Oaxaca is by far one of the most beautiful and unique parts of Mexico, known for its culture, cheese, and mezcal. It is considered to be the foodie capitol of Mexico, which means it is exactly where we wanted to be!
We chose to go to Oaxaca over other destinations in Mexico because it is an authentic representation of Mexico's culture. Of course, Mexico is a multi-faceted country with many different regions and a multitude of peoples and cultures, but Oaxaca boasts both indigenous and colonial roots that have been intertwined for centuries.
We stayed for 7 days, which was a good amount of time. If I had to do it all over again, I would maybe do 5 days in Oaxaca city, and then spend 2 days at a beach on the Oaxacan coast. I have heard great things about the beach in Puerto Escondido.
Below I've outlined things to do, places to stay, and, of course, things to eat.
Things to do
MARKETS: the city & state of Oaxaca are full of local artisanal and farmers markets.
- Tlacolula Market is the largest in the area and includes everything - fresh produce, local chocolate, ceramics, food vendors, and live chickens. Fair warning: it is a very overwhelming market, and the outskirts have a lot of booths with less desirable things like cheap plastic toys and old CDs. Just make your way through the maze, once you smell the amazing grilled meats and fresh breads, you've made it! This market is only on Sundays, and we took a colectivo to get there from Oaxaca City. A colectivo is like a taxi that picks up as many people that can fit in the car! It cost around $10 per person round trip from Oaxaca to Tlacolula.
- Mercado El Merced- this small market was close to our hotel. We went there one morning for pastries, juice, and coffee. It is small, but a good place if you are looking for fresh produce.
MEZCAL: Going on a mezcal tour is a must. My husband and I typically avoid scheduled tours, but this tour was seriously amazing! We used Las Bugambilias Tours. René took us to 3 different mezcal distilleries, where we learned the method of making mezcal. We also had plenty of tastings... no complaints here. My personal favorite was the Gracias A Dios distillery, which had awesome branding, flavorful mezcal, and is something we can get here in the states.
HIERVE EL AGUA: This natural wonder is a truly magical place. Its "petrified" waterfalls and beautiful mountain views will leave you in awe. Our hotel helped us arrange a private driver to take us there and back to Oaxaca City. It takes a little over an hour to get there, and I think we spent $100 including tip (Payton remembers it being more like $40, so I really have no clue!). There are a few tolls and fees along the way, so as always in Mexico, carry cash. This place also gets very crowded, so go as early as you can.
MITLA RUINS: Beautiful ruins in the nearby town of Mitla. We walked around for about 20 minutes, which was enough time for us.
MONTE ALBAN: This UNESCO World Heritage site is not to be missed. It is the site of ancient Zapotec ruins, dating back to 500 B.C.! It is a really remarkable and stunning place, with great views overlooking the city. We spent an hour walking around without a tour guide (again, we aren't big tour people), and we still learned a lot. It's a pretty easy taxi/bus ride to the outskirts of the city.
Places to Eat and Drink
CASA OAXACA: Upscale and beautiful, Casa Oaxaca should be at the top of your foodie list. All of our food was wonderful- one of our appetizers was squash blossoms wrapped in plantains and stuffed with ricotta & herbs - YUM. They make salsa table-side, and it was honestly one of the best salsas I've had in my life.
CRIOLLO: We were the most excited to go to Criollo, which is famous chef Enrique Olvera's restaurant in Oaxaca. His restaurant Pujol in Mexico City is one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. We did the delicious 6 course tasting menu with drink pairing. With everything included, this meal was around $160, which was by far our most expensive meal of the trip. But seriously, if you don't go, you will probably regret it everyday for the rest of your life.
EXPENDIO TRADICION: Stylish bar and restaurant that was near our hotel. We sat at the bar and loved trying all the different & creative cocktails.
ZANDUNGA: Try their version of the local mole on top of enchiladas.
BOULENC: Great breakfast & coffee spot. I got the shakshuka and Payton got the ham egg & cheese croissant, which we both enjoyed.
EL DESTILADO: We did the 9 course tasting menu at El Destilado, and it was divine. Our waiter was really friendly; he spoke English for Payton and Spanish for me to help me practice! Every course was delicious. We got the drink pairing, and didn't realize that there would be a new drink with every single plate. (As opposed to like 1 glass of wine for every 3 courses). Needless to say, we left there feeling verrry full and happy.
ITANONI: Known for having an authentic and tasty local breakfast. They use heirloom corn to make their tortillas, which are then cooked on the traditional comal. Get a cheese and pork-stuffed tetela and you will not be disappointed.
LA BIZNAGA: Awesome margaritas, cool atmosphere with an open roof
PEZ: Yummy fried fish tacos that were only 30 pesos each
CABUCHE: Good lunch spot known for its posole. I'm not a big soup person except during winter, but it was tasty. Payton got the fish taco, and it was one of the better tacos I've tried.
where to stay
We stayed at a lovely hotel- Hotel Casa de le Tia Tere (in English: Aunt Teresa's House, how cute!). This hotel has a beautiful courtyard covered in plants and vines where you can eat your yummy breakfast. The pool area is a beautiful and nice place to relax after walking miles through the markets. The accommodations are pretty nice- there is air conditioning and fast Wifi.
If you are looking for another more reasonably priced option, check out Las Bugambilias B&B.
Hotel Casa Oaxaca would be a great hotel for those with a larger budget.