Oaxaca Alebrije Experience – Make traditional Alebrijes in Tilcajete, Oaxaca

Oaxaca Sacred Alebrije Experience

We believe that the best way to connect with a culture is to participate in its local activities.

On this unique Alebrije tour, you will be engaging with local families and participating in their day-to-day activities. You will have an opportunity to see their way of life passed down through the generations and be part of their sacred practice.

You will be learning about alebrjie painting in a way very few people ever get the chance to, eat some delicious Oaxacan food, and even get to make your own mini-alebrije to take home with you! This is the most profound connection to this ancient tradition you may ever get!

All bookings are private, so booking with friends works out more cost-effectively, as you share some expenses (such as guide, transport, etc). Discounts are auto-magically applied when you make your reservation.

Are you planning to be here for the Day Of The Dead? You may also be interested in our in-depth, interactive experience taking you deep into the culture, traditions and practices of the Day Of The Dead in Oaxaca:
Book Your Oaxaca Day Of The Dead Experience here!

Make a Deposit to confirm today!
All booking deposits are in USD and must be made in advance so that we can prepare this experience for you. Your initial deposit covers some expenses payable in advance of your tours, such as guide fees and transport. Need to reschedule the date? With 2+ weeks’ notice, you may be able to without any rebooking fees! See Cancellations & Rebooking terms at the bottom of the page.

This tour requires a Local Payment in MXN
The Local Payment is a portion of your overall tour cost paid on the morning of tour departure, in Mexican Pesos. It includes “on tour” expenses that cannot ordinarily be pre-paid such as money that goes directly to the host family and meals. It is an additional cost to the price of your tour when you make your deposit.

The Local Payment for this experience is 1000 Mexican pesos per person (approximately $50 USD).

Description

Oaxaca Sacred Alebrije Experience

Visit an artisan and learn about the intricately painted wood-carvings from beginning to end from a local family

 

Item Details
Meeting Point Pickup at your Oaxaca City hotel
End Point Drop off at your Oaxaca City hotel
Duration Up to 10 hours
Physical Level Low – this experience involves minimal movement for painting and a light walk
Cultural Rating Moderate – a good balance of cultural interactions, and engaging with a local family of alebrije producers
Ages 18+ (younger require parent/guardian supervision)
Group Size Private – Max 6 people per booking

 

Itinerary for visiting the Alebrije artisans of Tilcajete, Oaxaca

You will be picked up from your Oaxaca City hotel at 9:00 a.m. to get an early start at the Alebrije painter’s home in the town of San Martin Tilcajete, which is famous for its Alebrijes.

We will be going to visit two families in the artisanal town where their homes and shops are located. The artisans’ homes are approximately one hour south of Oaxaca city. We will learn their story and family history, along with how the famous wood carvings, with their intricate paintings, became traditional to this region.

Upon arrival, you will be welcomed into the first artisan’s home. We will be spending the first half of the day learning about the process of how the wood carvings were traditionally dyed with natural inks, and then painted with the various design techniques, with hands-on practice and participation. You will also learn about how some of the natural dyes are made, and be able to help dye and paint an alebrije yourself!

From the carvings to the painting techniques, this is an evolving multi-generational practice that has been passed down for several generations already. You may be surprised at just how challenging the small details are to paint! We are sure you will find a newfound appreciation for this evolving tradition and the labour involved, and why some of the finished figures cost thousands of dollars!

After you’re done painting your very own Alebrije, and leaving it to dry, we will take a break to go for a traditional lunch in a local restaurant with a great local ambience.

We return to the family’s home to pick up your very own dried, finished alebrije.

From here, we will walk over to another family of artisans’ studio! This will give you a contrast of how varied and different alebrijes as an art form are evolving. This family has been studying world-renowned artists techniques, such as Monet and Van Gogh, starting to incorporate some of their painting techniques into the alebrijes they create. They’re breathtakingly gorgeous.

You’ll learn about the old ancestral practice from natural dyes, to how this art form is gearing up to sit on the world stage.  It is truly awe-inspiring seeing some of the finished products, and the time and care that has gone into this craft while having a very unique and interesting story of how they came into existence, and why an entire town decided to dedicate themselves to their creation!

We’ll start the journey home, where you’ll have an hour’s journey to chat more about your experience with your guide, and what you learned together with your host family, before departing ways.

This is most of a full-day experience where you will learn and appreciate the hard work of the alebrije producing families and communities of Oaxaca. It will be a window into a normal day in these people’s lives and allow you to connect on a deep level by participating in their activities and connecting to the mythology of the land they live off. The objective is that you can get a bond with the sacred practices of alebrije production – in the ways the artists making them have bonded with this practice for generations.

Please note: There is not a Dress Code! You will visit a traditional family in the villages, so dressing respectfully is appreciated. You don’t need to dress to impress – you will be getting your hands dirty. It is recommended to bring comfortable clothes, which are modest, and that you don’t mind getting a bit dirty in. A more detailed list of suggested clothing attire can be found below.

What to bring to the Oaxaca Sacred Alebrije Experience?

Though this could vary seasonally, this is the basic list of what we suggest you bring with you. Keep in mind, your transport is private and secure, so you are able to leave some items in the vehicle when not needed:
– Jeans or long pants (this is most customary in Mexico, though shorts/dress are fine if you are most comfortable in that).
– Sneakers/comfortable shoes.
– Long sleeves or bug spray (there could be mosquitos where we are going).
– Sunblock.
– Hat/cap.
– Covid Mask.
– Cash. The producers do not accept credit cards if you want to buy any alebrijes after your experience. There is no pressure to buy anything. Unlike other tour companies, the producers we work with will always get paid fairly for their time, regardless if you buy an alebrije or not.

What is included with the Oaxaca Sacred Alebrije Experience?

Your sacred experience includes:
– information provided before your experience to educate you and properly prepare you
– a specially trained and licensed English-speaking guide who will facilitate your experience
– transportation during the tour (a private vehicle to and from Teotitlan)
– translations with your artisan host family
– meal (includes a meal at the end of the day. Alcoholic beverages are not included with the meals)
– Mezcal (if offered by the family, please drink responsibly, you are at someone’s home)
– a special small gift to take home with you

What is not included when on your Sacred Alebrije Experience?

Travel Insurance (Compulsory)
– International flights
– Transportation (outside of included itinerary)
– Accommodation in Oaxaca
– Alcoholic beverages (outside of the included mezcal tasting)
– Gratuities and tips
– Spending money if you wish to purchase additional alebrijes, souvenirs or items.

Supporting Local Projects with our TRiP Foundation

Every TRiP that you go on with WSE Travel, we will donate 2% (or $1/day per day, per person – whichever is greater) to an environmental or community-based project in the country you’re visiting. We want to ensure that every guest we help, in turn, helps support and preserves the destination we’re experiencing together as a direct result. We live by an ethos of Travel Responsibly & Impact Positively (TRIP).

For more information on the projects supported by this experience, please visit our Mexico TRIP projects.

Cancellations & Rebooking

All tours, services, and experiences booked through WSE Travel are bound to our Terms and Conditions, which were modelled after most other travel services such as flights, hotels, and other tour operators.

Should you need to cancel or change your reservation for any reason (including but not limited to missed flights, illness, or change of mind), you will still be bound to the terms and conditions agreed to at the time of booking.

Should you give us more than 14 days’ notice of a change in your reservation, we can store your payment in the ‘safety deposit box’, to be used for a future travel date, either by you or be transferred to a friend or family member. Refunds are not available unless your reservation is cancelled by WSE Travel for circumstances outside of our control.

Should you give us less than 14 days’ notice of a change in your reservation, a rebooking fee will be imposed. We do try to be flexible for our guests, but not at the sacrifice of the livelihoods of all locals hired for your private experiences. As these are private experiences, your guide and any other local service provider block their days off from other work to accommodate your reservation, and may not be able to fill that day again in the event of cancellation.

To be fair and responsible to them and their reliance on your reservation’s promised work, your guide will still be paid for your reservation. As such, last-minute cancellations or changes within 2 weeks of departure will be subject to a rebooking fee of the online deposit, to re-hire a guide for your future travel date.

This flexibility is a bend in our Terms and Conditions to try to be fair both to our guests, as well as the locals hired to facilitate your reservation. If you feel there is a high chance of cancellations or changes, please make sure you buy appropriate travel insurance which will be able to reimburse you for cancellations of things such as flights, hotels, and tours.

3 reviews for Oaxaca Alebrije Experience – Make traditional Alebrijes in Tilcajete, Oaxaca

  1. Stephanie Kittell (verified owner)

    I’m so grateful for this rare opportunity to experience the real story behind the artisenal alebrijes of Tilacajete, Oaxaca, Mexico. While many tour companies spin a tall tale, this tour spoke the truth. A truth that comes from a deeper relationship with the local community.

    For me, what remains most striking is not the alebrijes themselves, but the artisan family’s devotion to the entire process… the sacred copal trees that they simultaneously carve with care and reforest as a refuge for future generations… the slow drying of natural plant-based pigments in the midday sun (where others are fast-baking in microwaves)… the homage they pay to ancient Zapotec and Nahuatl dieties in their creations that dare to be different than Disney-Pixar.

    Hand-painting my own alebrije, under the guidance of these masters, was an up-close-and-personal experience I won’t forget. Meditative.

    Reflecting on the day’s discoveries over a deliciously traditional fire-roasted (and vegan-friendly) Oaxacan meal nearby, with our incredible WSE guide Christian and my new friends, the learning continued!

    I would do this again in a heartbeat!

  2. Ryan Brown (verified owner)

    Amazing experience! Okay, I’ll be honest. When I saw Alebrije Experience I was thinking, please not another tour that just takes you to shops to buy things. But I have been on numerous tours with Where Sidewalks End so I was pretty confident it’d be different. And wow, it was absolutely fascinating. Our guide Christian was a wealth of knowledge and explained the extensive history and myths around Alebrije that I hadn’t heard of on any tours before. You go to a small household workshop which makes it all the more intimate and get to see how the family crafts these beautiful pieces and the wild amount of time, detail, and passion that goes into every piece. And then you get to paint your own! Loved that. They sat with us to show the different methods and patterns used to paint the Alebrije and helped when we needed it, and just made for a really memorable experience on top of everything. After, we went to another family’s workshop that added another layer to the experience learning how they are helping to evolve the art and tradition of Alebrije. The area you visit is stunning, and we had lunch in the most beautiful spot surrounded by gardens and nature with food cooked by traditional methods.

  3. Teresa Gomez (verified owner)

    This was one of my favourite tours in Oaxaca. Getting to know the unique art of Alebrijes through the local artisans has blown my mind! Their creativity and skills are incredible, and both workshops visited were very welcoming and eager to show their art and the process they followed to create it, from the carving to the painting. I loved that I got to paint and take home my own Alebrije!
    And let’s not forget lunch – the restaurant we went to had a gorgeous setting in the middle of nature, and everything was cooked on an open fire. Absolutely delicious! A must-do tour in Oaxaca!

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