Oaxaca (pronounced wa-hah-kah), a city located about 300 miles south of Mexico City, is the capital of the state of the same name. Oaxaca city’s pleasantly mild climate, due to its altitude of 5000 feet above sea level, is but one many reasons to visit. Rich in history and culture, Oaxaca is a fascinating destination where you can appreciate ancient civilizations, colonial art and architecture and vibrant cultural traditions. You needn't be concerned about safety here; Oaxaca is one of the safest Mexican tourist destinations you could choose.
Oaxaca city was founded in 1529, but the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times; some of the earliest known evidence of domesticated plants in the Americas was found within the valley of Oaxaca. Monte Alban archaeological site, located on a spectacular mountaintop setting, about 16 km (ten miles) west of Oaxaca city, was the capital of the Zapotec civilization from 500 B.C. to 800 A.D. It is the most important archaeological site to visit in Oaxaca, but there are several others that are also well worth your time, such as Mitla, Yagul, and Dainzu.
The layout of Oaxaca city follows the traditional colonial town plan, with its zocalo (main square) surrounded by the cathedral and government 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.
Oaxaca's history is strongly felt, but its present day life and culture are very vibrant and colorful, as you will experience through the fiestas, food, handicrafts and markets. Among the many important fiestas that take place in Oaxaca city throughout the year, some that stand out are the Guelaguetza, Day of the Dead, and Noche de Rabanos (Night of the Radishes).
Oaxaca is renowned for its cuisine with culinary specialties including mole, a rich sauce made of ground chilies and a multitude of other ingredients; a local type of string cheese called quesillo; large tortillas called tlayudas; and spicy fried grasshoppers known as chapulines. Try traditional Mexican hot chocolate or sample mezcal, an alcoholic beverage, which like tequila, is made from the agave plant. Many visitors to Oaxaca choose to take a cooking class.
Looking for handicrafts? Many of the villages surrounding Oaxaca city specialize in different types of crafts, including ceramics, textiles, wood carvings, and tin work. You can purchase crafts in the city shops and markets, or go to the villages to meet the craftspeople and see them at work.
Extraordinary cuisine, unique handicrafts, fascinating archeological sites, colonial architecture, vibrant villages and the welcoming locals with their deep-rooted traditions all combine to make Oaxaca one of the most enchanting places to visit in Mexico. Not to be missed!