THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE INCREDIBLY CHARMING OAXACA, MEXICO
If you follow me on instagram you´ll know that I spent the last 3 months of 2019 in Mexico! While I was there I travelled around a little, and covered quite a lot of ground of the South-East, I’ve already spoken about how colourful and cute Merida was and what it was like celebrating Day Of The Dead in Mexico City! I can´t wait to share more about each of the amazing places I was lucky enough to visit but today I’m shining the light on beautiful Oaxaca! This town was definitely one of my favourite stops on the trip and you’ll soon see why…
What to do in Oaxaca
Explore the streets and check out the beautiful churches.
I feel like I always start these guides by saying ‘one of the best things you can do is explore the streets’ but it really is true to each of these amazing towns and cities! It’s such a great way to get a feel for the place, get your bearings, visit the Zocalo’s (the main squares) and just generally take in the place as much as possible! We had an orientation walk when we arrived and this helped so much with getting to know Oaxaca immediately. Be sure to check out the beautiful churches too!
Visit the Templo De Santo Domingo
A must see and arguably one of the most famous spots in Oaxaca, it’s the most impressive of all the churches and is definitely worst a visit! The walls are incredibly thick on this church since Oaxaca is such an earthquake zone and there are so beautiful rooftop bars that have great views of this church too which we’ll touch upon later!
Stop by Mayordomo and watch how they make the chocolate.
Since chocolate actually originates from Mexico it’s only right to stop by and have a look at the process of how one of our favourite treats is actually made right?! Plus cacao has a very strong presence in Oaxaca, you can see it being sold in every single market! We decided to stop by Mayordomo to watch the process, it was so fun and they let us try it at different stages of sweetness as they gradually added the sugar (like seriously so much sugar guys!). You can of course buy the chocolate afterwards too, in bars or sachets for hot chocolate which would make a lovely gift to bring home!
Visit the Mercado de Benito Juárez (market) and try the local delicies!
One of my favourite parts of my time in Oaxaca was wandering through Mercado de Benito Juarez, this was a crazy experience because there is so much going on literally everywhere! We tried locals foods like the mole (which I’ll talk about more below), a very traditional drink called tejate which is made from corn, cacao, sugar and seeds, there was even roasted crickets on offer!
Just make sure you leave a good 2 hours free to explore this market, it really is huge and you’ll want plenty of time to lap up the atmosphere and experience all the sights and tastes!
Explore the galleries
The moment you arrive in Oaxaca you’ll feel the presence of art all around you, there’s tons of street art and also plenty of incredible galleries to visit! Most of them are free too!
Look out for alebrijes!
I’m sure you’re thinking what the heck is an alebrije and how do I even pronounce that word haha, so first up they’re pronounced Aa-le-bri-es and they are beautiful, colourful sculptures of mythical creatures! The origin of these creations is something that has fascinated me for years, created by Pedro Linares Lopez, a scavenger born in Mexico City. One day he fell unconscious due to an illness and during a long period of deep sleep he claimed to have seen these crazy creatures which later tried to recreate with his sculptures! Nowadays a lot of artists create similar artwork, normally combining several animals together with the head of one and body of another. My favourites that I saw were these suuuuper classy looking ones in an art museum we ate lunch in one day..
Where to eat & drink in Oaxaca
Oaxaca is the food capital of Mexico so you’re going to want to make sure you eat eat eat while you’re here! Their traditional dish is a dish called mole (pronounced mo-lay), which is a type of sauce that’s served with meat or vegetables, you’ll see it advertised in pretty much every single restaurant you go to! There are a bunch of varieties of mole, and if you want to learn more about it then this post on the 7 moles of Oaxaca is super handy! The most famous is the Mole Negro though, a smokey type sauce with a hint of chocolate!
You’ll also want to try a tlayuda whilst you’re in town! Often known as Oaxaca’s pizza, this delicious meal is a large crunchy tortilla topped with refried beans (frijol), tomatoes, avocados, and if you want, a variation of meat! I had a delicious one with crunchy white cabbage, guacamole and beans!
Anyway, enough about traditional food for now, let’s dive into some restaurant and bar recommendations shall we?
Casa de la Chef
The perfect place to head for breakfast without delicious chilaquiles (we all know they’re my new favourite breakfast!) You can find it on Calz. de las República 302 in Centro, it is tucked away though so keep your eyes peeled!
Fellow vegans, this one is for you! A woman owned vegan restaurant who’s name literally translates to sweet grass. They cook without oils, sugar and animal products, and focus solely on plant based Oaxaca traditional food!
The Zocalo is always a great option for dinner, not only because you get the buzzing hustle and bustle of the main square but you also get to choose from a huge selection of restaurants that line the square or even street food!
With specialities in freshly baked bread you won’t want to miss the bread and pizza at this place! There’s also some great fresh juices available!
If you want an extra special food experience while you’re in town then Criollo is the place for you, I would have LOVED to have visited this restaurant but sadly time nor budget did not allow on this trip, opened by one of my favourite chefs, Enrique Olvera (he has a super famous restaurant in Mexico City that is also on the experience list!)
Trips to take from Oaxaca
As I’m sure you’re aware by now, Oaxaca is incredibly charming but there’s also a bunch of amazing places to see not far from it like Hievre El Agua (one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen with my own eyes!), the ruins of Monte Albán (looks like something straight outta Jurassic Park) and we even visted a Mezcal factory (that included a tasting session, eesh you can imagine how that ended haha) Let’s dive into some of these places shall we?
Hievre El Agua
This trip was one of the highlights of my entire time spent in Mexico because it truly was like nothing I’ve ever seen before! The landscape reminded me of something straight out of Jurassic Park and the natural water pools were simply beautiful. I’ve actually wrote an entire guide on Hievre El Ague with everything you need to know about this incredible place so head here for more info!
The ruins of Monte Albán
Believe it or not we actually visited all of these three places in one day, starting off with Monte Alban, I’m so glad we went early because it’s so high up and the area looked beautiful with all of the low clouds! No matter how many ruins I visit in Mexico I’m always blown away every single time and Monte Alban was no exception! In case you’re wondering what exactly this place is, Monte Albán was originally constructed by the Zapotecs to act as an observatory. Centuries later, it was abandoned and taken over by the Mixtecs. It was once one of the most important cities in all of Mesoamerica and was founded in 500 BC and inhabited for over 1,500 years!
Visit a Mezcal Factory
If I asked you to name a drink that reminded you of Mexico then no doubt tequila would be the first thing that springs to mind, but actually Mezcal is fast becoming one of the most popular choices of tipple over there now, it’s always been around of course and a very very traditional drink but it’s certainly more ‘trendy’ now. We visited a mezcal factory while in Oaxaca and let’s just we left very merry after tasting all of the varieties available! If you’re wondering what the difference is between mezcal and tequila (since they’re both made from the agave plant) well let me tell ya! There are nearly 200 types of the agave plant and tequila can only come from blue agave, where as mezcal can be made from more than 30 of them, each one producing a different flavour. I ended up buying a bottle of the passionfruit mezcal since I love sweeter drinks (it totally weighed my case down the entire trip but was SO WORTH IT)
So that’s all of my tips so far, I’m pretty sad we only had 2 days in Oaxaca but I have no doubt that I’ll be back at some point in the future, if you’re after even more advice then be sure to head over to Brooklyn Tropical blog, Susan lives in Oaxaca and creates plenty of guides, advice on trips, and all the best spots in town that the locals love! xxx