Oaxaca and the Isthmus

Shutterstock/47744401/StephanScherhagOaxaca is a place of brilliant colours, rich indigenous heritage and mouth-watering culinary traditions. At its heart lies the capital, Oaxaca City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site replete with gems of colonial architecture. Some of Mexico's finest historic churches can be found here - testament to Baroque at its most grandiose, but beyond mere historical appeal, Oaxaca City also has an irresistible bohemian charm. There is a thriving arts scene, as evidenced by the plethora of galleries and craft stores, often overlooked by the casual visitor.

Travel beyond the terraced cafés and plazas of the capital and an intriguing and entirely different world unfolds. The dusty Central Valleys are a land of crumbling, pre-Columbian ruins, teeming indigenous villages and otherworldly natural wonders. A visit to the hilltop ruins of Monte Albán is obligatory, but Mitla also, with
its fascinating stonework, pays homage to the splendour of Oaxaca's a
ncient civilizations. The villages scattered throughout the valleys also conceal several interesting attractions including El Tule, one
of the world's oldest trees, and countless markets. The state's finest
crafts are produced in the valleys, including sleek black pottery, dazzling tapestries and psychedelic animal sculptures,
alebrijes
.

South of the capital, the Pacific Ocean pounds an exceptionally
vivid shoreline, where beach communities have blossomed. Puerto
Escondido is a well-established surfers' haven, where the Mexican Pipeline provides some of the world's most spectacular waves. The party town of Zipolite has long drawn an alternative crowd, while the secluded hideaways of Mazunte and San Agustinillo are only
just developing their tourist potential. Puerto Angel is an old Oaxaca
favourite, a former fishing village, and is popular with a slightly older crowd. The beauty of this region has not been overlooked by big business either; the resort of Huatulco further south offers a convenient, if sanitized, experience of Oaxaca's Pacific coast.

East, towards the Yucatán Peninsula and Central America, Oaxaca state narrows into the Isthmus of Tehuantepec - a region characterized by strong local culture and an absence of foreign tourists.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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