Siesta Tours explores nation's 'art capital'

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Siesta Tours, a specialist in cultural programs for the group tour market, created a Treasures of Oaxaca tour to the "art capital of Mexico."

Marion Bayer, the firm's founder and president, said the six-night program, commissionable at 10%, can be tailored to reflect any group's particular interests.

"All of the programs feature unique cultural opportunities, such as lunches hosted by local families who serve the traditional foods that their ancestors prepared centuries ago," Bayer said.

The itinerary starts with trips to the pre-Columbian archaeological sites and artisan villages for which the Oaxaca area is famous and incorporates visits to museums, galleries and artisan homes and villages that punctuate the program's theme.

Museum and gallery visits spotlight the diverse art styles on display in Oaxaca, including pre-Columbian, Spanish colonial, folk and contemporary.

A church in Mitla, a city built over the ruins of magnificent Mixtec Indian sites. The program features tours of Monte Alban and Mitla, two of Mexico's most important pre-Columbian archaeological sites, and visits to the artisan villages of Atzompa, Teotitlan del Valle, San Bartolo Coyotepec, San Martin Tilcajete, Ocotlan and Santo Tomas Jalieza.

For clients interested in a more hands-on approach, Bayer said she can arrange for participants to make pinatas, learn the art of punched tin or work with clay and textiles.

Oaxaca is home to an estimated 17 distinct indigenous peoples, with their own language, dress and culture.

The region's native art is so admired that many households and public buildings in Mexico are filled with examples of Oaxaca's art, including hand-dyed wool rugs from Teotitlan del Valle, black Coyotepec pottery, green glazed pottery from Atzompa and colorfully painted wood carvings from San Martin Tilcajete.

While in Oaxaca, clients stay at the 27-room Hotel Suites del Centro, an all-suite property that was converted from an historical building three blocks from the city's zocalo, or main square.

All suites come with separate sitting areas and full kitchens; several feature private balconies. A rooftop terrace provides room for lounging and panoramic views of the city.

The land-only trip is scheduled for Sept. 22 to 28 and costs $1,025 per person, double. The single rate is $1,225.

It includes hotel accommodations, 11 meals, transportation, baggage handling, admission to all attractions and all gratuities.

Participants fly into Mexico City and take a connecting flight to Benito Juarez Airport.

For information or reservations, call (800) 679-2746 or visit www.siestatours.com.

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