Clients who look for immersion in a culturally diverse, historically rich destination will find that Mexican cities such as Oaxaca more accurately match their vacation needs than some of the better known, fun-in-the-sun locales.
Oaxaca is one of the largest cities in Mexico's southern region, featuring year-round spring-like temperatures and breathtaking views of the surrounding Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains. Baroque-style churches, ornate buildings and elegant plazas display the city's colonial underpinnings. Many traditions of the indigenous cultures of the region still thrive, making this city a thrilling feast for the senses.
Where Mole is King
Oaxaca's rich culinary tradition pre-dates the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish. With a cuisine revolving around its seven kinds of mole—a savory sauce made from dry chiles, nuts, spices, vegetables, chocolate and seasonings—Oaxaca is a foodie paradise with an annual food festival to prove it. The Food of the Gods Festival, held each October is a chance for visitors to experience the many nuances of pre-hispanic cooking passed down over generations. A highlight of the festival is the dine-around at five of Oaxaca's finest local restaurants. Food of the Gods has vacation packages that include a choice of accommodations, an introduction to Oaxacan chiles, and a class on Oaxacan-style appetizers and drinks. Resources
Another way for food lovers and amateur chefs to explore Oaxaca's culinary treasures is to book a food tour of the city. Epiculinary, a Lake Bluff, IL-based tour operator run by former travel agent Catherine Merrill, will offer the "La Cocina de Oaxaca" tour four times in 2006. The highlight of the seven-day tour is the hands-on cooking classes with well-known Oaxacan chef Susana Trilling at her cooking school Seasons of the Heart. Students from all over the world come to Susana to learn the secrets of what Food & Wine magazine called "Mexico's best cuisine." The tour also includes two meals a day—one a full Mexican breakfast at the bed and breakfast where guests are housed and the other a mid-afternoon comida at the cooking school. Seasons of My Heart also offers a series of culinary tours, including one with a wild mushroom hunt in early July.
For FITs, accommodations in the city include the five-star Camino Real Oaxaca, Colonial-style hotels such as Casa Oaxaca and a selection of bed and breakfasts.
Guest can also tour independently during holiday times. Guelaguetza, the annual celebration of the state's traditional music and dance, is held on the last two Mondays in July. And the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) begins on Oct. 31, followed by a number of fiestas in December including Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on Dec. 23. Thousands travel to Oaxaca to see the radish transformed into works of art and displayed in the city's central square.
The Oaxaca International Airport is served by direct flights on Continental from Houston. Mexicana and Aeromexico have regular flights from many U.S. cities, via Mexico City.