Beyond the Walls: Oaxaca City, Mexico

Look past Oaxaca's chaotic, colourful streets and you'll find colonial buildings reimagined as libraries, schools and galleries.

We'd spent seven hours on an overnight bus before we reached the city of Oaxaca. It was at once elegant and colourful, layered with the kind of rich culture and history that has earned it recognition as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Moved by the need to take shelter from the sun, we ventured beyond some of the city's vibrant, colonial facades and preserved balconies, and into buildings reincarnated as libraries, galleries and guesthouses. It was a more peaceful atmosphere inside, a seemingly slower pace of life that runs in parallel to the frenetic streets.

In the former monastic grounds of the Church of Santo Domingo, we stumbled across the Jardìn Etnobotànico, a two-acre botanical garden that showcases flora native to Oaxaca, Mexico's most biodiverse region. Walking through the grounds at sunset, rays reflected off the yellow stone of the 16th-century church, bathing the cacti in an ethereal light.

Here, with the noise of the outside world hushed, we felt a deep sense of spirituality. Our sense of time and space dilated, and we could appreciate every detail as never before.

@lorenzozandri |