The state of Oaxaca offers the best of Mexico, both old and new. It has a vibrant, urban city, abundant indigenous arts and handicrafts, renowned native cuisine, fascinating history, natural wonders, and a rich cultural heritage, including 16 separate living languages.
The city of Oaxaca; (population 400,000, elevation 1,778 meters/ 5,110 feet) is both the governmental capital of Mexico’s fifth-largest state by area (about tenth largest by population) and the de facto capital of Mexico’s southern indigenous heartland.
I arrived in Oaxaca City on a Friday afternoon. From the airport I took a colectivo taxi which cost me a little less than $4. The idea of a colectivo is to fit as many people as possible into the taxi, which is a compact car. 3 men were the other passengers and I was squished in the middle of the back seat. Luckily I was the first passenger to be dropped off, at my 3 star hotel that would be my home for the next 4 nights. Hotel Trebol is about 36 USD per night. It is clean, quiet, has beautiful decor and details, and breakfast is included. Link: http://www.hoteltrebol.com.mx There is a chocolate store right next to it, so as you are walking through the common areas or if you open your windows you can always smell the odor of fresh Oaxacan chocolate, something the region is famous for. I left my windows open the entire time.
After unpacking my things I headed out to the Zocalo, only 1 block walking, to get something to eat. The Zocalo is the central plaza, the heart of Oaxaca. It was the best possible place to begin my peregrinations through the city. I sat and had a cold beer and a tlayuda.
People watching at the Zocalo…
I went inside the Cathedral de Oaxaca, which is right beside the Zocalo. I will hear the bells from here from my room throughout my whole trip.
I spent some more time roaming the lively plaza, then headed over to two markets that were across from my hotel- Mercado Juarez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre. This was sensory overload on my first day! The sights and smells of foods you have never seen before is definitely interesting.
Chapulines, plural for chapulín, are grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium, that are commonly eaten in certain areas of Mexico. The term is specific to Mexico and Central America, and derives from the Nahuatl word chapolin or chapolimeh. There was no chance I would be eating any of these.
Later that night I headed out to one of the most intense in-town nightspots called Candela, which jumps with hot salsa, Cumbia, and Latin music. They offer free dance lessons around 10 PM.
Even being jet lagged and tired from an early morning flight, I had a very enjoyable first day in Oaxaca.
Sources: Moon guidebook Oaxaca