One of the things I love about travel is the sheer number of randomness you can find all over the world. And how those random things just seem so much cooler overseas than they do at home. Take El Árbol del Tule for example. At face value, it’s a tree. Whoo. But this isn’t just any tree – it’s THE Tree of Tule! See how the capitalization makes all the difference?
El Árbol is located in Oaxaca, in a town called Santa María del Tule. There isn’t a whole lot to see here other than the tree which can be found on the church grounds. The tree is a Montezuma cypress and it once was considered for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Unfortunately, though, it hasn’t been included officially.
The tree is famous not because it is the oldest or tallest tree in the world – it isn’t. It’s famous because it has the widest trunk of any known tree alive in the world today: El Árbol has a diameter of 9.38m which is larger than the next stoutest tree (a Giant Sequoia, apparently) which has a diameter of 8.98m. So it is a very fat tree. Some used to think that its girth was impossible and it must be more than one tree that had fused together…but no – DNA tests were done and proved that it really is just one tree.
El Árbol is also kind of old – it was planted somewhere between 1400 to 2000 years ago. Who knows how much longer it will last, though. It is supposedly slowly dying as its roots have been damaged over time due to man-made problems (pollution, irrigated farming, and urbanization). Oh, humanity.
A visit will cost you a few pesos to get fairly close to the tree – only pay it if you want to see the nooks and crannies of the gnarled trunk. If you don’t really care, a view from the distance is more than enough. I enjoyed being up close to something natural and so old, imaging the civilizations and cultures it would have seen and imagining the people that once would have sat under its shady branches. To me, that is how you make something simple like a tree come alive. If that is still not enough to make you want to visit, why not combine it with Mitla or Hierve el Agua? Both are relatively in the vicinity and are worth a visit themselves.