Lauded as one of the best preserved and most captivating of Mexico’s storied colonial towns, Oaxaca City melds the spiritual tapestry of yesterday with the artistic life of today into an atmosphere that’s pure magic.

It’s flamboyant blend of native Indian and provincial architecture is rooted in centuries’ worth of local history. The Mixtecs and Zapotecs once constructed great centres in this same region — archaeological zones that are today considered among Mexico’s most fascinating.

Later on, Conquistador Hernán Cortés chose the Valley of Oaxaca when offered a reward from the bounty of land he seized for Emperor Charles V.

But the historical charm doesn’t end with the city’s churches and museums: A collection of charming haciendas and mansions has been converted into intimate boutique hotels that preserve the past.

Camino Real Oaxaca
Among Oaxaca’s most revered monuments is the former 16th century convent of Santa Catalina, a colonial structure that sparkles today as the AAA four-diamond Camino Real Oaxaca.

Meticulously restored to retain its grace, the hotel features romantic Spanish Baroque architecture and authentic colonial touches. There are sprawling tiled corridors with fading original frescoes, sun-splashed courtyards, jasmine-scented patios and vibrant gardens.

All 91 guest rooms are decorated with traditional high-beamed ceilings, stucco walls, hand-loomed bedspreads and wooden furnishings. Wooden beams support exposed terracotta ceiling tiles, and original floor tiles have been retained where possible.

All rooms accommodate with air conditioning, fan, cable television, alarm clock, telephone with data port for Internet connection, fluffy pillows and oversized cushions. Guests opting for the Camino Real Club revel in larger rooms fitted with extras like a welcome fruit basket and lavish buffet breakfast.

For a refreshing on-property escape, guests gravitate to the relaxing Las Bugambilias and lively Las Novicias bars nestled amid the building’s classical facades. And for dining, El Refectorio presents Oaxacan and classic continental specialties in four distinctive areas — one that’s framed by a wall of earthenware pots discovered during restoration.

Rates: Double occupancy rates are from $268 to 428 US nightly.


Casa Oaxaca
Through a delicate remodeling of the 18th century colonial home, this five-star beauty emerged with a designer label earning it accolades for its minimalist style.

With a bright white Mediterranean design, Casa Oaxaca is known as the city’s “art hotel” for the paintings and craftworks adorning each of its eight guest rooms — including six luxe quarters clustered around the main patio. Generous in size and uncommon in tone, each offers air conditioning, telephone and cable television. Guests can sip beverages on the roof terrace, lounge on quiet patios or bask in a heavenly temazcal steam bath.

Perhaps most prolific is Casa Oaxaca el Restaurante, a high-end eatery that’s arguably one of the city’s finest. With fresh Oaxacan produce and Pacific catches, Chef Alejandro Ruiz prepares such creative gourmet specialties as squash blossoms stuffed with fresh cheese and honey, or pork with mancha manteles mole.

Hard-core foodies will relish the Chef’s Route of Flavors, an Oaxacan market immersion bombarding the senses with multi-colored vegetables, seductive chocolates, fragrant spices and mouthwatering moles.

Rates: A welcome cocktail, Internet access, bathrobes, daily continental breakfast and indoor parking are included in nightly rates from $164 – 335 US.


Hostal de La Noria
Standing majestically in the historic centre’s heart just a few blocks from the zocalo, the well-appointed Hostal de La Noria blankets you within the relaxed, yet privileged ambience it once evoked as an elegant private mansion.

Casually refined and spacious, all 50 rooms have been individually fashioned as a tribute to Oaxaca’s rich cultural heritage. Described as “comfortable colonial,” the thoughtful design gathers all the amenities guests desire while maintaining a traditional feel.

Detailed craftsmanship prevails throughout, with stained-wood furnishings, hammered tin or wrought iron headboards and marble counter vanities. Most rooms are equipped with cable TV, telephone with data port, ceiling fan, coffee/tea maker, and private bath that pampers with oversized fluffy towels and toiletries.

Even public spaces retain the privacy and lustre of a bygone era. The gentle atmosphere invites you to shroud yourself in bliss on a fountained patio shaded by canvas parasols and surrounded by an aesthetic pier-and-arch arcade.

Or unwind on the roof top sun deck with cocktails at Los Chapulines before savoring sumptuous fare at Asuncion Restaurante.

Rates: Daily breakfast and wireless Internet access are included in nightly rates from $70 to 180 US single or $120 to 210 US double.


Casa Cid de León
For those who appreciate a retreat feeling familiar the instant you arrive, Casa Cid de León extends a welcome mat like no other. Owners Agustin and Lety dwelled here a decade before sharing its enchantment with others.

This is a deceptive gem that both surprises and satisfies. The building’s small dimensions with pure lines defining its colonial facade seem to expand as you cross the wrought-iron threshold. And its quaintness echoes an era when hospitality was a way of life rather than an art form.

Four eclectic suites subtly blend green stone walls, terracotta floors and wood-beam ceilings with hand-embroidered linens, fresh flowers, overstuffed chairs, bronze chandeliers and rococo stucco angels. Amenities include air conditioning, satellite TV and whirlpool tubs.

A favorite is Bella Epoca, where everything comes in threes — a trio of rooms with three sets of French doors leading to three balconies. The bath is a dream with soft light fragmented by crystal lamps and brocade curtains framing the tub. Like most restored man­ses, the three-level hotel is elevator free. So you’ll have to climb a few stairs to reach the rooftop terrace for breakfast at El Jardin del Carmelo.

Rates: From $200 to 230 US per night, rates include fresh flowers, juice and coffee in room, wireless Internet access and round-trip airport transfers.


Latest From ...