Oaxaca: Poorest in Mexico, Richest in Culture

Travel Destination: Oaxaca, Mexico

(Wuh-Ha-Kuh) 

Oaxaca is a city in Southern Mexico that everyone should visit in their lifetime. It is not a city that you visit to rely on a beach and an all-inclusive resort for entertainment. It is a city so rich in culture and charm that is truly more eye-opening than any place I’ve ever been before.

The city’s economy is contingent on tourism, but the Oaxacan people proudly keep their cultural traditions year-round.  It is very common to witness folkloric dance groups on the streets, people in their beautiful native clothing, indistinguishable street food, and all the funky handcrafts being sold daily in the Zocalo (the city square). 

From the colorful architecture to the delicious food, and the kind-hearted people that are so passionate about sharing their culture with you, Oaxaca has definitely become my go-to [on-a-budget] destination.

 

The Food (Seriously, the Food)

One of the primary reasons I visited Oaxaca was for the food, since I heard it was a unique culinary experience for any Foodie (I now stand true to that).

Across the entire state, Oaxacan food possesses its own culinary style. A big selling point is the locally sourced ingredients; Herbs that are grown organically up and down the city’s lands, trees that grow fruit we’ve never even heard of in the US, and tortillas made with blue corn grown right on site.

Another selling point that I must not forget: THE MOLES. Oaxaca is known as “The Land of the 7 Moles.” Green, Yellow, Red, Black, you name it. Almost every dish comes with Mole and it is a taste of spicy heaven (Insert 10 thumbs up emojis here).

 

TLAYUDAS

Tlayudas are to Oaxaca what Cheesesteaks are to Philadelphia. A staple meal that is simply considered the Mexican Pizza.

An enormous tortilla that is cooked on a charcoal grill (indoors and outdoors) filled with black bean paste, herbs, vegetables and the ever so popular Oaxacan Cheese. You can choose to add meat on it, which I highly recommend, and of course add some Mole. Over the course of five days, I had five (not kidding). Each Tlayuda had its own flair from place to place, so it was interesting to try all the different interpretations.

To us dumb Americans, it’s basically a much better form of a Quesadilla.

 

RESTAURANTS

The restaurants in Oaxaca were so affordable, we ate out 3 times a day, sometimes more. Eating out 3 times a day, and I mean really ballin’ out, cost less than $100 a day in Oaxaca. I should also mention that I was even tipping servers 50-100%!

The impeccable service is something that stands out most in Oaxacan restaurants. You are treated like family in every restaurant, and almost all restaurants were even run by families. I noticed that they offered you something complimentary everywhere you went, whether it be chips and salsa, seasoned peanuts, fresh hibiscus water, tortillas, or a smooth shot of Mezcal. It is their way of whole-heartedly saying, Welcome.”

Oaxacan people are so passionate about sharing their culture with you, and being Mexico’s culinary capital, their thriving food scene is something they take pride in.  So when Americans like us come to their restaurant, they want to feed you until you burst – It was my kind of wet dream.

Some of the restaurants I enjoyed most: Casa Oaxaca,  La Biznaga (both more upscale), El Quinque, La Olla, Zicanda, and Zandunga.

 

Places To See

Oaxaca’s landscape and geography sets it apart from most cities. From the pretty cobblestone roads in the city squares, to the ranges of mountains that surround the city. There are spectacular sights to visit inside the city or take day-trips to just beyond the city limits.  We stayed in an Airbnb, so our wonderful hosts were happy to show us some of the most notable Oaxacan landmarks.

(Shout out to our hosts Donna and Carlos – Y’all are exquisite people).

 

HIERVE EL AGUA

One of two natural infinity pools in the world, Hierve El Agua boasts breathtaking views you might never see anywhere else in your lifetime.

 

MONTE ALBAN

Monte Alban is an archeological site with ancient ruins that cover over 50 acres of land. Monte Alban is where the Zapotec culture began well-over 2000 years ago.

 

EL TULE

El Tule is a tree with the largest and widest trunk in the world.

SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH

The golden interior and the artwork inside the church is incredible. It was hard to believe that people actually held daily masses here.

 

One More Thing..

Besides the people, the food, the places, and the culture, I couldn’t forget one thing that kept us busy from daylight into the night: MEZCAL.

Oaxaca is the largest maker of Mezcal in the world, made from organic Agave and the indigenous Maguey – so many flavors, you must try for yourself.

 

Life isn’t easy for the Oaxacan people, but that doesn’t stop them from willingly sharing their culture with you no matter what walk of life you’re from.

I will be returning to this beautiful state very soon, but for anyone looking to embark on a non-traditional vacation, I highly recommend you visit this remarkable city.

It is a treasure for any person wanting to experience rich cultural heritage.

 

Cobblestone streets of the Alcala

 

 

Traditional Oaxacan food we ate at an outdoors place in the middle of the mountains!

 

 

TLAYUDAS! This one from La Biznaga

 

A great breakfast spot: La Olla (Check out that Mole Negro!)

 

Casa Oaxaca’s Ceviche: Shrimp, Peanuts, Cucumbers, Herbs, etc.

 

 

Hierve El Agua: 10,000 ft above Sea Level

 

Petrified Water Falls at Hierve El Agua

 

Beautiful detail on the ceiling of Santo Domingo Church

 

Monte Alban
Monte Alban

 

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I lost 12 pounds climbing all of these ancient ruins steps at Monte Alban

 

Side of Santo Domingo church that seemed to be the hangout for young kids and couples

 

Adios Muchachos!

 

 

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