Oaxaca is the home to Mezcal, Mole, Chocolate, and Coffee. It’s a beautiful state, and Oaxaca city is a food oasis set in the valley surrounded by huge mountains. The weather is borderline amazing, with cool temperatures in the morning and evenings and perfect spring-like weather during the day.
The weather makes for perfect sightseeing, shopping, and eating. The latter can only be described as the Best in México as there are so many fresh ingredients and mole dishes that make the rest of Mexico seem bland in comparison.
If you are visiting Oaxaca, I highly recommend that you start your stay with my first recommendation:
1: Mezcal and Mole pairing with my new compadre Daniel Rodríguez, the Mezcal Sommelier. His experience is one that is meticulously planned to take you through an adventure so that you will get to know the intricacies of both Mezcal and Mole. With his expert senses, he has managed to pair the best of both Mezcal and Mole that will lead you down the exploratory path of enjoyment. I highly recommend that you follow up the mezcal and mole pairing with dinner at Ancestral restaurant.
2: Take a tour of Teotitalan valley and learn about the textile-making process. Here you will learn about the process of making natural dyes, coloring the natural fibers, the weaving process, and the significance of each pattern. These are craft artisan heirloom quality rugs, so be prepared for higher prices. Reach out to Jamie for a private driver and English-speaking tour guide if you need it. Jamie's number is +52 951 188 5995 on WhatsApp.
3: Take a private tour of Monte Alban. In a few words, simply amazing views. We live in the Mayan capital of Merida, but it is amazing to see the Zapoteca ruins of Monte Alban. It is an incredible archeological site. Jamie can arrange to take you here as well.
4: Eat, Drink, and Be Happy all around the Zocolo of Oaxaca. Restaurants abound in Oaxaca city. Of all the meals I had in 7 days, only one was meh. But the rest were all excellent, including eating in the Smokehouse market, Novembre 20. The meat in the places was so tender and tasty that all a Georgia boy wanted was a dab of BBQ sauce. In reality, it didn’t really need anything. Think of the 4th of July, backyard BBQ coming right off the grill, and you fixing a plate of meat and eating with your fingers. Delicious!
5: Shopping. Most of the iconic Mexican art, pottery, figures, colors, and designs come from Oaxaca. I might have overdosed on Cubre Bocas (masks), but they had so many comfortable and unique designs for far less than what I’m used to paying in Merida. There were shopping opportunities everywhere in the city center. I came with an empty duffel. Coming back to Merida, that duffle was full of Artisanal Mezcal, Mole, Chocolate, Coffee, and about 20 Cubre Bocas. I recommend taking a free walking tour around the city to learn about some of the historical figures and buildings as well as to find the off the beaten path shopping spots.
Unlike other areas I have traveled to in Mexico recently, such as Quitano Roo, Oaxaca was on par with Merida in Covid awareness and safety precautions. Most folks wore masks. Hands, feet, bodies, and bags were all sprayed with sanitizer at most establishments. The spraying down of your body with sanitizer is a Covid prevention protocol that is even more intense than what is done in the Yucatan.
Also, the city felt very safe with a good police presence everywhere near the city center. I felt extremely safe walking about early in the mornings around the town. Oaxaca is one of the safest places in Mexico, so I can see why many people would choose to move to Oaxaca or retire in Oaxaca.
One thing that Oaxaca is missing is its proximity to the ocean. It’s a 7-hour drive from the city to the pacific coast because of the mountain roads. You can fly from Oaxaca to Mexico City, which is only a 50-minute flight. Then to Puerto Escondido in 50 minutes. My next trip to the state will certainly be to check out the pacific coastal areas and take a coffee tour.
In comparison to Merida for a visitor, I would say the food is, without question, better in Oaxaca. The weather in Oaxaca is probably more agreeable to a wider range of folks than Merida's heat. I don’t mind the heat. I would give this category a tie for me personally. Merida wins for me as far as activities for a visitor, as there are just more things to do from cenotes, ruins, the beach of the gulf, and the proximity to the Caribbean in the Riveria Maya, which is only 3 hours away. The artisan shopping in Oaxaca is better than in Merida. In Fact, a lot of the things sold in Merida probably originate from this region.
If you are visiting Oaxaca or considering different places to live in Mexico, I would highly recommend the things on this list to get a feel for the city and its vibrant food culture. If the way to a man’s heart is through his belly, Oaxaca may win you over.