Oaxaca city (pronounced wah-ha-ka) is a beautiful, lively, culturally rich colonial town and one of my favourite places we visited in Mexico.
We were there in late October for the lead up to the Day of the Dead (on November 3) when the city was even more lively and colourful.
Most of the action spans outward from the zocalo, or central square, where there are some good restaurants. We regularly ate at one called El Jardin which did a good Chicken mole and Chile Relleno (stuffed poblano chile) at reasonable prices.
The Mercado 20 de Noviembre is the beating pulse of the city, lined with stores selling locals foods, produce and handicrafts. It’s the sort of market you could eat and drink your way through for the whole day (which I did).
Flowers for the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead…
There is also a good artisan market (Mercado de Artesenias) a block away with beautiful clothes, jewellery, home-wares and other textiles at good prices.
We stayed at an ‘Airbnb’ property about a fifteen minute drive from town in the village of San Felipe del Agua. The owner is Martha, a retired Anthropologist and avid culture enthusiast who was a wonderful host.
I absolutely loved the two bedroom, one bathroom home we rented for US$80 per night, and think it is a great place if you want to experience local life.
If you are without transport, the distance from the town center might be an issue (about 20 minutes by car), though there are public buses leading straight into town. The place is ideal for longer stays and if you like to cook there is a beautiful tiled kitchen.
If you are staying in Oaxaca City for a few days and want to be in the heart of the action, however, you may like to stay at one of the hotels near the main square.
I recommend a day trip to the ruins of Monte Alban, about 30 minutes’ drive from the city. It is a great site with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.
There are many small villages around Oaxaca, each specializing in a certain traditional craft, such as black pottery and textiles.
We drove over 2,000 KM from Playa del Carmen, so by the time we (eventually) arrived in Oaxaca we were ready to stay in one place for a few days and didn’t tour the villages. But if you are flying there or have more time, tours and public transport is available to get to them.