Some claim it’s the oldest tree in the world. Others say it’s the widest. Either way, at an estimated 1,500-3,000 years old, the Arbol del Tule, or Tule Tree, is certainly one of the most impressive trees around. A sight that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Oaxaca, Mexico!
Looking for more things to do in Oaxaca? Check out all Oaxaca posts and these:
- The Ultimate Guide to Oaxaca
- How to Celebrate Day of the Dead in Oaxaca
- Where and What to Eat and Drink in Oaxaca
- Exploring the Monte Alban Ruins near Oaxaca
- The Best Oaxaca City Markets
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We planned our visit to Tule Tree in Oaxaca, Mexico on its birthday celebration, held annually on the second Monday of October. We arrived just in time for the distribution of snacks for the party-goers! We were offered free tejate, pan dulce, and ice cream. Yes, FREE snacks at this ancient tree’s birthday celebration. Reason #125 why we love Oaxaca: we’ve encountered delicious, free snacks at many events, often chocolate de agua and pan de yema (hot chocolate with water and a sweet bread made with egg yolk).
On this festive day, the entrance to Arbol del Tule was free and we were even able to access the inner fenced off area, where the tree trunk is. The community decorated the entire trunk with ribbon, fruit, candy, mezcal, corn, laurel leaves, and other small items. Since it is extremely wide (nearly 50 feet in diameter), there is plenty of room for everyone to pile on the gifts.
We walked alongside an elderly man eating ice cream, who was happy to point out the famous figures in the massive, twisted trunk. We saw a horse, fish, turkey, jaguar, and what he seemed to think Michael would enjoy the most: the shape of a butt.
The celebration continued as a religious statue positioned under Tule Tree was lifted up and taken to the small church next to the tree, in a procession filled with music, flowers, and the smell of burning copal (incense made from tree resin). We peeked into the church. It was beautifully decorated with fresh flowers.
After that, a quartet of guitarists played while a local soprano sang in the Tule Tree’s shade. They played right at the base of the tree with chairs lined up in front of them for the audience. We took a seat on one of the many benches in the church atrium, sipped our tejate, and enjoyed the concert under the shade provided by this magnificent organism, Arbol del Tule.
What is the Arbol del Tule, or Tule Tree, in Oaxaca?
Arbol del Tule is an ancient ahuehuete, or Montezuma cypress, which is Mexico’s national tree. Although there are many ahuehuetes in Mexico, this one is believed to be the oldest and largest. Legend has it that it was planted by a Zapotec priest, well before the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico. It’s estimated to be between 1,500 and 3,000 years old. Measurements vary, but Tule Tree is approximately 190 feet (58 meters) in circumference, 138 feet (42 meters) tall, and can provide shade for up to 500 people. It’s located in a town on the outskirts of Oaxaca City that was named after it, Santa María del Tule.
How to Get to Arbol del Tule from Oaxaca
Arbol del Tule is about a 20-minute taxi ride away from el Zocalo in Oaxaca City. You can get there very easily by taking a colectivo (shared) taxi for about 22 pesos per person round trip. The best place to hop on one of the colectivos in Oaxaca is on the east side of the main baseball stadium, Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos. The taxis will pass directly in front of the Volkswagen dealership on Calle de los Derechos Humanos. Look for a maroon colored taxi with a large sign on the windshield that says “TULE”. Once you see one, wave it down, confirm where you are headed and ask the price (“Voy al Arbol del Tule. Cuanto cuesta?”) before hopping in. The taxi will drop you off at the entrance to the plaza where the tree is located. To get back to Oaxaca, just stand on the main street where the taxi dropped you off and look for a taxi with a “OAXACA” or “CENTRAL” sign. Let them know you would like to get dropped off at the “estadio de beisbol.”
You can also take a taxi particular (private taxi) which are always patrolling the streets of Oaxaca and lined up next to the Zocalo. If your stay in Oaxaca is very short, you can take one of the many van tours that take you along the most popular tourist route (Tule, Mitla, Hierve el Agua) for about 200 pesos per person. I would only recommend this if you truly don’t have time to visit these places on your own, as the tour vans don’t allow enough time at each spot to enjoy all they have to offer.
Tips for Visiting Arbol del Tule in Oaxaca
Once you’ve been dropped off at the plaza in Santa Maria del Tule, you can’t miss the giant tree next to the Santa María de la Asunción church. There is a $10 peso entrance fee to the fenced off church area to see the tree. The church grounds are open from 8 am to 8 pm daily.
Sit and take a break from the heat on one of the benches under the shade of the tree with a delicious Oaxacan ice cream. Try the leche quemada (burned milk) flavor! You can also take a peek inside the colorful church and walk over to the smaller tree on the other side of the church.
Santa Maria del Tule is a very small, mostly residential town. Best to stay in Oaxaca City and do a quick day trip out to see Arbol del Tule – possibly on your way out to Mitla. There are some restaurants in town, but we would recommend eating a tlayuda or memelas at one of the food stalls at the Mercado de Antojitos (Market of Small Cravings) in the plaza. There is a public bathroom located in the plaza (4 pesos each).
What to Bring to Arbol del Tule
- Sunglasses & hat
- Cash for entrance, food, and transportation
If you are visiting Oaxaca City, and have some time to explore the surrounding area, add a stop by the Arbol del Tule to your itinerary. The Tule Tree in Oaxaca, Mexico is something to remember.
Have you been to Arbol del Tule? If not, what is the most memorable tree you’ve visited so far? Leave your comments below.