Oaxaca Through the Lens
Part 2 of our Design Destination: Mexico showcases the Central District through a photographer's lens
My boyfriend, Evan McGinnis, and I love planning trips to celebrate our birthdays. And we chose to celebrate Evan’s spring birthday in Oaxaca last year because we love Mexico, figured the weather would be mild, and we’d already frequented Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe. We considered exploring Mexico City but longed for a more laid-back experience for this particular getaway. We got just what we wanted—plus so much more—in Oaxaca.
The Cross Border Xpress is a skybridge that allows travelers to cross the U.S.-Mexico border on foot, bringing them directly into Tijuana International Airport. Airline prices were significantly less expensive (like less than half the price) for the direct flight to Oaxaca on Volaris, as opposed to a U.S.-based commercial airline.
We found that most Oaxacans don’t speak much English, so you’ll want to brush up on basic Spanish words before your trip. It will make tasks like hiring a cab driver, ordering food at a restaurant and shopping in the market so much easier.
The Centro District is about a 15-minute cab ride from the airport and is the most desirable part of town to stay. The family-owned Casa de las Bugambilias B&B (pictured below) has three properties located in the heart of the city, all offering reasonable prices and a two-course gourmet breakfast (think mole and chilaquiles). We especially enjoyed the El Secreto property, which had only three rooms and featured a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city.
Located directly across the street from the B&B is the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (pictured below). Visitors are required to take a tour to enter the garden, and tours in English are only given on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Guides are knowledgeable and passionate, sharing the history of the garden and discussing the relationship between native plants and the people of Oaxaca, the most biodiverse region in Mexico. Bring a hat and your camera—there are some wonderful photo-ops to be found throughout the garden.
You won’t want to miss the Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo, a collection of former monastery buildings occupied by the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (pictured below). Long corridors, archways and ornate staircases lead visitors to rooms displaying historical artifacts, including an incredible collection of ancient gold and silver jewelry. The site is especially beautiful at sunset, with views overlooking the ethnobotanical garden and plaza below.
Try turning off your phone and Google maps, and let serendipity lead the way. There is so much to discover that wouldn’t typically catch your eye on a list of tourism sites, like colorful buildings (below), street art and open spaces and parks.
It’s not necessary to rent a car since getting around Oaxaca is easy on foot, but you may want to explore beyond the city limits. For about $150, you can hire a driver to take you to the archaeological Zapotec ruins of Mitla (pictured below) and the town of Teotitlán del Valle, known for its hand-woven rugs and natural dyes.
Plan on spending a full morning and afternoon at Monte Albán (pictured below), the ancient Zapotec capital. Hop on a shuttle at the Zocalo for less than $5 a person, then take a self-guided tour of the site.
Eat and Drink
A visit to Oaxaca wouldn’t be complete without a mezcal tasting! We recommend booking a private tasting at Mezcaloteca (pictured below), where you’ll have the pleasure of sampling various types of locally distilled mezcal. Legend has it that drinking straight mezcal won’t give you a hangover, so…bottoms up!
Check out Tierra del Sol Casa Restaurante (pictured below) for lunch and El Sol y la Luna for drinks and light bites.
Don’t be afraid to sample some goods from the local street vendors (pictured below), but remember that sometimes our American stomachs aren’t as fuerte as those belonging to our neighbors south of the border.
If you’re looking for an incredible dining experience, look no further than Criollo. There was no menu, just course after course of delicious morsels put in front of us and devoured without any hesitation or question as to exactly what we were eating. Pro tip: Make a reservation at opentable.com.
EAT + DRINK
Reforma No. 506, Col. Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, (+52) 951-514-0082, mezcaloteca.com
Tierra del Sol Casa Restaurante
2da Privada de Tabachines #2, San Francisco Tutla, Oaxaca, (+52) 951-517-5531, tierradelsol.mx
El Sol y la Luna
Calle de José María Pino Suárez 304, Ruta Independecia, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, (+52) 951-514-8069, elsolylalunarestaurante.com