Winter used to seriously get me down. You see, I’m a December baby raised in the wilds of North Dakota, so while my sister, luckily born in May, got to have fabulous outdoor birthday parties, mine were always stuck inside one of a handful of venues on rotation throughout my childhood. I think my hatred for the winter started there, at my earliest beginnings. Fast forward to slogging through snow to walk to classes in Minneapolis during college and fighting for cabs in NYC when the snow rolled in, last winter I gave it all up and spent the coldest portion of the year in sweltering Nicaragua.
Living in an endless summer for a full calendar year was a dream, but eventually I came to the conclusion that winter is an essential part of a complete annual cycle; a time to go inside, reflect, and emerge anew alongside all the budding trees and sprouting flowers when spring arrives. But just because it’s good for you certainly doesn’t mean it’s pleasant. While I’m here in Minneapolis again, gearing up for my first midwestern winter in, oh, six years or something like that, I keep reminding myself that escape is possible. Just because I’m going to go back to experiencing winter doesn’t mean I have to hang around for the entirety of it, so I’ve begun doing what I do best: daydreaming about the travel I’ll do when it comes time to escape, and I’ve got my sights set on Oaxaca.
When winter gives you the blues, too, have a read through this wintery escape to the land of tacos, margaritas, and surf that will warm you up in no time. Here are 5 great reasons to visit Oaxaca in the wintertime.
Logistics are never fun, but they’re essential if this Mexican daydream is ever to become a reality. Gone are the days of having to fly to Mexico City and take a bus to Oaxaca—all the big carriers stop in Oaxaca, but so does Aeromexico, Interjet, and Volaris. I’ve even seen a couple of really cheap flights crop up every now and then, so setting up a price alert through Adioso or the like is a great idea—just select your price point and enter an email address and you’ll be notified as soon as an option you can afford becomes available.
Oaxaca is where you’ll find cultural gold mines like the month-long dance festival Los Lunes del Cerro that takes place every July. What’s most beautiful about traditions like these, besides the dancing itself, is how seriously they’re taken—anything that even comes off as profiteering is frowned upon. It’s intended to be a festival and a celebration and that’s it. Oaxacans aren’t looking to sell their culture and, in a rapidly monetizing world, that’s crazy respectable. The Noche de Rabanos festival is also of particular interest because it falls on December 23rd, smack in the middle of winter. It’s a festival where intricate carvings are carved into large radishes and that lasts just a couple of hours; as quickly as it came, it’ll be gone so you’ve gotta get there while the gettin’s good.
While Oaxaca is a great place to beef up your Spanish, it’s decidedly landlocked, but when it’s time to hit the shores, you’re not far away. Apparently there is a sweet man that flies a no frills plane between Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido, if you know what you’re looking for. Once you’re there, get ready for sun, sand, and some seriously big waves. If you’re more of a beginner like I am, there are smaller breaks like La Punta around Puerto Escondido that are more our speed.
The food alone is reason enough to get your booty to Oaxaca. It’s undeniable that there are a variety of reasons to visit the glorious land that is America’s southern neighbor, but you’d be hard pressed to find one that isn’t somehow augmented with the fact that the food there is crazy delicious. Thoughts of authentic tacos, fresh cilantro, margaritas, mezcal, limones, mangoes, and seafood ceviche dance through my head whenever I think of Mexico. Every bite and sip will taste so much better knowing that I’m there, in the heart of Mexico’s culinary capital instead of freezing in a pile of snow at home. Oh, did I mention that Oaxaca is essentially the queen of mole, that complex, chocolatey, yet savory sauce that Mexico is famous for? Yep, it is.
Last, but absolutely not least, is the note that many travelers end their tales of travel to Oaxaca with: their experience of Oaxaca being one of the warmest and welcoming places they’ve ever been. Travel is pure magic, but it’s certainly not is easy. When you’re down in the dumps after an inevitable bad day full of bus mishaps and lost in translation moments, a little kindness goes a long way—a much longer way than normal. When travel gets you down, Oaxaca will be there to pull you right back up. Now if that isn’t a beautiful, daydream-worthy way to combat the winter woes, I don’t know what is. I don’t know about you, but if winter will be the motivation I need to pull the trigger on a Oaxaca trip, I’m ready for it. Bring on the snow!