I am one lucky person to be able to say that I have been a tourist on the colourful streets of Ciudad de Oaxaca for two weeks of my life. The beautiful town is home to many historical monuments, numerous miracles shaped by Mother Nature and daily markets packed with enthusiastic vendors. All these elements create an atmosphere which attracts tourists like a magnet.
In the first week I “carefully planned” (I got lost after the first turn) a map with various places which I wanted to visit. I lost count of the number of museums where I stepped after the first two days and the amount of street fiestas I impulsively joined before the celebration of la Guelaguetza. “Let the mezcal pour”, became a sacred motto.
First up, the Templo de Santo Domingo is one of the places which made my jaw drop. This temple is a spectacular work of art with more than beautiful architecture and hundreds of years of history, all compounded between the walls of the Church of Santo Domingo. Throughout the visit I constantly got the feeling that this place seemed to be ripped from the pages of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez story. The church was founded by the Dominican order 500 years ago and now holds a large museum with artefacts gathered from all corners of Oaxaca. The large columns give view over the beautiful Jardin Etnobotanica de Oaxaca and over the Santo Domingo plaza which hosts a fiesta every day. As I was running up and down the large, luminous corridors I was falling more and more in love with the beauty of the place. Years of history added layers of mystery over the dusty columns of this mesmerizing temple. I am sure to visit it again.
My first and only weekend in Ciudad de Oaxaca was spent roaming busy streets and hopping from one tourist attraction to another in tours offered by the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca. Saturday was packed with visits to old churches which hold significant history and influence on the area surrounding them, houses where people created the famous alebrijes (see picture attached), original wool carpets and clothing and the mesmerizing Monte Alban. The latter was by far my favourite, especially as I got to hear about its history. Monte Alban is one of the first cities in Mesoamerica which held a pre-eminent Zapotec socio-political and economic center. The site is filled with temples which can be hiked by using the very steep stairs but the view from the top is worth the whole work out.
Sunday was another adventurous day, starting off with a visit to El Árbol del Tule, the biggest tree in the world of this species. The trunk has a circumference of 42.0 m (137.8 ft), equating to a diameter of 14.05 m (46.1 ft) and it is placed on the UNESCO tentative list of World Heritage Sites. To my disappointment, the tree couldn’t be hugged.
Next up on the list is Hierve el Agua. This is a site consisting of waterfall rock formations shaped over thousands of years. There are two high cliffs which host a number of 6 or 7 pools, ranging from a few centimetres to 2m deep. The water comes from fresh water springs and there are also two geysers. The awesome thing about this place is that you can swim in a natural pool created by mother nature, at the edge of a cliff, overlooking a breath-taking landscape.
Lastly, the Mercados (markets). Various markets have assigned days in different parts of Oaxaca while others such as the Benito Juarez or the Zocalo are a daily sight. These markets are one of the main tourist attractions as they are packed with traditional shirts, souvenirs, bracelets while others are shopping areas for the locals. One too many times I had to walk through areas where headless chicken were hanging from all sides and people pushing bulks of meat in my face; God forbid I was still a vegetarian. The key to winning in these mercados is the talent of bargaining as the sellers pump up the prices and aren’t very keen on letting more than 20 pesos off if you don’t know how to press them.
To end it off, this article does no justice to the beauty of Ciudad de Oaxaca and photos are barely showing half of it, that is why a visit to this mesmerizing place should be on everybody’s bucket list.