Oaxaca in Living Colour

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Dalene & Pete Heck

I kept waiting for the worst.

I kept expecting someone to tell us all the awful things that are wrong with Oaxaca, to wipe the ridiculous grins off our faces and squash the puppy-love we’d developed in our first few days. Nay, first few hours.

The most that anyone could tell us about problems in Oaxaca is that protests are frequent and sometimes paralyze the city. (To us, that is just a natural expectation for most Latin American cities.) Thus, I don’t believe our infatuation to be misplaced. Oaxaca is, in our humble opinion, one of the best and most livable cities in Latin America.

(Be aware, however, that we did say this after only six days.) But with its brilliant technicolour, of all things man-made and natural, our deep burrowing of affection was instant.

Can you blame us?



The area surrounding Oaxaca delivers too. Hierve el Agua is a set of natural rock formations that resemble cascades of water, and nearby are natural (and one artificial) pools set on the edge of a cliff.


There’s also the town of Mitla, home to the second most important archeological site in the state, which may have been inhabited as early as 900 BC. It is unique in Mexico for the mosaics made of small finely cut stones, fitted together without mortar. (The most important site, Monte Albán, we have saved for a return trip.)


From Oaxaca, we headed to the coast, but with plans to return etched in our minds.

Because Oaxaca is… this:


How to do it

For our entire stay in Oaxaca, we enjoyed Posada Don Mario, in a great location just a couple of blocks from the Santo Domingo Church. Our room, unfortunately, became slightly flooded by some uncharacteristic rain that rushed in under the door, but luckily nothing was ruined and the staff quickly responded and we were well taken care of. The best parts about the Posada were the enormous breakfasts and the extreme quiet. If (when!) we return, we’d gladly stay there again.

35 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Looks amazing! Love all the colors. I’d fall in love with this place too.

  • March 27 2014

    Wonderful photographs, thanks for sharing! I’d love to visit one day…

  • March 27 2014

    Gorgeous photos… Funny, the city looks a bit like a tidied up and refreshed Lisbon!
    Suchi recently posted..A Paradise Lost: House sitting in north Cyprus, Part 1

    • April 2 2014

      Interesting! I’m excited to get to Lisbon now and make the comparison!

  • A Montrealer Abroad (@marievallieres)
    March 27 2014

    I love all the colours! I’ll be in Latin America for the first time in November and I can’t wait to photograph all the colourful buildings.

    • Lucie
      March 27 2014

      Marie, I tell you, you’ll not only be photographing buildings, but doors and intricate carved details on said buildings!

      • April 2 2014

        Very true. You will go NUTS Marie! 🙂

  • March 27 2014

    Oaxaca is reeeaallllyyyy high up on my list of places I want to go in Mexico. And your photos make it look so colorful and lovely!!
    Amanda recently posted..A Day in the Mekong Delta

  • March 27 2014

    Super high on my dream destination list!

  • Julia
    March 27 2014

    We spent two weeks in Oaxaca and I have to sadly say that we got bored. Mainly because we had gone there to eat, and although we had some good meals, we just weren’t as blown away by the food as we thought (or as much as in other parts of Mexico). Although I did love the main square with the church, and enjoyed several nice glasses of wine overlooking it in the evenings, it wasn’t my favourite place. But, you can’t win ’em all, right? 🙂

    • April 2 2014

      I can understand that Julia. For us, Oaxaca is the perfect kinda place – laid back, small, quiet – but I could see how it may be boring to others.

      But the food! I can’t believe the food was disappointing! Then again, I am enjoying it all everywhere too…

  • Hanif
    March 27 2014

    Gorgeous! Thank you. Added to another possible place to escape the chaos.

  • Urska
    March 27 2014

    Looks wonderful! I’m in love with Mexico and Oaxaca is definitely on my bucket list! Now you convinced me even more! 🙂

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    March 28 2014

    I definitely DO NOT blame you for falling helplessly for Oaxaca! It looks absolutely beautiful and it seems like it’s really got a little something for everyone (obviously I am most interested in the food, but the hierve el agua sounds cool too…). 🙂 Sometimes you just find a place and immediately click with it. For people like us who are always on the move, I say don’t fight it, but enjoy it while you can!

  • March 28 2014

    I must say I’ve never been really interested in Mexico, probably because it’s so far away. But after your posts and especially these pictures I’m officially putting it on my bucket list! so beautiful!
    kami recently posted..sunrise hike to Masada

    • April 2 2014

      Oh Kami…you need to add it to the list for sure! I think you would really love it here!

  • March 28 2014

    These gorgeously colorful photos are a welcome reprieve from this long, gray, cold winter on the East Coast!
    Heather recently posted..Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea at the Willard Intercontinental

  • March 28 2014

    I fell in love just through the photos!! So colorful and old-timey-looking (yep, just made that up). I would love to hear about the food…my mom just came back from a trip near Oaxaca and the pics of the food were amazing, I’m imagining it must be pretty similar where you are.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Should I Stay or Should I Go?

    • April 2 2014

      The food, all over Mexico, is incredible! I am sad thinking about us leaving in a month, and not having a taco stand right outside our door…

  • Carmel
    March 29 2014

    I love all the colors. Oaxaca is definitely on my list of places to visit soon. I’ve heard such amazing things about it. And then…there’s the food, of course….

  • March 29 2014

    Hard not to love Oaxaca, right? Beautiful photos (I should have a stamp for this sentence by now). Like you did with Monte Alban, we are saving Mitla for a return trip. It will happen! Safe travels, guys.
    Lunaguava recently posted..Pink Poodles and Phenomenal Pizzas in Livingston

  • Sam
    March 29 2014

    I’ve been wanting to visit Oaxaca for a while now, and you’ve definitely spurred me on with this. Really appreciate the hotel recommendation (despite the rain) – quiet is worth a lot in Latin America!

    • April 2 2014

      Right? It’s been the quietest place that we’ve stayed so far, which is no small feat. 🙂

  • March 30 2014

    So gorgeous. I haven’t been to Mexico in too many years to count, and I’ve never made it to Oaxaca…I have got to remedy this. Fantastic photos!

  • March 30 2014

    Maravilloso!!! Muchas gracias…

  • Benito
    March 30 2014

    Thanks for including a picture of our house (the third one from the top)! Next time, stay with us – at the Casa de Benito. You can find us on Airbnb.

    • April 2 2014

      Ha! That’s hilarious Benito. Glad you liked the pic! 🙂

  • March 30 2014

    Glad you’ve enjoyed your first few days in Oaxaca! From cuisine to culture, it truly is one of the most livable cities in Mexico.

  • April 1 2014

    Those are some great shots of a beautiful city. I’ve always enjoyed the bright colors that are used liberally throughout Latin America. It’s one of the things that stuck with me from my very first visit to Mexico over 10 years ago.
    Kenin Bassart recently posted..Taking a Historic Grand Canyon Railway Tour

  • April 3 2014

    We recently visited some of Mexico’s colonial towns – Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende and Morelia. We’d heard that Oaxaca is lovely too. And we can see from your photos that it is…
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted..No clear villains at Thailand’s Hall of Opium

  • April 3 2014

    Mexico has long been on my list of locations to visit. This post just adds to my anticipation. I LOVE town and cities that burst with colour. Those chilies are huge!!
    Charli | Wanderlusters recently posted..Outfoxing New Zealand’s Fox Glacier

  • April 10 2014

    I’m glad you loved Oaxaca, my aunt lives there so I visited it a lot during my childhood, it’s one of my favorite places in all of Mexico! 😀
    Raphael Alexander Zoren recently posted..The 5 step guide to avoid travel stress

  • April 11 2014

    Gorgeous! It’s not hard to see how you could fall in love with Oaxaca. The city seems to almost have a European feel as well.

  • April 15 2014

    wow wow wow wonderful:-)
    Bärbel Frau auf Reisen recently posted..Frauen-Auszeit auf Mallorca zu gewinnen!

  • September 14 2014

    Beautiful, colourful photos, this is one place I’ve wanted to visit for a while now.

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