Sitting close to what is considered to be the first great city of Mesoamerica, Monte Alban estimated to have been founded in 500 BC, Oaxaca overflows with tantalizing textures and flavors to excite the soul. Compiled of 18 different indigenous groups (from Zapotecs to Mixtecs - all with pre-Hispanic beginnings) that have retained their own languages and traditions, it is rugged, isolated and colorful. Divided into 8 regions, it seems to be a lawless place, or maybe it is just a place where modern law has no place. Not for the feint hearted, this is a marginalized state of Mexico where everyday living standards are well below federal minimums. Known for beautiful handicrafts, gastronomy treats such as chapulines (think of crunchy grasshoppers), chocolate, colonial buildings often made of green volcanic stone and herbs such as hoja santa and epazote. The city's primary economy is firmly set in tourism, so expect to see a lot of non-Mexican bodies around the town.
If you find yourself in Oaxaca make sure you get to the main square named El Zocalo where you will find the beautiful baroque "Catedral de Oaxaca" and you can hang with the locals for a while. As the city has a coastline fronting onto the Pacific Ocean, you can have your fill of sun worshipping and bathing in the ocean. The town is a muse to a vibrant mix of artists and artisans enthralled with its creative vibe and bright clear light. There are numerous museums, lively markets, street art and art galleries to explore. An easy-going city where quite often fireworks explode and sipping espresso in the central square is de rigueur. This is where you can waste hours staring at the beautiful Santo Domingo Cathedral. You can always take off into the mountains for the odd hike, bike or horseback ride when the city gets too much.
Outside of the city there are a few pre-Columbian archaeological sites to explore such as Mitla, Yagul and Monte Alban apart from Monte Alban.
Don't forget to indulge in the thin crispy tortillas sold in the street stalls after partying late at night whilst drinking "mezcal" (blow your brain alcohol made from the agave plant). If you get really bored, there may be a political demonstration in the main square that you can join in.
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