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Oaxaca state is a place of brilliant colours, rich indigenous heritage and mouth-watering culinary traditions. At its heart lies the capital, Oaxaca City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site replete with gems of colonial architecture. Some of Mexico’s finest historic churches can be found here – testament to Baroque at its most grandiose, but beyond mere historical appeal, Oaxaca City also has an irresistible bohemian charm. There is a thriving arts scene, as evidenced by the plethora of galleries and craft stores, often overlooked by the casual visitor.Read more
Founded by the Spanish as Antequera in 1521 on the site of a Zapotec and Mixtec settlement, Oaxaca gracefully combines its colonial and native roots. Fine stone buildings, churches, arcades and airy patios attest to its importance during the colonial period, while its markets, crafts, dances and festive days stem from a more indigenous past. Relaxing with a coffee in one of the many street cafés and bars of Oaxaca, it’s easy to while away the hours. Once you’ve explored the museums, cathedrals, markets and laid-back cobbled streets, you can sit down with a beer or mescal, the local firewater, to plan your days exploring the surrounding hills and valleys.
Travel beyond the terraced cafés and plazas of the capital and an intriguing and entirely different world unfolds. The dusty Central Valleys are a land of crumbling, pre-Columbian ruins, teeming indigenous villages and otherworldly natural wonders. A visit to the hilltop ruins of Monte Albán is obligatory, but Mitla also, with its fascinating stonework, pays homage to the splendour of Oaxaca’s ancient civilizations. The villages scattered throughout the valleys also conceal several interesting attractions including El Tule, one of the world’s oldest trees, and countless markets. The state’s finest crafts are produced in the valleys, including sleek black pottery, dazzling tapestries and psychedelic animal sculptures, alebrijes.
South of the capital, the Pacific Ocean pounds an exceptionally vivid shoreline, where beach communities have blossomed. Puerto Escondido is a well-established surfers’ haven, where the Mexican Pipeline provides some of the world’s most spectacular waves. The party town of Zipolite has long drawn an alternative crowd, while the secluded hideaways of Mazunte and San Agustinillo are only just developing their tourist potential. Puerto Angel is an old Oaxaca favourite, a former fishing village, and is popular with a slightly older crowd.