South West, Mexico
Oaxaca is the fifth biggest state of Mexico. Located at 250 km (155.3 mi) of Mexico City in the south west, Oaxaca is a rugged state with fascinating and impressive hard-to-penetrate mountains, with sunny weather, and magic atmosphere.
The richness of its ethnic, geographic, and culinary diversity has attracted numerous people around the world. Oaxaca's population of about 3 million includes around one million indigenous residents of more than 14 different tribes. The majority of Oaxaca's inhabitants are descendants of native Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, who left the legacy of the ancient cities of Monte Albán and Mitla, near Oaxaca City. The Indians' fine handicrafts and beautiful festivals are extremely colorful. On the Oaxaca coast, the state's coastal development of Bahías de Huatulco together with older beach spots, such as Puerto Escondido and Puerto Angel provide an exotic and tranquil alternative for surf and beach lovers.
Monte Albán, which means White Mountain, was the ancient Zapotec capital, first occupied between 800 and 400
BC. The archaeological site stands on a flattened mountaintop 400 metres (1,312 ft) above the valley floor, 9 km (3.1 mi) west of Oaxaca City. It offers spectacular and outstanding views over the valleys and hills for many km around. Archeologist consider that Monte Albán was established as a religious and governing centre for the united Central Valleys. It is estimated that only 10% of the site is uncovered. The ruins were constructed along a north-south axis, in five historical phases, which divide the buildings in five groups. The Gran Plaza (300 metres long and 200 wide, or 984.2 ft and 656.2 ft) was the centre of Monte Albán. The oldest Temple, the Gallery of the Danzantes, was named for its elaborative carved stone figures. Another remarkable building is the Ball Court, where ball games where played. Monte Albán is probably the most well-preserved and interesting archeological site in the state. Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Admission: 2 USD. Free on Sunday and holidays.
Located 40 km (25 mi) southeast of Oaxaca, Mitla is a striking architectural site, a group of buildings characterized by its mosaic-like stonework. Its name comes from the Aztec word mictlan, which means "place of the dead". The ancient city of Mitla was originally a Zapotec settlement from 100 AD, becoming one of the most important Zapotect centres after the decline of Monte Albán, around 750 AD. Open daily from 8 am to 5 pm. Admission: 2 USD. Free on Sunday and holidays.
Geographically located at the centre of the city, the zócalo is the social heart of Oaxaca. Lined with cafés and restaurants, this is the ideal place to relax. Colourful, cosmopolitan and Mexican, lively and peaceful at the same time, the zócalo provides a very special unforgettable atmosphere.
Iglesia ex-convento de Santo Domingo
Considered the most splendid of Oaxaca's churches, the Iglesia de Santo Domingo was built between 1570 and the early 17th century, being the church of the city's Dominican monastery. Its baroque façade is finely carved, wich includes the figure of Santo Domingo, the Spanish monk who founded the Dominican order in the 13th-century. The impressive interior is sumptuosly ornamented in golden stucco. On the ceiling, inside the main door, there is an elaborate family tree of Santo Domingo de Guzmán. Open daily from 7 am to 8 pm. Free admission.
Mexico Regional Landmarks
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Image supplied by Isabel Carranza