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Oaxaca City Guide



The city of Oaxaca

© Suzanne Barbezat

Oaxaca City:

Oaxaca City (pronounced wa-ha-ka), the capital of Oaxaca state, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a beautiful colonial city nestled in a valley in the Sierra Madre mountain range of Southern Mexico. The city is located 280 miles south-east of Mexico City.

Oaxaca's History:

The valley of Oaxaca was inhabited in prehistoric times. Evidence of human occupation in the valley dates back to 12,000 B.C. The first urban center of Mesoamerica, Monte Alban, was founded there around 500 B.C. The first Europeans to arrive in the area were Dominican friars who came to convert the native people to Catholicism. The colonial town was founded in 1536.

Oaxaca Geography and Climate:

Located in a valley in the Sierra Madre mountains, Oaxaca is at 1500 m above sea level and has a mild climate year-round. Rainy season lasts from May to September, generally raining in the afternoons, and is a pleasant time to visit.

Oaxaca's Colonial Architecture:

Oaxaca boasts magnificent colonial architecture, the most outstanding example being Santo Domingo church and its former convent, which is now home to an impressive museum.

Oaxaca Archaeological Sites:

There are several archaeological sites located a short distance from Oaxaca city. The most important is Monte Alban, the capital of the Zapotec people from 500 B.C. to 800 A.D. The site is built on a mountain-top, offering impressive views of the valley below. Next in importance is the site of Mitla, which is located in the Eastern arm of the Oaxaca valley and has beautiful geometric fretwork patterns in the walls.

Handicrafts of Oaxaca:

Oaxacan handicrafts are famous the world over. Some of the most sought-after items are:

  • Zapotec wool rugs
  • Black pottery
  • Wood carvings called "alebrijes"

Oaxacan Cuisine:

Oaxaca is also known for its distinctive cuisine. Dishes such as mole (pronounced mol-ay), a thick sauce prepared with chiles and chocolate are a delight, as are quesillo and tlayudas.

See our list of Oaxaca's best restaurants, and the foods you should try in Oaxaca.

Hotels in Oaxaca:

  • Hotel Camino Real
    A beautiful 16th centuty former convent converted into a hotel, the Camino Real is centrally located and offers modern conveniences in a colonial setting. Read a review.
    Check rates

  • Hotel Azucenas
    Located a 10 minute walk away from the Zocalo, this small hotel is clean, comfortable and reasonably priced. A delicious breakfast is served daily on the rooftop terrace.
    Visit their website: Hotel Azucenas

Fiestas in Oaxaca:

  • Day of the Dead celebrations in Oaxaca are particularly vibrant.
  • Radish Night takes place every year on December 23rd.
  • The Guelaguetza is a traditional dance festival that takes place during the last two weeks of July.

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