There is not much more to do, than fall in love with the colorful cobble stone streets of Oaxaca.
Days begin with coffee in hand-crafted artisan mugs and a concha. Tlayudas (one of the city’s most beloved street foods) were my lunch staple and craft mezcal cocktails are a refreshing break in the day. I now serve all my margaritas with worm salt, my favorite of all the “bug salts” – who knew!
All this to say, when I return to Oaxaca, it will not be for the food first but for the kind and generous people and colorful street art. I met artists practicing techniques passed down from generations and the energy in the streets makes you want to cry happy tears or dance!
In the city center, I recommend visiting Collectivo 1050 and Andares del Art Popular. But my strongest recommendation is…don’t stop there! Wandering markets was my favorite activity and day trips to neighboring villages made me realize I needed more time in Oaxaca. For example, on a simple walk through the charming barrio of Jalatlaco, my day was filled with color and street art. Oaxaca is like an onion and the more I explored, the more layers revealed themselves. I am certain I just scratched the surface over five days in this city!
Next time, I plan to make time for a 6-hour journey south to the beach town of Puerto Escondido to stay at Hotel Escondido, where time slows down even further. Puerto Escondido is a small Mexican fishing village with beautiful beaches and a relaxing laid-back vibe. . . sign me up!
I flew into Oaxaca International Airport – about 20 minutes outside of the city center. Flying into Oaxaca, you really get a sense for the beauty of the land – or potentially it was the sharp contrast coming from Mexico City. The light shines right and feels a bit sublime – think Sedona Vortex vibes. As I talked to fellow travelers, many were revisiting this special place for lengthy vacations. As you drive into the city center street art reveals color, vibrancy, and edge.
I arranged a driver prior to arrival. If you are not renting a car – I highly suggest you contact Jaime – a good friend had referred him from her trip months prior. I arranged everything via WhatsApp. It was amazing to have a driver to take me to Teotitlan del Valle, pointing out foods in the markets I should try (tejate the drink of the gods, worm salt & more) and safely transporting myself and a growing collection of Oaxacan pottery over the days. It was nice to support someone local and have this pre-arranged with so many places to visit outside the city center. I would be happy to provide his WhatsApp phone number if you would like to pre-arrange transportation.
Otherwise in the city center, lace up your shoes and walk. It felt incredibly safe, and my step count landed above 10,000 every day.
Where to stay
El Callejon Hotel Boutique. Is a 12-room boutique hotel and a perfect oasis. It is centrally located, clean, quiet, and charming. The team is super helpful and accommodating to any request. They have a small outdoor bar with fresh lime mezcal margaritas that are the perfect way to recover from a day exploring. Rooms are more charming than the pictures online – always a delightful surprise.
Creole House. Had some of the best design in the city and became my go-to breakfast spot. Splurging at the Airbnb on this property would be well worth it! From the listing, “Chefs Enrique Olvera and Luis Arellano personally curated the space with a group of JSa architects to deliver a unique experience where Oaxacan design, cuisine, and art blend harmoniously.” I loved being on this property and feeling connected to nature and the city. Steam room, pool & breakfast included!
Casa Silencio. About an hour and fifteen minutes outside of the city center on your way to Hierve el Aqua, Casa Silencio is a 6-room, boutique hotel that serves up a high-end mezcal tasting and pairing. See below for more details on the dining experience, which is a must-do! I could see how a few days here could really recharge the soul. I would plan on booking a few massages, hiking and enjoy the culinary experience.
Where to Eat & Drink
There are a lot of dining options in Oaxaca. Los Danzantes (which served seven different moles and a catch of the day), Zandunga (lovely bean soup and open-air charming courtyard), Boulenc (open air café and bakery) all are top rated and worth a visit. But below are my favorite spots:
Kiyo. Hidden gem, as it gets overshadowed by the ever-popular Boulenc across the street. I had an elevated and delicious lavender latte and continued to stop by this café.
Almu. 45-minute drive outside Oaxaca city center and down a few dirt roads – Almu served up my favorite Thayudas of the trip! This is an outdoor, organic restaurant with charm and wonderful service. The afternoon I ate here skies were blue and clouds burst from the sky…I was feeling lucky!
Criollo. Rabbits, chickens, and charm. Every inch of this outdoor restaurant is perfection. Fresh juices, eggs, and amazing pancakes in a pristine environment. The perfect start to everyday.
Casa Silencio Mezcal Tasting & Dinner. I booked the private tour & tasting and thought the experience was worth every penny. I learned the process of making mezcal and had a formal tasting followed by a 5-course dinner. The whole experience was elevated and refined while also being fun and relaxed. Prior to dinner, I had a cocktail on their open-air deck breathing in the fresh air, gazing at the agave fields and mountains. Dinner was seasonal and fresh and chef Daniel explained each course. Guests take everything in from a communal 53-foot-long stone table with breathtaking views.
Sabina Sabe. The place you want to go for knowledgeable and friendly bartenders (from Mezcal 101 to “bartenders’ choice”). I stopped in one afternoon after walking 7,000 steps and indulged in a mezcal cocktails. . . it was perfection and got me back on my feet!
Selva. Beautiful ambience, charming hosts, and a menu focused on local and seasonal ingredients. It’s a must!
Ama Terraza. I liked that this felt somewhat undiscovered. With a nice natural wine selection and good views of the city. Stop by for a pre-dinner drink or a final final.
Where to Shop
Central de Abasto Market. This is the largest open-air market in Oaxaca and not for rookies. I ventured into this market alone and felt like I might never find my way out. I saw some amazing green pottery and neutral comals of all sizes (think round Mexican cast iron skillet). I would take a warm-up run at Benito Juarez, a smaller option nearby, to get the feel for markets then march over to the big boy!
Teotitlan del Valle is another must stop. This is a small village that has master weaving traditions and produces textiles with natural dying techniques. Craftsmanship and technique yield truly beautiful products. I took a tour at Casa Don Juan Zapotec Weavings and left with my arms full of rugs.
Tlacolula Sunday Market. About 45 minutes-drive from the city center and worth a trip! This is a large weekly Sunday market with food, produce, textiles, crafts and more. Also, I would suggest venturing to Santa Maria Atzompa for amazing pottery – about 25 minutes from the city center. You can seek out artisans making beautiful pottery in their home studios.
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