Sometimes four days is NOT enough.
Wandering the colorful colonial streets of Oaxaca, Mexico is a refreshing breather from the hustle and bustle of Mexico City. From the sights, sounds, food, and of course Mezcal – there is a ton to do on a short trip.
Come along with me as I cover six reasons to visit Oaxaca on your NEXT trip.
1) The Colorful Architecture:
One of my first impressions was how preserved and well-maintained the historic downtown was. Filled with color and beauty; a random street turn would give your eyes a new visual overload. And If you’re staying in a nearby residential area, even better. In Xochimilco a five-minute stroll for breakfast turned into a 30-minute tour of historic buildings, artistic graffiti, and even a passing Mariachi band.
Of course the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán and its adjacent Museum are a must see. In fact, the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca is a great spot for both those into art (not me) and those into awesome photography (me). Through the windows of the museum you can get great shots of the stunning courtyard and botanical garden outside. It’s a win win for all those going.
2) The Food:
Tlayuda, Credit: turimexico.com
Oaxaca’s gastronomic scene is known throughout Mexico as one of the country’s finest. From Mole to Tlayuda there is a large selection of foods you can’t find anywhere else in Mexico. The Tlayuda was my favorite: think a giant Mexican Pizza stuffed with Tasajo beef, quesillo cheese, beans. The best part is that it folds like a taco!
Oh, and for the adventure eaters – Oaxaca is famous for its Chapulines (grasshoppers). While I intended to try it, after looking at it up close I just COULDN’T. Alas, there’s always next time.
3) The Mezcal:
Four Mezcal flavors from a tasting.
If you’ve never tried Mezcal it is a must if you are in Oaxaca. Think of it like Tequila’s smokier tasting cousin. Produced from 30 different agave plants, the taste and texture can vary depending on what flavor you choose. Most restaurants will have it available, and some shops will even offer samples to entice you to buy.
I would recommend heading out of town a short distance to find a Mezcal Distillery. During a tour we stopped by El Rey de Matatlan for a Mezcal tasting. It is interesting because they not only let you sample over 6 types of Mezcal (my favorite was the non-aged Espadin), but also explained the fermentation process from beginning to end. If you don’t like the strong taste, don’t fret. They also have sweeter mezcal mixed to taste like a pina colada.
4) The Markets & Bazaars:
Oaxaca is a city made for the shopper, but not for Louis Vutton bags or the Iphone X. Instead you’ll find a plethora of traditional arts and crafts. Not far from the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán is a winter bazaar that you can purchase animal handcrafts, masks, and patterned shirts and shoes from the local indigenous culture. Prices are very reasonable.
The most famous food market is called the 20th of November Market and is located just 1 block from the Zocalo. Inside you will be greeted by a sea of vendors selling all kinds of meats and produce. Deeper inside it resembles a smaller version of the Coyocan market in Mexico, City. Treat yourself to traditional Oaxacan food at one of the many stands set up. You will be hard pressed to spend more than 100 pesos on a meal. (This may be a good spot to “sample” those grasshoppers).
5) Monte Alban:
The breathtaking ruins of the Zapotec people are only a short 30-minute ride away from the Oaxaca Historical Center. Entering brings you back to a world thousands of years old that has to be seen to truly marvel in its wonder. From an ancient ball court, shrines, and monuments it is worth at least 2 hours to wander the ruins and scale the steps of the pyramids. (bring comfortable shoes!)
Standing 400 meters above the Oaxacan Valley, you will also get breathtaking views of the nature surrounding the ruins.
6) Nearby Day Trips:
Hierve el Agua
The highlight was a two hour stop at Hierve el Agua. The first hour involved hiking down to see cliffs and waterfalls overlooking the Oaxaca Valley. The steps can be a bit steep, but it’s worth the effort to get up close to the water flowing down.
On the upper level are artificial pools of water, also overlooking the valley. While it may appear to be boiling, the water was on the colder side (you’ll get used to it I promise). I would best compare it to being in an Infinity pool on a city rooftop. Except your views are of breath-taking nature instead of skyscrapers.
If you go during peak season (around Christmas and New Years) expect there to be crowds of people. Still, it shouldn’t dissuade you from enjoying yourself and soaking in some amazing views.
Oaxaca has been my favorite trip since coming to Mexico City two months ago. Tell me in the comments if you’ve been to Oaxaca, and if so what was your favorite part!