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Oaxaca: A Festive Fusion of Flavors and Traditions

by | Feb 27, 2024 | Oaxaca, Traveling

Three Amazing Days in Oaxaca

After two and a half weeks in Mexico City, I had a brief three-day mid-January jaunt to Oaxaca. It was nothing short of enchanting! While the city’s vibrant streets and rich culture provided an unforgettable experience within this brief period, it became clear that a longer stay would be necessary to fully explore the destinations beyond the city. For this trip, I spent the entire time wandering the colorful streets of Oaxaca and tasting the delicious foods.

When I first arrived, I stepped out of my little apartment to find a small city filled with vibrant color and charm. On the way to a restaurant called Almú, there were not only colorfully painted buildings but huge puppets and people in costumes and were out celebrating something. This was in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.

The restaurant was completely outdoors,  kitchen included. Everything was cooked over an open fire and served at the casual and communal picnic tables. I chose the mole negro which came with rice and tortillas and then for dessert, the plantain roasted over the fire. Delicious!


A pink building with colorful streamers hanging from it in the city of Oaxaca
A colorful street in Oaxaca with colorful buildings and flowers
A bowl of chicken mole and rice on a table at a restaurant called Almu in Oaxaca

I spent the next two days exploring the city, including catching up with a free English-speaking walking tour and a visit to the Botanical Gardens. I ended up taking the Spanish tour at the gardens because otherwise, I would not get to see it. I could not understand the guide but I was happy to get to go. For those planning a visit, I recommend arriving early. The Gardens operate on a strictly guided-tour basis, without reservations, and with a limited English tour schedule—at the time of my visit, just one per day, which I, unfortunately, missed.

When the sun sets, Oaxaca truly comes to life in a celebration of lights, music, and dance. The Zócalo, vibrant at any time, transforms into a bustling epicenter of joy each night. Here, both locals and visitors alike gather to sway to the rhythms of DJ sets or live bands, their melodies echoing off the ancient buildings. It’s not uncommon to find oneself swept up in the energy of spontaneous parades, often marking a birthday, quinceañera, or another significant life event, adding to the festive atmosphere that characterizes Oaxaca after dark.

Agave plants in front of the stone building at the Botanical Gardens in Oaxaca
A person holding up a cocktial at a rooftop bar in Oaxaca
A view from a rooftop bar in Oaxaca overlooking the city with the sun setting

The guide from the walking tour the previous day enthusiastically recommended a restaurant where they allow you to sample seven distinctive moles before selecting up to three as part of a meal. Intrigued, I decided to venture out on the 35-minute stroll from the city’s center to try this. I tasted all seven and then decided on a trio of moles – the rich Coloradito, a vibrant green variation, and an intriguing mole accented with capers. Each of the seven options offered a unique taste experience, making it a difficult choice but I was happy with the three I picked.

I would go back to Oaxaca again and again. 

More to come!

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