

Use a tour

You have 2 options to get to know San Martin from Oaxaca City:

Advantages: They are the most comfortable option since everything is already organized to get to know what is important in San Martin Oaxaca.

Disadvantage: No time to exploit on your own (In this particular case, the truth is that it is not really necessary).

What is San Martin Tilcajete Oaxaca like?

Is it worth it?

Yes! Whether you are going to Oaxaca for a short or long time, I recommend that you include in your plans to visit one or two of the workshops in San Martin Tilcajete. It is not a full day activity so you could visit two or three handicraft villages as we did in the video above.

Where to Sleep

To visit San Martin Tilcajete we recommend staying in the city of Oaxaca, from there it is easy to get organized to visit this place.

The hotels we recommend are:

Quinta Real

Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca

La Quinta Real is a colonial style hotel ideal for travelers looking for a luxurious hotel.

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Life Hotel Oaxaca

Life Hotel Oaxaca

A quality hotel at an excellent price. Although it is somewhat removed from the center, it is a great option for families and friends.

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Selina Oaxaca

Selina Oaxaca

This hotel is suitable for all types of travelers. We recommend it for couples and/or backpacker travelers.

The location is perfect and the price is excellent.

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🏨 If you need accommodation, we recommend looking here 🏨

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