Oaxaca, Mexico's Culinary City Best Things to See and Do!
Together with San Cristóbal, Oaxaca is our favorite city in Mexico. The name seems a bit tricky, but Oaxaca is quite simply pronounced wa-ha-ka. There are nice culinary hotspots all over the city. If you can enjoy Mexican cuisine anywhere, it's here in Oaxaca. In addition, this is a city that is bursting with the most beautiful historic buildings. The old colonial city center is so beautiful that it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, so it is definitely worth a visit. Oaxaca has a lot to offer, so you can easily enjoy yourself here for a week.
Explore the historic center of Oaxaca:
From beautiful churches to the most beautiful streets with boutiques and restaurants. The historic center of Oaxaca never ceases to amaze you. The best way is actually to surrender yourself completely to this city and to wander through the endless beautiful streets.
Visit the temples of Monte Alban:
At about 8 km from the center of Oaxace, the huge temple complex Monte Albán is located on a beautiful hill with the most beautiful views over the valley. Monte Albán was founded in 600 BC and was a very important city. At its peak, in the year 500-750 AD, the city had an estimated 30,000 inhabitants. Monte Albán, together with the center of Oaxaca, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is definitely worth a visit, we have been amazed by the many historic buildings here, and the size of this historic city is very impressive.
Monte Albán is easily accessible from Oaxaca with a collective, we paid 100 pesos per person for a return ticket. The company where we arranged our transport is located in the Hotel Rivera del Ángel. Entrance to Monte Albán is 85 Pesos per person. This includes a visit to the Museum.
Get lost in the colorful streets of the Jalatlaco district:
A short 10 minute walk from the city center you will find one of the oldest neighborhoods of Oaxaca, called Jalatlaco. Unlike the center of Oaxaca, it is wonderfully quiet here. But also very attractive and colorful. You can feast your eyes on the most beautiful murals and colorful creations.
Admire the Santo Domingo de Guzmán Church:
Oaxaca has a lot of beautiful churches. The Santo Domingo de Guzmán church is one of our favorite Churches. The outside is very impressive with the most beautiful statues, and the cactus garden at the front is also beautiful. But go inside and you will be completely amazed, golden colors, the most beautiful paintings and stained glass provide a lot of splendor.
Visit the free art gallery "Centro Cultural San Pablo":
By chance we ended up at the Centro Cultural San Pablo but we were very impressed. It is a very beautiful art gallery with paintings and various types of art. The building is also beautiful in take a tour at the botanical gardenitself with many very special architectural features. Entrance to the Gallery is free, passage through the Umbrella courtyard.
The central square Zócalo:
This is the busiest part of the city, but the perfect location to enjoy the lively Mexican atmosphere of the street. Every day of the week it is pleasantly busy with market stalls, vendors and locals who meet here. Music is playing and people are dancing together. Especially now at Christmas there was an atmosphere that is hard to surpass. Welcome to the real Mexico!
Visit the local markets:
Oaxaca has many markets where you can taste the real local life of Oaxaca. Our favorite market is without a doubt Mercado 20 de Noviembre. A very clean market with the best local dishes and also a delicious barbeque hall where the meat is freshly roasted for you. A feast for all your senses. Next to this market is Mercado Benito Juárez, also worth a visit, here you have both restaurants and souvenirs. You will find these markets next to each other, right in the center.
A little further outside the center you also have Central de Abastos Oaxaca, this is the largest market of all. With an area of 327 hectares, this is almost a city in itself. Here you can actually buy everything, from thousands of types of souvenirs, to complete shoe collections and even pots and pans. There are also many restaurants hidden in the market. It often feels like a maze, but with a good search you can certainly find some culinary gems here.
Take a tour at the botanical garden:
Unwind in the beautiful Jardin Etnobotánico de Oaxaca. This botanical garden is located at the rear of the Santo Domingo de Guzmán Church. The garden is beautiful with many types of plants, trees and the most beautiful cacti. Especially in combination with the beautiful church walls you will be amazed. However, the botanical garden can only be visited during a guided tour.
An English spoken tour takes place from Monday to Saturday from 11am to 1pm. Cost is 100 Pesos per person. Be on time because the group size is a maximum of 25 people. We were there before 10.30 and we were already too late. Fortunately, there is a Spanish speaking tour at 10am, 12, and 5pm. So we took part in this, despite the language barrier it was a nice tour. This Spanish tour lasts 1 hour and costs 50 Pesos per person.
Take a trip to the frozen waterfall Hierve el Agua:
The Hierve el Agua waterfall is a special waterfall that seems frozen. To be honest, it is several of these stalagmite-like waterfalls together, surrounded by beautiful nature and the most beautiful views. The name literally means "water that boils". The water comes from a hot spring and because this water contains a lot of calcium, the dripping shape has developed on the rock over the centuries. You can take a nice walk here along the top of the springs where you can swim for a while, and then back at the bottom with a beautiful panoramic view over the falls.
Hierve el Agua is located approximately 70 km east of Oaxaca. We drove here by scooter in about 1.5 hours. The last part of the route goes through a beautiful mountain area via a toll road. Toll charges were 44 Pesos for a scooter. For the last part you have to pay community money to enter the area, which was 20 Pesos per person. And finally, the entrance to the waterfall is 50 Pesos per person.
Visit a mezcal factory:
In the west we mainly know Taquilla made from the Blue Agave plant. Mezcal is also made from the Agave plant, but then all varieties of Agave are possible. Mezcal is what the Mexicans drink here in abundance. And since Mezcal originates from the region here around Oaxaca, there is no better location to taste Mezcal than in a factory. It is also very interesting to view the production process directly, it is still done with the old method, beautiful.
Mezcal factories and tasting shops can be found all around Oaxaca. We drove about 20km to the east from Oaxaca, where there are several factories. Mezcal comes in many different types and flavors, from very smoky Mezcal to Mezcal with a delicious brown Whiskey-like deep tone. If you didn't like the shot in the bar, it can still be very surprising to try the different Mezcals during a tasting. Salute!
Admire the biggest tree in the world:
About 12 km from Oaxaca in the village of Santa Maria Del Tule is the thickest tree in the world called Árbol del Tule. This tree is probably 3000 years old and this giant has a circumference of 36.2 meters and a diameter of 11.62 meters. Fun fact is that after DNA research it has been determined with certainty that it is one tree and that makes Árbol del Tule the thickest tree in the world. I can tell you the numbers are impressive, but it's only the moment you stand next to the Árbol del Tule tree that the size really hits you. Entrance to the tree is 20 Pesos, but the tree can also be viewed for free from the park around it.
Admire the Catedral Metropolitana de Oaxaca:
Right in the center of Oaxaca is the beautiful Catedral Metropolitana de Oaxaca. Be sure to take a look here during a visit to the city because it is a beautiful church. This church differs from other churches because there are much smaller prayer halls in the main church. A large church organ and the most beautiful stained glass windows, paintings and statues complete the picture.
Try the delicacies of the local Oaxacan cuisine:
The cuisine of Oaxaca is world famous, in fact, Oaxaca is the culinary heart of Mexico. The origin of Mole comes from Oaxaca, just like the stringy Oaxaca cheese. And here too, the street food culture is of a very high level. Nice to watch "Somebody feed Phil" or "Street Food Latin America" on Netflix before your visit and you will understand that you will not be short of anything here on a culinary level. yum!