Photo by Paige Penland

A Spanish Colonial gem, with first-rate food, legendary arts and crafts, museums and more

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Rising from the sunny confluence of three fertile valleys, in palest green cantera stone, the City of Oaxaca (WAH-hah-kah) is one of the Americas’ most charming and livable Spanish Colonial cities.

It is an almost perfect city for visitors. Picturesque, pedestrian-friendly streets radiate out in all directions from the central plaza, or Zócalo, where handicrafts, fiestas, art galleries, cafés, and fine restaurants fill the centuries-old stone buildings.  Couples kiss, children play, and hawkers ply their wares with a smile, as you make the requisite rounds, dodging parades and protests in the going.

If the afternoon sunlight is just right, you can still see the massive pyramids of ancient Monte Albán, the Zapotec capital city built more than a millennium ago, gleaming atop the rolling mountains above town.

Arts & Crafts

Oaxaca is just famed for its artesanías, handicrafts that include beautiful tapetes and telas (rugs and textiles), ceramics of all sorts, and the relatively recently invented alebrijes, fancifully carved wooden animals. You’ll want them all, but peruse the city and surrounding towns for a while before buying.

Mexico’s Finest Food

You may well have chosen Oaxaca for its renowned cuisine, considered the finest in Mexico, and which you will find as flavorful, and unforgettable, as you had hoped. Begin at a humble stall in Mercado Benito Juarez, then continue through the city’s five-star gourmet restaurants. Cooking schools abound if you cannot live without a particular dish.

Museums and Cultural Sites

Even culture lovers may find themselves overwhelmed with more than 20 museums, but at least make time for the outstanding Museo de Arte Prehispánico Rufino Tamayo, fascinating Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and evocative Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, with views over the amazing Ethnobotanical Garden.

If you love churches, there are dozens worth visiting, in particular the psychedelic gold-gilt interior of Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán and massive Basilica de la Soledad. The terraced plazas surrounding the latter are also known for outdoor cafes selling nieves, locally famous sorbets that no visit to Oaxaca would be complete without.

Annual Events

Though it seems that there are festivities going on every day, Oaxaca is known for several major events, well worth planning your trip around. These include the Guelaguetza, held for two weeks in July; one of the finest Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico; and the Christmas Posadas.

Day Trips

The city is also a convenient base for day trips out into the three Central Valleys, which are home to picturesque crafts villages [Teotitlán del Valle], ancient ruins [Mitla], and remarkable natural attractions [Hierve de Agua]. Try to schedule your trip to coincide with a local market, held on different days of the week around the region.

Out of time? Don’t fret. Have you noticed the piles of chapulines, or crickets, for sale in the markets? According to legend, if you eat just one—and they really aren’t bad—their wings will carry you back to Oaxaca once again. It’s well worth it.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $10 per person
$$ => Tickets $20 per person
$$$ => Tickets $25 per person

$ => Rooms less than $75 for a double
$$ => Rooms $75-150 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $200 for a double

$ => $10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $50 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

N/A => Not applicable

$ => Tickets less than $75 per person
$$ => Tickets $75-125 per person
$$$ => Tickets $125 per person


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