|Huatulco 7-bay day tour, such a bittersweet day for me but an incredible setting and seeing dolphins and meeting great people always add the cherry to the top of any experience|
MEXICO’S PACIFIC COAST TO OAXACA CITY
We spent a week or so in Huatulco visiting Jamie’s aunt, our time here was spent eating like kings and enjoying home comforts right in the heart of Mexico’s Oaxaca Coast Line. From dolphin sightings on our 7-bay day tour to lazy afternoons around the complex’s pool, every second spent in Huatulco and with Jay’s aunt Noni was filled with laughter and fun.
It was like a full circle moment too. Noni was the person who had helped us plan our trip and offered us advice on what to see in Mexico, we’d chatted with Noni for so long about the possibility of spending some time together in Mexico and hoped it would all work out right with timings.
Being in Huatulco with her was definitely a turning point of our trip too. I certainly remember feeling like we had spent a lot of the time so far looking forward to that moment we’d see a familiar face. Our time in Huatulco was like a break from the unknown we had been experiencing and a platform for us to prepare for the rest of our big trip.
Before we knew it our time of relaxation and rest in Huatulco was over and it was time to hit the road once again for us. Like always, time has a weird way of slipping away from you when you’re having a good time. On our final morning in Huatulco we booked a shuttle service to Oaxaca, we’d heard the winding roads were very dangerous and generally inaccessible for larger busses.
GETTING TO OAXACA CITY FROM HUATULCO
|What a view, and a total contrast from where we had come from|
|Welcome to Oaxaca City, Mexico|
THINGS TO DO IN OAXACA CITY BEFORE DAY OF THE DEAD
Whilst in Oaxaca City we had a small checklist of things we wanted to accomplish. Mainly places to see and things to do. First on our list was to visit it’s incredible markets, which we did every single day actually. There are multiple markets in lots of different locations around Oaxaca City, Jamie is obsessed with food markets and I’m obsessed with handicrafts so Oaxaca City Markets were the ideal setting for us.
There are many pop-up style markets on during our visit because of the time of year we had chosen to see Oaxaca City. A lot of public space had been given up to make way for all the different Day of the Dead markets, it really brought the city to life. Each of the Day of the Dead markets were open early to late so early morning shopping and lazy afternoon browsing became part of our daily routine whilst in Oaxaca City.
MONTE ALBAN FROM OAXACA CITY
We also decided to visit Monte Alban from Oaxaca City, a popular a pre-Columbian archaeological site just outside of the city. Monte Alban was the final archaeological site we would visit in Mexico, from pyramids in Cholula to the more well-known Chichen Itza to all the smaller ones in between.
It’s very easy to get to Monte Alban from the main city and several busses leave from several shuttle organisations just off the main streets. Booking our bus, I felt much more confident in my improved Spanish ability and spoke to the ticket office with confidence in now, what I would say was very broken Spanish. I was proud at the time and I guess it’s the effort that counts!
|Exploring Monte Alban, Mexico|
MONTE ALBAN, OAXACA CITY DAY TRIP
I have to say Monte Alban has the most breathtaking views. In the shuttle you seem to go up and up and up, for what feels like a very long time. Upon reaching the summit you don’t realise how high up you are until you have entered the site. Monte Alban is free of hustlers and people selling artifacts, which as I mentioned in my posts about Teotihuacan and Chichen Itza annoys me to my bones. I think it’s actually a breach of the rules to try and sell goods within the Monte Alban site and I do remember a lot of people climbing the steep hills and sneaking in from random pathways around the site. I could tell others were getting annoyed too but each seller soon disappeared whenever someone official appeared.
|Rooftop chills – Oaxaca City, Mexico|
CAFE CULTURE AND NIGHTLIFE IN OAXACA CITY
One of the things I loved the most about Oaxaca City is its cafe culture, there is a bar, cafe, pub and restaurant on every street. Menu del Dias are plenty, all reasonably priced, filling and tasty. We spent so much time exploring eateries and trying the various cuisine available in Oaxaca City, making the most of our final days in Mexico. Most evenings we would head to a rooftop bar and wait until the sun sets for things to really liven up.
We visited at the end of October and I found the evenings to get chilly so be prepared for that. I love any city that can offer a range of traditional food and drink, I feel you are able to experience so much more and gain so much more from a location when you get in there and eat like the locals do. Jamie often criticizes my vegetarian ways but he’ll tell you himself that in Oaxaca City we truly embraced the cuisine and culture. Expect for that one time we bought a large Domino’s pizza drunk, but that’s our little secret.
We were even able to visit a Mezcaleria during our time in Oaxaca City. We were able to sample some Mezcal, something the region is well know for. We only had small samples but contents literally blew our heads off! Its so strong. Sampling the Mezcal is something so many people suggested to do whilst in Oaxaca City, a stronger version of Tequila from the Agave plant.
DAY OF THE DEAD IN OAXACA CITY
When we first arrived in Mexico we knew we’d be close to leaving by the time Day of the Dead came around. As the month of October grew shorter we began to see promotional material for Dia de los Muertos. Day of the Dead is something we were not keen on skipping before leaving Mexico and we rearranged our stay in Mexico to accommodate the Festival of the Dead. The Day of the Dead celebrations were due to start on the 31st of October as they do every year and last until the 2nd of November, but the Day of the Dead costumes and celebrations were in full swing when we arrived a few days ahead of the 31st October.
Each day we spent in Oaxaca City was spend embracing the culture and festivities leading up to the main events of Day of the Dead. We began to see more and more costumes as the festival began. Dia de los Muertos consists of three key days. All Saints Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
Another great addition to being in Oaxaca City during the Day of the Dead Festival and leading up to the celebrations are the amazing decorations. Each house and public space has its own range of Day of the Dead themed decorations. From marigolds and candles to skulls and coffins. Every day the streets are bustling and lively because of the large number of tourists packed into the city wanting to witness the festivities.
DAY OF THE DEAD CELEBRATIONS IN OAXACA CITY, MEXICO
Dia de los Muertos is really the perfect time to visit Oaxaca City as Day of the Dead is as much as part of Oaxacan Culture as Oaxacan Culture is to All Souls Day, which is another common name for the celebration. You’ll often find Oaxaca State listed as one of the best places to experience Dia de los Muertos.
During the Festival of the Dead we got to see so many parades, visit so many pop-up markets and see so much live music. The Day of the Dead celebrations were our topic of conversation with all locals and tourists in our hostel and in the bars and restaurants we visited.
|Day of the Dead decorations everywhere in the city|
ONE NIGHT IN SAN MIGUEL CEMETERY
We spent Halloween which is the official beginning of Dia de los Muertos (All Saints Eve) in a cemetery somewhere in the rural suburbs of Oaxaca City, not just any cemetery but the famous San Miguel Cemetery of Oaxaca City, which is famed for its Day of the Dead celebrations.
I must admit this is something I wasn’t keen on doing at first, but I soon realised the reason I was uncomfortable with a night in San Miguel Cemetery was because of my own culture’s relationship and understanding of death. Being around people filled with nothing but joy and happiness because of their respect for death as a ‘rite of passage’ really helped me understand Day of the Dead. It only took a small amount of wandering the cemetery and trying to remain respectful before I began to realise that nobody cared if I was. Locals were dressed in Day of the Dead costumes and late into the night in the Oaxacan cemetery the festival continued.
The locals were so happy that we had joined them in celebrating in San Miguel Cemetery, it was an evening of the more the merrier. It’s kind of beautiful, everything about Day of the Dead is kind of beautiful if you think about it. Being in San Miguel Cemetery with the residents of Oaxaca City opened my eyes to a new cultural understanding of Mexico, one I had not seen up until this point.
We got some flowers, orange marigolds to be precise, and placed them on some of the unmarked graves. We wanted to contribute something to the Dia de los Muertos celebrations in San Miguel Cemetery and felt we could really get involved by doing so.
Orange marigolds are the official flower of the dead and you should expect to see them (and buy them) during your time in Oaxaca City and San Miguel Cemetery on Dia de los Muertos. Before entering San Miguel Cemetery you’ll pass multiple stalls selling marigolds – the flower of the dead. Along with marigolds, expect to see food vendors and amusements also. There is practically a small carnival which lines the outer walls of San Miguel Cemetery in Oaxaca City.
SAN MIGUEL CEMETERY, OAXACA CITY, MEXICO
I doubt there will ever be an evening in my life anywhere here in England where a Beatles tribute band performs inside a cemetery or where people join together on top of graves to have a drink. Honoring the dead and death as a rite of passage means something especially different to Mexicans than what it does to my culture. It was an incredible feeling to be part of something in San Miguel Cemetery that was so distant to my own cultures ideologies about death and the purpose of a cemetery.
I left San Miguel Cemetery in Oaxaca City feeling so grateful that I had been invited to experience something so unique to Mexico’s culture and I still cringe at the fact I used a porta-loo in a cemetery unable to shake my cultural understanding of a cemetery. Although, I did try my hardest to embrace this tradition I was unable to take any photos regretfully. If you do spend any time in Mexico or Oaxaca City ensure that you schedule your visit for 31st October – 2nd November for the Day of the Dead celebrations. Make sure you add San Miguel Cemetery to your bucket list and experience one of the most incredible and eyeopening nights of your life.
|A school taking part in the Day of the Dead parade through the main streets of Oaxaca City|
|Day of the Dead costumes – Even the tiniest of Oaxaca City residents get involved|