Oaxaca, Mexico is known for many reasons: its legendary Oaxacan cuisine, a marvelous set of pre-Colombian ruins just outside the city center, its large indigenous population, and its wonderful colonial architecture. The combination of these have made it a popular tourist destination for travelers around the globe.
Oaxaca was not the first city on my list to visit in Mexico, but after visiting a few of the less touristy ones such as Puebla, Guanajuato, and Guadalajara, it was finally time to see it. I began my journey at the break of dawn, as I had a 6:15 AM Aeromexico flight to Mexico City, where I would connect to a domestic flight to Oaxaca. Mexico has followed the US’s policy of forcing all connecting passengers to clear immigration and collect and re-check baggage. It’s a hassle, but luckily in the morning there was not much of a crowd, so it was a relatively painless procedure. Mexico City’s airport has more flights than gates, so upon landing I had to catch a bus to go in the terminal, and the same was the situation upon boarding as well. In this situation it is key to make boarding on time, as missing the bus means missing your flight. The one annoyance was after landing, the bus driver would not open the door until another bus with the crew arrived; there is some perk to being a crew member.
Upon landing in Oaxaca, I looked for a taxi service, but there was none available. Instead, I had to take a collectivo, basically a van full of people going to various destinations in the city. The price was very cheap, just 80 pesos, approximately $4 US.
Of course, I was the last person to be dropped off. My hotel was the Holiday Inn; normally, I am no fan of Holiday Inns, but this one was pleasant. It is about a 10 minute walk north of the city center, in a residential area. The room was quiet, which is not always the case in centrally located Mexican hotels, which tend to be beside busy streets in my experience.
The first stop from here was to enjoy the fine Mexican tradition of eating wonderful food. I headed straight to the Mercado 20 de Noviembre, a 20 minute walk, just south of the Zocalo (central square). I decided to have enfrilojadas, basically enchiladas smothered in bean sauce. This was absolutely delicious. The price was absurdly cheap at 40 pesos, or $2 US.
From here, I went to Monte Albán, the set of ruins just outside the city center.
Though this should be a 20 minute taxi ride, the driver whose cab I jumped in was unaware of a shorter route, as there are two.
As a result it took about an hour as we were stuck in brutal traffic.
Luckily by the time I arrived to the ruins, I still had two hours to explore.
This is an elaborate set of ruins, with various pyramids that are climbable.
I made sure to climb each one to get a workout and views of the city and area surrounding it.
Unlike most of the other ruins I’ve been to, there was not much of a crowd, which gives you the feeling that you have the place to yourself.
After finishing the ruins, I noticed there was a local bus in the parking lot, so I caught that back to the center for the bargain price of 25 pesos, as opposed to the 250 peso taxi ride. Unfortunately, I got off when the driver said “centro,” which wasn’t the actual zocalo but a little south. The good news is that this was near the market, so I stepped back in and purchased a tamal Oaxaqueño. This was the best tamal that I’ve had in my entire life, a mix of chicken and the famous mole sauce wrapped in a banana leaf, unlike a corn husk which is usually the case. The tamale was so incredibly moist, and the mole wasn’t so strong that it covered the taste of the tamale as a whole with its chocolate flavor. I probably will never eat a tamale again because it would simply be blasphemous.
After this, it was time to call it a night and plan out my next day, which would involve seeing a famous “Sunday market.”