Oaxaca de Juarez, is a charming colonial city and state capital founded by the Spanish in 1521upon earlier Zapotec and Mixtec settlements. At its heart, the Plaza de La Constitucion is the beating heart of Oaxaca, the historic zocalo ringed on all sides by elegant portals and monuments including the cathedral, government and federal palace. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Oaxaca is a wonderful city for exploring on foot. Cobbled streets hide museums, galleries and restaurants while leafy plazas shade colourful indian markets. Oaxaca is a bustling university town yet proud of its indigenous roots. Visit during the “Day of the Dead” celebrations at the end of the October and the streets are ablaze with candles, skeletal effigies and sugar treats. Larger still, the Guelaguetza festival takes place in July, a riot of traditional music and dance that empties the surrounding villages. Outside the city, the impressive Zapotec sites of Monte Alban and Mitla provide a popular daytrip and a fascinating site into Mexico’s pre-history.