The state of Oaxaca is one of the most enticing destinations in Mexico. The state capital also encapsulates much of what the region has to offer. Here, and in the surrounding countryside, indigenous traditions and the exuberance of Mexican culture is ever-present; nowhere else in the country are the markets so infused with color, the fiestas so fantastical, or the old languages still so widely spoken.
Oaxaca has something for the curious traveler in all of us. Myriad options prevail, from the bulbous barrels of the Mexican Pipeline, to exotic zip-lining and otherworldly caving near the Monte Alban ruins. And if a serious adrenaline spike isn’t a bullet point on your vacation itinerary, horseback riding, hiking, bird watching and other forms of ecotourism are easily within reach.
If you’re traveling through the windy, mountainous interior between Oaxaca City and Puerto, be sure to plan a stop in San Jose del Pacifico. Here, you can experience the healing cleanse of a temazcal ritual (a herbal sauna of sorts), sample psychotropic fungi with a shaman or simply kick back on your balcony at 8,000 feet and watch the mystical clouds rise through the lush Sierras.
However, of the tours in Oaxaca, the Trans Sierra Norte is the most special. A multi-day mountain bike race that rips through the Oaxacan highlands offering more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. The trails are thousands of years old and were predominately used to connect local villages and exchange goods, making the bike event a cultural rarity. Especially since it finishes in Oaxaca City right about the time the fireworks are blasting off for the Day of the Dead fiesta.