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WHERE TO SLEEP
Located in a prime location in the center of town. You will be less than 10 minutes walking from all the best things in Oaxaca City. This small, boutique guest house combines comfort and luxury with traditional and modern textiles and design. Luis, your ever-doting concierge who was born in Oaxaca city will help you arrange everything from day trips with a personal driver to restaurant reservations. And while there is no breakfast included there is a wonderful coffee shop, Muss Cafe, located in the front of the hotel and has great coffee, pastries and tostadas.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
If you are seeking an easy yet delicious Oaxaqueña meal this is a great stop. A small but brightly colored restaurant serving local dishes along side aguafresca del dia. You can’t go wrong with the menu del dia, for 75 pesos (less than $5) you get a 3 course meal!
This has to be one of the most romantic restaurants I’ve been to ever. Making reservations is must for this beautiful spot that will have you sitting on a balcony overlooking the Santo Domingo church. The food is classic Oaxaqueña with refinement. If the rabbit tetelas and/or the suckling pig in coloradito mole are on the menu they are both MUSTS. And don’t forget to peep the incredible open-air kitchen upstairs with a retractable roof!
A little bit hip but still amazingly affordable is how I would describe Zandunga. A modern take on classic Oaxaqueña food with dishes like molotes de plátano and enchiladas con mole, as well as an extensive mezcal and local beer list. The service here is the best we had in the whole city.
Another restaurant that has a fresh spin on the classics. The food isn’t what kept me coming back though, it was the cocktails. The bartenders here are well-trained and inventive and the cocktails are superb. I think the best way to visit this place is late afternoon for a snack and a couple drinks.
This may be an expat run restaurant but it is one worth visiting. Come (with a reservation) for the 6 or 9 course tasting menu or pop in to the bar for an a la carte experience. The bar program is varied but mostly local serving Mexican made sake, local beer and wines and of course mezcal, one of which is restaurant’s own 5 Sentidos. The food menu is refined Oaxacan using only quality and local ingredients and the space is super charming. Don’t skip it!
I visited this roadside comedor on the way to Miahuatlán with Mezcouting and I almost wished I had a reason to go back out there. About 20 minutes from the city center is where you will find this charming outdoor restaurant with amazing tlayudas the size of your head, squash blossom quesadillas, memelitas with quesillo and delicious chocolate de agua! Maybe it is worth taking a special trip?
Be prepared for a wait at this ultra hip and yummy bakery/restaurant. The space is has an open roof in spots and has a garden courtyard vibe like many other spots in Oaxaca. The pastries and BOMB and so are the menu items cooked to order. Line too long for your liking, stop into the grab-and-go bakery next door.
A little more traditional than Boulenc but just as tasty and with a much shorter line. Order classics like huevos divorciados and fresh juices and while you wait expect a basket of freshly baked pastries to arrive at your table that you can NOT say no to.
A nice little cafe attached to Casa Antonieta with good coffee, ok pastries and delightful, healthier feeling menu items like açai bowls, yogurt parfaits and oatmeal.
WHERE TO SHOP
Andares del Arte Popular
Don’t be intimidated by the chic, gallery-like facade of this wonderful store, they have some of the higher quality handmade objects for purchase without being over priced. The selection here is very well curated so if you are in the market for something special to bring home this is a wonderful place to shop and ask anyone working about the history or significance of an object and they will happily tell you all about it.
Huizache Arte Vivo de Oaxaca
If you want a larger scale shopping experience with two floors of artisan crafts from all over Oaxaca then this is your spot! Items ranging in quality and price ensure that there is something for everyone here.
Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca
This wonderful shop is dedicated to and run but the tenacious and driven women of Oaxaca. In a mostly male driven market it can be hard for women to get the recognition they deserve so if you want to support a female artists only store come here to look for an awesome souvenir.
Whether you are looking to exercise you spanish brain or find a great book written and/or translated into english by a Mexican author you can find it all here.
Mercado Benito Juárez
A market should always be your first and last stop in any Mexican city. It is a great way to get a dose of local culture as well as some crafts and a bite to eat. This mercado is no exception, it has a little bit of everything, from knockoff Levi’s to toasted crickets and ants.
WHAT TO DO
Hierve el Agua
Even though this translates to “boil” the water fed up to surface from inside the rocks is quite cool. These natural pools overlooking the Sierra Madre mountain range are definitely a bit touristy but worth the drive if you come early. Bring a suit and take a dip or just marvel at the beauty of the petrified waterfalls that are created as the water cascades over the mountain’s edge.
Without a doubt a full day tour with Mezcouting is a must. There are a variety of trip to choose from, each one incorporating a visit to a palenque as well as other unique cultural experiences. This American and Mexican duo have worked to cultivate strong bonds with the communities they visit and promote responsible, sustainable tourism. A bonus is knowing that a portion of the cost of your trip will be donated to a community project in the region.
Eager to learn more about mezcal? This highly educational project is the place to go if you are interested in trying many types of mezcal from different states and produced in different manners. Expect a seriously knowledgeable staff to help you expand your mind and palate. Reservations are imperative and be warned there is only mezcal and water here so make sure to come with a full belly and hydrated body.
Templo de Santo Domingo
Truly one of the most beautiful churches I have seen around the world is this baroque beauty dating back to 1555. It is one of the few places I have seen where the exterior might be as stunning as the interior. Located in the centro and protected by a beautiful lawn planted with agave and cacti in the front and the botanical gardens in the back.
Teotitlan del Valle for Hand-Woven Rugs
If you are interested in connecting with a traditional Zapotec community and learn about the process of weaving you definitely have to make time to go to Teotitlan. Most workshops in this village will offer free tours and demonstrations on how the wool is turned to yarn and the natural products used for dyeing the yarn before being woven into rugs and textiles. A truly fascinating experience for anyone who appreciates arts and ancient crafts.
One of the most important archeological sites in the state of Oaxaca and the most significant site in the Zapotec culture is in San Pablo de Mitla. Unique to this site is the type of detailed, finely cut mosaics that have been fit together without the use of mortar. This religious site is adjacent to the must newer (by comparison) Church of San Pablo which was built in the 16th century. The town of San Pablo de Mitla is also known for its hand-embroidered textile production.
Sunday Market in Tlacolula
If you are in Oaxaca on a Sunday the market in Tlacolula is worth a visit. Accessible by taxi or colectivo is this HUGE market that takes up at least a dozen blocks in the small town. You will find anything you can think of at this market, from bootleg cigarettes to machete sheathes. It is also a wonderful market to eat in so save room for a squash blossom quesadilla!
Monday Market in Miahuatlán
Not wholly unlike the market in Tlacolula however I found this market to be much more organized and definitely food focused. Upon entering you can smell the rich fragrance of tropical fruits and fresh flowers and you will find that you are most likely the one of if not the only tourist there. With people coming from as far as 6 hours away to buy and sell goods this is a great place to soak up some authentic market experiences.
San Martín Tilcajete for Alebrijes
This pueblo is famous for its production of alebrijes, hand-carved and hand-painted wooden animals that are usually a little mythical and a lot fantastical. There are a number of tallers to visit and most are open for tours and demonstrations. Also if you happen to be in Oaxaca during carnaval Tilcajete throws a great party for the occasion.
San Bartolo Coyotepec for Doña Rosa Black Pottery
On the way back from Miahuatlán or Tilcajete you should make a quick stop into this famous pottery workshop known for their quality craftsmanship of black pottery. While these pieces may look painted the process actually entails the “suffocation” of the kiln to remove all possibility of oxygen escaping. From this process the clay then turns black. Oaxaca is also known for red clay pottery as well but it is from a different region. Definitely bring a few pieces of each home!