The streets are full of life, everywhere you look you see vibrant colours, smokey markets, and people as unique as the land they call home. Oaxaca is where travellers come to get a taste of the real Mexico, the Mexico you won’t find at one of the countries many coastal resorts. There’s no Senior Frogs or beach discos, instead, you will find markets teeming with Mexican food you probably have not heard of and venues playing classic tunes while locals sip on Mezcal. This is the Mexico that will get under your skin, this is Oaxaca.
Exploring Historic Oaxaca
Landing in Oaxaca by bus from the bustling capital Mexico City you’re in for a change of pace. Life moves slowly here and people are in general much friendlier.
The cities made of colourful colonial buildings, and cobblestone streets, are a wonderful place to ditch your guidebook and just get lost. You will find shops selling skull art and fabrics that have not seen change for centuries. You will also find markets hosting some of Mexico’s best cuisine.
It’s a sprawling city and its history is addictive. Two Spanish built cathedrals that are a must are the Templo de Santo Dominigo de Guzman and the Zocalo Oaxaca.
More importantly, is visiting the squares in front of the churches. The squares are where locals come to relax after work and the youth a place to hang out with friends.
Mole Tasting in the Mercado 20 Noviembre
Amongst Oaxaca’s many Markets the Mercado 20 Noviembre is its most atmospheric and is home to the best food. This is where the locals come to eat spicy pork sausages, tripe soups, but most importantly, Mole.
Mole is a complex stew-like dish made from an assortment of Mexican chillies, spices and Oaxaca Mole’s most important ingredient, chocolate. Mole is said to have originated from this region, ask any local and they will tell you Oaxaca’s Mole is the REAL Mole.
Sit down at any food vendor in the Mercado and ask for Mole Negro. It can be served with beef, chicken or pork and always has a side of tortilla.
Exploring the rest of the Mercado you will find plenty of exotic Mexican spices and thousands of types of chillies each with their own distinct flavor.
The Museo de la Culturas de Oaxaca
With such a rich history within Mexico, Oaxaca has an abundance of cultural artefacts to show off in its Museo de la Culturas de Oaxaca.
Even if you’re not into Museums this one is worth a visit. The Oaxaca region has been inhabited longer than the majority of Mexico and is home to some of the countries earliest civilisations. The artefacts include gold jewellery, clay pots, and human remains elaborately decorated.
You can always see the dramatic mountains looming in the distance from Oaxaca City. These mountains are home to the fascinating Zapotec ruins which happens to be one of the earliest Mesoamerican civilisations.
Today taking the bus up to the summit of Mount Alban is much easier than the arduous journey it used to be to get here.
Entering the Mount Alban ruins you cross through its massive stone walls to a large open square surrounded by small pyramid-like structures and burial grounds.
Walking the exterior of the walls was my favourite part as the views from Mounte Alban are Incredible!
Hiking around Oaxaca
Hiking to the small villages around Oaxaca is taking an adventure back in time. Many of the people in Oaxaca still wear the traditional patterned outfits and live primarily the same way they have for centuries.
There are many hiking paths around, but the small settlement of San Bartolo de Coyotepec is one of the more traditional areas and has some of the best scenery around.
The market here is also one of the most atmospheric! Well worth the visit. Do hire a local guide to explain the history and nature here. You can also arrange visits to local homes this way!