Oaxaca or San Cristobal de las Casas as a base for a week or so?
Replies: 11 - Last Post: Oct 9, 2012 12:58 PM Last Post By: cdffirefly
Oct 8, 2012 1:26 PM
Some factors that might be helpful:
- My budget is around $60-75/day, traveling alone. I don't drink much, love street food and don't mind basic hotels, but I do want my own room wherever I stay (no dorms).
- I'm more of a "cultural" traveler than an "adventure" traveler. I love markets, street food, ruins, exploring interesting neighborhoods, and meeting people doing interesting things. I like nature, but I probably won't be doing any 5-day hikes.
- I'm very interested in political and social movements, but I know better than to be an intrusive "cause tourist."
It seems to me that, while San Cristobal de las Casas has more to see in the region (Palenque, Agua Azul, Sumidero), Oaxaca is a more interesting city to explore (but there's less to see in the area. Is this correct?
Anyway, for those who have been there before, I would love to hear which you recommend I spend a week in and around.
Oct 8, 2012 2:58 PM
1It's hard to pin down... frankly, Oaxaca state has much more variation in things to do than Chiapas. What is lacks is that special feeling that SCLC and surrounding countryside has, and the feeling of ease of access to certain indigenous villages. Oaxaca makes up for that by having many times more languages and cultures within its borders (more than 20, as opposed to 5), and distances are a bit greater, but you will definitely see 2 weeks disappear quickly between the capital city (Oaxaca) and trips surrounding areas which are well-detailed on this board.
Bottom line is that you can't go wrong with either one, and will be wishing you had more time no matter which one you choose :D
Oct 8, 2012 3:45 PM
2To choose between Oaxaca and Chiapas is a hard one - both magnificent places, and your budget will support you in either place, but I think your interest in "political and social movements" could tip the scale towards Chiapas given the Zapatista movement of which you can see evidence there.
San Cristobal has a large and excellent mercado, but Oaxaca has the best one I've ever seen. Street food galore at either one. Both have indigenous towns nearby and plenty of indigenous people in the cities themselves.
Weather could be a consideration as San Cristobal will start getting cold at night in November while oaxaca will be more temperate. If you do stay in San Cristobal make sure your room has heat.
Oct 8, 2012 3:45 PM
3Your budget of $60-$75 per day should be more than sufficient for the type of travel that you will be doing.
Whichever choice you, as a "cultural traveler" make, consider possibly spending a couple of days and nights in a relatively small rural community. Indigenous culture, including use of Native American languages, increases as one goes from cities to towns, to villages/hamlets, to the countryside. The more rural a location in mountainous Southern Mexico is, the more culturally indigenous it is likely to be.
A challenge for people wanting to stay in a rural setting is sometimes finding lodging. And, in the Chiapas highlands it may be difficult for visitors to obtain permission to remain overnight in particular towns. Understandably, residents of some towns seek to maintain respectful distance between themselves and tourist hordes.
But, in places where local attitudes are more hospitable and lodgings exist, village stays can be interesting. It's my impression that overnight visits to heavily Native American towns are easier to accomplish in Oaxaca State than in highland Chiapas. If you have not yet seen it, take a look at Moon's "Oaxaca Handbook" It contains extensive information about how to visit some "less touristy" parts of that state. (Moon also has a detailed Chiapas "Handbook" but I've not used that one.) Obviously, the more Spanish you speak, the easier it would be for you to enjoyably visit such places.
Oct 8, 2012 5:40 PM
4In Chiapas it is almost impossible to find a place to stay overnight but not impossible. It is easy to use San Cris as a base to visit the Indigenous villages. If you are interested in the politicas of the region then there is the Zapatistas with the town of Oventic just about 30 miles outside of San Cris. I have lived in San Cris for a number of years and there are so many places to see and I am not talking about the tourist spots. Oaxaca is a larger city than San Cris so if you looking for a city then that may be what but if you are looking for is a area with a active political Indigenous culture then San Cris may be what you want. Just one month ago we had a protest to free the Zapatista leader Alberto Patishtán with appox 10,000 protesters. Anyway that my view. If you are interested I would be interested In showing you some of the more interested areas. If interested pm interested.
Edited by: heyduke
Oct 8, 2012 7:27 PM
5Really a difficult question, but my vote is also for San Cristóbal. SCDLC is really like a "summary" of the whole of Mexico, and because of your particular interest on social movements, might be more appealing. Have fun!
Oct 9, 2012 7:41 AM
6I would choose Oaxaca for two reasons: the weather will be warmer; and there are more towns and villages you can safely visit, either as a daytrip or overnight. As for social and political movements, don't forget the teachers' protests in Oaxaca that are on a low simmer, thank goodness. And your budget will allow you to live like a king or queen. (But your choice of Zipolite as a destination seems inconsistent with your other stated interests.)
Oct 9, 2012 9:49 AM
7Both are wonderful, I envy your choice! Really I don't think you can go wrong with either. If you are interested in the Zapatistas specifically then obviously Chiapas would the place to go, but as mclarjh mentioned, Oaxaca is brimming with social movements as well. Look up places like Casa Chapulin and Espacio Zapata.
Oct 9, 2012 10:23 AM
8Thanks so much - this is extremely helpful!
I'm leaning towards Oaxaca, simply because it seems like things will be more accessible for someone on a short-ish trip. But heyduke, I really appreciate your offer, and may take you up on it if I do decide to go to Chiapas instead.
As for Zipolite being counter to everything else I want - well, we all need a few days on the beach sometimes, and I would rather avoid resort towns. :)
Oct 9, 2012 11:00 AM
9I'd strongly recommend Mazunte over Zipolite anyhow... it takes the extra bit of effort to get out to IMO and it's easy to bop over to Zipo for dinner.
Both places have great accessibility, but the Oaxaca valley could keep you fascinated for a month with easy day-trips from the city. The rest of the state is great too but takes more time to get into: consider flying at least one stretch of the way between Oax City and the coast (via Huatulco or PE), it will save you a half day and a trip which some find nauseating (though gorgeous).
Oct 9, 2012 11:47 AM
Oct 9, 2012 12:58 PM
11There is plenty to do in the City of Oaxaca and surrounding area! We spent over two months there in a rental apartment and still did not see all of the great villages in the area. We plan on going back for a month to pick up where we left off. We have travelled throughout Mexico for over 40 years.....and the food in Oaxaca is at the top of the list for variety and taste.
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