Here’s What To Know About Visiting El Tule, Mexico’s 2,000-Year-Old Giant Tree

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Impossibly old and incredibly big, this tree in Oaxaca has lived through the rise and fall of numerous civilizations.

This giant tree in Mexico represents the timeless universality of sacred traditions. Revered across several cultures and religions over thousands of years, El Árbol del Tule is a symbol of man’s affinity for the eternal. The tree holds a number of world records for its old age and stoutness, and scientists are baffled by some of its unique characteristics. Join thousands of pilgrims who visit El Árbol del Tule every year and experience one of the world’s last living links to the ancient world.

  • Name: El Árbol del Tule
  • Nickname: Tree of Life
  • Species: Montezuma bald cypress
  • Address: 2 de Abril, 8va Etapa IVO Fracc el Retiro, 68297 Santa María del Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico
  • Hours: 8 AM – 8 PM

Here’s What To Know About The History Of El Tule

Beginning sometime around the turn of the epoch, El Tule was born. Like most trees and forests in the world, El Tule was planted by human beings. In Nahuatl, a local language spoken in the region prior to Spanish colonization, the tree is known as ahuehuete, which means “old man of the water.” It’s interesting to note that the tree, even in pre-Hispanic times, was named after how old it is.

Estimates regarding El Tule’s age vary wildly. Some estimates suggest that the tree is over 6,000 years old. However, scientists guess that it is closer to 2,000 years old.

According to the local Zapotec legend, El Tule was planted about 2,000 years ago by an Aztec priest, Pechocha, who communed with Ehacatl, the wind god. The Zapotec dating of El Tule is most closely aligned with scientific dating.

The location of the tree also gives a clue as to its age and purpose. It marks the center of ancient sacred grounds where the Aztec Gods of Nature were worshiped. Following Spanish colonization, a Roman Catholic Church was built on the same grounds. Not much is known about the Church other than its place at the very center of the quaint little town of Santa Maria del Tule. The tree was already over a thousand years old by the time the Church was built.

If the recorded history of El Tule seems scant and underwhelming, that’s because it is. El Tule is a mystery in many ways. Information about the tree’s origin, as well as its symbolic significance, is missing. It is likely that such knowledge was passed down through a lineage of oral transmission that was interrupted after centuries of warfare among native tribes and foreign conquerors.

The Arbor del Tule has the stoutest tree trunk in the world, slightly wider than the second-largest tree — a giant sequoia called General Sherman in Sequoia National Park. For years, in a bid to explain the impossible girth and shape of the tree, people assumed that El Tule must be an amalgamation of multiple trees. However, after studying its DNA with modern technology, scientists have confirmed that El Tule is a single organism with uniquely blessed genetics.

  • Height: 116 ft (35.4m)
  • Circumference: 190 ft (58m)
  • Diameter: 46 ft (14m)
  • Weight: 636,107 tons

The roots and trunk of El Tule stick out in complex ways. A traditional activity among children in the area is to try and find animal visages in the wooden convolutions. This is partly why El Tule is referred to as the “Tree of Life.” Quite universally across cultures, occult knowledge is revealed through the projection of subconscious pattern recognition onto receptive mediums. El Tule appears to have played this vital role in the pre-Hispanic societies that populated Oaxaca.

Scientists worry that El Árbol del Tule is dying. The exact signs of death are not widely known, but in general, it is assumed that the unprecedented industrialization in Mexico will kill El Tule. At the same time, local spiritual leaders claim that this mortal anxiety is common in every age and that the tree has survived long enough to make it through another period of apocalyptic fixation.

A Guide To Visiting El Tule

El Árbol del Tule is located on the Church grounds at the center of the town square, which is at the center of the small town of Santa Maria del Tule. This town is approximately six miles (nine kilometers) from the larger city of Oaxaca. It can be reached along the road to Mitla, which is an important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca.

There is a small fee to enter the Church grounds and access El Árbol del Tule. With the entrance ticket, visitors will receive a leaflet that expands on some facts about the tree, such as its weight, age, and species.

  • Price of admission: Less than $1

Visitors who engage with El Árbol del Tule often experience a deluge of overwhelming sensations. If it is indeed possible to empathize or attune to this ancient, living tree, visitors will experience millennia of life experience, with all of its pain, change, joy, and serenity.

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