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Oaxaca is one of the most beautiful places on earth in our opinion. We have visited every year for the past twelve years. Because we write so much about Oaxaca, we are often asked how to travel there, what to do, where to stay, where to eat and so on. We are not nor do we aspire to be professional travel guides. We are happy to share our experiences in Oaxaca for those readers who are interested. This post is a work in progress and will be updated from time to time as we discover more to share. Oaxaca is a cosmopolitan city with varied restaurants from many cultures. At the end of this post we list articles (with links) that we have posted on Oaxaca in the past. Not included are the many poems and short stories inspired by this wonderful place. The best way to learn all we know about Oaxaca is to explore these linked articles.
For the past twelve years we have chosen Casa de las Bugambilias as our home base in Oaxaca. It is a wonderful B&B with all the services you will need. We highly recommend the private tours offered by Rene Cabrera Arroyo through Casa de las Bugambilias. There are plenty of other hotels and B&Bs to choose from. All are adequately reviewed online and in the popular guide books. As for traveling to Oaxaca, we prefer AeroMexico since they have the most connecting flights from Mexico City and their own dedicated terminal space.
Where to Eat
Click on the name of each restaurant to be directed to the website or Facebook or Trip Advisor page.
The food in Oaxaca is exceptional. We are not restaurant critics. We list below in alphabetical order our personal favorite restaurants, cafes, and street food in the neighborhood of Santo Domingo church. In no way is the list exhaustive. There are more choices in Oaxaca than anyone could sample in a lifetime. There are several excellent articles easily accessible online and the locals are more than happy to direct you to the their own favorites. Just ask. We have always found the people in Oaxaca to be friendly and helpful. Walk up and down any street in the historical district and you will find small bakeries and coffee shops along every block. Most are good, some are excellent. Street food is readily available but caution is advised. Let common sense be your guide.
If you are interested in mezcal, be sure to check out Mezcaloteca on Reforma Street. They provide mezcal tastings and useful information on the many varieties of mezcal in Oaxaca and beyond. The tastings are by appointment. For a personal tour of the mezcal companies outside the city, contact Rene Cabrera Arroyo at Las Bugambilias Tours.
Museums and Art Galleries are everywhere in Oaxaca. Most of the museums are free on Sunday. Just wander the streets or read the many good guidebooks and choose the ones you like. The Museum of Contemporary Art (MACO) is a must as are the Rufino Tamayo Museum and the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca in the beautiful Santo Domingo church. The Benito Juarez home provides an interesting incite into the life of Mexico’s most popular President. We also recommend the Oaxaca Textile Museum (Museo Textil de Oaxaca) and the Stamp Museum (Museo de la Filatelia). There are over a dozen graphic arts studios in Oaxaca and we found it a worthwhile venture to visit them all. Street art in the form of posters, stencils and murals is everywhere to be found even in the parking lots of the local markets.
Shoppers will find an amazing assortment of folk art, fine art, crafts, textiles, carpets, jewelry, leather goods and more. The 20 de Noviembre and the Mercado des Artesanias are two popular large markets near the Zocalo. If you walk leisurely along any of the streets in the historical district you will find numerous small and unique shops featuring an assortment of items.
Throughout the valley outside the city there are a great number of small towns each with its unique environment, arts, crafts, and other amenities. There are regional market days easily reachable by taxi or shared vans. The more you take the time to visit the happier you will be. One popular destination for tourists looking for the beautiful woven wool rugs (tapetes) is Teotitlan del Valle. There is a new cultural center in Teotitlan which exhibits examples of the history and cultural traditions of the valley.
Numerous archeological ruins are within easy access. Some that we particularly like include Monte Alban, Mitla, Yagul, Lambityeco, Ex Convent of Guerrero Cuilapam and Atzompa. Throughout the city the many museums offer an abundance of archeological artifacts and information.
At least once visit the Zocalo and spend some time to see the interesting sites in and around it. The beautiful Governors Palace is not always open to visitors but if you have a chance the murals by Arturo Garcia Bustos on the stairway are quite spectacular. There are many other ecological and cultural sites worth visiting. All are covered in the popular guide books or online sites.
Be sure to enjoy the Calenda parades with the giant puppets, colorful dancers and brass bands. These occur spontaneously almost every day and often for weddings and celebrations.
Don’t ignore the churches large and small both inside the city and out in the valley. Extravagant or simple, they provide an interesting incite to the local communities. One of our favorites is in San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya.
Oaxaca is a lovely city for walkers. There are many beautiful parks (Llano, Conzatti, Labastida to name just a few). Next to the elegant Macedonio Alcala Theater tucked away in the middle of the block is a quiet respite from the crowds of the Zocalo. The Central Cultural San Pablo is housed in a sixteenth century Dominican convent. The cultural center “actively promotes the culture of Oaxaca through a wide range of concerts, lectures, workshops and other events. Its library, Biblioteca Investigación Juan De Córdova, focuses on how to preserve academic and cultural texts and items. Its audio library, Fonoteca Juan León Mariscal, has a selection of indigenous music.”
Our first trip to Oaxaca was thirty years ago. We visited the coast at Huatulco and took an excursion to the city where we visited Monte Alban, had lunch in the Zocalo and walked around looking at the sights. It was Christmas and the festival of the radishes was on, a real sight to see. Our second trip was in 2001 in February during the dry season. We have not visited during the Guelaguetza dance festival in July but we have seen many of the dances in smaller venues on other visits. We have not visited during the Day of the Dead. As much as we would love to do that, it is very busy and difficult to make reservations. Since 2008 we have visited every year almost always in or around September. The weather is cooler then, the rainy season is winding down but there are still enjoyable rains many afternoons. The posts below offer our reflections on many of the experiences we have had. We hope you enjoy reading them.
Think in the Morning Original Posts on Oaxaca