Oaxaca de Juárez
The city of Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca (pronounced wa-hah-kah), is the capital and largest city of the homonymous Mexican state. It is located in the Centro District in the Central Valleys region [Los Valles], on the foothills of Sierra Madre.
“de Juárez” has been established in honour of Benito Juárez, Mexico’s first indigenous president who turned out as a key figure of the Mexican modern history, after the Independence from Spaniards.
Homeland of Zapotec & Mixtec indigenous people, Oaxaca was founded in 1529.
Monte Alban archaeological site, west of the city, was the capital of the Zapotec civilization from 500 B.C. to 800 A.D.
The layout of Oaxaca follows the traditional colonial town plan, with its Centro Historico incorporating the Zocalo (all the main squares in Mexico are so called ) surrounded by the Cathedral, the Palacio de Gobierno and plenty of administration buildings. Many of the city’s colonial-era buildings, dating from the 16th century, have been exquisitely restored and now house galleries, museums, hotels, and restaurants. The colonial street layout around Centro is typical with “one direction” ways that go up or down making traffic hectic especially during weekdays and big fiestas.
A creative space in the heart of Oaxaca. Convivio is a big house in front of the amazing outdoor space in Oaxaca, Parque El Llano. Behind its big white walls, lies a brilliant, innovative concept: a co-working space, a hotelito, with 3 three lovingly and uniquely decorated rooms, cinema, screen print studio and an events space. But more than that, Convivio is a place for co-dreaming, co-operating, co-creating, connecting.
Whether you are staying there, you actually come from Oaxaca or you are passing by, you definitely have to meet Garry aka Horse and Jen, a fresh, young couple who strive to establish Convivio as a unique, exceptional cultural hub in Oaxaca. Make sure that you check the hand made, limited edition screen-printed posters of Horse’s collection. One of a kind!
Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca
Based on the belief that the souls of the dead return back to earth to visit their families every November, “Día de los Muertos” is one of the most famous Mexican festivals.
The processions in Oaxaca begin well before the 1st of November which is actually the ‘Día de los Angelitos‘. On the second day, ‘Día de los Muertos‘, the souls of adults pass through.
As the day approaches, you notice the Cempasuchil (marigold) flowers all around, at the Mercados (the open air markets) till the Panteones (the cemeteries) which are filled by people who do not grieve but celebrate their beloved people. The sugar skulls, the pan de muertos (a pastry very similar to our tsoureki) and the favorite items of the deads are put together in the altars in order to pay tribute and commemorate the souls.
Don’t miss the night of 31th of October in the “Pantéon General in Oaxaca” as well as the “Pantéon in Xoxocotlan” (10 minutes ride from the centre). “Calendas” (dressed up people parades with wind instruments bands) take place every night in Alcalá pedestrian street and near streets, “Catrinas” and “Calaveras” (the famous Posada female skeleton) dress house entrances and restaurants.
Not to mention the parties taking place every night with live music and, of course, tons of mezcal.
Central de Abastos
It is vast, colorful, crowded. It is the Central de Abastos, the biggest Mercado (open market) in Oaxaca where you can find everything from textiles to clothing, from food to furniture, handcrafts, veggies and car parts.
The Abastos is simply the folklore at its best. Leave the camera at your hostel, dress light and stroll around on a Sunday morning.
Do not forget to try pollo asado (roasted chicken), crema de coco (fresh coconut juice which is thicker than coconut water, chapulines (fried grasshopers), a cold chocolate drink made from cacao Oaxaqueño and local spices and tejate or “Drink of the Gods”, a prehispanic drink prepared from maize and cacao which can only be found in Oaxaca.
Avenida de la Independencia
If there is a line that separates Oaxaca from touristic to authentic, this is “Avenida de la Independencia”.
Its north part is full of up-scale cafes, fancy restaurants and cobblestone clean streets for pedestrians. As you walk past, you start blending in with Zapotecas who sell fresh produce, sweet bread and tortillas, overcrowded mercados, Mercado Benito Juarez & Mercado 20 de Noviembre, countless cellphone stores and brothels converted to cantinas (underground bars that used to be only for men with a saloon style door trying to keep the sins inside).
100% safe. Tested & Tried.
Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Agua, is a set of natural rock formations resembling cascades of water, roughly an hour drive east of Oaxaca.
If you are lucky enough to visit the area during the rainy season, you will get thrilled by the lush green panoramic view of the mountain range that surrounds the petrified waterfall, as well as the natural spring pools that look like an infinity pool.
Don’t forget your swimsuit. Pick a hot day!
“Alebrijes” are brilliantly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of imaginary creatures embracing elements of different creatures such as dragon bodies, bat wings, wolf teeth and dog eyes.
The first Alebrijes originate from Pedro Linares. You can find an amazing variety in Oaxaca stores in all sizes, colours and designs but if you want to have a blast, make sure you visit San Martin del Tilcajete, south of Oaxaca, the cradle of this unique Mexican handcraft, an hour ride from the Centro. Visit “Jacobo & María Ángeles” workshop for a free tour.
Tlayudas & mole: state of the art gastronomy
Mexican cuisine is well known for the spices and colours. It is famous, distinctive but what most people do not know is that it is regional. What you can find in Yucatan, you can hardly get it in Baja California. Visiting Oaxaca, you are not allowed to miss the tlayudas and the mole. The former is a big crispy tortilla dosed with pork fat, black beans mash, chopped lettuce, salsa guacamole, quesillo (a white, soft cheese with a mozzarella-like string texture) and marinated meat (or just plain for vegetarians).
The latter is a sort of sauce that includes chilies, spices, corn dough, it is mixed with water in order to make it as thick as you want and is mainly served with meat and vegetable dishes. Primarily formed by Aztecs who used to mix tomato, cacao, spices and chillies, Spaniards eventually managed to influence the local gastronomy so as today mole incorporates both cultures.
Remember: you will only find these incredible delicacies in Oaxaca.
Best tlayuda street vendor: Tlayudas De La Chinita , Calle de Nuño del Mercado 308, opens every night after 9.
What is tsikoudia for Cretans, is Mezcal for Oaxaqueños. It’s divine. Made by wild agaves, which are cooked, fermented and double-distilled, Mezcal is a strong alcoholic drink that is similar to tequila.
Actually, they call it “the poor man’s tequila” yet its way more pure, authentic and if you manage to find home-made, just go for it.
The outskirts of the city are full of old distilleries where you can have a free tour (try Fabrica de Mezcal Artesanal “El Rey de Matatlán”) while the city is full of Mezcalerias where you can taste among at least 100 different kinds of mezcales until you find your favorite one.
Our favorite pick: Mezcaleria Cuish, 712 Mexico, Díaz Ordaz, Centro.
Playas Oaxaqueñas: Zipolite
6 hours south of Oaxaca de Juarez, a low-key beach resort on Mexico’s Pacific coast can help you empty your mind and get lost in time. It’s not a promise, it is a commitment and the 1,5 km stretch of pale sand playa Zipolite truly delivers. Its laid back atmosphere, its low budget accommodation options, the numerous yoga retreats that surround the community of Zipolite and nearby Mazunte, and the crowds of young hippies, sun lovers and adventure seekers who gather in the the self-proclaimed only official nudist beach in Mexico, make up a bohemian setting that is only interrupted by the glorious yet endless crashing surfs.
Be aware of the energy and do not make plans to leave soon.
Do not miss the countless seafood restaurants and definitely try the Mexican ceviche (marinated raw fish, octopus or shrimps in salt and lemon, typically garnished with chopped tomato, onions and cilantro and mainly served as a starter) and the fresh coconuts.
Just avoid visiting before and after December-January as it gets hectic.
“All Stories & Images by The Pin Project, Georgia and Nikos, one of the most inspiring people that my energy has ever attracted. Grateful and honoured by their attention, I pay my respect to their true and authentic lifestyle.