I have fallen in love with Oaxaca! Pronounce Oaxaca like “Wah-hah-kah” This is a very attractive historical town with beautiful churches and plazas which are well preserved and on the Unesco World Heritage list. Oaxaca has it all; Zapotec history, gastronomy, historical buildings, boutique hotels, mezcal, charm, mountains and many more. The colorful streets are perfect to wander around and to have a nice coffee in one of the many cute coffee shops or bakeries. I stayed two full days in Oaxaca City, but I wish I stayed longer, so take this into account!!
Tip: In the morning and evening it could get chilly in Oaxaca so bring a sweater with you. During the day it’s fine; at least this was in January….
Travel to and from Oaxaca
I arrived in Oaxaca at 7:00 AM in the morning after taking the night bus from Mexico City (CDMX) at 23:45 PM. The ADO overnight bus leaves from Tapo Bus Station in CDMX (20 min with the Uber from Zona Rosa). You can choose several classes and times with ADO which are very comfortable and luxury if you take the Platina bus. Ticket prices differ per time, class and timing; mine was 800M$ (37$). I booked the ticket in advance online, very easy with PayPal. The ride is about 7 hours (I had some delay with departure…) so you can have a proper sleep if you use the right tools (see blog about jetlag). Taxi from the bus stop to the centro is about 60MXN.
Tip: So if you like to have a proper seat in a comfort class buss; I advise you to book in advance!
My next destination is Puerto Escondido; a 10 hour bus ride through the winding mountains roads or a shuttle service that will be faster like 8 hours. Or the best option, but of course the most expensive one, fly. After some research and considering all the options I made the decision to fly; this to save time, see it as a tour and adventure to fly in a small Cessna plane. I booked the flight online with Aerotucán for 2550M$ (133$) and paid with credit card. The flight was very efficient, safe and fast. I could even sit in the front as well (felt I was flying myself!!). Indeed a great choice, loved the thrill and adventure flying in the small plane and the view over the mountains. Taxi from centro Oaxaca to airport takes you ±15 min for 200MXN.
What to do in Oaxaca?
The main attraction in Oaxaca is wandering around through the colorful streets and admire the beautiful buildings and plazas like the Zócolan, Templo de Santo Domingo and visit Museo the las Culturas de Oaxaca. Oaxaca is the gastronomic center of Mexico so food is very important here, perfect for a cooking class or eat in a high class restaurant or try the local fabricated mezcal drink. Don’t forget to visit the ancient site Mount Albán. Lots to do here; enjoy Oaxaca!!
1. Templo de Santo Domingo
This Oaxaca church is the most splendid one and you will see it for yourself when wandering around the streets of Oaxaca. I really liked decorative cactus plants around the church. The blue sky in the back made the picture perfect. Inside is as just or even more beautiful as outside. Next to this prominent church you will find the Museo de Las Culturas de Oaxaca and behind the church you can visit the Jardín Etnobotánico which can only be visited by tour.
2. Museo de Las Culturas de Oaxaca
I was not planning to go to this Museum of the Culture of Oaxaca, but I went in to cover some time before I could check-in in my hotel (entrance fee 70MXN). I liked it; the building is beautiful and perfectly located. Through the open windows (no glass) you have an amazing view over the mountains, botanical garden and city center. The museum takes you back through the history and cultures of the Tuxtepec and Zapotec in the areas such as crafts, food and medicine of Oaxaca. One remark is that the explanatory was only in Spanish…. Good for my practicing my Spanish!
3. Cooking Class
I love to cook and Oaxaca is known for its culinary activities, so lucky me!! This is the perfect place to get more cooking inspirations. That is why I booked one of the many cooking classes offered in Oaxaca; at La Cocina Oaxaqueña. The graduated cook Gerardo is very helpful and explains all the steps in the 5 hours afternoon cooking class (900MXN or 55USD from 15:00 PM- 20:00 PM, morning session available too). First we went to the local market to get all the ingredients and we got an extensive explanation of many products we could see at the market. I found it very interesting. After the market we headed to the villa with attached cooking area where we received our menu and drinks. Gerardo’s family supported us in the kitchen; helping, preparing, serving and hosting the group (9 persons).
The food we prepared was delicious and very divers: tamales, guacamole, mole (sauce) with 30 ingredients and chicken, tortillas and quesadillas. The menu differs from day to day but I’m sure you will like it!! Besides preparing the food its great fun and educational too; pressing the tortillas is harder than you think. So respect for the ladies in the streets preparing them!!!
Tip: Take a look at my Food blogs for inspirations. I will post some inspirations of this trip soon. I already bought a tortilla press.
4. Mount Albán
Find out why this 400m high Mount Albán archeological site in the Oaxaca Valley is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage!! In this ancient Zapotec city you can still see the well maintained remains of temples, stepped platforms and palaces. The view on top looking over the valley with the blue sky was perfect. And the best, this archeological site is less touristy than the other more famous sites in Central America and Mexico.
I took a 30 minute taxi for 200MXN to the entrance of the park including museum (75MXN). Local busses run as well. I arrived in the late afternoon in order to see the sunset, but it was not possible to see a sunset because the park closes at 17:00 PM. Still got a good impression of the great view over Old and New Oaxaca valley.
Tip: Go so that you have enough time to visit all you want to see, the park closes at 17:00 PM so no sunset tours possible.
5. Ruta Mercado Materia
I stepped into a shop where the girl explained to me that they have route called; Ruta Mercado Materia. All the shops have a relationship with textile and fashion; technics, process and materials that the artisans used and fashion today. The route includes some real nice shops but also the Museo Textile de Oaxaca is in the route. A very nice way to explore the city of Oaxaca and walk through the colorful streets with nice shops and cafes. So ask around to get a free flyer with the route!
Tips to sleep, eat and drink in Oaxaca!
Start the day to have lunch or brunch at the hot spot in Oaxaca: Boulenc Pan Artesano. This place is a hipster café with a bakery attached. The coffee and avocado on toast are the best. The place looks really relaxed and seated at the common table; I had multiple interesting conversations with fellow travelers. As you probably guessed, I visited this place more than once.
Oaxaca is the area for the Mezcal; the alcoholic beverage is made from the heart of the agave plant. Mezcal is more expensive and tastier than the more known tequila which is made of the blue agave. In Oaxaca you can find different bars where you can taste and try different types of the very strong alcoholic drink. Too strong for me!!
Tip: Create your own cocktail and mix some Mezcal with the other local drink Jamaica. Jamaica is made of the hibiscus flower. For me this was the perfect drink during my cooking class.
Oaxaca is packed with boutique hotels and other nice accommodations. I booked a very trendy design boutique hotel called: Casa Antonieta. The rooms are large and comfortable, but can be a bit cold. It was not summer yet and the building was not heating up, which is comfortable in the hot summers. But with a blanket and comfortable hot shower and free bathrobe it was perfect!
The vibe is really good, good front desk that is willing to help you to explore the surroundings. The coffee bar attached to the hotel is well visited too. The front desk recommended me to have dinner at the restaurant Origin. Which was a good tip. The 5 courses surprise menu including mezcal cocktail (770MXN) is not cheap, but you get a real almost Michelin star food experience. All in all a very good experience!
Tip: At Mercado de la Cosecha you can have a nice organic lunch outside in a local food market place. Food and vibe are really good here. A must go when you are in Oaxaca! Open Wednesday to Sunday from 8:00AM to 6:00PM.
Go and do at least a 2 day stop-over in Oaxaca!
Next stop San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Mexico City or Puerto Escondido? See blogs below!