Info About Oaxaca
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.
OHT will visit woodcarvers of the “alebrijes”, backstrap and large loom weavers, potters and ceramicists.
CHARMS OF THE CITY
Every street offers architecture, art, murals, and quotidian examples of the blend of pre-Hispanic people and the Spanish. The churches, convents and monasteries in Oaxaca are filled with frescoes and retablos to rival any museum. And then there are the actual museums!
Just sitting in the plazas is superb entertainment, as is visiting the markets and galleries.
Shopping? Let’s just say you will need another suitcase.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD
If you are foodie, Oaxaca is heaven. Even Mexicans consider Oaxaca the most food obsessed city in the country. Seven 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 -- local, fresh, nose-to-tail and organic.
OHT makes a special effort to suss out 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.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Passport + copies
Compact fold-able umbrella
Re-fillable water bottle
Comfortable walking shoes
Travel Insurance info
A suitcase big enough for souvenirs
A few Mexican pesos (see Common Q's below for more info on money)
Oaxaca is at 5000 feet, so if you are not used to that altitude, plan ahead.
Drink lots of water on your trip down and while there
We recommend you rest well and moderate alcohol intake the first few days
Taking a siesta just makes sense wherever you are!
Dress comfortably and especially love your feet with sturdy shoes.
Here are some handy tips to follow before and during your trip to Oaxaca.
Most of what you hear and fear about Mexico is unfounded. Where we travel in Oaxaca is as safe as any place on Earth. Below are some frequently asked questions.
SAFETY IN OAXACA
I'VE HEARD IT'S DANGEROUS TO EAT ICE AND DRINK WATER IN MEXICO. IS THIS TRUE?
You can eat, drink and have ice without illness, so long as you follow simple rules: "if you can peel it you can eat it" and "if it is cooked, dig in." Your guide will advise you if something is risky, and where we eat and drink will be safe. Even small restaurants/bars buy their ice from reputable companies. Do bring some Pepto-Bismal tablets as they are great preventative medicine when you are unsure about a food item. Many travelers ask their physician for medicine to bring along as well, although it is rarely needed.
I'VE ALSO HEARD MEXICO IS DIRTY. IS THAT TRUE?
The good news is that bathrooms in the city are quite clean and you don't usually have to buy or bring your own toilet paper anymore. The not so good news is that there is some litter and street art, aka graffiti, but no more than in any big city. Mexicans have a habit of sweeping and mopping not only all their floors each morning, but their front stoop and the street, so it's funny that this rumor ever got started!
GENERAL SAFETY IN MEXICO?
Again, it's important to follow good sense rules about where you are and what time of day/night you are wandering about, but aside from that Oaxaca is as safe as anywhere else. It's best to leave your fine jewelry at home, since making a show of one's wealth is an invitation to thieves no matter where you travel.
DO I NEED TO TAKE TRAVELLER'S CHECKS?
No --- Do bring some pesos if you can get them from your bank ahead of time. Once you are in Mexico it is simple to get pesos with your debit card.
IF I BUY A LARGE SOUVENIR CAN I SHIP IT BACK HOME?
Yes --- FedEx works very well from Oaxaca. However, it is fairly expensive.
HAS MEXICO BECOME EXPENSIVE?
NO! Prices for food and drink are generally quite a bit lower than in the States, and textiles, pottery, etc. are very reasonably priced. You can bargain for a lower price if you wish as most vendors will negotiate.
LODGING, FLIGHTS, ETC.
IF I TRAVEL ALONE, CAN I ROOM WITH ANOTHER LONE TRAVELER?
YES. Please let us know if you would like to share the expense of a room with another traveler and we will try and accommodate your request.
IS IT MANDATORY TO JOIN THE GROUP FOR THE ENTIRE TOUR?
NO. This is YOUR trip, so join in or opt out as your whims direct. Of course you'll miss something fabulous, but there will be future tours!
WILL THERE BE OTHER AVAILABLE ACTIVITIES BESIDES THE ONES OFFERED BY YOUR TOUR?
YES. There are always daily options for personal enrichment including meditation, yoga, reflections and special classes. OHT can also help you set up formal Spanish or cooking classes upon request.
CUSTOMIZE AN EXPERIENCE?
Any group with at least six people can request a particular week and itinerary from Open Heart Tours and we will bring on the fun!
I DON'T TRAVEL OFTEN. CAN YOU POINT ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION FOR FLIGHT OPTIONS?
If requested, we'll happily advise you on the best flight options and meet you at the Oaxaca airport when you arrive.
I DON'T SPEAK SPANISH! HELP?
There are always interpreters available during the tour and we provide "Survival Spanish" lessons upon request.