Oaxaca with Traci Des Jardins
One Departure Only | November 18 - 24, 2019
Heart & Soul of Mexico
Explore Oaxaca's food, art and culture with pioneering chef Traci Des Jardins
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7 Days, 6 Nights
Oaxaca City, Teotitlan del Valle, San Sebastián Teitipac
The rustle in the leaves and the sizzle of the hot charcoal grill blend perfectly. You’ve roasted fresh chiles, mixed cream for a fresh helado (ice cream), and are now rolling golden masa dough for tamales—likely the best tamales you’ll ever have! You work the ingredients in your hands beside a famed chef, on the local farm and in the welcoming home of her former sous chef and his mother, as they guide and share with us the story of each delicious ingredient—a deeply personal connection you couldn’t get anywhere else. This isn’t just a meal in Oaxaca, it’s the story of Oaxaca itself. And now, you’re a part of it.
Joining us on this incredible journey is Traci Des Jardins, a two-time James Beard Award-winning chef. Her Mexican roots and California farm upbringing instilled a lifelong devotion to sustainability and locally sourced produce. Traci describes Mexican cuisine as her soul food, and it shows, permeating every dish she makes. We’re honored to experience Oaxaca with her.
If you travel to stimulate all of your senses, this seven-day journey to the soul of Mexico is for you. We’ll meet shamans and weavers, eat in rooftop restaurants and at a local artist’s home, taste mezcal with a fourth-generation mezcalero, and relax at a colonial hacienda in the secluded mountains to feast under the stars. By the end, you’ll never see Mexico—or even yourself—the same way again.
Traditional Oaxaca cuisine: rich mole sauces, spiced chocolate, street tacos—even toasted chapulines (grasshoppers)
The hero’s journey of mezcal: agave farms, a fourth-generation mezcalero, Oaxaca City's hippest mezcalerias
The timeless color and culture of local art, meeting traditional weavers and sculptors in mountain villages
Oaxaca’s connection to tradition and the earth, evident in art, food and shaman rituals we’ll experience first-hand
3 Reasons to Travel with Traci Des Jardins
Traci is a two-time James Beard Award-winning chef with deep Mexican roots, and she can forage and hunt like nobody's business—yielding the most unique soul food this side of Mexico. No one better understands the fine art of making mole just so. We're honored to go deep in Oaxaca with a chef and culinary badass like Traci.
Traci's first restaurant in San Francisco was among the first in the country to offer health benefits to kitchen staff. She is an industry pioneer who leads by example.
Traci has traveled extensively in Mexico, inspired by its enduring connection to the land and people. You may think you know what Mexican food is, but this is Traci's Oaxaca—and it's unforgettably delicious.
She Makes a Mean Cocktail
Traci’s an expert at putting delicious spins on conventional libations. We look forward to sharing a mezcal (or two) with Traci in Oaxaca.
Day by Day
Oaxaca packs in so much of the complex, fascinating culture of Mexico. We’ll experience it all—at artist studios, ancient ruins, local markets, street-food stands, hacienda hotels.
Bienvenidos a Mexico! We’ll meet up with the group and get oriented with one of Latin America’s great colonial wonders: Oaxaca City. We’ll walk through the cobblestone streets and snack through its central markets, a feast of the senses where tasajo (dried meats) hang, open fires grill delicious tlayudas (toasted tortillas topped, pizza-style, with Oaxacan string cheese and thin-grilled meats), and vendors scurry past offering chapulines (roasted grasshoppers) and pastry-like pan de yema stacked in woven baskets. Yummy (even those grasshoppers, we promise).
In the evening, we’ll toast the start of our adventure with local mezcal—of course—then have terrace seats overlooking Oaxaca’s flood-lit cathedral domes for an inspired, open-air dinner together.
Oaxaca’s sense of art is vibrant, ageless—and everywhere. Today we go to its source, artist home-studios in nearby mountain villages. First we’ll drive into the Mixtec Mountains and meet local ceramicists Manuel Reyes and Marisela Gómez. They’ll invite us into their home studio and show how they use local clay and natural fibers to craft their signature figurines. Then the artist couple will sit with us for a home-cooked meal of red mole and mezcal. Next we visit Casa de Arte San Agustin. This cavernous former textile factory was converted into an art space and donated to the rural community by the great Oaxacan artists and philanthropist Francisco Toledo.
Afterwards we return to the city, where the evening is ours to explore Oaxaca’s irresistible food and nightlife: world-class restaurants open for dinner and taco stands set up along the lit-up zocalo, just a few blocks from our hotel.
Today we get the true Oaxacan farm-to-table experience. Our morning is at Rancho 314 (Tres Catorce to the locals), an urban farm on the edge of the city that supplies the top local restaurants with produce. We’ll break into small groups and take turns making mole, tamales, Oaxacan cheese, and get a hands-on look into the local flavor profiles. Joining us is acclaimed Oaxacan chef Rodolfo Castellanos of Origin restaurant—and Traci’s former sous chef!—for a true connection to Mexico’s culinary roots. Rodolfo and his mother will lead us in the art of tamale making before we lunch together al fresco. Savor the feast and enjoy all the local delicacies we had a hand in preparing. Back in the city, we’ll have free time for the rest of the afternoon and evening to enjoy more of the flavors and the vibrant culture.
Who’s ready for pyramids and mezcal? First, we begin this epic day with a morning to build a hefty thirst. The hilltop ruin of Monte Albán dates from 500 BC, a vast complex of pyramids, a palace, shrines—easily one of Mesoamerica’s grandest sites. We explore its monumental scale and the intricate carvings of bas relief sculptures, with one of Mexico’s great colonial cities sprawling below us.
Next, on the way to the village of Santa Catarina Minas, we’ll stop for lunch in San Martin. Feast on succulent barbecued meat the traditional way—cooked in the ground and generously in our honor as guests. Full from lunch, we take a quick drive by rows of agave plants in the mountain valleys, to meet up with a fourth-generation mezcalero in Santa Catarina Minas. Agave is everywhere here. We’ll learn how these passed-down, timeless techniques turn agave hearts into the smoky cousin-spirit of tequila—one of Oaxaca’s famed exports. After a tasting, or two, of the artisanal mezcal on hand, we’ll return to Oaxaca, where the night is yours to track down an unforgettable meal, craft beer bars or more mezcal. Por qué no?
Today we pack for our country retreat in the mountains, where villages devoted to arts and crafts lurk in valley shadows. We’ll stop at the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, a weaving village with about 5,000 people (and 2,000 looms). We’ll meet weavers of a local collective, who’ll demonstrate their intricate craft using natural fibers for dyes (and even a grounded insect for the bright reds), just as they have for the past fourteen generations. Then we’ll drop by a home to learn to make some local recipes and have lunch with a Zapotec family (try to say xtiuzu’u instead of gracias).
In the afternoon, we head to our home for the next two nights. Our own 300-year-old hacienda feels like a private retreat in the mountains. Kick back by the pool or indulge in the on-site spa before the night’s main event. A big meal with live music and more drinks await, as Traci is preparing an unforgettable banquet meal with ingredients sourced from local organic farms and producers.
Our final day is ours to enjoy. The hacienda can arrange hiking, bike riding or horseback riding across the neighboring mountain vistas, book a message or take part in a guided sweat lodge temazcal experience. These lodges have been used for purification for millennia, so we think they’ll do the trick for the morning.
We meet up in the afternoon for an up-close-and-personal meeting with a local shaman, who’ll share the secrets of a cleansing ritual that’s been in practice here for thousands of years, using smoked copal to bid farewell to negative energies. We’ll leave feeling electric and magical, and toast the results at our huge final dinner as the stars twinkle in the clear Oaxaca night sky.
All great things come to an end, alas. We’ll have a big farewell breakfast at the hacienda: hot chocolate (not too sweet, not too rich), hand-patted just-made tortillas, huevos rancheros blanketed in a richly flavorful mole. Then we’ll bid farewell to Traci and to Oaxaca, and pack our things for a short drive back to Oaxaca City for wherever your journey next takes you. Buen viaje!
El CallejonOaxaca City
Off a central side street, a few blocks from the zocalo and central shops and eateries, a street gate opens into a breathtaking oasis that’s our Oaxaca City home: a boutique hotel with a dozen spacious rooms blending the city’s distinctive styles. Serenity reigns in its thoughtful garden spaces, with palm trees, covered walkways and an outdoor patio bar.
Ex Hacienda San AntonioSan Sebastián Teitipac
A 300-year-old hacienda tucked away in the mountains, just 45 minutes’ drive south of Oaxaca City. Mountains press on the cacti-filled premises, where arched walkways look in toward an open, interior courtyard and bell tower. Each of the 16 rooms has been lovingly restored in a mix of traditional and contemporary designs. There are two pools (one inside, one out) and an on-site spa, plus hiking, horseback riding and biking options. The hacienda is relaxing and private, the ideal place to soak in the golden dusk with a cocktail.
Book Oaxaca with Traci Des Jardins
That’s OK, we have answers. Read our FAQs below. Or text or call us at +1 (855) 219-8018 to speak with a Modern Adventure Trip Specialist.
What does the price include?
Six nights at unique four- and five-star accommodations; private travel for all day trips and excursions; private tours with local guides and cultural experts; exclusive VIP access and tastings; guided activities, adventures and expeditions; entrance fees; daily breakfasts, lunches and most dinners; local beverages with meals; gratuities for local staff.
What does the price not include?
International roundtrip airfare; travel insurance; transportation to the trip’s starting point; activities not included in the trip itinerary; hotel incidentals including room service, laundry service and hotel bar tabs; food and beverage not included in itinerary; gratuity for tour leader.
What travel documents are needed?
US citizens are not required to have a visa for tourist visits to Mexico, but are required to show a valid US passport. It is recommended that your passport is valid for six months after your travels are over. On arrival in the airport, you will be issued a visitor’s permit, known as a FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple). For citizens of other countries, please check with the Mexico Embassy or Consulate for information and requirements.
Do I need to pay a solo traveler supplement?
For solo travelers, there is a $1,200 single-supplement fee—paid at the time of booking to secure a private room. If you would like us to pair you with a roommate, that option may be available upon checkout—these spots are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Who is going on this trip?
Our adventures typically have between 10 and 20 guests, and our Modern Adventure Team. Our experiences are fun and inclusive and you can expect to be joined by a diverse group in terms of age, background and interests—including solo travelers, couples and friends traveling together. This adventure is for travelers age 18 and above.
Who is leading this trip?
This trip is led by an expert Modern Adventure Trip Leader. They’re an experienced travel guide, a representative of Modern Adventure and your go-to person for questions or concerns on the trip. We’ll be joined throughout our adventure by local, expert guides who are deeply knowledgeable with respect to local cultures, customs and history and are passionate about sharing that with us.
We’re at your service.
Speak with a Modern Adventure Trip Specialist.
Text or call us at +1 (855) 219-8018