Discovering Oaxaca, One of the Underrated Destinations of Mexico

Ancien monastaire de Santiago Apóstol à Cuilapan de Guerrero . Photo prise par © N. Saum,

The ancient monastery of Santiago Apostol, Cuilapan de Guerrero. Photo taken by © N. Saum,

Oaxaca (pronounced “wah-hah-kah”) is a city located in the southwest of Mexico, sharing borders with Mexico City to the northeast, Acapulco to the west, and Chiapas to the east. It is widely known for its Zapotec towns, such as Monte Alban. Whether its a brief or long stay in the area, it is bound to be a truly authentic experience. As such, this article aims to provide a little glimpse of the beauty and wonder that Oaxaca has to offer.

Why visit Oaxaca?

Oaxaca adds a very interesting dynamic to your trip to Mexico. Situated 1,500m above sea level, the Indian city is known as the birthplace of ancient civilisations – and its traditions are well preserved and popular. Rich in history, Oaxaca takes advantage of its colonial past to captivate and wow visitors. This historical heritage is reflected in the city's historic centre, the home of a number of baroque monuments, and the remains of Mixtec and Zapotec towns on the outskirts of the modern city.

Art holds an equally important place in the state's culture. A wide variety of art galleries and museums are available to visitors, where ancient works of art and relevant contemporary pieces are displayed for all to see. Once you arrive in the city, you'll go off the beaten path and be thrown into universe that is quite like no other. The following attractions and sights are must-sees for all those who wish to visit the city.

Discovering Oaxaca

The city of Oaxaca presents itself as a real adventure stop on your journeys across Mexico. The following sites are prime examples of the richness and authenticity of this fine city:

Exploring the historical city centre

Oaxaca is a colonial city with an unequivocal Indian charm. Whilst walking around the city centre, it's easy to note the various influences from Spanish civilisation, along with colonial remains, baroque churches and, most notably, ‘cantera verde’ stone – a green-grey stone that decorates numerous buildings throughout the city. There is also the ‘zocalo’, which is a typical area where festivities and public holidays are often celebrated. The Government Palace and the cathedral, among others, are attractions that are definitely worth a visit.


Mexique – Oaxaca – Catedral Metropolitana, by Rodolfo Garcia Photography – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Benito Juarez and 20 de noviembre markets

The city's markets are the ideal place to become immersed in the regional culture. The Benito Juarez market harbours many artisanal delights and souvenirs, such as rugs, clay pottery. ponchos, monster figurines – among many others. After perusing the souvenir stands a while, it is always worthwhile to visit the 20 de noviembre market, and sample a wide array of local delicacies, like tlayudas (tortillas made from black beans), chicken in a traditional mole sauce (consisting of mainly spices and cocoa), and, finally, tejate, a local drink made from cocoa and corn. Want to see more of the local markets? Then ‘Mercado de Abastos’ is yet another stop you can make.

Mexique - Oaxaca - Mercado 20 de Noviembre crédit : MaloMalverde

Mexique – Oaxaca – 20 de Noviembre market, by MaloMalverde

Rendez-vous à la Cité de Monte Alban

Monte Alban is an ancient Zapotec town that is located 2,000m above sea level atop the Jaguar hill and is only 30 minutes away from the city. A short tour around this archaeological site and its  lends for plenty of discovery, and offers an unobstructed view of the valley below and its surrounding mountains. There are diverse buildings that used to be a ceremonial centre, as well as a museum – which houses a collection of ancient artefacts.

If you have some more time to spare after exploring this magnificent city, then you might also be interested in visiting Tlacolula, which is to the east of Oaxaca.

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