You read that right, it says UNPLANNED, which is so not my nature, but when a classmate suggested a last minute trip to Oaxaca City during our week break from school I of course said yes! Since this was her one and only time to explore the colonial capital of the State of Oaxaca (David and I will be going back), I left a lot of the last minute decision making to her. Our minimal planning took us through beautiful cobblestoned streets, delicious food markets, and jaw-dropping nature. If you find yourself passing through Oaxaca City, please take some of these suggestions into consideration. Although I'm now learning that a little "unplanning" can be a good thing.
How We Got There
By bus, although there are plenty of flights from CDMX. ADO, one of the main bus companies in Mexico, runs several routes to Oaxaca City each day from the TAPO station. Without traffic the trip takes 6 hours, most of which is through amazing scenery. Because we both have Mexican student IDs, our round trip tickets cost roughly $40 each.
Where We Stayed
One of the best things about Oaxaca City it's the complete lack of commercialism. The local community, which includes 16 distinct local cultures, works hard to maintain the colonial city's charm and character. This means you won't find Starbucks, McDonalds, or big name hotels. Instead, the streets are lined with boutique hotels and budget-friendly hostels. I had never stayed at a hostel before, but our small budget goals focused our attention toward Azul Cielo, a well reviewed accommodation only a 10 minute walk from the center of town.
Azul Cielo has a mix of private and larger co-ed rooms. By the time we booked, there was only space in the 10 person "bunk", which was perfect at only $12/night, including breakfast! While you can make a reservation online, all payment is made in cash upon arrival. The hostel was well maintained, clean, and respectfully quiet. Breakfast was served each morning form 8:30-10:00 and included coffee, tea, fruit, corn flakes, toast, and a main dish. There was also a well equipped communal kitchen which many people utilized for dinner.
What We Did
Lots! We arrived late afternoon on a Sunday, which gave us time to check-in, spend some time walking through the Zocalo, grab dinner, and strategize for the following day. The State of Oaxaca, one of the largest in Mexico, has so much to offer beyond the capital city. One of the biggest attractions is Hierve el Agua, a natural wonder of rock formations and mineral pools about 1.5-2 hours from the city. While many travelers do this trip on their own, we took an easier route and booked a full-day tour through Oaxaca Dreams, which was advertised at the hostel. For only 220 pesos + entry fees this tour stopped at an additional 4 locations throughout the day. Although Hierve el Agua is a must see, one of the other highlights was a stop at a family run wool rug factory where we were treated to a short demonstration of the 100% natural and organic process.
For day 2, we decided to explore the city center. Again, we hopped on a free walking tour advertised at the hostel. Walking tours can be hit or miss, but even after 4 hours I wanted to keep going. The tour covered everything from history to current culture to food. Throughout the tour we stopped at various local shops and food establishments which highlighted the best aspects of the city. While I never felt pressured to purchase anything, I would recommend bringing extra cash and a bag. I ended up buying a few couldn't miss items, and wasn't prepared to carry them the rest of the time.
Later that evening, we took part in a 1 hour mezcal tasting we booked through Airbnb Experiences ($16/person). The experience was led by a mixologist at a local bar, and took us through 8 different mezcals; still far from my favorite alcohol, but I loved learning about the cultivation, distillation, and business of mezcal.
Where We Ate
You won't find tacos in Oaxaca, but don't worry, the culinary capital of Mexico has so much more to offer. You can find Tlayudas and chocolate everywhere, and it's also a great place to try chapulines (crickets) and mole. According to our tour guide, there are over 130 different moles in Oaxaca. Places worth visiting:
Walking enthusiast, and kitchen experimenter currently living out my dream in Mexico City, Mexico.
Get my open diary posts delivered straight to your inbox.