November 11, 2014

Just Back: Insider Oaxaca

Artisans of Leisure travel specialist Stephanie Dosch just returned from Oaxaca, Mexico, one of our favorite destinations to experience traditional Mexican culture, history, food and crafts.

Here are some of the reasons we love it:

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Markets
Oaxaca is known for its markets, and the sprawling Central de Abastos is considered one of the best in the world. On Saturdays, people come from the surrounding valleys to buy and sell everything from live goats to televisions. For travelers, there is plenty of local pottery and colorful produce to browse, as well as foods like tamales and tlayudas (stuffed tortillas) to sample.

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Private luxury Mexico toursOn Sundays, the nearby town of Tlacolula hosts its weekly tiangui (indigenous market). Locals come from the surrounding villages to buy and sell their wares, and many women wear traditional dress.

Private luxury Mexico toursThese women are sampling chapulines, grasshoppers seasoned with salt and lime, which are considered a seasonal delicacy.

Private luxury Mexico toursLocals sell all kinds of handicrafts, like pottery, weaving and woodcarving, and produce like cocoa, flowers and exotic fruit.

Private luxury Mexico tours

Food
Oaxacan cuisine is famous throughout Mexico. Standout dishes include pillowy tamales, hearty tlayudas, spicy chilaquiles (crispy tortillas, cheese, chicken and sauce) and chocolate-y moles. The region also produces delicious cheese and smoky mescal (alcohol distilled from maguey agave juice).

Private luxury Mexico toursPrivate luxury Mexico toursA fun place for lunch is the Pasillo de las Carnes, or “Meat Hall,” in the Benito Juarez Market. Each stall has a grill and will cook the meat you buy to order. Strolling vendors sell tortillas, toppings and drinks, so it’s easy to create a delicious meal.

Private luxury Mexico toursChocolate is another famous local delicacy. Specialty shops around the Benito Juarez Market grind their own cocoa blends with sugar, almonds, oranges and spices. Many families also have their own recipes and have their chocolate ground to order.

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Private luxury Mexico toursMost of the shops also have cafes where you can enjoy a cup of dark and aromatic hot chocolate.

Private luxury Mexico toursA favorite evening activity is a tasting in a mezcaleria (mescal bar), where you might see locals playing guitar and singing traditional songs while slowly sipping mescal.

Private luxury Mexico toursThe Town and its Architecture
The city of Oaxaca invites strolling, with its lively squares, colorful colonial buildings, beautiful churches made of green limestone, interesting shops and pleasant cafes.

Private luxury Mexico toursOne of the city’s main landmarks, Santo Domingo Church is decorated with intricate gilt carvings.

Private luxury Mexico toursPrivate luxury Mexico toursArt, Crafts & Culture
A haven for artists, Oaxaca also has interesting galleries and great museums, including the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, the Textile Museum, and the Oaxaca Museum of Contemporary Art (MACO).

Private luxury Mexico toursIn evenings, bands like this municipal police band play in the zocalo (main square) or in front of churches.

Private luxury Mexico toursIn the valleys surrounding the city, many villages specialize in local crafts. In the Ocotlan Valley to the south are villages that produce black pottery, embroidery, backstrap-loom weaving and alebrijes—intricately painted wooden carvings of mythical creatures.

Private luxury Mexico toursArtisans of Leisure can arrange a visit to a workshop to see how alebrijes are made, from hunks of copal wood to finished products.

Private luxury Mexico toursTo the east, the village of Teotitlan del Valle is known for tapetes—hand-woven wool rugs colored with natural dyes made from marigolds, lichen, pomegranate, indigo and cochineal.

Private luxury Mexico toursGardens
We love the fascinating Ethnobotanical Garden, where visitors can learn about regional plants and how they fit into the indigenous culture.

Private luxury Mexico toursLuxury
Our private Mexico tours include a stay at the beautiful Quinta Real Oaxaca. Built as a convent in the 16th century, the hotel opens peaceful courtyards.

Private luxury Mexico toursRuins
Just outside the city and not to be missed is Monte Alban, an evocative site of ancient ruins with views over the city and surrounding valleys.

Private luxury Mexico toursA little farther afield, the ruins at Mitla are known for their grecas, or intricate geometric brickwork.

Private luxury Mexico toursNearby is Hierve el Agua. Resembling a frozen waterfall, the stalactite-like formation was created by natural mineral springs cascading over cliffs. The pools at the top are a popular place for a refreshing dip and taking in spectacular views over the countryside.

Private luxury Mexico tours

Contact Artisans of Leisure or your preferred travel specialist to start planning a private, customized tour in Mexico.

Destinations:  Latin America, Mexico

Tags:  architecture, best of Mexico, crafts, food, gardens, luxury hotels, Mexico, Mexicto tours, music, ruins