Mexico’s Riviera Maya along the northeastern Yucatán Peninsula was one of the top travel destinations on Expedia in 2015. As we head into an exciting year of 2016 travel, I’ve got my eye on another Mexican region: Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is bordered on the north by Puebla and Veracruz, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. I first heard about it when my Mexican yoga teacher announced he’d be organizing a retreat there. He said Oaxaca was unlike any other region of Mexico, where indigenous cultures and magical landscapes create an undeniably powerful energy. Needless to say, I was intrigued. Here are six reasons why Oaxaca, Mexico, is at the top of my 2016 travel list.
Arguably the most buzzed-about spirit of the last several years, smoky mescal cocktails have been popping up at speakeasies and restaurants across the country. Most of Mexico’s mescal is produced in Oaxaca where maguey plants—a form of agave—grow in abundance. Here you can get an intimate look at the traditional process of mescal production and sample the most delicious mescals in the world. You can even revel in seven straight days of mescal consumption at Oaxaca’s Feria Nacional Del Mezcal, which usually takes place around July.
Surfers from all over the world head to Oaxaca’s southern coast for big wave surfing. While surf spots like Puerto Escondido and Zipolite are best for more experienced surfers, surf camp instructors throughout Oaxaca are skilled at finding the perfect Oaxacan wave for any level of surfer.
Spas & retreats
From luxurious hotel spas to remote yoga retreats, Oaxaca is an ideal place to ditch your digitally distracting life and unwind. On pristine Tangolunda Bay, you can experience the Dreams Spa by Pevonia® at the Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa. Try their after-sun soothing wrap or indulge in a couples-only treatment in a luxury oceanfront cabin. In the hills of Mazunte, drop in to a hatha yoga class at Hridaya Yoga or spend a week surrounded by nature in silent meditation.
The capital city of Oaxaca is quickly rising in the ranks of Mexico’s top foodie cities, from street eats to fine dining. Try traditional Oaxacan tlayuda, a crisp tortilla topped with a mix of beans, meat, and cheese. Or sample each of Oaxaca’s famous seven types of mole, from extra spicy to salty-sweet.
Viewfinder Tip: Oaxaca is pronounced “Wa-ha-kah.”
The Zapotec, Mixtec, and Huaves are three of more than a dozen official indigenous cultures in the Oaxaca region, each with diverse languages, customs, and cuisines. You can immerse yourself in the region’s rich history by exploring archeological sites like Yagul and Mitla, or interact with indigenous culture by browsing local food and handicraft markets throughout Oaxaca.
No visit to Oaxaca would be complete without a visit to Hierve el Agua, an incredible natural rock formation that has the appearance of a cascading waterfall. The unique structure is actually the result of thousands of years of mineral deposits. It’s a two-hour drive from Oaxaca to reach Hierve el Agua, and you should bring your bathing suit to jump in the chilly-but-beautiful natural pools!
What destinations are at the top of your 2016 travel list?