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Oaxaca (City)

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Travel Guide North America Mexico Oaxaca Oaxaca

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Introduction

Oaxaca City having a population of around half a million people is the largest city and the capital of Oaxaca state. Located in the Valley of Oaxaca in the Madre Sul Mountains and the area is surrounded by thick forests making it a truly beautiful place. The city was originally settled by the Spanish in 1522 by Hernan Cortes. Most of the older colonial buildings are located in the city centre. The city is home to amazing churches, colonial buildings, ruins, arts and crafts. This area is well worth exploring for its amazing sights. Don't forget to taste some of the best food in the world!

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Neighbourhoods

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Sights and Activities

Monte Albán

Monte Albán is a large pre-Columbian archeological site is one of the oldest cities in all of Mesoamerica, being founed in 500 BC. The city was abandoned by the 9th century although small scale re-habitation did happen over the next few centuries. Many of the later groups even used some of the tombs and temples again but for different purposes. The site is mainly on top of a hill and a good day trip from Oaxaca City. In 1987 Monte Albán was made into a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site itself is beautiful and the view from the top is amazing. From Oaxaca it is possible to book a bike trip to Monte Alban. You will be taken up by minibus and from the top you only have to go downhill. You will pass by some typical villages and you can enjoy the beatifull nature.

Andador Macedonio Alcalá

Andador Macedonio Alcalá is a pedestrian street in the city center of Oaxaca City. The street is home to several notable sights and and public places.

  • Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (Museum of Contemporary Art)
  • Plazuela Labastida
  • Parroquia de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo (Parish of the Precious Blood of Christ)

Churches

  • Santo Domingo - This is one of the most important of the many baroque style religious buildings in Oaxaca. This church has a complex set of buildings including a large sanctuary, many courtyards, cloisters and living areas that were formally part of a monastery. The monastery was founded by the Dominican order in 1572 and was an active monastery from 1608 to 1857. For the second half the 19th century the building was used by the military as barracks then returned to religious use in 1938. In 1972 the church was made into the museum of the Cultural Centre of Oaxaca and was fully restored in 1999. The church is located about half a km north of the city center.
  • Catedral de Oaxaca (The Cathedral of the Virgin of the Assumption) - Was the third cathedral to built in Oaxaca because the others were destroyed by earth quakes. Construction began in 1702 and completed in 1733. The facade of the church is made of green stone and the interior is a Neoclassical design. The altar has a statue of Our Lady of Assumption, which was made in Italy.
  • Church of San Augustín
  • Church and former monastery of St John of God
  • Church of San Felipe Neri
  • Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad - This basilica is built on a site where the Virgin Mary appeared in a box. This baroque designed church was completed in 1690 and is built with a reddish stone. In the back of the church there is a museum that exhibits many of the Virgin's dresses and statue of the Virgin of Solitude crowned with a diamond studded 2 kg solid gold crown. The church is located four blocks west of the Cethedral on Avenida Independencia.
  • Church of the Company of Jesus - This church was built in the 16th century in a baroque style. Inside the chapel is a statute of the Virgin of Guadeloupe with a prayer written under it in Spanish, English, Nahuatl and 12 other native languages of the Oaxaca area.

Museums

  • Centro Cultural de Santo Domingo (Cultural Centre of Oaxaca) - This is a great museum that home to a good pre-Columbian collection and colonial period relics. The centre is located in the Santo Domingo.
  • Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca (Museum of Contemporary Art) - Is a good contemporary art museum located in the so called Casa de Crotes, which was built after Crotes's death.
  • Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (Museum of Oaxacan Paintors) - Is a museum dedicated to famous local painters, such as Rodolfo Morales. The museum is located north of Alameda do Leon on Avenida Independencia in a 18th century mansion.
  • Museo Rufino Tamayo (Rufino Tamayo Museum) - Is dedicated to pre-Columbian art and some of the pieces used to be in the private collection of Rufino Tamayo. One of the main missions of the museum is to prevent pieces from entering the illegal artifacts market.
  • Casa de Juárez - This museum is devoted to the life of Benito Juarez. The museum is located in an 18th century home at Garcia Vigil 609.
  • Museo Philatélica de Oaxaca (Stamp Museum)
  • Railway Museum of Southern Mexico

Other Sights and Activities

  • Plaza de la Constitución (Zócalo) - Was built by Alonso Garcia Bravo in 1529, when he designed the downtown of the city. He modeled his design after looking at many different 16th century Spanish towns. The ash trees and marble fountain were added in the 18th century.
  • Portales de Ex-Palacio de Gobierno - Is located on the plaza and is now the Museo del Palacio 'Espacio de Diversidad.
  • Jardin Ethobotánico (Ethnobotanic Gardin) - Is an amazing garden and located at the corner of Reforma and Constitución.
  • Mercado Benito Juárez - Buy some flowers, handcrafts, leather goods, hats and knives at this market. The market is located at Flores Magon and Las Casas and takes up the entire block of 20 de Noviembre and Aldama streets.
  • Mercado 20 de Noviembre - Also known as the Mercado de la Comida and this is the local food market. Go try out some of the famous Oaxaca cuisine here.
  • Mercado de Artesanías (Crafts market)

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Events and Festivals

  • Guelaguetza or Los Lunes Del Cerro - This pre-Columbian holiday has changed into a celebration of of the Virgin del Carmen, the city and state of Oaxaca. The celebrations is always the two consecutive mondays after July 16th. Except when the monday falls on July 18th, which is the day Benito Juarez died, then the holiday will be on July 25th and August 1st. There are concerts and festivals held the entire month of July in honour of the holiday. In the theatre that is build on the hills of Oaxaca their are many open air celebrations. The theatre offers a great view over Oaxaca.
  • Night of the Radishes - Is celebrated on the 23rd of December every year in the main plaza. Several statues are put on display of giant radishes, weighing up to 3 kilos, and grown for the event. Even though it only lasts a few hours these works of art are worth checking out.
  • Day of the Dead - Although the Day of the Dead is also celebrated in many Latin American countries except Mexico (and also in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa), the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is most intensily celebrated in Mexciowhere where it is equal to a National Holiday. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on November 1st and 2nd, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Although it is about the Dead, it is also a celebration where eating and partying both are common as well.

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Weather

Oaxaca has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen climate classification Aw), closely bordering on a humid subtropical climate, due to its high altitude. During the dry season, temperatures during the day remain warm with an average high of 27.1 °C in the coolest month, December, and an average high of 33.3 °C in April, just before the beginning of the wet season. Although daytime temperatures are warm, nighttime temperatures are cool with an average low of 9 °C in January . Due to its altitude of 1,555 metres, the climate of Oaxaca is more mild than lowland areas with the same climate, resulting in cooler temperatures than lowland areas with the same climate. Precipitation is concentrated in the summer months with June being the wettest with an average precipitation of 171 mm.

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Getting There

By Plane

Oaxaca-Xoxocotlan Airport (OAX) is 10 km south of the city centre with the majority of flights to Mexico City. There are limited flights to other Mexican cities like Huatulco, Cancun, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Tijuana. There are some international flights including one to Houston.

From the airport, you will need to find transportation into the city. The ubiquitous yellow taxis in the city do not seem to take arrivals from the airport to the city. There is a booth as you leave the airport where you can purchase a ticket on a colectivo, a small van that will leave when full and which will drop you off right at your desired address. The order is determined based on the other passengers in your van and the price is M$75 (pesos) per person. You may also purchase a taxi 'especial' which is just for you or your party. The cost is M$300.

To get to the airport via colectivo, get your ticket the day before at the office near the Zocalo at the Alameda de Leon. Take your airline ticket and they will book you a seat on the colectivo that will get you to the airport in time for your flight. A taxi from the historical center to the airport should run between M$170-200.

By Bus

You can take a nightbus from San Cristobal de las Casas which takes you to Oaxaca in about 12 hours. The 1st class busses are usually operated by OCC. There are also good connections to Puebla, Mexico City and Veracruz.

If you are arriving from Puerto Escondido, two shuttle van companies do multiple daily runs between Puerto Escondido and Oaxaca (City) and are a faster alternative to the bus. The very scenic route winds directly through the mountains with hairpin curves and takes about 6-7 hours depending on road conditions. Passengers who are inclined to get car sick should definitely take motion sickness tablets. There is a toilet and snack break about midway.

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Getting Around

The central, tourist-oriented part of town is well signposted and easily walk-able by foot, although taxis are somewhat plentiful and buses numerous and cheap (M$6). You can pick up a free city map from one of several information booths, including one right outside the cathedral. No one local seems to know the bus routes or where the collectivos (buses to the pueblos) stop but you can get a good bus map for $40 MXN at the Oaxacan Lending Library.

There are also plenty of taxis found in the Centro Histórico, including a taxi rank near the Zocalo. Make sure to settle on a price before heading off to your destination.

Buses stop running around 21:00.

As with other Mexican cities, there may be more than one road with the same name (Mexicans often use the nearest corner to navigate) and a road's name may change from one end to the other. This is particularly true for the city's downtown, which is divided into north and south by Independencia Avenue. All streets crossing it change its name except for two other main streets running along with Independencia: Morelos Avenue and Hidalgo Avenue. From east to west street names change when crossing Macedonio Alcalá (north of Independencia) and Bustamante Street (south).

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Eat

Grab some local street food at the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. You will find many good restaurants on the main square. Oaxacan food is justifiably famous, and the city's many restaurants offer both traditional and creative dishes to suit many tastes and budgets.

Oaxaca is the place to try the famous Mexican Dish called Mole. It contains many ingredients and however everyone has it's own recipe it always contains chocolate.

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Drink

Oaxaca is famous for at least two drinks: Mezcal and hot chocolate. The state also has a thriving coffee industry. With a few exceptions, most of the cafes are closed on Sunday.

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Sleep

A lot of accommodation is available through the on-line booking agency Air BnB. It is likely that this practice has resulted in somewhat higher prices than before, but if you have not been to Oaxaca before and have no recommendations from friends, it's a good place to start. Once you get to know the city better you might decide that some areas are more desirable to you than others and you can search in those neighbourhoods for places to stay. Some areas are more busy and have more noise and some involve a bit of a walk to the city center where you might be spending some of your time.

Rates can go up significantly during the high season and rooms are difficult to reserve during that time. National holidays and religious holidays are also very busy. Budget hostels can be found for around M$70 per night.

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Work

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Learn

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafe's are widely available and you generally can find one in the direct vicinity. Sometimes photocopy stores or photo processing stores will double as an internet cafe with a couple of computers. Look for signs reading "Acceso a Internet" or "Cibernautica" or "Cibercafe". Charges range from approx. US$1 an hour to US$3 an hour, depending on the location.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Phone cards can be purchased anywhere and are needed for the majority of public phones. To call any number outside your region you have to dial 01 then followed by the area code. If calling a cellphone from a normal phone start with with 044. If calling cellphone to cellphone just dial the 10-digit number. To make an international call dial 00 followed by the country code then the local number. To call to Mexico, also dial 00 (most of the times) followed by the national code 52.

Post

The Mexican postal service is operated by Correos de México. The post service in Mexico is pretty good although not very cheap. It is reliable regarding the sending of postcards, but it takes at least a week to send it to other countries (US/Canada), more so if you send it to Europe or Australia. For packages it is better to use international services like FedEx or UPS. If you are sending a package internationally with the Mexican postal service, take the package OPEN to the post office, they may want to inspect it. Seal it up at the post office. Post offices typically open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday, and 9:00am to 1:00pm Saturday. You will find post offices (Oficina de Correos) is almost any town or city in Mexico. To buy stamps it is best to go to the post office, although you can also get them at stamp machines, located outside the post offices, at bus stations, airports and some commercial establishments.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 17.058449
  • Longitude: -96.731986

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This is version 22. Last edited at 8:40 on Aug 4, 17 by Utrecht. 9 articles link to this page.

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