Santo Domingo church Oaxaca
Oaxaca is our last stop in Mexico. If I remember correctly a Mexican work colleague recommended that I visit Oaxaca, and I can understand why, it is perhaps the best place we have visited in Mexico so far. We end up spending 3 days here – a day longer than originally planned - as the bus to the border with Guatemala (there is only 1 a day and this is overnight) is full on Saturday.
The city is a bit of a cultural hub and attracts a fair number of visitors. It’s also one of the more indigenous areas of Mexico so there is a strong tradition of local crafts here. If we were in the market for a woven rug or other Mexican gifts then this would be a very good place to buy them. The main plaza and sand coloured Santo Domingo church are particularly pretty. Next to the church there is an excellent museum housed in the old monastery buildings.
The stone reference in the blog refers to our DIY tour to the Hierve El Agua – a series of petrified waterfalls formed over the millennia from calcium rich water running over a cliff face. It’s
60km from Oaxaca so involves a bus and then catching camionetas (pick-up truck) for a bumpy 15km ride over the mountains. It’s a popular day trip destination for local families and for most tours from Oaxaca that come here in conjunction with a visit to a weaving village and a local mezcal outlet (the highway here is called “the mescal way” due to the number of mezcal distilleries around here) so we don’t exactly have the place to ourselves. The trip easily fills the whole day, once we figure out the right place to catch the bus in Oaxaca, hike around the base of the “falls”, cool off in the pool and have a light lunch.
There is a fair amount going on in the city. The Zocalo seems to be holding a contest of local mariachi players, and up the street we run into a street procession for school graduation. I’m also asked by a group of high school students to do a short video interview about my time in Oaxaca
As well there is one of Mexico’s most spectacular, but lesser known, archaeological sites the ancient Zapotec city of Monte Alban, just 5km from the town.
Shoe-shiners in the Zocalo
The city was the centre of a sophisticated society that ruled the central valley region from about 500BC to around 700AD. The ruins don’t have the sheer scale of Teotihuacan and are not as well preserved/restored as some others but are nevertheless extensive and being sited on the top of a hill manage to create a good sense of what the entire city might have looked like. Archaeologists estimate that at its peak the city had a population of about 25,000. The mosaics here are interesting. They were originally named "dancers" but more recent work has pointed out that the subjects are either being dis-emboweled or castrated and are now thought to be the rulers of conquered tribes.
As well as our trip out to the Hierve El Agua there are plenty of other attractions in this area. With a bit more time we could have seen 2 or 3 other sights - there are fine mosaics in Mitla, the ruins of Yagul, a city that was dominant after the decline of Monte Alban, and the one that intrigues me most, the largest tree in the world. But all these will just have to wait for another day whenever
that may mec
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