At the beginning of this year I spent 3 weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico. This was my first trip to a Mexican city away from the beach, and I went there based on the recommendation of my Mexican friends. Everything they said was true, and Oaxaca is a great town to visit in Mexico. It has so much to offer, but is friendly and safe at the same time.
Because I wanted to improve my Spanish, I signed up with the local language school Becari and stayed with a family right in the center of town. Taking language lessons is a great way to meet new people, and in my Spanish conversation classes I learned a lot about the political and economical situation of Mexico. We also did an excursion to a local farmer's market, and it was very helpful to get everything explained. That's where I had the best food during my entire stay! Speaking of food, Oaxaca has the best. As I was there during festival season, I ate a lot of street food, which was absolutely delicious. There is an abundance of fancy restaurants as well, my highlight was a roof-top dinner overlooking the beautiful Convento Santo Domingo and the city.
If you are interested in archeology, Oaxaca is the place to be. There are so many sites in the vicinity that I couldn't even cover half of them in 3 weeks! The best place to go is definitely Monte Alban, towering over the city and just 20 minutes away. This is Mesoamericas first metropolis, the capital of the Zapotecs which was at it's hight at the same time as ancient Rome! Some of the jjewelry discoverd here can be seen in the museum in the Convento Santo Domingo, which is absolutely worth a visit. Allow enough time, this museum is huge! There is a beautiful botanical garden as well, and the tours are highly recommended.
To round out this vacation I took a trip to the beach, I wanted to see Puerto Escondido and the famous Pipeline surf break. I took a minivan in order to see the landscape and experience the country. On that same day there was a bicycle pilgrimage from Puebla to Huatulco, and our minivan passed lots of pilgrims riding their bicycles up the curvy roads. All in all it was 7 hours of curves, and this is not to be recommended for sensitive stomachs. Fortunately the plane ride only lasts 30 minutes and is affordable.
Puerto Escondido is a real surf town, no resorts or big developments, really laid back and friendly. The beaches are great, and it's easy to explore the vicinity and less frequented places. I wish I could have stayed longer. On the last day, the famous Pipeline wave made her appearance, and it's a sight to be seen. It's a perfectly shaped barrel wave, and you can watch the surfers going in on one side and coming out on the other, or getting wiped out. It was fun to watch.
Overall I can't think of a better vacation.