2Backpackers: Backpacking, Hiking & Adventure Travel Blog – Mexico Travel – Falling in Love with Oaxaca
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Mexico has gained a pretty bad reputation over the last few years but there are still plenty of beautiful and fun places to visit that remain safe and calm. Forget Cancun or Cabo and instead head south to Oaxaca for a taste of “real” Mexico.
Located in the southwestern corner of Mexico, Oaxaca is a city with everything you could want during Mexico Holidays – great food, history, fun nightlife, plenty of museums, lots of great festivals throughout the year, and much more. What makes Oaxaca even better is that is remains one of the safest states in all of Mexico.
Culinary Capital of Mexico
Mexico has plenty of great culinary treats but if you want to experience both the best in restaurants and the best in street food all in one place – Oaxaca is the place to go. The city has plenty of great restaurants, from local dinners to elegant five-star places, and lots of local markets where you can get freshest local produce.
All that great food is just the beginning. Try some tlayudas (sort of a thin pizza) or spicy barbecue at one of the street stalls. Grab some hot chocolate in the morning and don’t forget to try the moles – famous local sauces made with a complicated mix of dozens of ingredients which can take days to finish.
The region of Oaxaca is unique in that the indigenous people of this area never assimilated into the Aztec or Mayan empires and instead governed themselves from the ancient city of Monte Albán with is located just above the modern Oaxaca City. Today visitors can still see the astronomically aligned pyramids, preserved ball courts, intricate carvings, and visit the museum to learn more about the ancient culture.
In the city, more modern history is easily visible in the gorgeous architecture and in the elegant churches. There are over 20 historic churches in the city with the Santo Domingo de Guzmán (1570), the Basílica de la Soledad (1690), and the main city Cathedral (1733) being some of the more impressive.
Oaxaca is a great place to visit year-round but it becomes even more popular during the many yearly festivals. Hotels are booked weeks in advance for the most popular events and it is worth planning your trip ahead of time to experience Oaxaca at its best.
Oaxaca’s biggest festival is Día del los Muertos or Day or the Dead which is officially celebrated on November 2nd but actually includes events from mid-October. The whole city is decked out with beautiful altars and the famous skeleton images representative of the festival.
Christmas is another great time to visit Oaxaca with festivals and events running from mid-December to the first week of January. A great event to check out during the holiday season is the “Night of the Radishes,” the world famous radish-carving competition.
Couple Travel Tips
- If you are heading out for a night of fun, don’t forget to try the local mezcal liquor tobalá. Made from the maguey plants, this traditional alcohol has been made in the area since the Pre-Columbian days.
- For travelers on a budget, head to the Mercado 20 de Noviembre for an entire city block of cheap food stalls serving all the local favorites.
- The central part of Oaxaca is very walkable but do be aware that the street names can be confusing, changing from one end to another, and it can be easily to get turned around especially after a night of drinking mezcal.