Exploring Sierra Norte Tour companies: The Oaxaca-based Tierraventura company offers day and overnight hikes in Sierra Norte, plus other ecotourism expeditions in the southern...

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Exploring Sierra Norte

Tour companies: The Oaxaca-based Tierraventura company offers day and overnight hikes in Sierra Norte, plus other ecotourism expeditions in the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and
Chiapas. www.tierraventura.com or phone 011-52-951-5011363.

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Other tour companies in Oaxaca, such as Zapotec Tours, also can book hiking trips; see www.oaxacainfo.com/zt.htm

• Some U.S travel companies are beginning to offer excursions to the Pueblos Mancomunados villages, including Journeys International which has an overnight hike as part of a tour next fall. www.journeys-intl.com or 800-255-8735.

• The tourism arm of the eight Pueblos Mancomunados villages is called Expediciones Sierra Norte. It organizes some excursions and works with ecotour companies. Spanish-language Web site: www.sierranorte.org.mx

Going solo: Hikers, bikers and birdwatchers also can explore independently in the Pueblos Mancomunados, although a trail permit is needed and non-Spanish speakers will find arrangements complicated. Buses go to some of the villages from the city of Oaxaca, but service is infrequent.

• The mountain town of Ixtlan in the Sierra Norte, although not formally part of the Pueblos Mancomunados, is more easily reached by bus; has some accommodations; an 18th-century church; offers eco-tours; and has a detailed Web site (in Spanish and English): www.oaxacamex.info/ixtlan/

When to go: For Sierra Norte hikes, November to March is generally the best season. However, hikes can be done year-round although September can be rainy and May can be hot.

More information:

• The travel memoir “Oaxaca Journal” by neurologist, author and amateur botanist Oliver Sacks (National Geographic, $20) is a learned and lively chronicle of his journey to the area, including around Ixtlan in the Sierra Norte.

• The World Wildlife Fund works on forestry, ecotourism and other projects in the Sierra Norte. See www.panda.org (search for Mexico).