Jardin Etnobotánico de Oaxaca
Oaxaca, Oaxaca

October 2018

I’m not one to return to the same place over and over, but Oaxaca has a special allure and we didn’t feel like the three days we spent there last summer were enough. Even down to the Jardin Etnobotánico, we felt it deserved a second go-around.

From the eastern lookouts of the Templo de Santo Domingo (a Dominican convent built in the late sixteenth century and also worth visiting), you can get a glimpse into the gardens; but the real wonder, which is the history and purpose behind its creation - as well as the close-up views - can only be appreciated with a tour.

As you’ll learn on the tour, Oaxaca is the most biodiverse state in Mexico, which is one of the world’s most biodiverse countries. I’m sure you can put two and two together, but this means Oaxaca is incredibly biodiverse. Unlike many other botanical gardens, this one’s collection is exclusively comprised of natively grown species (no cherry blossoms here).  Ethnobotany focuses on the role of plants in culture and society, so the tour informs on topics such as the domestication and cultivation of maize, medicinal and sacred plants, natural plant dyes and the use of tree woods, among other things.

Both of our tours - this year and last - were led by a retired American anthropologist, Carol, now having lived in Oaxaca for the past two decades. Perhaps this is just expected of tour guides, but she was very knowledgeable about the gardens and also Oaxaca in general. There’s no real way to know who the guide will be on any given day besides maybe stopping by in person to ask, and I’m sure all volunteers are very informative, but if your tour does happen to be with Carol, you’re definitely in for a treat.


The show-stealer is the cactus garden at the very end of the tour; at this point, everyone rushes off, abandoning the guide, to get their photos in front of the towering cacti and black pond. It is as impressive as it looks on Instagram.

Visits are only allowed by guided tour, daily in Spanish and several times a week in English. The English tours are twice the price (still only a reasonable one-hundred pesos), but are also longer, lasting a solid two hours; and since the tour content is pretty plant-specific and regional, I would recommend the English tour if your Spanish is not better than conversational. There are no reservations - just show up a few minutes before and buy your ticket in cash at the garden’s office. ⁍

Jardin Etnobotánico de Oaxaca | website


Barrio Chino, Ciudad de México

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