You can experience village life by staying at a tourist yu'u, a Zapotec word meaning "tourist house." Developed by the state tourism board, these lodgings scattered throughout the communities of the Valles Centrales, the Mixteca, and other areas around Oaxaca City are the ultimate budget options, costing as little as $8 per person per night.

Not all yu'us are created equal. The older ones, in villages such as Santa Ana del Valle, are in concrete-block buildings painted a vivid shade of green. Newer places in villages like Benito Juárez are more comfortable—accommodations in four rooms in a main building house between three and nine people; six cabins accommodate two or three people.

You can cook your own meals or arrange for a local cook. Activities include horseback riding, mountain-bike trips, and temazcal (an adobe sweat lodge used by the indigenous people). Facilities in nearby villages, such as San Antonio Cuajimoloyas, have a similar range of activities.

Volunteers at the Tourist Yu'u Project, in the state tourism office, can show you photos of and provide fact-sheets on each yu'u. They can also make reservations for you. Calle Murguía 204, at Calle 5 de Mayo, Centro Histórico, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, 68000. 951/516–0123.