The state of Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-kah) in southern Mexico is one of the most unique in the country. It has everything you could possibly want to see or do, from incredible historic sites to tasty food, vibrant festivals, and incredible natural sites. Here are 6 reasons you must visit Oaxaca when you’re in Mexico.
Oaxaca has a rich and fascinating history, which you can see in its many stunning historic sites. Visit the impressive 16th century Santo Domingo church, along with the many other churches, or go further back in time to the archaeological sites of Mitla and Monte Albán. Dating back to 500 BC, Monte Albán used to be the capital city of the Zapotec empire; this Mesoamerican city is located just outside Oaxaca City.
With the Oaxaca’s rich biodiversity and mix of cultures and traditions has resulted in a cuisine that his distinct and delicious. Try the many varieties of local mole which are created with up to 40 ingredients, including chocolate and endemic pasilla chiles, Oaxaqueño-style tamales (fluffy maize wrapped in banana leaves), or tlayudas (thin corn tortillas topped with a variety of ingredients), and queso Oaxaca. If you want to try something different, try regional delicacies like chicatanas (flying ants) and chapulines (dried grasshoppers fried with chilli powder).
Oaxaca is also known for its many wonderful drinks. Perhaps the most famous is its mezcal (a distilled alcohol that comes from the region’s marvellous agave fields) which comes in all sorts of flavours. Also, try Mayan Pulque, a milky pre-Columbian drink made from fermented agave, and Oaxacan hot chocolate. This drink is nothing like the hot chocolate you’ve had before; it’s made from a cacao and almond paste, mixed with spices like cinnamon and chilli powder and pressed into blocks that are then dissolved in water or milk. The resulting creamy drink is usually accompanied by pan de yema, a delicately textured egg bread.
Oaxaca has lots of stunning natural wonders. See the ‘frozen’ calcified waterfalls at Hierve el Agua and its pools of turquoise water with spectacular views over the surrounding valley; or visit the Árbol de Tule near Oaxaca City, which is said to be the world’s largest tree, and whose bark is carved with figures of animals, fruits, and people. You can also see the bioluminescent Laguna de Manialtepec or check out Magdalena Tlacotepec’s Ojo de Agua for a swim
Apart from its stunning natural wonders, Oaxaca is also known for its many breathtaking beaches set along a stretch of glorious Pacific coastline. Head to Puerto Escondido for its excellent surfing, or visit Mazunte and Bahías de Huatulco for relaxation and to enjoy the sunset. Other popular beaches include Zipolite, Chacahua, Carrizalillo and San Agustinillo, where you can try some delicious seafood (or mariscos), spend time with dolphins and turtles or let your hair down and party.
This Mexican state has a truly vibrant culture. At the centre of it all is the colourful capital, Oaxaca City with its great museums and imposing colonial buildings. You must also check out the area’s unique local handicrafts including barro negro work (pottery made with black clay) from San Bartolo Coyotepec and brightly coloured textiles from Teotitlán del Valle. There are also lots of special holidays you can celebrate here, such as the Guelaguetza festival in July and the Day of the Dead in November.
So, have you been to Oaxaca? If you have, share your experiences in the comments below.