A Wonderful Time Spent in Oaxaca City

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.

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Santo Domingo Church and museum, Oaxaca

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.

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Taking in the wonderful scenary

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being so high up with such stunning scenery made for some great pictures

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Hierve Del Agua - Oaxaca. A special place

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.

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We stayed two weeks with a host family in Oaxaca while taking language class. We had two meals a day with them, and they were amazing. It was a great experience

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The courtyard at our host family's house. So nice to sit and relax here

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:

  1. 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!

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    Jenine learning the weaving business!

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    The red dye comes from an insect (the white stuff) on cacti. All other dyes they use are from natural products as well

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    The workshop

    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.

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    On another day trip we visited the little town of Arrazola where they main industry is carving "Alebrijes"

    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.

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    The ruins at Monte Albán (5 miles from Oaxaca City) were pretty spectacular. Another great day trip

  2. 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.
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    Food in Oaxaca was incredible. One of our first meals at Las Quince Letras

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    The meat market. A Oxacan tradition

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    They grill up the veggies and meat right there

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    you can even get a side of grasshopper

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    After rug shopping, a traditional Zapotec meal at Tlamanalli. An internationally praised traditional restaurant. It was amazing

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    One of my favorite Oaxacan dishes, Tlayudas. The best ones, like this, are found for cheap inside the markets

  4. 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.

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The amazing Calvin of Overland Oasis helped us on a variety of projects for Titus (sway bar, suspension, lights and more). He is our hero and can knock out projects with rapid speed. Thank you again Calvin and Leanne for everything!

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!

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One of our first stops in Oaxaca was the magical Hierve Del Agua. Natural mineral infinity pools in the mountains.

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Taking in the wonderful scenary

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It was so peaceful here, we went first thing in the morning when nobody was here.

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being so high up with such stunning scenery made for some great pictures

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Jenine wants a new profile pic!

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With our walking sticks we look like old folks!

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The valley around Hierve del agua

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zen!

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Hierve Del Agua - Oaxaca. A special place

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The pools are cool, but really refreshing in the heat.

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after spending all day at the mineral pools, we got this amazingly refreshing drink

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had to get some new bum traveler pants

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We camped at Overland Oasis just outside Oaxaca. It is an amazing place, and we saw some cool rigs there like this great converted military vehicle.

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Wonderful museum in the center of Oaxaca

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Food in Oaxaca was incredible. One of our first meals at Las Quince Letras

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Had one of our best meals here

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The "nieve" in Oaxaca was delicious. I tried to get some every day there

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We spent two weeks in Oaxaca City and I was thrilled to find an awesome crossfit gym in town. Did the crossfit games workouts here.

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In Oaxaca they have a cheap taxi like system called the "collectivo" you can flag them down and hop in and get dropped off anywhere on there route. They pack in 6 in the little Nissans.

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Our first Mezcal tasting at the awesome In Situ Mezcalería in Oaxaca.

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The meat market. A Oxacan tradition

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First pick out your veggies to grill

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Then select your meat from the several vendors displaying their goods

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They grill up the veggies and meat right there

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A different vendor comes by with fresh salsas and guacs for you meal.

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you can even get a side of grasshopper

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One thing I've learn about ancient mayan culture is that they love ball court. What happened to this game??

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The ruins at Monte Albán (5 miles from Oaxaca City) were pretty spectacular. Another great day trip

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at the top of Monte Alban

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These are the famous Los Danzantes. The explorer who discovered these stone cravings thought they were depicting dancing when in fact it was the killing of their enemies

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On another day trip we visited the little town of Arrazola where they main industry is carving "Alebrijes"

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Jenine bought the "Catrina" Doll to her right. Now, what to do with it.....

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Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca is the epicenter of Mezcal tasting. However you won't leave sober.

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I'm a sucker for waiters with cool shirts who make guac at your table!

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Town square in Santa Maria Tule where we camped outside Oaxaca

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In Tule, they claim to have the world's largest diameter tree.

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it was a huge tree, 2000 years old

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countryside outside Oaxaca

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We took a day trip to a family compound that makes hand made rugs. The whole processes from yarn to dyes is done by one family, Hernandez @ La Grana Tejidos

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Here is the patriarch Jesus Hernandez showing us how they dye the wool

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Thats the raw wool, before they turn it into yarn

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Cleaning the raw wool

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Turning raw wool into yarn

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Jenine learning the weaving business!

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the finished raw yarn, before dyes, from the spinning wheel

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The red dye comes from an insect (the white stuff) on cacti

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A little demonstration on my hand of all the different dyes

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The workshop

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Each family member has their own weaving station. Each rug takes hundreds of hours of work to finish

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The show room. We ended up getting a few and shipping them home

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After rug shopping, a traditional Zapotec meal at Tlamanalli. An internationally praised traditional restaurant. It was amazing

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The highlight at Tlamanalli is the mole. This is chicken with a pre-hispanic red mole. Very delicious

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Back at camp, we finally ran into "followthewind.net" Here is Jackie relaxing outside their penny wagon!

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We spent two weeks in Oaxaca City. The weather was perfect for outdoor dining

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We stayed with a host family there (through our language school) and they offered us some delicious Chapulines when we arrived 😉

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One of my favorite Oaxacan dishes, Tlayudas. The best ones, like this, are found for cheap inside the markets

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So happy to start eating my Tlayuda

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We stayed two weeks with a host family in Oaxaca while taking language class. We had two meals a day with them, and they were amazing. It was a great experience

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Another one of our favorite restaurants Zandunga. The mole tamales were amazing

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Jenine in the center of Oaxaca, all cities should have some walking only streets

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The courtyard at our host family's house. So nice to sit and relax here

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We stayed in Oaxaca during Semana Santa (Easter week) and the town was quite lively with visitors

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The amazing Calvin of Overland Oasis helped us on a variety of projects for Titus (sway bar, suspension, lights and more). He is our hero and can knock out projects with rapid speed. We miss them!

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Calvin helping me secure down our house battery that had gotten loose. Thank you!

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Nothing is better than flame cooked Tacos El Pastor with a slice of pinneapple. At $0.25 a taco the best and cheapest meal on the planet.

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Us with Calvin and Leanne. Incredible people and an ABSOLUTE must stop on any overland journey in Mexico!

 

Posted in Mainland Mexico, Mexico Tagged with: , , ,
10 comments on “A Wonderful Time Spent in Oaxaca City
  1. Haley Heneveld says:

    Love the beard Geo!!!

    Those pics are amazing- you both look so happy! Miss you tons!!

    Sending love!

    Haley

  2. Carolyn says:

    Wonderful blog (as usual), and love the pictures!
    XOXO

  3. Emma says:

    Jenine—you totally look like a weaving pro there! Hierve el Agua looks seriously amazing.

    • Jenine says:

      It was seriously amazing but definitely recommend going to Hierve el Agua first thing in the morning on a weekday (better yet, camp there). We know people who went later in the day and it was packed…totally changes the experience.

  4. karie says:

    Thought you should know that my olukai’s broke as well. Those things must have an expiration date.

    On another note, have you booked your shipping date yet?

    • Jenine says:

      Bummer about your Olukais! We haven’t booked our shipping date yet. Looking at end of June but haven’t looked into it yet. Why, know anyone who needs a shipping mate? Hope all is well with the recent family visits!

  5. Donna says:

    My entire office now looks at you photos with me. Amazing!