More Oaxacan Wonders and Activities
One final post on Oaxacan sights and fun things to do, both in Centro and beyond, before I leave after almost 6 months in this colorful Mexican city. The historic center is great, but make sure you get out to the surrounding areas as well. For example, take a day trip out to the amazing pre-Columbian archaeological site of Monte Alban…
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll see this partially excavated civic-ceremonial center, including the main plaza, terraces, and clusters of mounded architecture, as well as many carved stone monuments. You can visit on your own, but I highly recommend taking a tour (they’re offered in both Spanish and English) to learn about the history of this magical place.
Later, when you’re back in Centro, stop into the Museo Regional de Oaxaca in Santo Domingo to see many of the fascinating Oaxacan objects discovered in Monte Alban’s tombs. And while you’re there, take time for a tour of the Botanical Gardens (you’re only allowed access to the gardens on a guided tour, in either Spanish or English). It’s two hours of exploring Oaxacan flora, including edible plants, flowers, and lots of spiny succulents.
Take a trip to one of the villages where they carve and paint colorful Oaxacan alebrijes, folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures! The story is told that once a man fell very ill and was visited by crazy dreams. He had a hard time describing them, so he created some of his visions from cardboard and paper-mache. Over the years the creatures have also morphed into animals, birds, and sea creatures carved out of wood, and you’ll find them sold at markets all over town.
Another beautiful art form in the area is black clay pottery, called barro negro. You can watch an artisan pound, form, and cut clay into hundreds of different types of vessels and items, like vases, bowls, pitchers, flutes, lamps, animal figures, and more. Years ago, a potter named Doña Rosa created a way to polish the pottery before firing, creating a black metallic-like sheen, which added to the pottery’s popularity.
Many people come to Oaxaca to take Spanish or art lessons. Printmaking is a prevalent medium. Try out your creative skills, or purchase a print from a local artist.
If you’re curious about the local Oaxacan specialty liquor, stop in for a Mescal tasting (also spelled Mezcal). Some places will give you a tour and explain the process, from harvesting agave, to cooking, then distilling it…
…with of course, a full tasting at the end.
In a previous post, I took you to the rug making village of Teotitlan, but there are other small villages of weavers as well. Ask around – you may even find a small, private tour to take you to a family home where you can witness the whole process, from grinding cochineal insects for magenta dye, to coloring yarn, to trying your hand at weaving. You might even enjoy…
… a homemade lunch with the family, including a chance to try tortilla making, and local dishes like squash soup, called sopa de guias con chochoyones.
Speaking of cuisine, if you’re a foodie, and want a special night out, there are many fine dining establishments, like Casa Oaxaca, where you can enjoy a tlayuda with special house salsa made at your tableside, gourmet roasted vegetables, a long menu of Oaxacan specialties, and lots of options for a sweet ending to your visit.
Great street food options are available all over town, including delicious elotes, corn on the cob either grilled or steamed, slathered with mayonnaise, dusted with parmesan cheese and chili powder, and sprinkled with fresh squeezed lime juice. It sounds kind of strange, but tastes fabulous! Food festivals appear on a regular basis, just follow your nose and look for the colorful flags…
Also available are Oaxacan biking tours, trips to Hierve el Agua (a petrified waterfall), and other archeological sites, such as Mitla. And if you missed them, check out my previous Oaxacan posts on Teotitlan, Tule, and other sights and activities in the area, including a chocolate tour. Day or night, there’s plenty to see and do in vibrant, colorful Oaxaca!