Oaxaca is where Mexicans go to to see Mexico’, that is what I had heard. I knew it must be a special place as every single Mexican I new would sigh and smile at the mere mention of Oaxaca. Avid travelers in Mexico unanimously named it as one of Mexico’s top destinations, and everyone who had gone proved eager to give me hints on where to go and how long.
Oaxaca is a state southeast of Mexico City which offers beautiful beaches, amazing archeology and picturesque small towns. To visit the main sites in the state of Oaxaca you would probably need a couple of weeks, however if you are short on time and are looking for a quick getaway, a weekend in the city of Oaxaca will surely give you a taste of the charm of the area.
At 300 miles (483 kilometers) from Mexico City, it is ambitious to want to see the city of Oaxaca in a weekend, especially if you plan to drive there. Ideally you would spend a minimum of three days in the city, and easily up to a week. However, I only had 2 days, so I left Mexico City before the sun had risen early Saturday morning, and planned to return late Sunday evening.
The drive to Oaxaca is long: on a good day it can take 4:30 5 hours, but if you get some traffic or slow cars in the winding mountainous roads it can take as much as 7. The toll road is mostly in good condition, and once you pass Puebla it truly is one of Mexico’s loveliest drives. On a clear day the first thing you will see are the snowcapped volcanoes of the Popocacetepl (active) and Iztaccihuatl. At times they seem far away and then quite close. Their grace is somewhat hypnotizing (if you are not driving!). You then go over a number of what seem to be geological faults(Falla Geolgica’) and enter the main mountainous area of the ride. The curves can be tight, the precipice scary and the cars coming towards you are sometimes a bit too eager to pass each other. Slow down and enjoy the scenery, and soon you will start to see what appear to be sticks on the mountains. As you look closer you will see a forest of cactus on the huge mountains that surround you: hundreds of thousands of cactus for as far as your eyes can see.
Once in Oaxaca follow the signs that will lead you the city center (centro historico’). Once you can drop off your car do so, for this colonial city is best seen close up on foot . You have arrived at a place steep in native culture and Spanish colonialism. Somehow in Oaxaca both cultures successfully coexist.