Oaxaca is a charming city with a long and eventful history. Separated from Mexico City to the north by rugged mountains and dotted with small weaving and craft villages, the isolated region has ploughed its own furrow, forging its own distinctive identity. Known as Mexico’s artistic centre, Oaxaca embodies both indigenous and colonial features, the markets, artisan workshops, rituals and multiple fiestas reflecting the native culture while the baroque architecture, plazas and museums bear witness to the Spanish influence. The Zapotec and Mixtec people’s ancient sites at Monte Albán, Yagul and Mitla are as impressive as the Mayan ruins in the south and east.
When to go
The highland town has a pleasant climate with temperatures ranging from the low to the high 20s Celsius throughout the year. Maximum sunshine hours Jan-Mar. Most rain falls Jun-Sept.
Getting local currency
Mexican peso. Notes can be withdrawn from several ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. You may have ask your bank to authorise withdrawals before you leave the UK, and amounts are lower than permitted in the UK. Money exchanges (casas de cambio) exchange dollars cash; rates for Euros and sterling are low.
GMT -6 hrs.
The beach resorts and hotels at Huatulco (by the dramatic, literally breath-taking drive on Highway 175, 3.5hrs or 35mins by air) and Puerto Escondido, both on the Pacific coast (38mins by air).
Fly from Mexico City, 1.5 hrs. There is an excellent highway now connecting the two cities, it takes 5hrs to cover the 500km.
Guelaguetza! Two Mondays in Jul. Extravagant Oaxacan folk dance fiesta taking place in the amphitheatre. Accompanied with processions and fireworks.
Virgen de Carmen, 16 Jul. Processions and fireworks
Day of the Dead, 1-2 Nov. Celebrated throughout the country. Music and dance ceremonies at the cemetery; sand sculptures at the cathedral.
Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe), 12 Dec. Not a public holiday, but it is Mexico's biggest religious festival of the year.
Christmas events: 16-25 Dec. Nightly nativity plays, processions, fireworks, traditional dancing.