After our visit to Monte Albán and the mezcaleria, we spent a few more days exploring our new neighbourhood, north of Hwy 190. At this point, we’d begun cooking for ourselves quite a lot more, given our apartment had a nicely furnished kitchen. Not only did this save a ton of money, but it also allowed us to play around with the local ingredients found at the many Oaxaca markets. As mentioned in part one, the two most well known markets in the centre of Oaxaca are 20 de Noviembre, which is mostly food stall oriented, and Benito Juarez, focusing on everything from fresh produce, to clothing, handicrafts, even small pets.
Aside from the many produce and snack carts found on nearly every street corner, a few other actual markets in Oaxaca Centro come to mind. Mercado Sánchez Pascuas on Calle Porfirio Diaz, the Organic Harvest Market – popular with expats – north of Santo Domingo Church on Calle Macedonio Alcalá, and Mercado las Flores, found east on highway 190 near Jacarandas. All that being said, if you only visit one market during your time in Oaxaca, get to Tlacolula on Sunday for one of the best markets in the region.
Roughly 30km east of Oaxaca, the town of Tlacolula holds one of the most impressive outdoor markets we’ve ever been to; not only in terms of size, but also the incredible selection of goods for sale. Many locals from surrounding villages and tribal communities venture into the city each week to display their product, whether that being hand woven clothing to locally grown produce. Some sell a variety of fruits and vegetables, others specialize. One woman sold nothing but garlic, another man pushed a wheel barrow full of honeycombs and freshly extracted honey. Occasionally you’ll see a stall selling used tools and hardware, sometimes live poultry, or even week-old puppies from a fresh litter. Every five or six stalls of goods for sale, will be a food cart or small impromptu restaurant set up on the street, all looking and smelling amazing, but when the time comes to eat at the Tlacolula market. Go indoors.
The main “eating hall” as I’ll call it, for lack of a better term, is full of smoke. Thick, delicious smelling meat-grilled-over-charcoal smoke. Once you are able to see through the aromatic clouds, you’ll notice the building is roughly separated into three sections. One selling bread and baked goods, another dairy and cheese, with the third detected to lunch. Lining the outside of the cooking area are stalls selling freshly sliced meats and sausages, onions, and chilis. Between the rows of vendors are rows of hot charcoal grills; simply purchase your meat of choice, along with some onions and peppers, and grill it up yourself. Be sure to grab some quesillo and tortillas beforehand, and you’re ready to go. Not only is this an incredibly tasty snack, but it’s immersive, allowing you to take part in the whole process and have some fun.
Hop on any bus marked Tlacolula near the baseball stadium in Oaxaca. The cost should be around 18 pesos/person each way.
Árbol del Tule
Another great sight east of Oaxaca is the Arbol del Tule, located in the town of Santa Maria del Tule. This monstrous tree is famed for having the widest – dare I say grirthiest – trunk of any tree in the world, boasting a massive 14m diameter and just under 50m around. While sceptics have argued that it’s actually several smaller trees that have grown together, tests have proven otherwise; although given the gnarly shape of the trunk, one can see their point of view. While it’s easy to view the tree from outside the fenced garden surrounding it, the simple 10 pesos for entrance goes towards upkeep of the beautiful grounds. Easily worth it.
What seems so surprising to me, is how many people come here on a tour, take their pictures of the tree, and get on their way. The town of Santa Maria del Tule is quite beautiful in its own right and deserves at least a few hours of your time, even if it’s simply viewing the gardens and checking out the funky statues by Oaxacan artist Fernando Andriacci. There’s also a small market on the grounds that feature local handicrafts and some really great food; and for being a tourist spot, the prices were no different than the street food we’d eaten anywhere else in Oaxaca. Do yourself a favour and go for a tlayuda, here’s a video of the one we had while visiting Árbol del Tule.
We visited the tree on our own, with round trip bus fare of 14 pesos/person; but if you find yourself short on time, it’s just as easy to combine it with a trip to the Tlacolula Sunday market. Just remember, however you chose to visit any of these sights, be sure to go with an empty stomach!