Oaxaca is the most magical place I have been to so far in Mexico. It is very colorful and extremely Mexican in the best sense of the word.
We enjoyed the opportunity to attend our friends` authentic Mexican wedding. We met them by chance when we rented their apartment for a year while there were living in Barcelona. Great people! Both of them are working in the social development. Alberto is helping indigenous people by selling their coffee fair trade and Maria helps small Mexican entrepreneurs to obtain micro credits for their small businesses! So, they are people you look up and are lucky to have around. Their wedding matched their characters – elegant, sincere, touching and fun. The food was amazing and the crowd was fantastic. On the first evening we met near the gorgeous central church of Santo Domingo and walked from there to the hotel where they had organized a cocktail party with Mexican antojitos (gorditas, tacos etc.). On the way to the hotel we drank mezcal and played games, all accompanied by a vivid show of Mexican dancers and an orchestra. They had also organized two huge figures of the bride and the groom who followed us as well. These dolls are a typical Mexican wedding tradition. We had a lot of fun! The second day we went to a beautiful hacienda (house/restaurant) in the middle of nowhere and had the ceremony in the front yard. Good people are lucky and they deserve it:) At the moment when the ceremony was over the rain started and it didn’t darken our celebration at all.
We may have had a reason to go to Oaxaca, but I highly recommend going there even if you don’t.
Food is the central subject of Oaxaca and you have to try as many different dishes as you can.
Tlauydas (a Mexican style pizza on a extremely thin crust with black bean paste, different types of protein and vegetables) is a specialty in Oaxaca. Go to a market to eat them, you won`t spend more than 80 pesos for two people and will live a real Mexican experience. Wash it down with horchata (a sweetened milk made of almonds/rice or different types of seeds) or if you want something stronger even mezcal (an alcoholic beverage made of agave) . Oaxaca is the perfect place to drink mezcal, they have dozens of mezcalerias that offer thousands of types of mezcal. So, you can sample away until you find your taste. Tamales oaxaqueños (corn dough with chicken and mole sauce wrapped with banana leaves and steamed) is another delicacy not to miss.
The variety of food is endless, just try as much as you like and you are guaranteed to enjoy the next dish even more than the previous. You can eat very cheaply and tastily at a market or visit upscale restaurants where you can enjoy the atmosphere and more sophisticated dishes.
We went to the Zandunga restaurant which didn`t impress us that much. The menu didn’t have variety and the food was average, although the reviews pretty positive. The restaurant that we absolutely loved and visited twice was Origen. The interior is extraordinarily spectacular, every picture you take is like a painting with this backdrop. The food is fresh, creative and really gourmet.
Another restaurant that we`d definitely like to visit next time is Casa Oaxaca because it is also highly recommended by our friends. Try to book in advance though, as they get booked fast.
We went to the pyramid site of Oaxaca which is called Monte Alban and we enjoyed it a lot. We had an interesting guide who was a shaman and a good story teller. Thanks to him we learnt a lot about the history of the place. It is around half an hour away from the center of Oaxaca and you`ll spend around 2:30-3:00 hours there if you are going with a group. Try to go there in the morning because it gets really hot during the daytime.
We left visiting Hierve el Agua for another trip. It is a waterfall with carbonated water, one of only two in the world, the other one is in Turkey. You can also go to the artesian villages and see how they make alebrijes ( colorful fantastic creatures made of a special type of wood) and textile goods.
The botanical gardens in Oaxaca city are supposed to be nice, unfortunately, it was closed on Sunday when we were there, so plan your visit for another day.
Anyway, the best way to enjoy Oaxaca is to get lost in the streets of Oaxaca city. Walk without a specific destination in mind and stumble upon colorful shops and interesting buildings. Drink coffee on picturesque terraces and chat with warmhearted and smiling locals.
What to buy
Be ready to have a lot of cash to spend because you will love everything. There are tons of stunning household items, textiles, accessorizes etc. We bought a bunch of original stuff for the house.
When to go
They have a festival of Guelaguetza at the end of July and the beginning of August, when all the indigenous communities of Oaxaca (there are at least 16 officially registered ) come together and celebrate their distinct cultures with costumes, dancing and food. If you are lucky enough to be there on those dates I am sure you`ll have an incredible experience. Otherwise, anytime of the year is a good time to visit Oaxaca.
Transport: It is only a one hour flight from Mexico city. You can find tickets with companies such as Interjet, Volaris, Aeromexico
The hotel: We stayed in El diablo y Sandia which literally translates to The devil and watermelon :). They will explain you the origin of the name if you go there:) It is a small boutique hotel nicely located in the center with lovely breakfast and ambience. It feels as if you are staying in a Mexican house with a big open kitchen. If you are after a bigger place the owners have another one with a beautiful terrace, which is where we had our cocktail party. You can also ask the hotel to organize excursions for you.