Cultural wealth abounds outside the city. The surrounding Valley of Oaxaca is ringed by the ruins of ancient civilizations, including Mitla, celebrated for the unique Greca stone fretwork decorating its walls. The vibrant market of Zaachila coexists with the mysterious ruins of its pre-conquest old town. And on a western hill overlooking all, regal Monte Albán, Mesoamerica’s first metropolis, still reigns from its mountaintop throne.
These ancient ghosts exist side by side with vibrant native markets offering everything from colorful carpets and pottery to embroidered dresses and alebrijes, Oaxaca’s celebrated wooden animals. The less-traveled Mixteca region offers its share of magnificent Dominican churches, remote ancient kingdoms, and natural wonders, such as emerald waterfalls, limestone caves, and crystal springs. And southeast on the Isthmus, where the continent shrinks to a narrow land bridge, you can join the celebration at near-continuous festivals.
More contemporary recreational pleasures such as fishing, diving, stand-up paddleboarding, or simply lounging can be found on the golden strands of Pacific coastal resorts like Puerto Ángel, the Bahías de Huatulco, and Puerto Escondido. At Puerto Escondido, surfers challenge one of the world’s fiercest breaks. Along the coast around Huatulco and Salina Cruz, a dozen mostly deserted surfing breaks provide every kind of wave imaginable.
Wherever you wander in this rich land, you’ll find excitement, friendly people, relatively low prices, and a host of traditional Mexican delights.
Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Oaxaca.