Scotland on Sunday travel
The state of Oaxaca (pronounced wah-HA-ka) is the most varied in southern Mexico. The region offers spectacular mountains, tropical jungles and exquisite food, as well as untouched beaches along its exotic Pacific coastline. The capital city, also called Oaxaca, sits in the centre of three valleys at an altitude of 5,000 feet and enjoys mild temperatures throughout the year.
A perfect base from which to explore the region is the enchanting Casa de las Bugambilias in downtown Oaxaca, close to shops, markets, restaurants and the nearby historical centre. The family atmosphere is genuine, with all 21 Cabrera-Arroyo family members contributing to its authenticity and wonderful Mexican hospitality.
Head of the family, Mariana Emilia Arroyo, runs the 11-roomed B&B in downtown Oaxaca, along with son René and daughter-in-law, Adriana as managers. Tastefully decorated, Las Bugambilias is adorned from top to bottom in traditional Mexican
You enter the B&B through a long courtyard before arriving at the reception, where you’ll find a high altar called a tzompantli with 143 contemporary black ceramic skulls. The 10 spacious rooms are all named after flowers and thoughtfully decorated with colourful Oaxacan folk art. The rooms are low-tech; you won’t find televisions or phones, but you will have access to free and fast wifi, and plenty of power points for charging phones and cameras. During Day of the Dead celebrations the complete hotel is decorated by Mariana with papier-mâché skeletons that are dressed to the nines.
Budget or boutique?
This is a unique hotel, an intimate, stylish, warm and brightly decorated casa, with a twist of modern interior design that’s filled with art and flowers.
Wining and dining
The two-course breakfast at Casa de las Bugambilias is a wonderful experience, consisting of Oaxacan cuisine and the freshest, natural, locally-grown ingredients.
Noted head chef, Pilar Cabrera (Mariana’s daughter), runs La Olla (The Cooking Pot) restaurant (laolla.com.mx) located next to Las Bugambilias. Stylised traditional Mexican breakfast, lunch and dinner is served at this delightful rooftop restaurant. The menu is changed three or four times a year depending on the season to show the excellence and diversity of the foods from Oaxaca state. Try the moles (pork, vegetable and spice sauce) on pork or beef filet, or the dorado fish in yellow mole, or corn squash soup, all washed down with a mescal margarita. A meal will cost between £4 and £12 not including drinks. Pilar also runs a cooking school with tours of local food markets.
Worth getting out of bed for
There are so many things to see and do in Oaxaca; hang out at one of the many outdoor cafés at the Zócalo central square and watch the world go by; visit museums; explore churches including Santo Domingo de Guzmán; shop in one of Oaxaca’s handicraft markets; in November join the Day of the Dead celebrations; and in July every year experience the largest fiesta in Oaxaca – the “Guelaguetza” dance, where the diverse Oaxaca state communities celebrate their traditions and culture.
René Cabrera Arroyo (Mariana’s son) is a highly recommended, licenced tour operator, specialising in visiting local markets, tours of mezcal farms, distilleries and archaeological sites, as well as visits to celebrated local artisans (www.lasbugambiliastours.com).
While staying at Casa de las Bugambilias, treat yourself to a one-on-one traditional temazcal performed by Mariana (she’s also a shaman). The aim of a temazcal is to renew and energise the body, mind and soul (£41 per person).
Guest book comments
A gem of a find, with hospitable staff, a homely environment and the best food.
Single room, £65-£98, and 10 doubles, £80-£110, including breakfast (two nights minimum).Casa de las Bugambilias: Reforma 402, Ruta Independencia, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico; (+52 951 516 1165, lasbugambilias.com)
You can book a trip to Oaxaca through Journey Latin America (0203-553 9647, journeylatinamerica.co.uk). A 13-day Discover Mexico: Oaxaca’s culture and coastline holiday to Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca and Huatulco costs from £2,765pp. International flights are extra.