Visiting Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-kah) was one of the highlights of our trip to Mexico. We had spent a few days eating our way through Mexico City before heading out to Oaxaca and a common thing I noticed on the menus of the restaurants we went to were Oaxacan dishes. Naturally, we were both excited to be visiting the city that inspired these cuisines.
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Visiting Oaxaca from Mexico City
We decided to take the bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca to allow us to see a bit of the countryside. I can’t say that I saw much of anything though. Being prone to motion sickness, I popped a sleeping pill right before we boarded, waking up intermittently to catch a glimpse of the views outside the window.
As for the ride itself, we travelled on the ADO (Autobuses de Oriente) GL bus and it was extremely comfortable. The bus was air-conditioned (we had to wear sweaters on board), had reclining seats, a USB charging port, good leg room and toilets on board.
Six hours later, the pill had begun to wear off and I awoke as we were about to pull into the bus terminal. The first thing I noticed about Oaxaca was the road. One moment we were driving on the right (same as we do in Nigeria) and the next, we were on the left (as in Kenya). This was a bit confusing but it also did seem like a fairly optimal solution to control traffic at turns.
We picked up our bags and hailed a taxi to get us to our hotel. Unlike Mexico City, Ubers are not a thing in Oaxaca. I did try to order one but it never came. Anyway, after a few failed attempts to get a taxi, we finally found one that took us to our hotel.
Where to Stay in Oaxaca City
We stayed at AYOOK for 3 nights and I enjoyed our time there. Our room rate came with a delicious breakfast served right outside the room each morning. This was where we had our first taste of mole (pronounced mo-lay) in Oaxaca and it did not disappoint.
Things to Do when Visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico
After we settled in, we headed out to explore the city. Over our next few days visiting Oaxaca, we indulged in the local cuisine, had a mezcal tasting experience, stumbled on a street parade and took a day trip to Monte Albán and Hierve el Agua. Here are more details and photos of what we got up to in the city.
Visiting Oaxaca: Walking around the City
Oaxaca is a small and walkable city. In May, we found the weather to be ideal and enjoyed daily walks to the city centre and markets.
On our first day, we stumbled on a parade which I believe was a Vela Muxe (pronounced moo-shey) parade (Muxe Festival), although I can’t be quite certain as this festival usually occurs in November. I remember we asked a resident about what the parade was for and he gave us the impression that this takes place every weekend in Oaxaca.
I guess that we might have misunderstood each other, regardless, it was exciting to watch the parade. We were happy to have caught it during our visit. Everyone was amicable and out having a good time!
What is Vela Muxe?
In Zapotec tradition, there are males, females, and a third gender called Muxes, who are born men but consider themselves women. They are considered a blessing in Zapotec culture. Vela Muxe is a festival, usually spanning 3 days in November, to honour and celebrate the “third gender”, aka Muxes in Oaxaca.
We followed the parade down the street for a short while, before heading back to the city centre and our hotel.
Visiting Oaxaca: Exploring the Cuisine
Food exploration was a big part of our trip to Mexico and in Oaxaca, we dove right in! Our first food stop was at Mercado 20 De Noviembre, a covered market serving grilled food, tacos and other produce. We had both a hilarious and warm moment here when the Mexicans around us got upset that we had been waiting too long for our meal.
They shared their tacos with us while we waited and one man took it upon himself to make sure we were served. This was one of the moments in Mexico where we both wished we spoke Spanish. It was one of those moments that showcased the joys of travel.
We also tried some moles and grasshopper tacos at Restaurante Catedral. The meals here were delightful and the ambience even more so. Other dishes we tried in Oaxaca included tamales, Chilaquiles, Quesadilla, Tostadas, Huevos Rancheros, and a few names I don’t remember.
We also tried out a few drinks, including Horchata con Tuna (toasted rice drink), Oaxaca’s famous hot and cold chocolate and different flavours of mezcal.
Visiting Oaxaca: Day Trip to Monte Albán and Hierve el Agua
Our final activitiy before leaving Oaxaca was a day trip to Monte Albán and Hierve el Agua. We rented a car and drove out to both places. We had a good time walking around Monte Albán before heading to Hierve el Agua, stopping at Rancho Zapata for lunch. We shared a Tlayuda (Oaxacan Pizza) here and it was delicious.
The drive up to Hierve el Agua was quite long and on winding and dirt roads for the most part but the visit was worth it for me. We hiked around the site and ended our visit with a plunge in one of its natural pools. And with that, our time in Oaxaca City came to an end.
I am so glad we included this stop on our Mexico itinerary, thanks to a suggestion from Mark’s brother. This city is charming, vibrant and safe. We enjoyed our stay here and I am sure you would love it too!
Is there anything you’d love to know about visiting Oaxaca City? Ask me in the comment section below!