After getting well aquatinted with the Mexican lifestyle and the culture in Mexico City, we headed to Oaxaca CIty, in the State of Oaxaca. Compared to Mexico City, Oaxaca is way more quiet, colorful, and easier to digest. And people are just so friendly and accepting. The service in restaurants, bars, and other places, is very smiley and friendly.
Don't get me wrong, we loved our time in Mexico City too, but going away from the craziness of the capital city and police sirens was a nice change.
One of the reasons we picked Oaxaca during this time (October/November) was to join the Day of the Dead (Dias de Los Muertos) celebration, which happens around November 1st. Unfortunately, life happened, and we had to go back to Europe just before the festival. However, I'm happy we still managed to spend a couple of weeks there and experience this lovely city.
We spend all the time in Oaxaca city, with one visit to the town nearby Santiago Matatlan. Many expats head over to Oaxacan seaside, like Puerto Escondido, Mazunte, etc. After Oaxaca, our next stop was Playa Del Carmen, so we decided to skip the seaside in Oaxaca and stay in the city only.
We stayed shorter than expected but still experienced a lot. Let me share some tips and information that will be useful for you when you visit this town in the heart of Mexico.
Quick facts about Oaxaca
Oaxaca is in the southwest of Mexico, with a coastline on the Pacific Ocean. Oaxaca City is in the center of the state. It's its capital and also a cultural, artistic, and historic center. Oaxaca has very diverse terrains as it goes all the way from the mountains areas to the sea. Between you can find beautiful valleys and canyons.
Here are a couple of quick facts about this area:
- Oaxaca is the most ethnically diverse state in México. You can find most indigenous people and cultures in Oaxaca state. There are sixteen officially recognized indigenous cultures - the most known are the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs.
- The name Oaxaca comes from the Nahuatl word "Huaxyacac". And it refers to a "guaje" - tree found around the capital city.
- It is the home of Mezcal, an alcoholic beverage made from agave. They grow over 50 different types of agave from which Mezcal is made.
- Oaxaca is known for its one-of-a-kind local gastronomy.
- It was the home of the very famous shaman María Sabina. She was visited by international rock stars like Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, John Lennon.
- Oaxaca is also known as The land of the seven moles. The most known is mole negro (black mole) and includes chocolate, chili peppers, onions, garlic, and more.
Mole, from Nahuatl mōlli, meaning "sauce," is a traditional sauce and marinade used initially in Mexican cuisine. It contains fruits, nuts, chili peppers, and spices like black pepper, cinnamon, or cumin. Wikipedia
Best time to visit Oaxaca
Oaxacan climate is pleasant all year round. However, the summer months are the more rainy, while the winter months are drier with colder nights.
Oaxaca is especially popular during the two biggest festivals - July's Guelaguetza and November's Day of the Dead. It can be a great experience; however, you can expect the city will be way more crowded than usual.
The Guelaguetza, or Los lunes del Cerro, is an annual indigenous cultural event in Mexico that takes place in the city of Oaxaca, and nearby villages. The celebration features traditional costumed dancing by gender-separated groups. Wikipedia
Best areas to stay in Oaxaca
For our experience with Oaxaca, we choose to stay in the city of Oaxaca only. We decided on it as a convenience as we had to work and good infrastructure makes everything easier. Since Oaxaca is a very mountain-ish area, a trip to the seaside can be pretty challenging, so we decided to skip it.
If you also want to jump to the Pacific ocean Puerto Escondido and Mazunte are the most popular places. Especially Mazunte was most recommended by the locals we met in Mexico.
When choosing an apartment in the city, you can't go wrong with any location close to the historic center. We stayed next to Av. de la Independencia, which was a perfect spot to reach any part on foot. The main square, Zocalo, was just 5min walk away.
Centro Historico is one of the 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mexico.
Getting there and around
You can take a bus or a car to come to Oaxaca from Mexico City. But a faster way and sometimes even more affordable is to take a direct flight from Mexico City. It takes an hour compared to a car or bus that takes five hours+ depending on the traffic. Also, there are mountains on the way to Oaxaca, so that it can be quite a lengthy ride.
We choose the VivaAerobus flight and have no complaints about it. Interestingly, the Uber driver who took us to the airport said we had chosen the worst airlines. But based on our overall experience, we can't agree with him. I guess he had it worse. One of the biggest operators with frequent flights is also Aeromexico.
1-hour flight and voila! We were there. From the airport in Oaxaca, taking Colectivo is one of the most affordable (around 100 Pesos per person) and convenient options. They drop you (somewhere) in the city center, so perfect if you have your accommodation there.
A Colectivo is a form of transportation in Mexico that is generally geared towards moving the population around Mexico's vast labyrinth of roads and highways. Quite often the Colectivo is a mini-van. Travel Yucatan
There is no Uber in Oaxaca, and we haven't missed it. The city center is so small and walkable that you can get anywhere on foot.
Food, accommodation, and living expenses In Oaxaca are very affordable.
The end of October and the beginning of November is the most popular time to visit, due to Dias de Los Muertos. Because of that, many apartments were already taken, and the prices were a bit higher. But we still managed to find a lovely apartment on Airbnb for around 600 EUR for three weeks. The apartment was located in the city center, had a living room with a kitchen and separate bedroom. Great for 2.
Food in restaurants was affordable, and mostly in every restaurant presented as in a high-end restaurant. Many places had breakfast combos, where you get juice and coffee included. Prices for deals like this went from 80 -100 pesos (4-5 EUR/USD). Prices for dinner in mid-range restaurant were around 500 pesos (20 EUR / 23 USD), and 0.5l draught beer around 23 Pesos (1 EUR/1 USD).
Like in Mexico City, your trip and life will be more convenient if you speak and know at least the basics of Spanish. But, maybe in Oaxaca, you need it even more.
Our Spanish (still learning it on Duolingo) is very basic, but enough to understand and enough to make sure we get the food we want on a plate.
Internet and best places to Work
To be honest, we didn't manage to try many work-friendly cafes or coworking places (just one actually), as we had to leave earlier. So during the whole time in Oaxaca, we only worked from our apartment, which had a good table and lovely space in the living room.
However, we came prepared and created a list of the ones that we wanted to try before hand. So I'm sharing the list with you, but as said - we didn't try them out.
Galería Laberinto, C. Porfirio Díaz 310
Galeria Laberinto is a small artsy place with stable internet. They have a nice menu and a couple of sockets to get you through your work for a few hours.
Café Café, Calle de Tinoco y Palacios 611B
They have an excellent breakfast menu but slightly more pricey compared to other places in Oaxaca city. The tables are away from the walls, so you should come with the charged laptop. Internet is okay-ish. It seems like a good place for a short time, but there are better options to choose from.
Cafe Los Cuiles, Labastida 115, Ruta Independencia, Centro
This is a nice place to work. They have excellent internet, enough sockets to charge your laptop and a nice menu. The staff seems to be friendly and leaves you to work. There are always some nomads with their laptops there.
Café Brújula, C. Macedonio Alcalá 104, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro
They have 2 locations in busy areas. You shouldn't expect peace or socket availability. But the wifi is solid, and other digital nomads are working there. They have an excellent food selection, perhaps a bit more expensive than other places.
Cafébre, C. de Manuel Bravo 108, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro
Cafebre is a chilled coffee place with a lovely courtyard and great coffee that they brew on their own. The wifi is stable.
Convivio, Murguía 407, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro
Covivio is an excellent combo of a restaurant, bar, and coworking space. Their coworking packages include access to fast wifi, unlimited coffee, tea, water, and Mezcal. Their internet speed is around 350MB upload, 350MB download. Great open space with tables and sockets at each of them. Extensive brunch options and dinners.
Oaxaca en una taza, C. de Gurrión 108, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro
Small place with solid wifi. It gets crowded quite fast. They have nice and fresh food and smoothies.
Marito & Moglie, Miguel Hidalgo 1204, Zona Feb 10 2015
This one was the only one that we visited. Small and cute breakfast place where they offer specialty coffee. They have a small and delicious menu; the staff is friendly too. They have solid wifi.
Best restaurants and bars in Oaxaca
Wow, the Oaxacan food scene is by far the best we had until now. In general, it is known for its food, and we can do nothing but confirm that. Not just the quality, but also the options you have to choose from. You have a variety of street food where you can find traditional Oaxacan and all Mexican food to numerous restaurants where you can eat perfectly prepared dishes for a very reasonable price—topped with friendly and pleasant service. In my opinion, heaven for any digital nomad.
We had two meals per day in the restaurants, usually just around our accommodation. We were staying in the city center, and just Googling for 'lunch near me' returned so many results nearby that we thought we would never run out of great options.
Here is the list of our favorites. I will skip writing for each of them how excellent the food was so that I won't repeat myself all the time.
Ocote Cocina, 5 de Mayo 107, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA
One of our favorite places. Very chilled atmosphere, with such a friendly staff. The food was presented like in a very high-end restaurant, and the prices were very affordable.
Casa Taviche, Miguel Hidalgo 1111, Centro
Casa Taviche is a lovely place with traditional and freshly prepared food. Friendly staff and a beautiful terrace to enjoy your evening treat.
El Tendajon, Calle de José María Pino Suárez #409
Another great place with a bit of waterfall in the courtyard. Great options for brunch and lunch, friendly staff.
Kintaro, C. de Ignacio Allende 316
The only Asian restaurant that we tried. Delicious ramen, great location, and courtyard.
Chepiche Cafe, De, Genaro Vásquez 6 A, Barrio de Xochimilco
What a gem. North from the Centro Historico, just a perfect spot for weekend brunch. They have a huge outdoor place and a great menu to choose from: food and juices.
Praga Coffee Bar, C. de Ignacio Allende 106
Lovely bar and restaurant, with a magical rooftop. We visited it twice, once for cocktails and once for a steak. Both times very satisfied.
La Mezcalerita, C. Macedonio Alcalá 706
Magical rooftop with a great selection of mezcals and food. Perfect spot for the evening chill.
El Gran Gourmet Oxaqueno, Av. de la Independencia 1104
This was our lunch spot across the street. It's like a cafeteria, food is cheap, they have an excellent choice, and the staff is friendly. Great for a quick lunch.
Sabina Sabe, 5 de Mayo 209, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA
Very known mezcaleria in the old town. Lovely atmosphere and great presentation of food.
Boulenc, C. Porfirio Díaz 211, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA
We chose this trendy brunch place for our Sunday brunch and had to wait a bit to get a table. But it was worth it, great shakshuka and pastry.
Mercado 20 de Noviembre, 20 de Noviembre 512
Crazy grill hall. We were a bit shocked when entering the first time. Smoke comes from lines of grills, fresh meat everywhere, and vendors call to stop by in their stall where they offer the best meal for you: quite an intense place but delicious food. The whole market is very vibrant, and you can choose from numerous stalls of great and traditional food.
Best Running trails
I didn't find any unique running trails or bigger parks during our time in Oaxaca, but I just used the empty city streets for the Sunday morning runs. And it was perfect. As I struggled with traffic, people, and traffic lights in Mexico City, which prevented me from going out of the apartment and starting running, I didn't have this problem in Oaxaca.
Especially in the morning during the weekends, the streets and wide sidewalks were mostly empty, so I could go around the city center to get my kilometers. I just ran without any specific route or a defined plan. Combined with the colorful buildings and pleasant smell from all the bakeries, it was a perfect experience. Ok, maybe the bakery smell was annoying as it made me hungry.
During our stay in Oaxaca, there were no special covid restrictions. However, they checked our temperature when entering restaurants and bars and gelled us up.
Masks outside were not obligatory, but most of the locals were wearing them, so out of respect, we did too.
Gems that we found and liked
Oaxaca is one of the most colorful streets I've ever visited. Just strolling around the center fills you up with great energy.