Six hours southeast of Mexico City lies a city that is deemed ‘magical’ by many, even the Mexican Government. This is the city of Oaxaca, a mix of natural beauty, cuisine, architecture, culture, historical relevance and hospitality.
The city was once a market town, but you can still see various locals selling vibrant handicrafts in the many markets scattered around the city. Oaxaca is also known for its mountains, beaches and other activities that doesn’t fail to serve magnificent views.
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The capital and some of its surrounding villages makes the city not only a hub for sightseeing, but it is also an art and food destination. With traditions that go way back from the country’s 16 indigenous groups as well as its Spanish colonial past, a trip to Oaxaca will surely be a feast for all your senses.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and a cultural hub, start your Oaxaca visit in Oaxaca City. The city central is lined with colonial architecture, vividly coloured buildings and cobblestone streets, capturing a picturesque view like no other.
The city will surely satisfy any art lover. The Oaxaca Textile Museum may be small but it is packed with an impressive collection of rugs, clothing and many more that showcases the craft of the artistry behind these textiles. There is also a contemporary photography gallery, Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo, that exhibits photographs that are slightly bizarre yet amazing.
Drop by the beautiful Templo de Santo Domingo, a 16th century Baroque-style church and former monastery decorated with intricate gilt designs that surround plenty of the painted figures. If you have a chance to come by during the evening mass, the entire church takes on a warm glow due to the candlelit.
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Just next door, Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca is spread out in 2.3 hectares. Previously part of the monastic ground part of Templo de Santo Domingo, the botanic garden features a variety of cacti and plants that are natives to the region. It is the perfect place to witness the fascinating Oaxaca biodiversity.
Oaxaca City is packed with markets that sell various food, but Mercado de la Merced is one of the places to go to for empanadas and you can visit Mercado 20 de Noviembre for some carne asada. Of course you can head to La Teca if you wish to try a variety of traditional Oaxacan cuisine. Don’t miss out on the mole, a specialty in Oaxaca, try out all seven of them while you’re out and about the city.
If you are more keen on nature, head to Hierve el Agua. A spectacular series of natural springs and rock formations just about 40 miles southeast of Oaxaca. Hierve el Agua is a popular outing destination for locals during their day offs and is a good place to catch a sunset.
An hour and a half drive away from Oaxaca city lies the forested mountains of Sierra Norte tucked quietly away from the city.
The mountainous region is home to many successful ecotourism sites that gives several opportunities to get out on foot, mountain bike or even horseback into the immaculate landscapes. The forests are also the domain of over 400 bird species, 350 butterflies, 4000 plants and all six Mexican wild cats. As villages in the southern region can sometimes experience winter, you do have to prepare for the cooler temperatures.
If you wish to catch some waves or just chill by the sea, Puerto Escondido is a beautiful and relatively low-key paradise. The second largest city on the Oaxaca coast, Puerto Escondido features many beaches and has a bustling nightlife. Playa Zicatela, 3.5km of fine golden sand and crashing waves, could easily make the top 10 list for surfing for many wave-riders. Mexico’s ‘hidden port’ is favoured by many Mexicans, expats and world travellers as it is a small mellow town where everyone can intermingle.
If you visit between March to November, you can head over to the National Turtle Center to witness the release of sea turtles in to the ocean. Prefer to take in nature and biodiversity up close? You can explore protected coral reefs at the Huatulco National Park.
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