19 Oct San Mateo Yetla: Ecotourism in the Chinantla
Just where the Sierra Madre mountains begin to rise up from the jungle lowlands, sits Yetla, a small ecotourism destination near Valle Nacional in Oaxaca. Located in the foothills of the mountain and beside a sparkling tributary, shallow and clean. Lush foliage adorns the banks, inviting passersby in for a dip. Eco-lodging and grounds are available for spending the day or a few.
You’ll find San Mateo Yetla about five minutes from San Juan Bautista, Valle Nacional on the Tuxtepec-Oaxaca route which crosses a mighty mountain range on an intensely curvy and narrow road, not for the faint of heart. For the same reason, you may want to break the trip up. The drive from Tuxtepec to Oaxaca City takes about 6 hours, but it is curvy enough to make even a pro lose their lunch. We have several favorite stopping spots along the way, depending if we want to rest for an hour or two, or spend the night. Yetla is the first town after Valle Nacional, a landmark left turn in the path to Oaxaca (otherwise there are no turns in the route).
For us, the main pull of Yetla is the riverside restaurant and the cabins. It’s the last of the jungle vegetation; from there the road goes up into the mountains which are populated with pines, and then on to the more arid areas of Oaxaca. The river in Yetla flows down out of the mountains so the water is fresh and cool, perfect for swimming. If this is a stop along your route – grab a bite and jump in for a swim; you’ll leave satisfied and refreshed.
If, however, you want a deeper experience, there is much more, including a zip line, hiking, waterways, caves and different types of birds for bird watching. Nearby Cerro Martin and Monte Flor offer swimming holes with crystalline waters surrounded in vegetation, as well as Nuevo Palantla, known for its turquoise lagoons located on the other side of the river, in front of Tres Marias Bridge. Yetla is also close to Rancho Grande, famous for its exquisite coffee, sustainable eco-farming practices, and ethno-tourism (click here to read more about Rancho Grande, one of our Chinantla faves).
Yetla, like much of the Chinantla, is an indigenous village. 93% of it’s community is indigenous, with almost half speaking Chinanteco. These areas form part of an eco-tourism development plan, but haven’t yet reached their height. For now, Yetla is a small example of what’s to come: beautiful biodiversity, abundant nature, delicious cuisine and unique handicrafts, such as the traditional embroidery style of the Chinantec area. Natural products from the region abound as well, such as mamey, mamey oil, cinnamon, vanilla, honey, coffee, and cacao.
Our experience of Yetla involved going early and staying all day, eating, drinking, swimming and relaxing. Our small group of friends was practically alone, the birds and butterflies were on display, flitting about while we soaked in the surrounds. It was a relaxing and delightful way to spend a day, convening with nature and friends.
Interested in experiencing more of Oaxaca? This incredibly diverse state has mountains with cold forests, lowland jungles with incredible biodiversity and a vibrant cultural heritage. Read more about Oaxaca in our article about the state and all of our favorite destinations. We have also written about our favorite beach destination, Mazunte, about Oaxaca City, its best Day Trips and Museums, and about ecotourism in the Papaloapan River Basin.
Getting there and getting away
On the Tuxtepec-Oaxaca road, about 5 minutes after Valle Nacional, on the right. Take the sloping turn off.