After driving out of the tropical forest of Chiapas, we headed back west towards Oaxaca. Oaxaca city, located in the state of Oaxaca, was another place we were really looking forward to when we were getting ready for this trip. We had heard of rich Mexican and indigenous cultures and amazing food, and was so curious to find out if it would live up to my expectations.
Our first stop was Hierve el Agua, a natural mineral springs in the mountains surrounding Oaxaca. We took a very windy road up the mountain early in the morning, and found ourselves the first people in the parking lot when we arrived. We knew nothing about this place 2 days prior to visiting, but boy did it impress us! We spent time taking a dip in the cool water, relaxing and doing yoga on the rocks, and even went for a little hike.
We planned to do more Spanish classes in the city and decided to stay two weeks and try to hook up with a host family to live with. So we started classes again, and moved into Magdalena’s posada in the city.
This house was set up hacienda style with a courtyard in the middle where people would come and go all day. Such a big family! We really didn’t get to interact with too many of them besides Magdalena (who is so awesome btw) since she also runs a B&B and people just thought we were guests, but it was still so nice to be in Oaxaca city. Its always nice to actually live IN a city to experience the vibe of a place.
So what was the vibe of Oaxaca? We talked to some other overlanders who really didn’t enjoy the city too much, but George and I agreed it was our favorite in Mexico and the most livable.
Why Oaxaca is our favorite city in Mexico:
- Awesome day trips to surrounding villages and mountains. There are 16 indigenous groups/peoples surrounding the city of Oaxaca, and many villages have taken to perfect a certain craft. We felt like in other parts of Mexico everyone was selling the same trinkets that were clearly made in mass, but these were real handmade goods that people took pride in (and as you can imagine, we bought our fair share of goods). The list of places we visited below are just a handful of possible places to visit, and all these villages are SO easy to get to by collectivo (a shared taxi which is quite the experience with 6 passengers/strangers squeezed into a sedan)
Teotitlan de Valle for hand-dyed and hand-woven rugs. We ended up at La Grana Tejidos and the patriarch of the Hernandez family gave us an amazing free demonstration on the spot on how they use natural dyes to color the wool, make the yarn, then hand weave the rugs. Each family member, even the little ninos (kids), had their own weaving stations!
Arrazola for hand-carved alebrijes. We had seen many of the vibrantly colored, hand-carved, wooden animals in shops in Oaxaca, so we asked which village made these amazing crafts, and headed for Arrazola one day to check out some of the family run shops.
The ruins of Monte Alban. We took a day trip by bus to the ruins 10 kilometers (yes, I just used kilometers instead of miles) outside of Oaxaca. The ruins are set high on a mountain top with amazing views of the Oaxacan valley below.
- Great restaurants and food. There were so many places we tried and the restaurants really did serve very different food from the rest of Mexico. Oaxaca is known for their different types of Mole, and we tried a lot of it. Our favorite restaurants in Oaxaca were Las Quince Letras, La Popular, and Zanduga.We loved the restaurants; however, the best eating experiences always seemed to be at the 20th of Noviembre mercado in town. Great food at cheap prices, and the Carne Asada place there is just something you HAVE to experience. You basically pick all your meats and veggies and they grill it up for you on the spot with a lot of chaos, but somehow little confusion on which person the foods belong to.
- Friendly people make it really an easy city to explore. George and I both felt that while we met really helpful and amazing people on the road, we didn’t exactly get the warm and fuzzies from people in Mexico in general, but this all changed when we got to Oaxaca. Everyone seemed to have a smile on their face and we felt incredibly welcomed by the people of Oaxaca.
Both before and after we stayed in the city, we ended up camping for a few days at Overland Oasis just outside of Oaxaca to get our bearings and to pick some packages that we had shipped there. I can’ say enough about how awesome Leanne and Calvin are who run this place! They have about 5 spaces available and like an email before you head there, but it really was a life saver. And Calvin even did some welding work on Titus for us! We also met some awesome overlanders at Overland Oasis, including Jacqui and Cameron (Follow the Wind) – can’t wait to keep running into them on the road this year! We also ran into Karie and Simon (Our Road Life) and the kids again (love spending time with their family!), and met Adam and Karen (This Journey we Call Life), as well as some other new overlanding friends.
So did Oaxaca live up to the expectations for us? Absolutely, and we will return again someday. Take a look at some of the other photos from our time in Oaxaca!