warm welcoming exotic vibrant
Oaxaca, located in Southwestern Mexico, is mostly mountainous, with a significant coastline on the Pacific Ocean. Indigenous cultures have survived here better than elsewhere in Mexico due to the state's rugged terrain. Individual towns and tribal groups lived in isolation from each other for long periods of time. At least sixteen ethno-linguistic groups have maintained their individual languages, customs and ancestral traditions into the present day. While acknowledging the negative impact of the conquest, Oaxaca has combined the positive contributions of the Spanish (architecture, livestock, the use of wool and looms - to name a few) with the local ancient ways to create an extraordinary, singular culture.
Charms of the City Every street in Oaxaca offers architecture, art, murals, and quotidian examples of the blend of pre-Hispanic people and the Spanish. The churches, convents and monasteries are filled with frescoes and retablos that rival any museum collection. And then there are the actual museums! Relaxing and people-watching in the plazas is superb entertainment, as is visiting the markets and galleries. Shopping? Let’s just say you will need another suitcase.
Arts & Artisans
Collectors from across the globe come to Oaxaca for handcrafts and art, particularly pottery, woodcarving, weaving, basketry, leather-work and embroidery. Each craft tends to be village specific with elders passing down their incredible skills, and family clans working together. Visiting pueblos in the Oaxaca valley allows you to meet the artisans, see their homes and studios, and learn about the what goes into creating their art.
Tour groups visit woodcarvers of the “alebrijes”, backstrap and large loom weavers, potters and ceramicists.
Food, Glorious Food (and drink!)
If you are a foodie, Oaxaca is heaven. Even Mexicans consider Oaxaca the most food-obsessed city in the country. Seven types of moles, mezcal, tlayudas, chocolate, tequila, handmade ice creams and quesillo were all born in this state. Visiting markets will give you a much greater appreciation for those buzz words. Food is local, fresh, nose-to-tail and organic.
Open Heart Tours makes a special effort to discover and share with you the fun, fabulous and inexpensive places to enjoy this bounty, plus steer you to world famous fine dining restaurants for meals on your own. Oaxacan folklore states that you must eat at least one chapulina if you want to return, and you will have loads of opportunities to try these little crickets!
Ancient inhabitants left archeological sites of great significance in Oaxaca and each OHT group visits at least two of these World Heritage Sites, guided by a history professor. Most well known is Monte Alban, the center of the Zapotecs’ power in the region in the classic period (800 - 400 BC).
Toward the southeast of the city lies the exceptional Zapotec site of Mitla, where you'll be amazed to see original red paint made from cochineal insects. Tombs can be entered by the brave! Another favorite site, Yagul, is home to the most important ball game court in Oaxaca, the Palace of Six Yards, the triple tombs, and the Queen’s bathroom.
Want to learn more about Oaxaca? We recommend a visit to these articles and websites.
"36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico" from The New York Times
"Six Things You'll Love about Oaxaca" from CNN Travel
"La Guelaguetza Celebration" from the online magazine Inside Mexico
Del Maguey single village mezcals from Oaxaca
UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Center of Oaxaca and Archaeological Site of Monte Alban
Oaxacan wood carvings at Sandia Fine Mexican Folk Art
MARO, Women's Handicraft Co-op in Oaxaca