Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Oaxaca, Mexico

Eating Tlayuda in Oaxaca Ashley tucking into some traditional Oaxacan cuisine © Ashley Garver

Ashley Garver, US Marketing Manager at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico.

Tell us more… Earlier this year I spent three weeks traveling through Mexico with my boyfriend. Both food connoisseurs and lovers of crafts, textiles and design, we knew we had to pay a visit to Oaxaca City. With a copy of Lonely Planet’s new cookbook From the Source – Mexico as well as culinary recommendations from friends, our senses were ready to meet this city.

In a nutshell… Oaxaca has something for everyone. It’s home to endless culinary delights, from vibrant street food stalls to fancier restaurants. The city has a thriving art and craft scene which you can explore at numerous galleries, workshops and the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is one of the most biodiverse regions in Mexico so a trip to the Jardín Etnobotánico is a must to check out some of amazing native flora. Beyond the city, Oaxaca state offers many opportunities for amazing day trips to places such as the ancient Zapotec ruins of Monte Albán and the pottery town of Atzompa.

The ruins of Monte Alban The ancient ruins of Monte Alban © Ashley Garver

Favorite activity? We took a day trip to Hierve el Agua to see the petrified waterfall and natural springs. The tour also stopped at Santa Maria’s impressive El Árbol de Tule, a 2000-year-old Montezuma cypress and one of the oldest, largest and widest trees in the world. The rest of the day we spent cooling off in cliff-edge freshwater pools, swapping stories with fellow travelers on our tour and climbing around the ancient ruins of Mitla.

Defining moment... We had seen flyers for community night-time bike rides, and wanted to check it out. The bike shop organizing the event was called Mundo Ceiba and we were delighted upon arriving to discover that not only were the bikes free to use, but they were serving homemade tacos inside the shop as well. Riders met in front of the Templo de Santo Domingo at 9pm. The leader, carting a sufficient sound system behind him, turned up the tunes and we were off. Together we rode at a comfortable pace throughout the city, seeing nooks and crannies we had not yet explored. We stopped traffic, owning the streets as a 75-rider contingent, singing, smiling and celebrating the community of Oaxaca.

A street food snack with chapulines A street food snack complete with crunchy chapulines © Ashley Garver

Good grub? The food scene here is delicious, adventurous and beautiful. We ate everything from chapulines (grasshoppers), to killer street-stall quesadillas, endless variations of moles (typical Mexican sauces) and so much more. Stop and try everything would be my recommendation!

Bizarre encounter… We made reservations to do a mezcal tasting at La Mezcaloteca to learn more about this unique spirit. The tasting and instruction was top-notch. We learned a lot about the different types of agave plants used to make the mezcal, what to look for in a good bottle and how to best enjoy it. During the tasting we discovered that the other parties sitting at the bar were all from the San Francisco Bay Area as well, working in the food industry. My boyfriend is a chef in the bay and they all basically knew each other. It truly is a small world.

If you do one thing... Hit the streets and lean into this city. Oaxaca has a vibrant cultural life, from art houses and printing shops, to weavers and textile designers, live music nights (check out La Nueva Babel) and daily entertainment on the Zocalo. There is something going on down every road and behind every door.

Want more behind-the-scenes adventures? Find out what Editorial Director Tom Hall got up to on his recent trip to the Scottish Highlands.