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Things to Do in Oaxaca

Monthly lows and highs are typically 18° C (64° F) and 45° C (113° F), averaging 30° C (86° F), with little variation from month to month. The region is generally arid along the coast with more rainfall in the nearby mountains. Most guidebooks say that the rainy season runs from May to October, but in recent years, the length of the rainy season has declined so that July to October is more accurate.

The history of the Valley of Oaxaca extends from the Olmec influence that reached Monte Albán in the 7th century BC to the world-renowned generation of painters and craftsmen led by Francisco Toledo.

Geographically speaking, the valley, bisected to the south and west by the Río Atoyac, lies in the central region of the state, 1158 meters above sea level, with average temperatures of 18ºC and four and a half hours’ drive from Mexico City. This is the site of Oaxaca City with its 200,000 inhabitants, a hill flattened at a height of 400 m by the Zapotecs-meaning “the cloud people” in their language, to build a sacred city.

Monte Albán has preserved testimonies of one thousand five hundred years of this empire, which reached its peak in approximately 800 AD. Two centuries later, the area was occupied by the Mixtecs who left traces of their magnificent craftsmanship in precious metals and subsequently founded Mitla that was still flourishing in the far east of the Valley at the time of the Spaniards’ arrival. The colonial city, called Antequera, built in 1529, was for some time the second largest in New Spain, as shown by the age and magnificence of its churches and monasteries. Two of its 19th century governors became presidents who changed the country: Juárez and Díaz.

In 1987, UNESCO declared Oaxaca and Monte Albán a World Heritage Site, which gives some idea of what visitors can find here; at the foot of the archaeological zone, a city preserved for centuries in which the Colonial era shines through the altarpieces and green stone of its buildings. It also contains the legacy of these two cultures that emerges in the work of its goldsmiths, potters and painters, its cuisines, music and the colorful, exuberant fiestas, streets and markets.

Stroll along the walkways that will take you to Santo Domingo past the Museum of Contemporary Art; climb up Monte Albán, watch the sunset in its enormous plaza and imagine the time when its buildings were painted red. In the evening, round off a wonderful dinner with a traditional mezcal. Make sure you remember two important fiestas: the Guelaguetza and the Noche de Rábanos or Night of Radishes.

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