OAXACA – OUR FAVORITE PLACE IN MEXICO
After travelling 6 weeks around Mexico we arrived in Guatemala just before New Year. On New Year’s Eve we sat on a terrace of our hotel in Flores and talked about what we liked most about Mexico.
The highlight of the trip to Mexico? “Certainly a diving course on Cozumel island,” I replied. We are determined to go back one day (because diving with pregnant bull sharks is something that definitely fits on our bucket list 😉 )
The best vibe: “Bonobo Surf House in Puerto Escondido”, Bojan claimed. Yep, true that.
Favorite place in Mexico: “Oaxaca!”, we both shot immediately.
So what’s so special about Oaxaca, that made such impression on us? In fact, the town itself is not that special after all and the surroundings are not so appealing. But immediately upon arriving in Oaxaca, we got that special feeling when you know you’re gonna love what you’re about to experience.
WHERE EXACTLY IS OAXACA?
Oaxaca is actually the capital of the state of Oaxaca, located in the south of Mexico City. It’s about a 6-hour bus ride from Mexico City. However, on the road to Oaxaca, there are some areas with beautiful cactus and agave plantations so it is best to explore it by car.
SO WHY WOULD OAXACA BE OUR FAVORITE PLACE IN MEXICO?
IT’S A PLACE TO ENJOY YOURSELF
Immediately upon arrival, when we went out of the hostel for an evening walk, we saw a huge crowd of people dancing and singing to the live music at one of the markets. There were stalls with all possible local-made souvenirs and restaurants and cafes were squeezed around the market. With waiters persistently inviting you to their own, logically. 😉 However, we preferred to go a little outside the centre and found a restaurant where they served (now I’m going to be slightly embarrassed) – kraft beer and great lasagna 😀 We asked the waiter if there is anything special going on.
He shrugged and said, “Nothing special. People in Oaxaca just like to have fun. “
And really! We were in Oaxaca for 5 days, and various parades took place every day. Orchestras and mariachi played in the evenings, and people were cheerfully chatting and (especially older ones) dancing. I also joined myself once, when one of the grandpas noticed me trying to catch the rhythm (apparently I looked like I needed help). So he approached Bojan and asked if he could take me to dance. 😊 He proudly took me to the middle of the dancefloor and showed me movements. He nodded approvingly all the time, giving me some extra courage 😀 At the end of the dance he bowed and took me by the arm back to Bojan. A real cavalier! : D
IT’S A PLACE TO EAT & DRINK YOUR WAY AROUND
Oaxaca is known as Mexico’s culinary capital. If you ask any Mexican, they will say that in Oaxaca there is the best food and that you absolutely have to taste “mole”. Well, it’s hard to miss the mole, because it’s almost in every meal anyway. But do not assume (like I did at the beginning) that mole is a shorter form of the word “guacamole”. A-a. Mole is basically a dense, slowly cooked sauce, which they add to (almost all) dishes. Well, there are basically 7 kinds of mole (they differ in ingredients, spiciness, etc.) and you can try each and everyone in Oaxaca.
In truth, we did not like it so much. 😊 Especially Bojan, since we had to cancel a day trip because, well, he could not go too far from the toilet. 😀 “Mole, huh?” the boy in the travel agency knowingly remarked in laughter when I said that we could not go on a trip because my husband got sick. “No problem senora, toma mezcal!” (No problem madam, he should just drink mezcal!)
It is true, mezcal does miracles. After all, every liquor does 😛 Mezcal is a drink that is less known to us or we all know it under the name that recalls various memories – tequila 😀 But let me clarify – every tequila is mezcal, but every mezcal is not tequila. Both drinks are derived from agave, and the tequila is essentially just a type of mezcal produced from a particular type of agave. Unlike tequila, the mezcal has much more full and (to our surprise) smoky taste (which does not resemble its cousin tequila at all). In fact, it immediately became our favourite drink! 😊 It is available in all possible alcohol percentages and flavours – there is even one for which the flavour is obtained by irrigation of specific worms in it, and then one worm is left in a bottle for decoration. 😉
Mezcal tasting tours are awesome. Why? After a very short explanation of the process, people are placed in front of the counter and tasting begins. Which is unlimited. Drink as much as you can. 🙂 No wonder why after tasting suddenly everybody in a van was in an extremely good mood 😛
“there’s no place like café“
Of course, in Oaxaca, everything is not just about mole and mezcal, there are a lot of restaurants available with both Oaxacan and foreign food (as I said we ate a delicious lasagna :P). We even found a real Irish bar! With Irish prices, of course. 😉 In addition, Oaxaca is full of cosy cafés, which are perfect for simply just doing nothing and enjoying oneself. Or working your ass off :P. In Oaxaca, a lot of digital nomads live or just stop by, and when we were sipping our coffee and did some writing for the blog, we almost felt like one of them (with the difference that we are “working” for free :D).
We also witnessed the “Instagram effect” – one of the bakeries with a café connected to it is known among fans of this social media. But because Lonely Planet recommended it as well, we decided that we would go for breakfast there one day. But a surprise surprise – in front of the cafeteria there was a line of people who patiently waited for their breakfast (or photo?). No thanks! We only took the buns at the bakery (which were excellent though) and went for coffee to another place. When we passed by a few hours later, the situation in front of the café was still the same … 🙂
“a bag of bugs, please”
If you are culinary extremists, you must absolutely try roasted grasshoppers! These are a real selling hit among the locals who cheerfully chew them while watching TV, so they are sold in big quantities (like peanuts for us :))
IT’S A PLACE THAT SCREAMS COLOURS!
I was impressed with the colours of Latin America already 10 years ago when I and my friend spent two months travelling through Peru (at this point the desire to return to these places was born). And I’m still always impressed by the colourful little towns where each house comes in different colour. And when you get to street markets, it is like walking through the rainbow!
I must admit it is utterly difficult for me right now since we travel for a long time and with only one backpack, so I have to resist from buying anything at the markets! Although I am just in a state of persuading Bojan that colourful blanket is something we absolutely cannot live without. 😀
IT’S A PLACE WITH BUNCH OF THINGS TO SEE!
Fortunately, Bojan’s health (with the help of mezcal and antibiotics) quickly improved, so we could go on a trip around the surrounding areas. What did we see?
THE PROCESS OF MAKING COLOURFUL CARPETS AND CLOTHES
It’s no I’ve never seen anything like that before, but I did not know that you can get an indigo colour from the grasshoppers, which then changes with various additives (when changing pH) to all possible shades. Fascinating!
EL ARBOL DEL TULE – THE WIDEST TREE ON EARTH
I’m sure some of you would argue, but they told us so 🙂 Even Wikipedia claims that. With its diameter of 9.38m is supposed to be even wider than giant sequoia. And while it looks like multiple trees it actually compromises of multiple trunks from an individual origin.
VAST FIELDS OF AGAVE
This at first glance friendly plants are actually quite sharp and you can quickly prick your finger on it like on a spinning wheel (well, I myself haven’t experience that, but I watched Sleeping Beauty and I know how it goes!). Of course, we did not just admire the plantations, but we also tried the final product (a lot of it, to be exact), as I mentioned above 😉
RUINS IN THE TOWN OF MITLA
There are countless archaeological sites and demolished places of ancient civilizations in Mexico. The speciality of Mitla is that this was apparently a kind of “home for the elderly/sick rich people”. Some kind of spa, in fact, where old or sick rulers came in to die so their subjects would not see them in bad shape and remember them as such. Yeah, I can imagine that if you barely move with the help of a stick while you are covered with black bulbs, this probably does not give the best impression of “divinity”.
There are some interesting tunnels and tombs in Mitla, but we especially liked (another) the town (and I, again, regretted that we do not have a car, as we would definitely stop here for several hours).
HIERVE AL AGUA
The natural attraction that impressed me very much (ok, yes, it looks romantic, I can not help myself :P). Natural pools that resemble those in Pamukkale in Turkey and huge frozen waterfalls – of course, this is not frozen water but limestone creations that give the look of the waterfall. But the water is quite cold and slightly smells of sulfur – I tried to convince Bojan that this surely means that water has healing characteristics, but he somehow did not buy my theory. 😉
Another archaeological site, which we, unfortunately, did not visit, but it is said to be really nice. But one can only see a certain number of ruins before he is officially “ruined-out”. 😀
HEAVEN FOR HIKERS AND BIKERS!
The land of Oaxaca is a hilly area where you can do a lot of hiking and cycling (but rather not by yourself since you could by mistake end up in the field where something funny grows and you could get yourself into big trouble …).
Bojan even found a small company Camina y Rueda Oaxaca (well, they are basically a boy and a girl) who organizes mountain bike and hiking tours. In principle, you need your equipment for biking, but they have lent their own Enduro bike to Bojan and they went to try out single trails around (I would not survive those trails :P). But bear in mind that it’s pretty difficult to go uphill if you are not used to that altitude (it is as much as 3000 meters high) 😊
ALL IN ALL, NO WONDER WHY OAXACA IS OUR FAVORITE PLACE IN MEXICO!
In those few days that we spent in Oaxaca, the place really grew on us. And if you ever go to Mexico, we really advise to go and take a peek also outside the Yucatan peninsula – we are absolutely sure that you will not regret it! 😊