Ancient sites, tasty food, mezcal, colourful facades and a celebration on every corner – these are some of the great things that identify this energetic place. We just spent two amazing weeks in this wonderful compact city, it was a great introduction to
our first visit to Mexico!
Our accommodation host, Edith is also a local guide and took us on a tour on our first day. First stop to nearby town of Santa Maria del Tule where we had breakfast. To kick start the day, we drank Champurrado – a hot chocolate drink accompanied with a freshly baked sweet bread roll. Oaxacans love chocolate, the Zapotecs (the local indigenous people) have used Cacao for centuries. The drink is normally frothed using a traditional wooden carved beater called a Molinillo.
We also tried some of the common foods, and ordered Empanada – a folded corn tortilla filled with different mole sauces (my favourite was Verde). There are 7 moles in Oaxaca, named after their colour each one made with different spices, seeds, chocolate, nuts and fruits. Our breakfast was followed by Quesadilla, similar to Empanada but filled with melted stringy Oaxaca cheese and courgette flowers. Everything was delicious and freshly made and the best thing it was all very affordable. A must try if you’re out, try the tasty Tlayudas from the stalls (it’s like a pizza) a large, thin and crispy tortilla spread with refried beans topped with avacado, cheese, tomato, salsa and meat).
Just across the restaurant where we ate, in the courtyard of the Santa Maria church a great huge Cypress tree resides there. El Árbol del Tule has the widest tree base in the world with a diameter of 14m (46ft). With a bit of imagination, the gnarly knots on the bark resemble different animals from jaguars to elephants. We have seen the giant sequoias in Yosemite but this tree was very impressive considering its location.
We visited one of the many Mezcal distilleries in Oaxaca, similar to Tequila it is one of Mexico’s famous spirits made from the Agave plant. A boozy morning (luckily we had breakfast before) we were invited to sample some of the distillery’s finest Mezcals. They range from pure Mezcal, to aged ones and fruit liquors. The Mezcal I tried (that I won’t forget) is the one with the dead worm in the bottle – the ‘chinicuil’ which lives inside the Agave plant gives the Mezcal more flavour.
We then ventured to one of Oaxaca’s biggest Sunday markets in Tlacolula. Going through the narrow lanes of the market; the smells of spices, moles and meats hit you. This is a vibrant market where locals come to lunch and shop, selling all sorts of foods to homewares. We stocked up on fresh fruits following our fast food diet in the States.
Oaxaca has two distinct archaeological sites, one in Mitla and one in Monte Alban, the latter being the biggest. Both sites feature pyramidal monuments and date back to 900-500 BC. They were places of religion and the powerhouses of the time. I recommend you come and see these sites, to admire the history, architecture and engineering. Monte Alban is short bus ride away from 518 Fransisco Mina and Mitla (24 miles from Oaxaca) by bus or taxi. At Mitla you can combine a visit to the Hierve el Agua, see the ‘petrified waterfall’ and take a dip in the springs.
Oaxaca centre has some great cafes, restaurants and numerous museums. The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca houses some of Monte Alban’s greatest treasures and worth a visit. There are plenty of shops selling local arts and crafts, textiles and food markets for fresh produce. We often stopped by Cafe Brujula on Calle Macedonio Alcalá, just off the Zocalo (the main square) and then bought tasty cheap pastries from Pan Bamby Bakery (Calle del Manuel Garcia Vigil).
Oaxaca is a beautiful and colourful city, and the locals are one of the most friendliest people we have encountered on this trip.
We recommend staying at Casa Del Fresno (via. Airbnb) managed by Edith and Maggie. We had a comfortable stay during our visit there, they have great apartments and speedy wifi. Edith is great tour guide as well, she can take you to some of the best sights in Oaxaca and Maggie is always there to answer your questions and let you know about the events of the city. To get £25/$35 off your first Airbnb booking, click here for this special offer.