Oaxaca de Juárez or simply Oaxaca (wa-hah-kah), 460km (300 miles) South of Mexico City, is known for its climate, artistic traditions, indigenous villages, architecture, cobbled, gallery-lined walkways and excellent restaurants. Oaxaca, my home for a month.
Set in a valley and surrounded by mountains, Oaxaca is a mash-up of indigenous people and Spanish Colonialists. Think lots of colour, beautiful churches, an interesting culinary tradition and last, but not least, Mezcal.
Mezcal, once from humble roots is now the next hot new drink in the US and Europe. Mezcal is distilled from the same type of plant as tequila, the maguey plant (agave) and traditionally handcrafted by small-scale producers, often using methods that have been passed down from generation to generation, using the same techniques practiced 200 years ago.
Mezcals tend to be much smokier than tequilas, each village has it’s own nuances in distillation, water, and plants. Although it’s normally drank straight, it’s a great fit when making a tasty cocktail.
Enough about the Mezcal, how about food? Oaxaca has always been Mexico’s most authentic food town. But with a new generation of chefs experimenting with the old recipes, the city slowly turns into a new hotspot for foodies.
While Mexico starts to get more attention from international haute-cuisine circles, those who are looking for the traditional cuisine are not left behind. You can enjoy the typical Oaxacan’ Moles street food on every corner, have some chapulines (fried grasshoppers) on the go or head to the big “20 de Noviembre” food market where you’ll find dozens of food stables under one roof. (Check my article “Typical food you have to try in Oaxaca” here).
After all that eating, enjoy a walk through the old cobble stone streets or in one of the parks. While Mexicans have a particular driving style, involving lots or horning and avoiding to use the brakes as much as possible, many of the side streets are very quiet, while a small part of the historic center is pedestrians only.
Oaxaca de Juárez is beautiful. Oaxaca is colorful. Oaxaca is also cheap.
15 liters (4 gallons) of water, delivered at home? 20 pesos please (1 euro, $1.15).
The typical price for a “comida corrida” a very local restaurant would be around 50 pesos (2.60 euro/ $ 2.90). If you order a sorta or memela from a street-side stand expect to pay around 10 pesos (0.50 euro / $0.60).
Street food is dirt cheap, but eating out will not set you back much either. A main course in one of the better restaurants in the city will not cost you more than 200 pesos (10 euro, $11.50).
Laundry will cost you 80 Pesos or 4 euro ($ 4.50) for 4 kg (8.8 pounds).
WHERE TO STAY
AIRBNB. Our spacious 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment in the center of Oaxaca was only 550 euro ($620) a month. That’s including all utilities, 2 times a week cleaning, including changing the bedsheets and towels. I found Airbnb apartments starting at 350 euro ($400) for a month, all utilities included and you can surely rent cheaper when avoiding Airbnb.
Quinto Real Right in the center, old monastery converted into a boutique hotel.
Casa Oaxaca Boutique hotel right in the old center.
Pitiona – After working in some of the best restaurants in the world (including El Bulli), chef Rodriguez now serves his mother’s and grandmother’s dishes with a modern twist. Think beef tongue topped with potato foam or lamb with rosemary ice cream.
Casa Oaxaca el Restaurante – The restaurant said to be responsible for the Oaxaca’s own culinary reinvention.
Los Danzantes – Modern restaurant, with a number of good dishes, its own Mezcal and friendly staff.
20 de Noviembre market – A variety of food stalls where you can sample many Oaxacan specialties and a special section for carnivores, “El Pasillo de las Carnes Asadas”, or the the grilled meats aisle. A must when visiting Oaxaca!
WHAT TO DO
Monte Albán – An impressive archeological site up in the mountains, believed to have been founded in 500 B.C. A must.
Hierve el Agua – One of the few mineralized waterfalls in the world. The views are pretty nice, but in all honesty not sure what all the fuzz on TripAdvisor is about.
Oaxaca city – Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman, Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, the botanical garden, Mezcal or handcraft carpet factory visits,…
Looking for a driver in Oaxaca? Contact Roberto: firstname.lastname@example.org. We did all our trips with him. Friendly and trustworthy with a great knowledge of Oaxaca and it’s history.