Oaxaca City and the state it’s located in are truly magical. Oaxaca City is home to a vibrant culture, traditions, art, ancient textile techniques, mezcal, the pacific coast and of course an amazing culinary scene. Now, let’s get the pronunciation of Oaxaca down – WA-HA-KA. It is a tricky looking word that trips many people up!
I have been lucky to call Oaxaca home for over a year now. During this time, I have tried to immerse myself within the culture to learn and experience as much as I possibly can. Living abroad is like an intensive course in another country. Around every corner there is something new to see and soak up! With this in mind, I would like to share my local’s guide to the best nooks and crannies in Oaxaca City and it’s surroundings.
THE BEST CULINARY EXPERIENCE
When it comes to dining out in Oaxaca City, you can’t miss El Destilado. These guys are a step ahead of every other restaurant in town, and I have zero hesitation in saying that. They take Oaxacan cuisine to the next level with their always innovative and evolving tasting menu, showcasing fresh local produce and pairing it with amazing beverages. Take a seat at the chef’s table and be delivered plate after plate of incredibly creative dishes, by super knowledgeable staff who can answer all of your culinary and mezcal questions.
If you are looking for high quality mezcal (which they bottle themselves), insanely delicious food and great service in a very cool setting, look no further. They have just renovated too, so there are so many exciting things happening in this little power house and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
BE YOUR OWN TOUR GUIDE
There are many types of tours on offer around the city, and if you stroll through the Zócolo I am sure you will be bombarded with flyers. There are a couple which are worth your time though, for example the Chocolate Tours here are super interesting and delicious.
My favourite tours are the ones I can take on my own, there are so many artists workshops, photography exhibits, markets and textile workshops to explore and of course are free! So, pack your bag, put on some comfy shoes and get exploring.
EXPLORE MESO-AMERICAN CULTURES
For those wanting to take a peek at Zapotacan culture (Indigenous people of Oaxaca) I highly recommend a trip out to Teotitlan De Valle to see the community and their incredible rug weaving techniques. Their rugs and weaving is renowned worldwide for the impressive implication of ancient techniques using natural dyes and serious beauty.
Another highly recommended and unforgettable opportunity to get a deep insight into the spiritual side of the meso-american culture is to visit a Temazcal. A Temazcal in an ancient sweat lodge that has been used throughout time to cleanse warriors after battle and to help women give birth along with many other uses.
You will be guided through your experience by a Shaman and every detail will be explained so you get the most out of your visit. The Temazcal I have regularly visited during my time here is Cervariam Temazcal – a husband and wife duo with generations of experience and knowledge on the ancient practises.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
So many adventures and so little time. There are tons of attractions close to the city and throughout the state, that it feels impossible to pick the best ones. In my opinion if you are in the city you can’t pass up the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins of Monte Albán and the natural infinity pools at the top of a petrified water fall called Hierve el Agua.Both of these attractions will blow your mind with their beauty. Both are worth a day trip and are easily accessed by public transport, or you can jump on a tour.
If you are spending a chunk of time in Oaxaca, take the opportunity to head down to Puerto Escondido, on the Pacific Coast. Puerto Escondido and the surrounding beach towns of Mazunte and Zipolite are little paradises on earth. Puerto Escondido is home to the Mexican Pipeline and drags in surfers from around the globe to attempt the giant swells that frequent Playa Zicatela.
If you enjoy the ocean, yoga, surfing and palm trees, Puerto is a must visit. Shuttle buses run regularly to and from Oaxaca City to Puerto. They leave multiple times a day from the terminals south of the Zócolo and for those wanting to avoid the long travel time of the shuttles, you can catch a little plane down there with a 20-minute flight with Aero Tucan or one of the local pilots.
There are so many more restaurants, bars, attractions, workshops and adventures I could list off in this piece but these are my all-time favourites. Start off with the top picks and then begin working your way through this addictive city one empanada and mezcal at a time!
Have you ever been to Oaxaca City? We’d love to hear your stories and tips in the comment section below! Read Next > How Mexico Stole Our Hearts