I have shared travel tips with friends for many years, but now that I have a blog can share them here. I hope they are useful.
This first post is on what to do in the City of Oaxaca (official name is Oaxaca de Juarez), capital of the state of Oaxaca in Mexico for a few days. Wikipedia has plenty of information on Oaxaca you can consult here.
Walking in the downtown area is a pleasure. The area, together with Monte Alban, are in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Most buildings are historical and the whole area has been renovated and is well kept and safe for tourism. The key landmarks to see in the city are:
- Zocalo (main square) and Cathedral.
- Really nice church of Santo Domingo.
- Next to it, the amazing and huge Centro Cultural Santo Domingo, which is a museum and botanical garden, and used to be the convent of the church. Plan on dedicating at least 2 hours. Get an audioguide if you do not speak Spanish as labels are only in Spanish.
- The Rufino Tamayo Museum, which has a very nice collection of mostly pre-Columbian clay figures collected by famous Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo.
- The Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre markets. Here you have to try eating at the food stands with typical Oaxacan food.
- The MACO – Contemporary Art Museum of Oaxaca.
- Walk the andador turistico – the pedestrian street where many art galleries, restaurants and coffee shops are.
- A short ride from downtown is Monte Alban, an amazing archeological site inhabited since 500 B.C.
You might require 2 or 3 days to visit these landmarks. There are many art galleries in the area with artists from Oaxaca and other regions of Mexico. You can find interesting works, some of them at reasonable prices.
Then, you have several towns and places to visit around the city. Many of the towns are specialized in some type of handicrafts. You can organize different routes on different days. For example:
- South route (highway 175) – handicrafts towns, where you should not miss:
- San Martin Tilcajete, for amazing wood sculptures called alebrijes. Visit the workshop of Jacobo and Maria Angeles for a nice tours of how alebrijes are made. Then visit the Copal Magico workshop of Jesus and Roxana Hernandez to buy nice pieces at more reasonable prices.
- San Bartolo Coyotepec, for black clay. Visit the workshop of Doña Rosa to learn about the process.
- East route (highway 190)
- El Tule, an amazing and huge ahuehuete tree more than 2000 years old. You can get breakfast at the food market, where all the stands sell exactly the same typical food.
- Teotitlan del Valle, for nice wool rugs and tapestries. Visit the workshop of Isaac Vasquez for an explanation of the process from the sourcing of the natural dyes to the final product. Also Ismael and Edgardo Gutierrez Sosa workshop has nice and more modern designs.
- Mitla, interesting archeological site.
- Hierve el Agua, nice petrified waterfalls. Bring bathing suit to get into the spring pools.
- Stop at some of the many artesanal mezcal factories where you can learn the process for making mezcal and get a taste of the different varieties
Oaxacan food is one of the best in Mexico. You should try the mole’s (very thick and tasty sauces with many ingredients including chocolate in some of them), tlayudas, Oaxacan cheese, hot chocolate, tamales, and many more. Some recommended restaurants are:
- Pitiona, Oaxacan signature cuisine
- Los Danzantes, modern version of Oaxacan food
- Casa Oaxaca, ask for a terrace table
- La Biznaga
- Los Pacos, traditional local food
- Zandunga, food from the Istmo region
- Cafe Brujula, good coffee
- Boulenc, very nice artisan bread
- The food stands at the 20 de Noviembre market, and the nearby grill beef section, where you you buy the typical tasajo – very thin salted beef cut – from the store you like, and sauces, tortillas and drinks from independent vendors each.
Mezcal is the local spirit drink, made out of several different varieties of agave. You have to try it. There are hundreds of brands, many of which are produced completely artisanal in small batches. You can try them at restaurants or at Mezcalerias, which carry a few brands each and sell full and half bottles. In general they are expensive so you should taste them before buying. My recommendation for buying artisanal mezcal is Cuish, which has really good mezcales at reasonable prices.
Let me know if you have other recommendations and I will add them here.