Oaxaca Guidebook Viva Oaxaca
An Insider's Guide to Oaxaca's Charms
What to see and do in town and around the region
Spanish classes, cooking classes, dance classes, exercise
What you'll need in Oaxaca
Health and medical matters
Facts, figures and handy things to know
Outdoor market days in nearby pueblos
Order directly from the publisher. Enter discount code MY5676FU for a 20% discount.
Highly recommended new book: Weaving Yarn, Weaving Cultures, Weaving Lives, by Judith Lockhart-Radtke with photography by Tom Feher.
Oaxaca's world-class international festival of organ and ancient music
A smiling Samaritana, March 14, 2010
Viva Oaxaca is the guidebook we wish had been available before our first trip to Oaxaca. We've included just about everything useful that we've learned during our many stays there. Thousands of visitors to Oaxaca have used Viva Oaxaca to make the most of their time in this beautiful, colorful colonial city. Now you can too.
We want to provide visitors to Oaxaca with the most useful, insightful and up-to-date information about the city of Oaxaca and the attractions that surround it. Click on Contents or the picture above to see what you'll find in our handy guidebook, Viva Oaxaca.
As you check out the sections of this website, please remember that they are just small samples of what you'll find in the full 93-page guidebook to Oaxaca, Viva Oaxaca.
Viva Oaxaca is the perfect guidebook for first-time visitors, and offers a great deal of detailed information for repeat visitors too. We've personally evaluated Oaxaca's best and most interesting restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, shops and other attractions to save you time and effort.
Our reviews and recommendations are based on our own firsthand and independent experience and evaluations. Unlike most guidebooks, we don't accept promotions, ads, favors, kickbacks or inducements of any kind, so we're free to give you accurate, unbiased, and reliable recommendations.
If you're interested in ordering a copy of Viva Oaxaca, please click through to our publisher, CreateSpace, or to the Viva Oaxaca listing at Amazon.com. We recommend getting your copy before coming to Oaxaca to help you get the most out of your stay.
Viva Oaxaca is available at Amate Books, Alcalá 307 #2, in the heart of Oaxaca. Amate is by far the best source for books about Mexico in English in Oaxaca (and, according to a widely read, widely traveled, and expert friend, one of the best in Mexico). It's a great place to deepen your understanding of Oaxaca and Mexico. New: You can now browse Amate's shelves at www.amatebooks.com.
A note about money: your 401-K may be struggling, but your dollars will go a very long way in Mexico. Right now a dollar will buy around 13 pesos. (You can check current rates here.) Enter USD for dollars and MXN for pesos. We just had a very enjoyable lunch for two for a total of $70 pesos--$5.00!
Be sure to check out the Oaxaca updates and Oaxaca News section of this website. You'll find up-to-the minute reports about events in Oaxaca and a history of the protests of 2006 and Oaxaca's recovery. Then click here for destinations and events including Day of the Dead, the Night of the Radishes, Christmas Eve, Semana Santa, what's happening in and around Oaxaca right now, and what events are coming up. You'll also find descriptions and pictures of destinations such as Hierve el Agua, mountain villages, Tlacochahuaya, Huatulco, and a mezcal distillery.
You can see slideshows of places and events in Oaxaca at: http://viva-oaxaca.blogspot.com/. Other albums are listed below:
Insider's introduction and orientation to Oaxaca
In-depth resource for travelers and visitors to Oaxaca: Oaxaca resident, B&B owner and guide Alvin Starkman has written a large number of very detailed and helpful articles about visiting, traveling and living in Oaxaca. Check them out here. He's also launched a new service providing expertly guided culinary tours of Oaxaca. You can find the details at: http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com/.
Viva Oaxaca presents many options for getting to outlying destinations. If you want to make sure that your tour will come off without a hitch, we highly recommend the experienced, fluently bilingual guide Pablo Gonzalez Marsch (cellphone 044 951 134 7391, email firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lovers of folk art can get in touch with Linda Hanna. She knows .the region's artists and artisans in person, and can structure a tour to your interests. You can read about her tours and her lovely B&B, in this article from the UK's Guardian.
We also warmly recommend Luis Ramiriz. Although he's still studying to become a licensed guide, he knows the region thoroughly, speaks English, and can be counted on to take you where you want to go safely and enjoyably. Cellphone: 044 951 118 45 34; email: email@example.com.
Another guide-in-training whom friends describe as reliable, punctual, caring and a very careful driver is Andres Mendoza at Cosijoeza Tours. Cellphone: 044 951 126 0619; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Viva Oaxaca will help you figure out the best times to come and the best places to stay, and to line up activities such as guided trips, cooking classes, language classes or dance classes in advance. If you're in doubt, please click on Why buy Viva Oaxaca? or on Readers' comments.
¡Que disfrute Oaxaca!--Enjoy Oaxaca!
News/upcoming events/new recommendations
Oaxaca has just finished its unique celebration of Christmas, 2002. You can see some photos from the Christmas Eve posadas--processions--at the zocalo at this URL.
If you're concerned about the safety of travel in Mexico, read this recent article in the Chicago Tribune. It specifies which regions and cities are safe, and gives sensible advice.
***Oaxaca's International Film Festival--3rd edition ran from November 8-17, 2012. This is a great annual event, one where you can view brand new independent films from hilarious or edgy short subjects to full length feature films, and get to meet and speak to directors, producers, writers and actors. You can read about it at the hyperlink above, where you'll find the full ten-day schedule posted online. The festival's founder, Ramiz Azar tells us that they screened 156 films from 50 countries, including 30 feature films and more than a hundred documentaries and short subjects. All non-English-language films were subtitled in English. We'll alert you here as soon as next year's FilmFest is scheduled.***
Day of the Dead, at the end of October and the first days of November, is a great time to be in Oaxaca. You can view some photos from the 2011 celebration in nearby Teotitlan del Valle at this URL, a few photos from 2012 here, and photos and notes from previous years here. The photo to the right of this note is from the cemetery of Xoxocotlan a few years ago.
The Boston Globe just highlighted one of Oaxaca's often-missed attractions, the alley within the downtown covered market where one can join the locals in devouring savory grilled meat. You can see the Globe story here.
The Gueleguetza, Oaxaca's great celebration of its regions and cultures, took place July 23rd and 30th. There are few places in the world where you can experience the dances, music, and costumes of so many different cultures at the same time and place.You can view a video sample of the event here. You can read a detailed description by B&B owner and long-term Oaxacan resident Alvin Starkman at this URL. Alvin notes that ticket prices have gone up considerably--to $800 pesos per person if purchased in Oaxaca, and $900 pesos through Ticketmaster. At current exchange rates, that's $57 and $65 USD. You can find a good description of the Gueleguetza here.
Oaxaca is famous for its cuisine, from high-end restaurants to street food. Here's a friendly introduction by commentator Norma Hawthorne.
And here's another take on Oaxaca and its cuisine, a mystery set in Oaxaca. It's called Santo Gordo: A Killing in Oaxaca, by Charles Kerns. It's a fun read, and overflowing with local color and insights into Oaxaca. You can read a review here, and can find it on amazon.com.
There are many lovely, off-the-beaten-track villages that one can visit on a day trip from Oaxaca. You can get the flavor of one of them, Capulalpam, recently designated a Pueblo Magico, at this site.
This time the Times got it right. You can read an insightful commentary on Oaxaca by the New York Times' Edward Rothstein at this URL.
A visitor blogs her introduction to Oaxacan cooking with chef Pilar Cabrera of Casa de los Sabores cooking school.
A first-time visitor to Oaxaca blogs his impressions and photos here.
Worried about safety in Mexico? You can read a balanced article about this issue from Lonely Planet's US travel editor here.
Hit the high spots--If you're only going to be in Oaxaca for a day or two, this article by long-time resident and B&B owner Alvin Starkman can guide you to Oaxaca's must-sees.
Anyone who has visited Oaxaca's covered market just south of the zocalo will have seen a row of colorfully dressed indigenous women weaving and selling baskets. You can read an affectionate description of them on Norma Hawthorne's website here.
The Santa Fe New Mexican has just run a brief, but worthwhile article about visiting Oaxaca. You can read it here.
A new opportunity to give. We're adding Protección a la Joven de Oaxaca, A.C. to our list of recommended charities. This program has been providing much needed services to girls and young women of limited means, mostly from outlying pueblos, who want to continue their education. You can read more about them (in Spanish) at http://proteccionalajovendeoaxaca.org/default.aspx. If you're in Oaxaca, you can donate directly to Araceli Montes, the director; or to her associate, Luz de la Rosa, at La Casa, Tinoco y Palacios 217, in the historic center. They will be happy to arrange an appointment to introduce potential donors to the house, the project, the young women in residence, and their accomplishments. Donations can also be made via PayPal, to the address email@example.com. Luz wants potential donors to know that they can also help finance specific programs, help pay for the education of a particular girl or young woman, or contribute by studying Spanish at their school, Língoax, in which case 25% goes to the youth program. Telephone in Oaxaca (951) 514 1930; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 14, 2012--Mountain biking in Oaxaca
The Wall Street Journal, surprisingly, has just published a story about an exciting mountain-biking adventure in Oaxaca. Oaxaca has been developing this kind of active tourism in recent years. You can enjoy the ride here.
April 8, 2012--Easter week in Oaxaca has come and gone, including the striking Procession of Silence on Good Friday. Here's a moment from that somber procession, marked by hooded figures, the slow beat of drums and the sound of huge wooden crosses being dragged across the pavement:
Procession of Silence, Oaxaca Credit: Robert Adler
There's a lovely story about what it takes to make a true Oaxacan mole negro--black mole, in the Atlantic, at this URL.
You heard about it here first: A delicatessen?? In Oaxaca?? Yes! The just-opened Gourmand Delicatessen offers house-cured meats (including pork, beef, and tongue), home-made preserves and flavored olive oils, as well as imported jamon serrano, and aged manchego. The owners, Nicole and Rodrigo, also run the tapas bar above the Spanish restaurant Olivo. Here they have created a large, airy space, with attention to details such as the lighting and the art decoration. You can eat in or take out, and enjoy their sandwiches on house-made breads, deli salads made fresh daily, and even scrumptious home-made cookies. Porfirio Diaz 410A, at the corner of Allende in the centro historico, 516 4435, Monday through Saturday 10am to 8pm. A welcome new addition to the Oaxaca culinary scene.
The Houston Chronicle has just reviewed Pecados y Milagros (Sins and Miracles), the latest album by Oaxaca's superstar, Lila Downs. You can read the article at this URL, and hear cuts on YouTube here.
Turtles, anyone? You can read a bit about Mazunte, giant turtles, and surfing Oaxaca's Pacific coast here.
Safety: As of February 8, 2012, the U.S. State Department's state-by-state warning about Mexico specifies that for Oaxaca, "No warning is in effect."
A new, high-quality bakery, called Pan y Mas (Bread and More) has opened at 408-A M. Bravo, between Tinoco y Palacios and Crespo, in the historic center. They offer a wide variety of artisan breads, delicious cinnamon rolls, and other treats. The young couple who own this new bakery want to provide delicious, top-quality products at a very reasonable price.
The XV annual Feria Nacional de Mezcal--National Mezcal Fair--will take place in Oaxaca in late July, at the same time as Oaxaca's famous Gueleguetza. You can view Mezcal aficionado Alivin Starkman's photos of last year's fair here.
Once again the New York Times has recognized Oaxaca's charms, this time in a brief up-to-date and user-friendly piece entitled 36 Hours: Oaxaca, Mexico.
Anyone strolling past Santo Domingo church will have seen the incredible collection of sculpted migrants by Oaxacan artist Alejandro Santiago. Santiago sculpted these 2501 figures to represent the 2500 people who have left his native pueblo, San Pedo Teococuilco, in recent years, plus himself. You can read more about this massive and evocative work of at at this URL: http://nacla.org/blog/2012/1/11/2501-migrants-photo-story-oaxacan-exodus.
Some of Alejandro Santiago's 2501 Migrants
Lovers of music and art will be interested in the Ninth International Organ and Early Music Festival, which will take place in Oaxaca and nearby communities February 15-20, 2012. This celebration of the festival will focus not only on the region's remarkable collection of Baroque organs and on world-class music, but also on the art of the churches where these beautiful instruments reside. Full information at: http://iohio.org.mx/eng/fest2012.htm.
Free baroque organ concerts: Mexico's 20th international festival of baroque organ music takes place from the 1st through the 30th of November, and includes 7 free concerts in Oaxaca between the 1st and 4th of the month. Three of these will be at Soledad Basilica, in the historic center. Four will be presented in the beautiful colonial churches in outlying pueblos. Details here.
The British newspaper The Guardian has a typically understated story about the Christmas season in Oaxaca and Mexico City. You can check it out here.
The extraordinary Oaxaca-born singer, Lila Downs, is featured in an article by music writer Marty Lipp at this URL, along with a video clip from Lila's latest album, Pecados y Miraculos (Sins and Miracles).
Oaxaca's beautiful Day of the Dead Celebration for 2011 has come and gone. You can view some photos from the celebration in nearby Teotitlan del Valle at this URL.
You can click here to view a good description of beautiful Santo Domingo church.
You can read a lovely essay about one woman's experiences in Oaxaca, and discover a great website about Oaxaca at this URL.
If opera is more your thing, stop by the ticket office of the grand Teatro Macedonio Alcala (corner of Independencia and Cinco de Mayo) to get your seats to see the MET, live from New York. They'll be screening this year's MET offerings, in a perfect setting, starting on October 9th and running through April 14th.
Oaxaca safer than Disneyland! The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an interesting story about the safety of Mexican travel. They list places to avoid, but also show that many destinations including Oaxaca are safer than most U.S. hometowns. Check out the article here. Click on illustration # 8 for details.
Ninth International Organ and Early Music
From Cicely Winter, the festival's director:
Oaxaca's Ninth International Organ and Early Music Festival took place from February 15 - 20, 2012, during one of the most beautiful times of the year in Oaxaca.
Music lovers, aficionados of colonial art and history, and Oaxacaphiles in general had the opportunity to enjoy outstanding recitals on six historic organs, two choral concerts, lectures, visits to museums and unrestored organs in village churches, wonderful cuisine, a trip to a major archeological site, and plenty of local color. Among the featured artists will be noted Brazilian organist Elisa Freixo, and the others will soon be announced.
The state of Oaxaca is home to a large number of baroque organs, many of which have been lovingly repaired. Getting to hear them played by great musicians in their even older churches is an unforgettable experience.
Please click on this link for the program.
Oaxaca's 2011 Gueleguetza has come and gone. This year it included a beautiful light-and-sound show projected on the cathedral just off Oaxaca's zocalo. You can see what this was like on YouTube at this URL.
For a food-lover's take on a visit to Oaxaca's Benito Juarez market, click here.
The New York Times has an interesting article about Monte Alban, and warfare as the founding principle of the early Zapotec state. You can read their article here.
The New York Times discovers mezcal. Better late than never. You can read their comments here.
The San Francisco Chronicle has a useful article about travel to Oaxaca's Pacific coast, focusing on Puerto Escondido, posted online on 7/14/11. You can read it here.
The narration is a bit over-wrought, but this brief Youtube video does give a quick visual taste of Oaxaca.
Responding to a reader's question, in Viva Oaxaca, we note prices as follows: "$40" would mean forty U.S. dollars, while "$40 pesos" would mean just forty pesos.
You don't need to speak German to enjoy a brief Youtube video of Oaxaca highlights by GlobeReisefilm.
Cautionary note concerning Hospital Reforma, Reforma # 613 in the historic center, (6/10/11). A couple reports going there for a medical emergency, but receiving treatment that was "indifferent at best." They had to be insistent in order to be treated rather than sent away.
Oaxaca's unique cuisine has received yet more recognition in the form of a remarkable cookbook, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy, by Diana Kennedy. You can read a great review in the New York Review of Books by clicking here. The James Beard Foundation has now (5/8/11) named Oaxaca al Gusto cookbook of the year.
You heard about it hear first! Oaxaca's favorite French Chef, Jean-Michel Thomas, has re-opened his restaurant at Eucaliptos #407A in Colonia Reforma under the new name Gio. Jean-Michel offers his creative French and international fare in the form of a fixed-price afternoon meal, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Aficionados like us think that this is what he does best.
Spring equinox celebration at Monte Alban. This event may be a bit esoteric for some, but thousands of visitors from all over the world converged on Monte Alban on March 20,2011, many of them dressed in white, to recharge their energy at Monte Alban at the moment of the spring equinox. Monte Alban was the first planned urban center in the Americas, and was occupied continually for more than 1300 years, between 500 B.C. and 850 A.D. The 2012 spring equinox will also fall on March 20.
Dia de Amor y Amistad--the day of love and friendship: In Oaxaca, Valentine's day is not just for lovers (although there are plenty of those making good use of the benches in Llano and Conzati parks), it's for friends too. It's a great day for the balloon vendors whose clouds of balloons add yet another burst of color to the zocalo.
Italian food like in Genoa. Two chefs from Genoa have opened an elegant and appetizing Italian restaurant two blocks from the zocalo. It's called Epicuro Cafe Bistrot, and lives up to its name in terms of epicurian delights, all prepared at the moment from fresh ingredients We went with a large group, ordered a wide range of their soups, pastas, mains and desserts, and raved about the food and the experience. They also offer a savory selection of wood-fired pizzas, and a lovely terrace to enjoy them on. Calle Guerrero 319, 951 514 9750, www.epicuro.info, open every day except Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.
The upscale dining spot El Teatro Culinario has closed. Entrepeneur Oscar Carrizosa has opened a new restaurant, Casa Crespo, in the same spot, at Allende 117, in the center of Oaxaca.
Oaxaca's already famous cuisine has received new recognition with the publication of a new cookbook, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy, by Diana Kennedy. You can read a rave review of the book that appeared in the New York Review of Books here.
U.S. State Dept. issues new Mexico travel advisory -- you can read it here.
Plus, Mexican cuisine--of which Oaxacan cooking is a star--has been designated by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage or Patrimony of Humanity. The formal announcement will appear in September, 2010.
Microcredit Comes to Oaxaca--A new grassroots organization is bringing the benefits of microcredit / microfinance to needy Oaxacans. It's called En Via, and it's applying the Nobel-prize-winning idea of providing very small loans to local women for whom a few hundred dollars can enable them start or grow a small business. People who have contributed and who have gotten to meet the women they are helping have been thrilled and deeply moved. It's a superb idea, and much needed in Oaxaca. To find out more about what En Via is doing, click here.
January 22, 2010--the SF Chronicle features Oaxaca as an excellent place to visit with Children
December, 2009--GQ's Spanish edition features Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, and the city of Oaxaca.
August, 2009--Travel & Leisure names Oaxaca the # 1 city to visit in Mexico, and # 2 in all of Latin America. They currently list it as # 8 in the world, ahead of Barcelona and NYC!
Visitors since November 10, 2008
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Viva Oaxaca is consistently one of Amazon's best selling guidebooks to Oaxaca. The paperback edition has earned Amazon's number 3 spot among all books about travel to Mexico. The Kindle edition has hit number 1 on Amazon.com's bestseller list of all books about travel to Mexico, and number 3 among all Kindle travel reference books!
The 2012-2013 edition of Viva Oaxaca is bigger and better than ever with many new restaurant reviews, new and carefully selected hotels and B&Bs, more fun and fascinating things to see and do plus an improved city map, where to get the best coffee, chocolate, pastries and mezcal, where to find safe and savory street food, Spanish classes and tutors, cooking and dance classes, massage and temazcal, health and medical matters, and as always, restaurants or other service providers to avoid.
Unlike those massive general purpose guidebooks (some of which have entries that are years out of date), Viva Oaxaca is small and light enough to tuck in your pocket or purse.
And, it has a very thorough and useful index.
Bonus Updates! When you buy Viva Oaxaca, you'll find a link to our continuing updates about Oaxaca-- brand new restaurant reviews, places to stay, activities, destinations and more. Most Recent Update: February 9, 2013. Compare that with other guidebooks!
You can read more about Viva Oaxaca in the Book Contents section on this page, or at amazon.com and more about Oaxaca in the Website Features sections. Or go directly to our sitemap for easier navigation.
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Viva Oaxaca gives first-time and returning visitors to Oaxaca a wealth of useful information, including the best things to see, great places to stay, wonderful places to eat, and detailed information on how to get around the city and its surroundings. It's an invaluable guide to the city and nearby attractions.
More Website Features!
Panteon of Xoxocotlan, Muertos, 2008