8 Reasons Why Oaxaca, Mexico is Ridiculously Awesome

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Bucket List Worthy  

Oaxaca is a small colonial city about 400 kilometers south from Mexico City. It’s a charming little town that offers a lot of different activities to visitors. Here are the best reasons to head to Oaxaca!

1. The Food

Zucchini flowers
Zucchini flowers

While that can be said for 95% of the destinations on this planet, Oaxaca’s food is truly an experience on its own. Lovers of Tex-Mex food will be in shock as Oaxaca’s food isn’t anything like the nachos and orange cheese sauce served in Canada and the US.

Need a few examples? Zucchini flower quesadillas, chapulines (fried grasshoppers), moles (rich complex sauces), chocolate like you’ve never had before, carne asada (make-your-own-taco stalls), chicharron (deep-fried pork skin), tuna (deep-red cactus fruit), elote (boiled corn with mayo, lime and chili powder), and many different sauces you’ve probably never seen before!

2. Monte Alban

Monte Alban
Monte Alban

This is probably the best-known tourist attraction. It’s an archeological site that uncovered a whole pre-Columbian city of the Zapotec culture. Many buildings and sculptures are still there for visitors to see and large parts of the city can be easily guessed by the archeological findings. Visitors are free to wander around and take in the wonderful scenery as Monte Alban was built on top of a hill, making it an incredible platform to look at the surrounding mountain range.

3. Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Agua

“The boiling water” is a rock formation that resembles a waterfall. Apparently, this is one of only two “petrified waterfalls” in the world, though other theories exist about this rock formation. Nearby, natural springs are collected in natural pools in which visitors can bathe. There’s also an artificial pool that gives a spectacular view of the valley surrounding the attraction. Don’t forget your swimsuit!

4. Mezcalerias

A worm in a glass of mescal
A worm in a glass of mescal

Mezcal is the spirit of Oaxaca. Very similar to tequila though it has a strong smoky flavour as opposed to tequila, mezcal can be enjoyed many different ways. Gusanos (worms) are ground up and mixed with chili powder, sugar and salt, and then slices of fresh oranges are laid on the table. Then drinkers take a pinch of worm on the tongue, a sip of mezcal, and a bite in the orange. There are many other ways to enjoy, and all of them will be carefully explained to you in one of the many mezcalerias, the Oaxacan bars that specialize in the local spirit. Be careful, mezcal is strong stuff!

5. Tlacolula de Matamoros

A Woman and her Stall at the Market
A Woman and her Stall at the Market

This is a small town that can be reached with a 20-minute drive from downtown Oaxaca. The town in itself isn’t so special, however every Sunday, most of the town turns into one of the oldest continuous markets on the continent. There, you can explore and find many different local ingredients, customs and items. There are plenty of food items – live poultry; huge open-air butchering areas; fruits and vegetables; ready-to-eat snacks like sweets, grilled meats, fried bugs and local drinks like tepache; shoes, clothes, different fabrics, machetes and knives; spices; prepared moles and artisanal chocolate. The atmosphere is festive and it’s a great way to take in the local flavour of Oaxaca, the region!

6. Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman

Inside the Templo de Santo Domingo
Inside the Templo de Santo Domingo

Construction of this complex – a church and a monastery – began in 1570. It’s a regular tourist spot because of its history and its grandness, however it’s mostly visited because of the church’s altarpiece, a Virgin of Guadalupe covered with 60 000 sheets of 23.5-carat gold leaf. The temple complex is situated on the square of the same name, Plaza de Santo Domingo.

7. Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca

An ancient Zapotec icon
An ancient Zapotec icon

The museum of Oaxacan cultures specializes in informing visitors about the pre-Columbian cultures that exist in the state of Oaxaca, mostly Zapotec and Mixtec cultures. This museum is an essential stop for whoever wants to understand Oaxaca’s history and, by association, Mexico’s history as whole. The Spanish conquistadors that came after Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” changed Mexico and its different cultures forever and it’s an important step for every visitor to understand the diversity of Mexico. The exhibits are well explained and allow the visitors to understand what happened. It’s the perfect stop for a rainy day!

8. Zocalo & Alameda

The cathedral of Oaxaca, on the Zocalo
The cathedral of Oaxaca, on the Zocalo

The main square of each town is always one of the first stop for most travelers and Oaxaca’s Zocalo is no exception. The adjacent Alameda is a garden area which has many huge, spectacular old trees, that render a certain calmness to this busy square. On the Zocalo, the cathedral of Oaxaca stands, which was built from 1702, and completed in 1733. And just like in most of Mexico, the main square is a place where people gather, eat street food or stay at a terrace to have a couple of beers, chat and fool around, and where everyday life can be observed. Be careful of the overpriced restaurants, though!

About the Author: Cedric Lizotte

Bilingual freelance journalist. Tech, food, travel, photo. Twitter: @CedrikLizotte

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