The jewel of Southern Mexico, Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-kah) is a bright, sun lit city with a thriving indigenous population. The colours of Mexico are epitomised here, in everything from hand painted wooden crafts and boldly patterned textiles to sizzling taco fillings and spiced hot chocolate. Its location makes it a popular base, with fine beaches to the south and beautiful mountain scenery to the north. Oaxaca is also a gateway to exploring Mexico’s past, with Zapotec ruins and pre colonial market towns close by. Most of the year sees warm, dry conditions, some rain falling between June and September. For all of these reasons and many more, Oaxaca is one of the most popular travel destinations in Mexico.
The city itself is relaxed and modest, nestled between three central valleys. Once an Aztec settlement, Spanish occupation in the 1500’s defines the architecture today: well preserved colonial buildings, narrow streets and historic squares. Zocalo is the main plaza and lies at the heart of the city. This pedestrian square is beautifully decorated by arcades, trees and cafes; a great place to begin exploration. A scattering of churches grace the streets around the square, along with the sixteenth century cathedral standing to the north. Church interiors are commonly decorated with bright murals and paintings, giving them a distinctly Mexican feel. Visit Iglesis Santa Domingo during evening Mass to see the stunning interior bathed in candlelight.
A centre of Mexican art, Oaxaca has an abundance of artists, galleries and talent. Opening nights and previews are well publicised, so look out for these events during your stay to witness the city’s ever evolving new talent. A mixture of traditional Mexican illustration and contemporary culture makes local art fascinating, and highly prized by international buyers. Visit Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca
to view the work of national masters. New, exciting artists often have their work shown here too.
The city has a host of well established language schools, with many choosing Oaxaca as a home whilst they learn Spanish. Cultural activities such as cooking and dance are often woven into the timetable at many schools, and staying with a local family is a great way to practise speaking and immerse yourself in local culture. Tour agencies are also abundant, offering trips into the mountains around Sierra Norte for biking, hiking, climbing and a host of other sports. Embarking on a two or three day group trip with a guide is a recommended way to experience the scenery, as their knowledge of the landscape is invaluable. The ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Alban is a short bus ride away, and should not be missed.
If you are fortunate enough to visit in July then you should not, and quite probably could not, miss the city’s biggest festival, Guelaguetza. Held on the two Mondays falling in the latter half of the month, the city is swamped with crowds, feasting and revelry to celebrate the traditional folk dancing taking place. Stories are told, costumes are worn, and a good time is had by all.
Last Edit by sophie mcgovern on 10/12/2011 EDIT NOW >>