Oaxaca is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, historic and gourmet gifted havens in all of Mexico. You’ll savor all the sensory delights here from artisanal crafts to hand-crafted mezcal to the best and most unique food in the country. This is the land of the 7 moles, of barbacoa and blue tortillas. Once you get to know this town, you will not want to leave!
Discard your preconceived notions of Mexican food. The culinary traditions on display in Oaxaca bear no resemblance to what passes as Mexican food in most of the US. Let’s start with mole; in the US a singular dark, chocolate infused sauce that’s often a little bitter. In Oaxaca, you’ll find variations such as – negro (the only one you’ve probably heard of), rojo, chichilo, amarillo, verde, coloradito, and manchamanteles – but each variation is as nuanced as the great-grandmother who’s secret recipe is passed down through the generations.
But nothing is more nuanced than Mezcal. Made from a dozen different agave species, and 52 more sub-species, Mezcal is emblematic of Oaxaca’s diversity. (Mezcal’s popular cousin, Tequila, is made from a single Agave species – Weber blue). Mezcal is at the heart and soul of Oaxaca, to be sipped and celebrated with friends.
The weather at this time is picture perfect, every day – highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s at night. It is also the time of the Carnival in Oaxaca.
We will dine in this historic city at both high-end restaurants and off-the-beaten path street stands to experience both the regional specialties as well as more modern chef interpretations pulling from all the various pre-Hispanic influences.
Arrive in Oaxaca City – our hotel’s shuttle bus will meet you at the airport and take you to your gorgeous, artsy boutique hotel, conveniently located in the historic downtown area, Pug Seal Oaxaca. Optional jet lag massage available upon request (not included).
You’ll have time to unpack and refresh before we meet for a welcome drink at our hotel. After a moment of getting to know one another we will walk over to enjoy drinks and soak in the most stunning view of Oaxaca’s 16th century cathedral followed by a meal nearby from one of our favorite chefs at Casa Oaxaca. The homemade salsa made at the table is one of the best you’ll ever taste.
Rest will come easy tonight.
After breakfast at the hotel we’ll head over to tour the Cathedral Santo Domingo, whose construction begin in 1585 and following that we’ll tour the cathedral’s museum which is an absolute treasure.
Then we’ll meet up with the guys behind Oaxacking, to experience the pen-ultimate foodie tour of this foodie mecca. Get ready to walk, as we will cover a large part of town so while munching on everything from A to Z and meeting chefs along the way, you’ll get your steps in while you are blown away by what Oaxacan cuisine has to offer.
This evening you’ll likely be fairly tired, but for anyone still hungry and ready to imbibe – cocktails and snacks are on us!
For breakfast we’ll head next door for our breakfast at one of my personal favorites, Boulenc, a panaderia (baker) that produces the best French pastries in town.
After filling our tummies we’ll be launching outside the city for a comprehensive tour to learn all about the making of artisanal Mezcal. Even if you have told yourself you don’t like Mezcal, this experience will change your mind. Our guide is one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject in Mexico and he is also a producer.
After our excursion we’ll stop for lunch at an oasis of thoughtful farm to table cuisine, a hidden wonder our Mezcal guide introduced us to.
This afternoon, it’s time for the Carnival Parade with ghoulish characters, costumes and masks, large puppets, paraders on stilts and lively music. All you have to do is sit back and watch and then join in the parade at the end if you wish. It’s a fun time, but nothing like the craziness of Mardi Gras or Rio. It began recently to promote the traditional Carnaval celebrations from various villages in Oaxaca’s Central Valleys.
Later on tonight, for those who wish, join us for some classic Tyaludas. This is the quintessential homey feel-good food of Oaxaca. Its basically a HUGE tortilla, painted with fat and a dollop of creamy beans, then topped with lot os Oaxacan string cheese, and vegetables like lettuce, avocado, and tomato and then grilled to perfection on a comal (a flat griddle). One can add any type of meat or protein available and order it flat (open face) or folded like a quesadilla.
Today we’ll enjoy a proper Mexican breakfast at Floricita in a small nearby market. Here you will want to try their delicious hot chocolate and for the adventurous, taste some chapulinas (grasshoppers). Actually they are quite good and provide some extra protein on your morning tortilla.
Next we’ll tour the famed Botanical garden in town which is laid out on the former grounds of the monastery of the Santo Domingo Church. The garden is well known for its cactus wall made of organ pipe cactus as well as many varietals of cacti throughout the largely indigenous garden.
This afternoon we’ll head out to a nearby village that makes handmade rugs. They’ll been creating and hand weaving rugs in this town for nearly 1000 years, we’ll stop into the women’s cooperative which is our favorite. We’ll have a simple homemade lunch in this town.
This afternoon and evening are free for shopping and exploring on your own.
Today we will delve deep into the richness of Oaxacan cuisine and its classic ingredients. The state of Oaxaca may be one of the poorer ones in Mexico, but it’s rich in heritage owing to the variety of indigenous peoples that hail from this area.
In the morning we’ll drive out to the home of our chef and cooking instructor. She and her son have created a gorgeous outdoor covered kitchen. You’ll get to make your own homemade tortillas, memelitas and so much more. After our hard work we’ll enjoy the fruits of our labors.
Use your afternoon for rest, shopping or hitting up the modern art museum MACO situated in a gorgeous old colonial building in Oaxaca’s historical district.
Or join us for an optional tour to discover the famous handmade pottery in black and red clay that are unique to this region. After buying up everything (the prices are crazy affordable) we can escort you to a more modern pottery mecca where the designs and colors are heavenly.
Tonight we will dine in style at Origen, one of the prettiest places in town with elevated cuisine that will knock your socks off!
On our final day we’ll rise early to head out for a tour of Monte Alban, a pre-columbian settlement which was the center for the Zapotecs for about 1000 years from 500 BC to 500 AD. Our guide will help explain the pyramids and the significance of this important culture, still strong in Oaxaca today.
A stop in the small shop is not to be missed, their jewelry based on ancient archeological finds is worthy of a look.
Today’s lunch is an exciting one. A trip to Alfonsina is more of a pilgrimage than a lunch stop. Voted best restaurant of the year by New Worlder Magazine several years back, you’d never know it by the humble look of the place. Chef Jorge León began his journey back home by working first at Casa Oaxaca and then Pujol (voted best restaurant in the world several years ago in Mexico City) and now he is at his happiest in his family compound working outdoors and creating whatever he wants for his small cadre of diner. You will be guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face.
Afternoon is set aside for rest and last minute shopping.
Our farewell dinner together will be a much needed change of pace. Kintaro is the only excellent Japanese restaurant that we found during our long stay in Oaxaca in 2020/2021. It has a gorgeous courtyard and superb cocktails. We’ll drink together and toast to our delicious week together with many discoveries and friendships made that we will surely relish forever.
Trip Cost: $5,995
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