My trip to this incredible city lasted a week. First, let’s learn how to say it correctly WAH-HA-KA. Famously known for its cheese in the states but has so much more to offer. TLDR from my last post– here are the top places I would suggest visiting and a sample hit list. Regardless of what you see in this city you will enjoy but here is a great place to start.
- Explore the neighborhoods in Oaxaca City
- Eat the mole
- Swim in hierve el agua
- Drink mezcal from a local farm
- Join a calenda
- Celebrate a religious festival
- Eat burnt ice cream or leche quemado
- Try and hug the widest tree in the world
- Learn how to make natural dyes and rugs by hand
- Discover little towns outside of the city
Neighborhoods: Each different section of Oaxaca City offers a different experience. The city of Xochimilco was preparing for Dia de Los Muertes and was covered in gorgeous street art playing with skeletons and the tradition of the dead rejoining their families. Jalatlaco has a church at its center but surrounding this the streets snake out with hidden cafes, restaurants, and of course more art galleries. A standard feature of any neighborhood in Oaxaca is a plaza with a church and 2-3 of the most beautiful art galleries you have ever seen.
Mole: There are 7 types of mole and many restaurants have versions of the more famous ones. From lightest to darkest: verde, amarillo, chichilo, almendrado, alcaparrado, rojo, and negro. Many of these types can be found in the states. Most common is colorado and negro. Most restaurants will have a flight available. My suggestion is Los Pacos or Restaurante Coronita.
Hierve El Agua: This is there water boils out of the ground and waterfalls stand still. It is stunning and wild to see this water calcify and create this static flow down the mountain side. The tour I took included a guided hike from a local. Seeing how Mexico allows its people to be featured in tourism is inspiring. Bring a bathing suit and get ready to swim in water that will cleanse your skin.
Mescal: Production of this liquor here is more than just a commercial experience. Here mescal is so common it is like the Italians producing local wines in the countryside. Agave plants cover the valley outside the mountains in neat rows with their large leaves fanning out to the sun. We tasted over 40 different varieties of mescal and learned the process of making it in a local farm. It was a drunk amazing day 11/10.
Calenda: Imagine it’s a Tuesday at 4pm, you hear a brass band approaching from your window. You run outside only to be greeted by a parade, blocks and blocks long, filled with people throwing candy, and passing out shots of homemade mescal. The bands shout and people dance. This is a calenda, a celebration parade that happens in Oaxaca regularly for any celebration. Religious holidays, birthdays, weddings, funerals, unions, literally any reason people gather it will be done in this style. The main character is this scarecrow figure with ribbons and no face.
Religious Festivals: While I was in Oaxaca City there was a calenda with a truck with an open bed more like a platform. The procession behind it was long, I assumed it was a funeral since it was a calmer group than I had seen so far. As it passed me I saw there was a man, on a cross, portraying Jesus. The procession was headed to one of the main churches in the square. I followed them googling the day in Oaxaca unsure what religious day it was. Google confirmed it was a feast day celebrating when one Spanish ruler brought a relic to Oaxaca. No joke.
Leche quemado: “burnt milk” ice cream is a vibe in Oaxaca. It truly tastes burnt with the combination of nutty, cameral, and burnt sugar. On a tour to some nearby towns I ordered two scoops of ice cream; one prickly pear which is from a cactus, and the other leche quemado.
Tree of Tule: In the town of Santa Maria de Tule sits the widest tree in the world. From above this tree looks like a forest but as you lower your eyes you see what you thought to be multiple trunks is all one. Sitting outside of a church I parked myself on a bench and sent a couple emails. Remote work can truly be as remote as you want with the right cell phone plane.
Wool & Rugs: Oaxaca is the perfect example of farm to table for every industry. The mescal is grown and produced locally, the food is grown and produced locally, even the wool for the rugs and tapestries is taken from nearby farms, cleaned, dyed naturally, and crafted into a variety of goods. We visited a farm outside of the city to learn how the wool is collected, cleaned, and how they make each color dye. The final piece was watching the weaver on the machine bouncing his feet and combing with his arms to produce a custom design. As a true nomad I was not in the market for a rug but I made a mental note to return. I bought some wool slippers that I’ve worn to the ground and a couple little coasters.
Explore nearby: We visited Mitla, Tlacolula de Matamoros, Teotitlán del Valle, and Santa María del Tule all through tours. The local Mexican guides know where to go, what to eat, and how to find the best mescal. Book a tour, sit back, and enjoy.
Oaxacan Journey – Tree of Tule, Heirva de Agua, Wool farm, local markets for ice cream
Mezcal Journey – mezcal tour at a distillery, local lunch and shopping in a nearby town
My hope is that this opened your eyes and stomach to Oaxaca, enough that you leave this page and go searching for flights. Stop in CDMX first….