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Introducing Oaxaca

The state of Oaxaca (wah-hah-kah) has a special magic felt by Mexicans and foreigners alike. Long isolated from other parts of the country by ranks of rugged mountains, it is a redoubt of a traditional, mysterious, strongly indigenous-influenced side to Mexican life that has almost vanished in more accessible regions. Oaxaca has Mexico’s most vibrant and creative handicrafts scene, its artists are in the vanguard of Mexican contemporary art, its festivities are among the most colorful and alive in the country, and its uniquely savory, spicy cuisine is starting to combine with outside influences with some spectacular results.

At the center of the state in every way stands beautiful, colonial Oaxaca city, a fascinating and hospitable cultural, geographical and political hub. Around the city extend Oaxaca’s three Valles Centrales (Central Valleys), always the center of civilization in this part of Mexico and today still full of bustling indigenous markets, spectacular pre-Hispanic ruins and villages full of creative artisans. North of here are the forested highlands of the Sierra Norte, scene of successful community-tourism ventures enabling visitors to hike, bike, climb rocks and ride horses amid some of Mexico’s most unusual landscapes. To the south, across yet more mountains, is Oaxaca’s fabulous coast, with its endless sandy Pacific beaches, waters full of dolphins, turtles and sport fish, and lagoons teeming with birds. Many of the beaches are completely empty, but there’s also a handful of beach towns and villages that will make any traveler happy – Puerto Escondido with its world-class surf; the planned but beautiful and relaxed resort of Bahías de Huatulco; and the sybarite’s delights of Puerto Ángel, Zipolite, San Agustinillo and Mazunte.

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