Oaxaca is a state about 300 miles southeast of Mexico City and features beautiful beaches, much archeology, and charming little towns. Below are some ideas about visiting the city of Oaxaca.
Driving from Mexico City to Oaxaca can be a long drive on curvy mountain roads; one you get past Puebla it is a lovely drive, with views of snowcapped volcanoes of the Popocacetepl (active) and Iztaccihuatl. At another point, you will see a forest of cactus on the mountains surrounding – thousands of cactus stretching for what seems forever.
The city center (centro historico) is an excellent place to start your visit. This is a place steeped in Mexican culture and Spanish colonialism and here both cultures coexist peacefully. Oaxaca’s display and the preservation of its culture with its many artists – painters, weavers, wood carvers, even chefs all display talent going back several generations. From the city center, you’ll want to go to the very heart of the community – the zocalo, created in the late 1520’s. Sit in a cafe, enjoy the frequent music, and watch the locals as they go about their daily life in Oaxaca. Protestors often gather here also. Look for Oaxaca’s Cathedral one of the city’s 27 churches. It was originally started in 1535, but has been rebuilt more than once due to area earthquakes, the last time in 1733. Displaying a primarily baroque facade, the inside is quite sober. The cathedral’s entrance is on a smaller plaza nearby called “La Alameda.” Surrounding the zocalo is the historical center with many streets closed off to traffic. On Andador Turistico Alcala, a cobblestone road featuring brightly colored colonial facades, you will find The Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s worth a visit to see both international and local artists. Nearby there is La Sangre de Cristo’ (church) and you can enjoy free classical music concerts on summer weekends. Next you’ll want to see the Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo which includes the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman and the ex convent. This magnificent church is simply beautiful inside, with the ceiling and walls carved in a heavenly beauty. Equally beautiful if the attached Virgin of the Rosary (temple.) This convent and church was constructed over the course of an entire century. You’ll find another convent nearby along with other cathedrals and historical buildings, each displaying an interesting style.
Shopping for locally made items is very important to most visitors and two of the most popular markets are the Mercado de las Artesanias and the Benito Suarez Market. Don’t buy expensive items here but look for fun, souvenir type crafts and snacks. Just a few blocks away is the Artisan Market which feature similar items but usually of a higher quality, including native weavings and black clay pottery.
No visit to this area is complete without going to an archaelogical site. Monte Albán was the epicenter of their culture and a place of divine worship. It’s about seven miles from city of Oaxaca and is the largest site. The best way to visit is by an escorted tour.
Dining is excellent in Oaxaca and you can enjoy hot chocolate and delicious baked goods at a local market or a gourmet meal at one of its many restaurants. Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmeda serves up superb modern day Mexican cuisine in an open and airy dining room at Casa Oaxaca. Pricey but worth it. Enjoy a sumptuous buffet at El Refectorio, an eatery at the Camino Real hotel. Note the back wall of the main dining room is studded with earthenware pots were uncovered during the 16th century restoration. For the chocolate Oaxaca is famour for, try Chocolate Mayordomo; they’ll grind their own chocolate and prepare it for you to take with you.
Accommodations in Oaxaca are varied and plentiful from four star hotels to small boutique hotels and comfy B & B’s.