Culture

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Oaxaca

A photograph of the author, Jason Woods.

By Jason Woods

December 10, 2018

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Trip to Oaxaca

Oaxaca is perhaps Mexico’s most diverse state, with 16 ethnic groups that remain more distinct than in other states because of its challenging geography. Cultures and traditions come together in Oaxaca to form a vibrant and unique part of the world. Here are a handful of ways to you’re experiencing Oaxaca to the fullest. 

Animals seem to be more colorful in Oaxaca. Photo by Getty Images.

Find Some Fantastic Beasts

Although some say alebrijes are originally from Mexico City, it’s Oaxaca that popularized the colorful wooden sculptures of creatures real or imagined. The whimsical creatures are featured in Disney/Pixar’s 2017 film Coco and are sold all over Oaxaca. 

Wedding crashing is highly encouraged in Oaxaca.

Crash a Wedding

Whether you’re invited or not, you might end up attending a wedding when you visit Oaxaca. In Oaxaca City, weddings spill out of churches and into crowded thoroughfares with large bands and dancing mojigangas, or large papier mache puppets. In rural parts of the state, wedding guests might make their way from wedding to reception by dancing with gifts brought for the bride and groom—including live turkeys or large and unwieldy pieces of furniture.

If you make it to Oaxaca in July, you might catch the area's biggest celebration. Photo by Getty Images.

Learn How (and When) to Pronounce Guelaguetza

Oaxaca’s most important celebration is the Guelaguetza. Every July, the event celebrates the indigenous cultures of the state. Held in Oaxaca City and its surroundings, the Guelaguetza showcases indigenous communities showing the music, costumes, dances and food of their culture.

Even though it's Spanish for

Get Out and About

Short day trips from Oaxaca City can lead you to a number of amazing locales:

  • The Tule Tree, which is the world’s widest tree. It’s 1,500 to 2,000 years old.
  • Hierve el Agua, a series of natural rock formations that also serve as a picturesque swimming hole. 
  • Monte Alban, a pre-Columbian archaeological site that was home to Zapotec and Mixtec cultures.
This tlayuda doesn't have grasshoppers on it, and that's a mistake. Photo by Getty Images.

Eat Some Bugs

Oaxaca is well-known for its cuisine. Make sure to try these staples:

  • Mole, a complicated sauce that might have as many as thirty ingredients. Oaxaca boasts seven varieties. 
  • Drinking chocolate, usually served hot.
  • Tlayudas, sometimes called “Mexican pizzas,” because of they look similar. Tlayudas, though, are gigantic cooked tortillas topped with refried beans, vegetables and usually chorizo or other local cuts of meat. 
  • Chapulines, or toasted grasshoppers.