Narrowing down to just a few top sights in Oaxaca City with kids was a task. The city is so vibrant and alive packed with museums, gardens and markets. Every corner feels like an adventure. We visited for only a few days which is unusual for us but were pretty organized about getting out about and seeing stuff.
HOW TO GET THERE
I don’t usually write much about travel intructions to our destinations as I feel like so many other sites do it better. This time around I couldn’t find much out there myself so I have decided to add this section. Especially lacking was information on travel with kids. We were staying on the Oaxacan pacific coast in the beautiful town of San Angustinilo ( next post I promise ) so we got a bus from Pochutla. Other bus terminals are in Puerto Escondido. We took a small mini van and traveled through the day approximately 8 hours. This was hard work but possible with travel sickness tablets and a lot of patience. The first four hours are pure uphill S bends and the views are breathtaking in more ways then one. This is not a journey for the faint of heart the drops are sheer and the driving is solely at breakneck speeds.
The second leg is through the Teotetlan valley and pretty uneventful. Still we made it and our bus driver seemed pretty impressed that we made the journey in relative peace or maybe at all, who knows, he wouldn’t say.
A picnic with our travel companions!
We arrived and were pretty happy to be alive. Photobomb by our equally happy bus driver.
On the return leg we opted for a slightly more lux and relaxed journey. We took an ADO night bus. It was excellent, air conditioned (bring a sweater), showed a movie, stopped for dinner, and had reclining chairs and wait for it…a toilet! It’s just a touch more expensive but well worth it. I was nervous as I had heard traveling at night was dangerous but there seemed to be no such fear amongst all the passengers. Of course keep valuables safe and always be careful especially if your traveling alone like me. Oscar slept the whole way and I arrived feeling a lot more relaxed having not witnessed every sheer drop on every corner taken at 100KM an hour.
Our lux bus and security guard.
There is a third and even more comfortable way to do this and that’s a 45 minute flight with Aerotoucan which is around 170$ return from Huatulco to Oaxaca. It really depends on your budget and of course your child. It’s well worth the journey either way!
The best thing we did was take a one day tour to some of the spots we absolutely wanted to visit. Well lets be honest all I wanted to do was go to Hierve el Agua. After all it had been burning a hole on my Mexican bucket list for some time. I wasn’t disappointed this was the highlight of my visit.
We booked our tour at a the hostel next door to our airbnb and it was fantastic. The Comapny we used was called SanTours and our guide Elvis was both a total hoot and incredibly knowledgable. Our group was a I nice mix of Mexican, French Canadian, British and European tourists and had a comfortable mini van. We visited El Arbol del Tulo, Hierve El Agua, Mitla’s ancient ruins, an excellent local Teotitlan family weaving factory and of course the grand finally the Mezcal factory.
EL ARBOL DEL TULE
Although the village of Santa Marie del Tula is very picturesque it was hard to appreciate anything other than the “worlds widest tree” El Arbol del Tule. The legend goes it was planted by an Aztec priest around 1400 years ago. It was dated by scientists to be around 1400 – 1600 years old so who knows. Either way its a big ass tree and it was amazing to see it. Oscar loved racing around it and agreed, it was a VERY big tree.
There was plenty of facts and story’s being thrown around at Mitla but my favorite take away was the reason the steps up to the temple entrance were so steep. By all accounts this ancient culture was very spiritual and revered its priests and leaders. To turn your back on either god or priest was sacrilegious. So therefore the steps were made so narrow that really the only safe way down is sideways thus never turning your back on these higher forces. I’m definitely thinking of incorporating this architectural aspect into my next home! Oscars favorite part happened to be locking us all in the ceremonial tomb. A perfectly proportioned ceiling height for him.
CASA EL ENCANTON
The weaving at Casa El Encanton were pure works of art. From the ancient spices and minerals used to color the hand spun wool threads to the final products everything was ultra professionally presented and explained. I only wish I had taken the plunge and bought myself one of the pieces. Oscar and I were both obsessed with a giant galloping horse, sadly space had become an issue at this point in the journey. I resolved this later at the post office. Shame.
Now then the Mezcal factory.
THE MEZCAL FACTORY
What is Mezcal? Why the sudden obsession? Do you get to taste it? Well lets just say its good this part is at the end of the day because samples are not in short supply. Even if you’re not a lover of the sharp and pungent alcohol there are tons of flavored versions too Coffee and Coconut were my favorites. The process is very labour intensive so you can really understand why people take their Mezcal drinking seriously in Mexico. I left feeling fully enlightened. I more ways than one 🙂
Although technically the Mezcal factory was last I have saved my favorite spot for last.
HERVE EL AGUA.
Driving down a long and unpaved dusty road with several road blocks you will be forgiven for thinking you might not be going the right way. Still this is Mexico so anything goes. The location is odd but the sight is breathtaking. The color is so hard to capture that really a visit is the only way forward. Oscar loved playing in all the little pools of water and I spent most of my time not to freak out about him falling off the edge. Turns out my vertigo has only been magnified by motherhood. The area is very small so I would avoid a weekend visit if you can as this is a very popular local attraction too. Saying that I have really enjoyed discovering the sites of Mexico alongside its inhabitants. I love how much pride they take in their own culture.
Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo
I spent over a decade working in photography so I was super excited to find this museum amongst the many many other wonderful ones. There is a real sense of community about this museum. The day we visited we were invited to a private view that evening, while in a neighboring room a lecture was being held. The show on view was so beautiful. Simply curated and bathed in natural light. Oscar loved the wide open spaces and the shaded beautiful courtyard he could run around in. Check their site for up coming listings and events.
TEMPLO DE SANTO DOMINGO
Your going to see a lot of churches in Mexico and well Central and Latin America as a whole. This one is a sight to behold. The facade is so beautiful and of course the incredible Oaxacan light just magnifies that. When you step inside its like being inside a jeweled box. Every inch is covered in decoration. If you visit in the evening the church is lit with a ton of candles which makes the effect even more enchanting. Built by Dominicans in around 1570 its impressively old too!
Jardin Etnobotanico and the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
Ok full disclosure. Oscar had a total meltdown in this pretty extensive museum so I didn’t get to see much but what I did see was fascinating. It helps that its all housed in an incredibly cool stone cloister. What did lift his mood are the simply stunning botanical gardens surrounding the museum. If you want to know a thing or too about types of cacti then this is your jam. The tour is super interesting and well worth a visit. Its also a great place for kids to explore and burn off some steam. Again though beware the staggering amount of cacti.
Mercado 20 de Noviembre
There are a ton of markets in Oaxaca but this area has two giant indoor affairs. One specializing in food and one a little further down the road a little more geared to clothing and souvenirs. The thing to try here is a Tlayuda. Whats a Tlayuda I hear you mumble. Well the best way to describe it is it’s a Mexican Pizza. A similar base is used as a tostada which is baked crispy and then topped with a bean spread, lettuce, tomato, Oaxacan cheese ( a cross between feta and goats cheese sort of), avocados and a topping of your choice mushroom usually for veggies although the traditional topping would be chorizo or spicy pork. Its giant, impossible to eat with any kind of sophistication and best enjoyed in my opinion with a nice cold beer!
We visited in March 2015 and the protesters were still enforce around the Zocalo so it had a very special feel when we visited. This is the centre of city life though and you can spend hours just sitting or in Oscars case running around and soaking up the atmosphere. At night vendors sell balloons and flashing bouncing balls and street performers show off there best. Daytime marimba players line the cafes an the omnipresent market is crammed full of souvenir stalls and yummy foods. We treated yourselves here and went to higher ground at one of the fancy cafe’s that inhabit just about every colonial building facing the square. Im sure one is more famous than the other but my wine (or two) was great and they had breadsticks and highchair. A recipe for a complete hour of not attending to my child!
Oaxaca is a hive of cultural activity and a gastronomic treat I didn’t even tell you about the 7 different types of mole or the hot chocolate. 5 days just didn’t seem enough. I felt like I was literally skirting the edges. We will have to return. Famous words on this site I feel.