Photo via Wikipedia Commons
WHAT TO DO
Visit Santo Domingo Cathedral: Smack-dab in the middle of Oaxaca’s city center, this church was built between 1570 and 1608 as part of the city’s Dominican monastery. The interior is elaborately lined with gold accents and beautiful paintings. Next to the church is also a cultural center. Because the church is located along the center’s pedestrian-only street, this is a popular gathering place for Oaxacans.
Shop at the local markets: Make sure to find your way to three of Oaxaca’s most well-known markets: Mercado 20 de Noviembre, which is almost exclusively for food; Mercado Benito Juárez, an artisanal food and produce market; and Mercado de Artesanias, the main artisan’s market for textiles. But also venture out to Central de Abastos, the city’s main market with a wide variety of produce and goods, as well as Mercado de la Merced, a smaller neighborhood market in Centro with some of Oaxaca’s best food.
Go to the Sierra Norte mountains: One of the best things about Oaxaca is being able to see the mountains from the middle of the city. There’s no reason you shouldn’t actually go to the mountains, though; in fact, the mountains offer some of the most amazing views. Many of the small villages in the Sierra Norte, which you can get to within 30 or 40 minutes from downtown Oaxaca City, boast ecotourism sites with cabins, activities, and trails. There are several options when deciding where to go, but Expediciones Sierra Norte, the tourism arm of a group of mountain villages, is a good place to start.
Take a colectivo or bus to nearby towns: Among the most worthy of a visit are Teotitlán del Valle, known as the textile capital of Oaxaca where artisans weave traditional wool rugs by hand, and Tlacolula, which boots an epic Sunday market with food, goods, and even live animals. The small town of Tule is home to the largest tree in the world, and Hierve el Agua offers a beautiful natural spring. Most colectivos, a network of shared taxis, are around 20 pesos.