Mexico is famed for its delicious cuisine, which is a mouth-watering mix of flavours, smells, textures, and colours. While the last few years has seen some Mexican classics, like Chili con carne, become household dishes in the UK, there is still much to be discovered and even the most seasoned of foodies will discover something new in the country. Perhaps the spiritual home of Mexican cooking, the pretty colonial city of Oaxaca is a must visit destination for culinary enthusiasts.
Most visitors to this city begin their experience by working out how to pronounce their chosen destination. Oh-axe-ah-ca, Oh-axe-a-sah are all valiant attempts, but the correct pronunciation is Wa-hack-a; and suddenly it all becomes clear as to where the UK restaurant chain Wahaca got its name!
Oaxaca sits in south-western Mexico and the city is the capital of the state of the same name. It makes for a great destination in Mexico, a short flight from the capital and well connected to other parts of the country. Culinary tours are commonly linked to other gastronomic hotspots such as Mexico City and Puebla, so there is no shortage of experiences to be had. We’ve designed an amazing week long adventure showcasing everything Oaxaca has to offer. Food is definitely the key focus, but the opportunity to visit local ruins and spend time in local communities is also on the menu. Of course, there are numerous ways of exploring the city and what follows is just designed to whet your appetite to all the region has to offer.
After arriving at Oaxaca Airport, enjoy a walking tour of Oaxaca’s historic city centre. Learn all about the city’s rich culture and history, visiting markets, chocolatiers, museums, and art galleries. Also take the chance to try some regional delicacies, such as hot chocolate and grasshoppers, known locally as chapulines. Back at the hotel, relax and enjoy the evening at leisure, dining at one of Oaxaca’s many fine gourmet restaurants.
Day 2 sees you go on an unforgettable Oaxacan culture tour, starting with a privately guided visit of the Mitla archeological site. Learn all about its ancient Zapotec inhabitants from the expert guide and see its frescoes and friezes. After, head to Tlacolula to explore one of Mesoamerica’s oldest markets, before journeying to Teotitlan del Valle, a village known for its traditionally made, woven wares. Here, enter a family workshop and receive a traditional blessing at their Zapotec‐Catholic altar. Then, enjoy a demonstration of their traditional weaving methods, including an explanation of how they make their natural dyes from bugs, fruits, and vegetables. For lunch, the gracious hosts will serve delicious tamales – corn dough wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with local meats, beans, and cheeses.
Day 3 sees the culinary focus ramp up. Enjoy a four-hour cooking class with world-renowned chef, Alejandro Ruiz, or a long-standing member of his elite team. It starts with a tour of Sanchez Pascuas Market to meet Chef Ruiz’s favourite merchants and learn about local ingredients, spices, and seasonings and how to source the freshest ingredients. Returning to the kitchen, follow the chef’s lead in preparing a range of traditional dishes, salsas, and tortillas. Once the meal is ready, sit down and enjoy the freshly made dishes while sampling artisanal mezcals and learning all about this important Oaxacan spirit.
More cooking on Day 4. Learn to cook in the home of chef and television host Susana Trilling on this full-day group culinary experience. Start with a guided tour of Etla Market, tasting exotic foods as a light lunch and meeting the local merchants. Then, head to Susana´s ranch, Rancho Aurora, for an enjoyable lesson on Oaxacan cuisine and to get hands-on in the kitchen, creating (and then enjoying) an authentic Oaxacan five-course meal.
Day 5 sees a break from the cooking, dive into Oaxaca’s artisanal heritage with a visit to three traditional villages, each specializing in a different hand-made product. Visit San Bartolo Coyotepec, where experts in black-clay pottery flourish; San Martin Tilcajete, where artisans carve and paint whimsical animal statues called alebrijes; and Santo Tomas Jalieza, where crafts folk make bags, rugs, and belts using ancient waist frames. Along the way, dive into the artisans’ workshops and homes to see first-hand how their high-quality wares are made. Enjoy lunch in the home of one of the artisans and free time to shop and explore.
Back to the kitchen today for you last day dedicated to Mexican cuisine as you join Pilar Cabrera, a chef revered in Mexico for her traditional but innovative Oaxacan dishes, for an expertly guided cooking class. After initial introductions, head to the local market to meet the vendors and pick-up ingredients for the cooking class. Also take note of Chef Cabrera’s tips on sourcing the freshest ingredients. Then, head back to the kitchen to prepare five dishes following the instructions of the chef. Once done, enjoy a short mezcal tasting, before sitting down together to enjoy the food.
Your final full day in the region, and some of the best sights have been saved until last. Visit the stunning archaeological site of Monte Alban, an ancient Zapotec city with temples, tombs, palaces, and a ball court. After, continue to Zaachila, a historic town with its own archaeological site. Stop at the local market between the central park and church to meet its vendors who offer traditional local goods such as pecans, alebrijes, red pottery, peanuts, radishes, and regional fruits. Cap the excursion off in the colonial town of Cuilapam de Guerrero for lunch and to visit the ex-convent.
Day 8 sees you leave Oaxaca, maybe you are heading home, or maybe you are heading on for more incredible experiences elsewhere in Mexico.
Itineraries can be tailored and tweaked to your exact requirements, but whatever you decide we can help you discover the best of Mexican cuisine in its spiritual home of Oaxaca.