Old-world Oaxaca – pronounced ‘wahaca’ – has a long and fascinating history of colonial and ancient cultures, from its conquering by the Spanish in 1533 to the pre-Columbian ruins of Monte Alban.
Nowadays, holidays to Oaxaca are characterised by markets and fiestas, including one of the most colourful markets in Mexico. The province’s capital shares the same name, and it’s here that you’ll find a plethora of fine Spanish buildings enhanced by Latin flavour, including ornate colonial buildings, soaring archways, delicate wrought-iron balconies and sociable plazas. However, the Oaxaca of the modern day remains very proud of its traditional heritage at heart, so much so that the townsfolk speak their own language rather than Spanish.
Oaxaca town is set in an attractive valley, surrounded by the mountains of the Sierra Madre del Sur. It’s here that the Zapotec and Mixtec civilisations based themselves, the former long before the birth of Christ. Thickly forested hillsides and swampy lowlands replace the barren, stark conditions of the north, so if travelling from Mexico City or Copper Canyon the differences are strongly marked.
Oaxaca is a region famous for its vibrant colours and celebration of indigenous culture, and there’s no more thrilling festival than the Day of the Dead. Every year Mexican families celebrate lost loved ones, by decorating altars in their homes in an elaborate fashion and holding traditional, if rather high-spirited, wakes in cemeteries throughout the country. As the artistic heart of Mexico, Oaxaca is one of the best places in the country to experience the proceedings, celebrating with families as they honour their dead with offerings and extravagant dinners.
Our Destination Experts for Oaxaca can offer travel advice and inspiration for Oaxaca holidays and beyond.