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Oaxaca is a colorful colonial city located in a mile-high valley with great historical and archeological sites, and not to be missed by the Mexico traveler who wants to experience the real flavor of Mexico. Good climate, an exciting native culture, excellent restaurants, and world-class shopping await the Oaxaca visitor.
The city of Oaxaca is a national monument and is located in the center of the state of Oaxaca, which is in the southern end of Mexico, east of the coastal state of Guerrero, south of the state of Puebla, and northwest of the fiesty state of Chiapas. Great views of the city and the valley it sits in can be observed from Cerro del Fortin, a large hill north of downtown.
Oaxaca is the capital of the state of Oaxaca. The state is contained in an area of approximatley 36,275 square miles and has a population of just under 4,000,000 people. The city of Oaxaca is about as far south in Mexico as most travelers go without the risk of getting involved in the local termoil which runs hot and cold in the southernmost state of Chiapas.
The valley around Oaxaca is one of Mexico's oldest continually inhabited regions, with some of the oldest residents dating back to 8,000 B.C. Early inhabitants of the valley included those of the Mixtec and Zapotec civilizations, followed by the Aztecs and until it was discovered by Spain's Hernan Cortez in 1529. Although Spanish remains the main language in Oaxaca, there are a variety of regional dialects used by much of the local population.
Indian traditions and heritage are still part of the local culture and many of the ethnic celebrations and regional dishes that were popular centuries ago are still part of the culture today. Unique to Oaxaca is The Juarez Market, a treasure chest of crafts, food and a variety of everyday necessities. Shoppers will also enjoy the Saturday Mercado Asbastos, one of the most amazing collections of crafts, clothing, food, flowers in Mexico. Many of the villages surrounding Oaxaca also host market days which offer a variety of local and imported products. as well as a view of the local culture that can't be found in most travel books.
Oaxaca and the surrounding cities offer a mix of colonial-era structures, including churches, cathedrals, museums and a variety of locally used commercial structures. The town is one of Mexico's leading art centers and there are many local artists who have made a name for themselves.
A variety of culinary delights await the Oaxaca visitor. There are several varieties of local mole sauces, delicious tamales, and a variety of local cheeses and chilis. Restaurants are located all around town and there are outdoor cafes located around the town square. After a good meal don't miss the music, entertainment and people watching at the main plaza in town.
Getting around Oaxaca is easy. Taxis are plentiful, especially near the town's main plaza, and drivers can be hired for travelers who want to explore the city and the surrounding villages. As with most cities in Mexico it's a good idea to set the fare before getting into the cab.
Buses are a main form of transportation used by the local people. Local buses are an inexpensive way to travel about town, deluxe buses are the most affordable way to reach nearby cities, and first class buses are the best way to go for the long hauls such as to Mexico City (350 miles) and to Puerto Angel on the coast.
Oaxaca is less than a three hour drive from the beautiful but yet-to-be-over-exploited beaches of Huatulco, Puerto Angel and Puerto Escondido (but Puerto Escondido is growing rapidly, and Huatulco is not far behind in an upscale way).
Because of the southern latitude and the high altitude, the weather is nice in Oaxaca all year long. June through September is the offical rainy season, but the rain usually only lasts for a few hours in the afternoon. Heavy rains can come into play in July and August when summer storms flirt with the west coast of Mexico. Most daytime temperatures are in the 70's and 80's with evenings usually in the 50's or 60's.
Oaxaca is the home of Puerto Escondido, one of the best surf breaks in the world. Drop by the web site of MEXPIPE for more beachy information.
Oaxaca is a tourist destination, but most of the hotels are not large and elaborate like the ones in Mexico's beach destinations.
There are many small hotels located throughout town, as well as the following larger hotels. The front desks at most Oaxaca hotels usually have English speaking personel.
The rich ethnic diversity of Oaxaca can also be experienced in it's many fine restaurants. In addition to the restaurants mentioned below, there are many additonal eateries located throughout town.
A true shopper's paradise, if it can't be found in the shops and markets in and around Oaxaca you probably don't need it.
There is plenty to do in and around Oaxaca. If you've only got a few days in town these are the places you might not want to miss.