27 Unmissable Things to Do in Oaxaca City

There are so many amazing things to do in Oaxaca City, and incredible places to visit, from museums to historical buildings, archeological sites, art galleries, clothing shops, and some of the best Mexican natural wonders.

Oh! And the food! In this post, I will tell you all about it, including all the best restaurants, where to stay, and other useful practical tips.

oaxaca Santo Domingo Convent with agave plants in the front

Of all the places in Mexico that I have traveled to, Oaxaca city is by far my favorite, and, after you visit you will understand why.

I have visited Oaxaca several times both on my own and as a group leader for G Adventures tours and every time I enjoyed exploring all the beautiful places the city has to offer, including the incredibly delicious cuisine. So unique.

Oaxaca is also one of the most popular destinations to attend the Day of the Dead in Mexico, one of the most important Mexican traditional celebrations. However, Oaxaca is much more than that.

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Every time I visit Oaxaca City I can spend a quiet day reading or working at a coffee shop with a pretty garden, work out by taking a long walk and admiring the architecture, spoil the workout by indulging in delicious food and desserts, or partying the night away drinking a bit of mezcal and dancing salsa music. 

As a repeat visitor, I would like to share my top recommendations of what to see and do in this enchanting place. 

So, let’s wear comfortable walking shoes, and let me take you on this journey. 

Oaxaca City at a glance

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Oaxaca City is the capital of the homonymous state that is located southwest of Mexico.

This city has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. It used to be called “Verde Antequera” (green Antequera, for a city in Spain).

Verde means green and it is the color of the quarry used to build the impressive colonial architecture of the time. The given name today is Oaxaca de Juárez and it’s in honor of the former Zapotecan president of Mexico (1858 – 1872), Don Benito Juarez.  

Oaxaca City was founded in 1529 by the indigenous Zapotec culture. Since then, the city center has been the center of economic, political, social, religious, and cultural activities that give the city its dynamism.

Oaxaca street center

It preserves many icons that represent a cultural tradition of more than four centuries of art and the rich history of indigenous cultures. 

Oaxaca is home to friendly people with many talents and a wealth of cultural events that attract travelers from all over the world. 

The city’s grandeur is best experienced at the many different festivals that take place throughout the year. These festivals showcase not only the essence and heart of this destination but also its people. 

Carnival time is a time of joy and fills the city with sound and color. Holy Week is a time of reflection and respect for the city’s religiosity.

In summer, residents are busy with sports and dancing. The festivals of Mole, Tejate (local drink), Tamal, and Mezcal proudly display the diversity of gastronomy and flavors.

And of course, the Day of the Dead celebrations, in which the city dresses in all the elements that attract our ancestors to this annual gathering.

As you can see, Oaxaca has much to offer throughout the year, not only for the eye but for all the senses to explore and discover.

In Oaxaca, you can not only walk and take pictures but also visit places and participate in guided tours that will help you understand the political, economic, and social issues that have long plagued the city.

Oaxaca windows

Which are the best things to do in Oaxaca? 

I have known for a long time that the best things to do when traveling are only the things you love to do, but if I am being completely honest, that does not necessarily apply to Oaxaca.

In my opinion, if you have the time, you should try to work through the entire list of things to do in the city, and of course, make time for day trips from Oaxaca, which I will mention briefly, here below and more in details in another dedicated post.  

How many days do I need in Oaxaca?

In my opinion, 5 – 7 days is a good amount of time to get everything done at a normal pace and also still find time to relax. But of course the more the better.

Unmissable things to do in Oaxaca

Oaxaca courtyard
Oaxaca courtyard

1. Walk Walk Walk (and visit the tourism office)

Honestly, I am a bit old school and love paper. Every time I am in a new place, I grab a map, figure out how far the “safe area” is to roam, and then I just go.

I also usually talk to the people at the hotel or lodging I am staying at. I ask them: where do you go? Where do you eat? This works great for me and you get to connect with the locals instead of having to just look at a Oaxaca travel guide. 

Also, on my walks, I usually make the tourist office my first stop to find out about any special events or activities that might be going on during my stay. 

The Oaxaca tourism office I usually visit is located downtown at 102 Calle Mariano Matamoros, and of course, there are other offices scattered around the city. They are usually open between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm.

2. Take a city tour or a free walking tour

For shared or private city tours (and other tours), I have mentioned them before and I am probably biased (but no, they are the best). You can contact Trez Travel, a fantastic local travel agency with lots of experience not only in the city but also in the state of Oaxaca.

And you can contact Gabriel Sanchez, who offers top-notch private services and tours. 

There are many city tours that I will include here below or you can go directly to the main tourist attractions and find local guides offering paid mini-tours of the place, for example at el Templo de Santo Domingo de Gúzman. 

Oaxaca Cathedral

When it comes to a free walking tour, I recommend the one organized by Estación Mexico. It takes you outside the main downtown attractions and takes place every day at 11 am.

The meeting point is the main zocalo in front of the hotel El Márques del Valle.

I take these tours all the time and highly recommend them as a starting point. Please remember that the word “free” does not mean that you take the tour and leave without paying anything.

The guides do this job for a tip, so I recommend you always offer at least 100 pesos per person for a 2-hour tour. 

Here below you can also find more walking tours with different itineraries

3. Take a sightseeing tour around Oaxaca by tram

Oaxaca city tram

For people who are not very mobile or generally have trouble walking, I want to mention something here that I have never done because I love walking, but at the corner of Macedonio Alcalá and Morelos Street there is a tram that will take you on a sightseeing tour of downtown Oaxaca.

It is called “Tranvía el alebrije.” Please be warned that this tour is very slow. It is a large tram and it has to be almost full to run. It runs every 30 minutes and the cost is about 70 pesos per person. The language is Spanish only.

4. Visit the Zocalo and the Oaxaca Cathedral 

As in any colonial city, Oaxaca’s main square, zocalo, is always the perfect place to start exploring. 

And why is that? Well, remember that our territory was conquered and colonized. Mexico started to be built on these squares and all the elements of colonialism, religious syncretism, and the evolving government system began here.

In every colonial city, including Oaxaca, you will find 3 main elements: 

  • Ecclesiastical power in the form of a monastery or cathedral. In Oaxaca city we have the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción
  • Political power – the colonial buildings of the time were palatial and built to “govern” the city, and so we find what we call today, “Palacio de Gobierno de Oaxaca”. 
  • The open square, the atriums, or “Plaza Mayor” are the spaces where everything converged. All pre-Hispanic and colonial activities merged in these places.

One of the many reasons I enjoy taking sightseeing tours is that the local guides can provide interesting facts and information that is hard to find elsewhere.

Oaxaca Zocalo church

For example, I remember my local tour guide explaining how when the indigenous people carved the details of the cathedral’s facade, they hid deities and symbols in it that were part of their own culture.

So when the indigenous people “prayed” outside the churches, in this case, the cathedral, it was a way to continue to worship their gods freely without being punished.

We have to remember that in most cases, the Spanish conquerors chose to build each government office and religious center on top of what used to be a sacred site or a symbol of the leadership of pre-Hispanic times. They did this to show that they were now in charge.   

I highly recommend visiting the Zocalo area at least 3 times. One, bright and early. Why? For architecture and photography lovers, it’s a great opportunity to take advantage of the sunrise light and avoid the crowds.

Second, I recommend going after breakfast or in the middle of the day, which is is the best time to learn about the main attractions.

Last, in the evening around 7 pm for people watching and cultural appreciation.

The evening is when local people go out and enjoy time with their families. You will find couples kissing on benches, friends lining up to eat an esquite, or families buying balloons for their kids.

This is a perfect time to try whatever street food or snack you can find in the zocalo area. Also, this area is used for many activities like salsa dancing, book fairs, and more and it all usually happens at night.

5. Walk the whole of the pedestrian Macedonio Alcalà from top to bottom, and its side streets.

This will undoubtedly take you most of the day. I’ll cover some of the restaurants on this street in more detail in a later article, but, Voces de Copal is one of my favorites, so treat yourself to lunch there.

Café brújula can be found all over Oaxaca, so it’s worth a quick stop for a coffee there as well. If you want to visit a bar, head to La Mezcalerita.

If you have a sweet tooth and want some ice cream, stop by Nieves Manolo to try some local craft flavors. 

Oaxaca center colorful homes

Macedonio Alcalá is where you go to get cash at the ATM, where you visit some of the museums, delight yourself in the Oaxacan art galleries,  where you eat, drink, and SHOP! There are street vendors during the day, but they become more numerous as the sun goes down. 

You can also find street snacks and local drinks like tejate or tamales. Also lots of sweets and pastries. 

Usually, an additional artisan market is added to the existing markets during the weekends at the northern part of the street, just at the end of the Santo Domingo Museum

6. Visit the Mercado Benito Juárez: (Market) 

Oaxaca city Market

If you have never been to Mexico or any of its local markets but you have seen them portrayed in a movie, this market is the perfect example of what you would expect to see. 

This market is the size of a full 4 streets block and there are vendors, food stalls, and all kinds of trinkets being sold everywhere, even outside of it. 

The whole area of the market is bustling, noisy, and colorful. Its many aisles offer a combination of local art and handicrafts, traditional clothing, festivities decorations, mezcal stands, fresh fruit, veggies, seeds, chocolate, spices, every single element used in the mole making, and more. 

The best way to experience the market is by asking a lot of questions and doing tastings of everything available. 

When you stop at the place where they sell chocolate, ask for a taste. Do the same at the mezcal place. Stop at the local bakery and buy a sweet.

Try the tejate drink. Buy one of the mini string cheese bags and try that too. Go crazy and try the chapulines because they are everywhere. Try it all! Take it all in. You are in Mexico! 

7. Visit the 20 de Noviembre market

The 20 de Noviembre market is next door to the Mercado Benito Juárez and here you will mainly go to eat. You will be able to try: tlayudas, hot chocolate, pan de yema, enchiladas de mole, mole coloradito, tamales and, its main “attraction”, the meat aisle. Not a great spot for vegetarians or vegans. 

There is a 100-meter (at least) meat aisle where local people buy it to take home, but at 20 de Noviembre, the butchers have decided to set up grills and a seating area right next to the raw meat.

Cecina, tasajo, and chorizo are the 3 main “cuts” in Oaxaca and you can order as much of them as you want, along with tortillas, nopalitos, lemon, and salsa to make your tacos right on the spot. 

Oaxaca city by night

8. Have a mezcal at La Casa del Mezcal and then hop on to other mezcal bars 

Of course, mezcal is one of the protagonists of any trip to Oaxaca, and there are many places where you can enjoy it, but a good reason to visit is that it is one of the oldest traditional cantinas in the city, founded in 1935.

There, as soon as you walk in it feels like you are traveling in time, plus, you find yourself amongst locals of different ages and they will be interested in striking a conversation with you, for sure!

Use the opportunity to brush up on your Spanish skills! I am sure you will be fluent after 3 shots. But remember, mezcal shots are to be kissed, not to be chugged

9. Have dinner or drinks in one of the city rooftop bars or restaurants

Oaxaca roof top bars

Oaxaca’s skyline is gorgeous, it gives us very pretty sunsets and its evening weather is incredibly pleasant, so, enjoying a meal or a drink on a rooftop is a must. I have already mentioned La Mezcalerita and we can add Mezquite, Gozobi, Terraza los Amantes, Tierra del Sol, or Praga Coffee bar

10. Visit the Xochimilco district

Oaaca Colorful doors and buildings

The city center of Oaxaca is quite large but luckily everything is within walking distance.

You can call the markets, the main square, and the pedestrian zone the most touristy area, but the whole downtown that you should visit includes this district, which is located on the north side of it. 

The Xochimilco neighborhood is a very pretty and colorful area to walk around. It is very photogenic because there is quite a bit of street art around there.

People go there to see the Xochimilco arches, the cobblestone streets, and the aqueduct, and also because this neighborhood is where Rufino Tamayo, one of the most outstanding Mexican artists, was born. 

11. Visit the colorful Jalatlaco neighborhood

Oaxaca city sunset

This is my favorite neighborhood by far. I love to stay there when I go. This neighborhood is even more colorful than Xochimilco.

There are many murals, chocolate shops, coffee places, small boutique hotels, and restaurants. Honestly, this is the perfect place for an Instagram photoshoot. It’s idyllic. 

In 2019 Jalatlaco was included in the Time Out magazine list of the 50 coolest neighborhoods in the world. 

12. Visit the Santo Domingo Temple, the Museo de las  Culturas and El Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca

If you have only 2 days in Oaxaca and you are interested in learning about its rich history and the local culture you MUST visit this place. It is large enough that it will take you a great part of your day but it is worth it. 

Throughout history, this temple has been the stage of many different historical events. During the “reforma times” (part of Mexican history that gives place to the “birth” of a liberal party against the clerical powers) it served the military in different ways, then Porfirio Diaz (Oaxacan and Mexican dictator) gave it back to the church.

Oaxaca Santo Domingo

At the temple, you can hire a local guide to talk to you about the architecture, the history, the altarpieces, and its magnificent vault.

The museum is impressive! It consists of 14 rooms that take you through the history of the state of Oaxaca.

From prehispanic times to modern times, you can learn about the different regions, cultures, gastronomy, and art, crafts, agriculture, archeology, education, and more.

Unfortunately, most of the museum’s infographics are in Spanish, so it’s a good idea to hire a guide if you do not know the language. 

Oaxaca City Botanical Garden

Finally, for the nature lovers, we have the botanical garden (Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca). Here you can take a guided tour of it and learn all about the state’s agave plants and other endemic flora.

The importance of this place is that Oaxaca is not only the state with the highest number of ethnic groups but also where we can find more plants.

There are guided tours in English and Spanish. Spanish tours are more frequent. For English, you have to go Tuesday or Thursday at 11 am and the entrance fee is 100 pesos. There is no entrance without being part of the guided tour. 

13. Try as many coffee shops as you can

The state of Oaxaca is a coffee producer and for that reason, the city offers plenty of coffee shops where you can indulge in espressos, cappuccinos, or even iced coffee.

I have mentioned Café Brujula, because it is on the main pedestrian street and in many other locations, but it is not my first choice. It’s not bad, it’s just become too commercial, like a local Starbucks, if you know what I mean.

One of the best places I know is called CAFETO and BARISTAS. Please DO NOT miss them.

You will find it on calle de José María Pino Suárez 407- B. It is a tiny location and having the coffee there can be tricky, but, oh so worth it. My second favorite place is BOULENC. This is a great place to enjoy their bakery with a large cappuccino. 

Oaxaca City Street

Also, Oaxaca is famous for its Cafe Pluma. It is called that because it is grown in the region of Pluma Hidalgo.

This coffee is internationally recognized as the best quality in our country, and it’s sustainably grown in the area. I must mention that this coffee is patented or certified with the “denominación de Origen“, meaning that it is a protected brand.

So, make sure you look for coffee shops that serve this type of coffee when you are there. 

Other coffee places to check out are Cafe Nuevo Mundo and Café Café

14. Eat the 7 moles dish

As you may have noticed Oaxaca is a destination for foodies. There are so many typical dishes that you can find exclusively here, or at least the original version. One of them is the mole.

There are 7 moles in Oaxaca and having them in one dish is not only a meal but education

Oaxaca Mole

The Oaxaca moles are different in color, flavor (given by the pepper used or herbs added), in its preparation, in the protein that is served, and other factors. The list of the 7 moles is: Amarillito, mole negro, coloradito, verde, chichilo, manchamanteles and rojo (red). 

My favorite place to have them is at Los Pacos, a restaurant behind the Santo Domingo Temple. Las Quince Letras also serves that dish. 

15. Take a cooking class 

👉 Book one of the top-rated cooking classes + market tour with a local chef on this site.

We have already mentioned that Mexico’s gastronomy is also on the UNESCO list of the cultural heritage of humanity and Oaxaca contributes in great proportion to that inscription, so, it is only logical that while in Oaxaca we become chefs and take a cooking class. 

The cooking class I have taken usually includes drinks like coffee, hot chocolate, margaritas, mezcal shots, and more. Also, it usually includes learning to make mole as that is the most characteristic meal of Oaxaca.

If you are a vegan or a vegetarian they can cater to you. The class is run by a family in their beautifully decorated home.

Here are some other cooking classes options

16. Check out the chocolate process at EL MAYORDOMO: 

In and around Oaxaca city are many places to learn about the process of making the famous local chocolate. El Mayordomo is the biggest brand in the state and so, if you have a short stay or a small budget, this is a good option because the demonstration is free. The demonstration only happens in one place though. You have to go to the Mayordomo store near the Benito Juárez and 20 de Noviembre market.  

17. Go to Plaza de La Danza and eat ice cream 

So far we have mentioned 2 very important temples of Oaxaca City, the Cathedral and the Santo Domingo Temple, but we have not yet mentioned the one that is most dear to the local people.

I am talking about la Basílica de nuestra señora de la Soledad Cathedral of our lady of the assumption).

La señora de la Soledad is the patron saint of the city of Oaxaca and is therefore most revered by its people. It is known that many locals hold their weddings, baptisms, quinceañeras, and other ceremonies there.

So, it is very important to make a stop there to make a deeper connection with the Oaxacans culture.

But, you don’t only stop there to learn or sightsee, you go to that area for this very important reason too: Ice Cream!

Oaxaca colorful street

Outside the basilica is a huge open area called Plaza de la Danza. A big chunk of the open space has been taken over by a great number of local craft ice cream stalls where you can find very interesting and creative flavors such as chapulin, mezcal, beso oaxaqueño, tuna, and more. 

Make sure you go try them all! 

18. Visit MACO Museum of Contemporary Art

Maco is the contemporary art museum of Oaxaca. Unfortunately, it is closed for now but they are about to announce its re-opening. 

The most interesting thing about MACO is that its main intention is to bring together the past and the present, the tradition and the modern in its exhibitions and installations to portray the cultural wealth and the diversity of the state. 

If you are looking for different ways to connect and understand not only the culture of Oaxaca but also its social and political issues through art, this is one of the best places to do it. 

MACO is located on MACEDONIO ALCALÁ pedestrian street and it opens at 10:30 am. 

Oaxaca city street reflections

19. Visit IAGO – Institute of Graphic Arts of Oaxaca-

The IAGO is a museum and library created by Francisco Toledo, a proud native of Oaxaca, a wonderful artist, and a passionate protector and promoter of the state’s culture. 

Unfortunately, Francisco Toledo died only 2 years ago, but his legacy in Oaxaca is very alive. 

There is a really funny anecdote about one of the things he did to protect the integrity of the city of Oaxaca.

It seems that some years ago there was an announcement of a McDonald’s to be opening right in the zocalo area, so, what Toledo did was to call for a peaceful protest in front of the location where it would open and have people eat Tamales to express the unconformity towards having that fast food place there. 

This cultural center has 5 exhibition rooms, 3 library rooms, a patio with endemic plants, a coffee shop, and a regional food restaurant

To go into IAGO there is no cost and it opens at 9:00 am. 

20. Eat in one of the delicious eateries

Oaxaca homes

As we already know, Oaxaca is not short of options of where to eat delicious food, and, I promise I will be more specific on which are the best restaurants to try while there, but, I will leave you with a couple of recommended places that live in my heart:  

  • At any of the food stalls at the 20 de Noviembre Market 
  • At the organic market: El pochote
  • For Tlayudas go to: Tlayudas el Negro 
  • For fine dining to Los danzantes
  • For an artist, chef go to La Olla 
  • For the best mole go to Los Pacos

Oaxaca Festivals

As I mentioned before, in Oaxaca you can experience some of the most incredible festivals where the creativity of the locals is expressed at its best. Here I am listing some of the most important ones.

21. Night of the radishes

This is a deeply rooted Christmas-time tradition in Oaxaca. It occurs the evening of the 23rd of December and it is believed to go back to 1897. 

The Night of Radishes is a traditional Oaxacan festival with a clearly popular stamp in which market gardeners and flower growers display the artistic talent of their hands with special designs made in radish, flor inmortal (a type of flower), and totomoxtle (corn shell plant).

The exhibition lasts only a few hours, but it brings together practically all the local people in the main square, who attend to admire the creativity of the participants in this contest.

It is said that this tradition started because, during Christmas times, the farmers would bring all the fresh produce that would be used to make dinner, and so, to make their stalls more attractive, they began to create figures with the radishes, adorning them with cauliflower leaves and flowers made from baby onions. They placed radishes, lettuces, turnips, onions, etc., all in an artistic way. 

The works that the gardeners and flower growers present are inspired by motifs consistent with the Christmas season such as the birth of Jesus or the arrival of the Three Wise Men.

With the Festival of the Virgin of Solitude, the Day of the Dead, typical costumes of the State, dances, amongst others.  

Oaxaca colorful homes

22. La Guelaguetza

Gastronomic, artisan, and sports exhibitions, traditional representations of the most diverse communities in the state, as well as exhibitions, concerts, and all kinds of events that share the culture and sport of Oaxaca are some of the events to take place in July, at the Guelaguetza festival. 

The origins of this event go back to both colonial and pre-hispanic times. It is said that 2 traditional celebrations were held on a hill around the same dates and the same days, first by the Zapotecs and then by the Carmelite nuns that built a church there (Iglesia del Carmen Alto).

This coincidence gave way to what is called Lunes del Cerro (Hill Monday) 

The Hill Monday Festivities take place throughout July with folkloric presentations, concerts, exhibitions, cultural and sports events. 

Guelaguetza is a Zapotec word that describes the participation of people through cooperation, and so, groups of people of the 8 traditional regions of Oaxaca get together to present a sample of their cultural heritage through dances performed to the sound of music and songs that are their own, wearing the dress of their respective towns.

In the end, each group distributes to the public their “Guelaguetza” composed of objects characteristic of their respective regions.

The Guelaguetza lasts the whole month and there are events everywhere. Nowadays there is an auditorium where the main events at cost occur, but, the whole city lives a constant party day and night. 

One of the main “happenings” during those days are the parades called Calendas in which music bands walk through the streets of the city center followed by the “chinas” (women holding big baskets), and the “Marmota”, which is a huge spherical lantern and the “giants”, huge motley type characters held by the participants. 

23. The Mezcal fair

The Mezcal originates in Oaxaca and therefore a Mezcal fair is due. It takes place during July as well and is part of the Guelaguetza festivities. 

It’s a full set up of Mezcal galleries, gastronomic exhibitions, and cultural and artistic forums in an area of 8,900 square meters in the shape of a cross. It usually takes place in the Paseo Juárez at “El Llano” Park. 

Best day trips from Oaxaca

Although the city of Oaxaca is not short of things to do and places to visit, its surroundings are brimming with incredible places, both historical sites, and natural wonders. Here I am sharing a quick overview of them but I will be sharing in a separate post about them.

24. The archaeological site of Monte Albàn

View of Oaxaca from MonteAlban

This is one of the two most important archeological sites of the area. It is only 30 minutes away from Oaxaca city. The site is located on a low mountainous range rising above the plain in the central section of the Oaxaca valley. This is a great day trip for history and culture lovers but also nature lovers as the views from the highest points are simply breathtaking. 

25. Visit the town and ancient ruins of Mitla 

Monte albán might be the most famous but Mitla is my favorite of both ancient ruins. Mitla is also said to be the most important site for the Zapotec culture. It is located 40 km away from the city center. 

An interpretation of the past says that Mitla was a “place for rest” or, a place for the dead. Mitla comes from the word “Mictlan” and one of its meanings is “the underworld”. 

Mitla is a pre-Columbian archeological site that expresses the Mesoamerican belief that death was the most consequential part of life after birth. It was built as a gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

San Pablo church Mitla

We will be talking about Mitla and the rest of the day trips in more detail soon, but, I want to mention a fun fact that our guide told us.

One of the interpretations made by historians and archeologists is that Mitla remains so apparently untouched because when the Spanish arrived intending to destroy the ancient site, they got stuck in awe for its beauty and decided to spare it and instead build their churches and other colonial buildings around.

So, Mitla becomes a really good place to observe and imagine the past events in which 2 cultures collided.

Zapotec Ruins Mitla Archaological Site

26. Visit el Tule 

The best way to visit El Tule is for you to include it on your day tour either to Hierve el Agua or Mitla as it is on the same path.

Tule is short for the small town called Santa Maria del Tule, and its main attraction is a huge and ancient ahuehuete tree (as it’s called in the Nahuatl language).

The tree has a circumference of 42 meters and it is around 1400 years old (according to the local people and legends around the tree). Mexican people refer to this tree as “El árbol de Tule”. 

Tule Tree

One interesting and fun fact that can be polemic at the same time is that there you will find community kids acting as guides that are “working” (for tips) to show you the different formations that can be identified on the tree trunk: a crocodile, a lion, etc. 

Now, as you know, in times of pandemic everything has changed and it’s no exception for this attraction.

Before, you were able to come within the atrium of the church of the town where the tree is, but, it seems that right now no one is allowed to go within the area and the tree can only be seen either from the transportation or from outside the gate, more or less at a distance of 200 meters. 

27. Hierve El Agua

Hierve el Agua Oaxaca

This is the popular petrified waterfall of Oaxaca and one of the most amazing natural wonders in Mexico that you must visit. Hierve El Agua is located 1 hour and 40 minutes away from the Oaxaca city center. It is one of the best day trips in the area because it’s a perfect place to connect with nature and enjoy breathtaking views.

There you can hike to the top and the bottom of the waterfall, drink fruit juice, eat a tlayuda, or freshen up at the interesting swimming pool which was made to look as if it’s part of the natural geography of the place. 

Hierve El Agua belongs to the local community next to it and there has been a little bit of tension between them and the government so, for a bit the site was closed.

We got the news that it opened just before the Day of the Dead festivities but the problem hasn’t found its solution, so, if you plan to visit on your own, make sure you confirm that it is indeed open to the public. 

Here some tour options to Hierve El Agua

28. Mezcal Tasting at Don Agave 

Don Agave is a mezcal house that produces several mezcal brands of multiple agave plants. 

They produce the mezcal the artisanal way and they are located around 30 minutes away from Oaxaca city. 

Don Agave offers a mezcal tour to learn about its making from the beginning and they have you participate in a tasting right after. The one I experienced (several times) included as many as 8 to 10 different types and 5 or 6 mezcal cream flavors. They are fun!

You can also have lunch there. They have a very good Oaxacan food restaurant. 

29. Arts and crafts workshops visits and demonstrations

Example of Alebrije

Another of the top things to do on a day trip to the surrounding area of Oaxaca is to go to arts and crafts workshops for a demonstration of the making processes and to shop, of course!

3 of the most sought workshops are: 

  • The Alebrijes of San Martin Tilcajete village. 
  • The Barro Negro of San Bartolo Coyotepec 
  • The wool and cotton carpets of Teotitlán del Valle

All the 3 villages are a short driving distance from the city center. 

Where to stay in Oaxaca 

Quinta Real Hotel
Photo © Quinta Real Hotel

My recommendation is to always stay in the central area, including the Xochimilco and Jalatlaco neighborhoods. These are some of my recommendations: 

Read more on where to stay in Oaxaca City, Mexico, or check directly on the map below.

Things to do in Oaxaca Faq

What should I do in Oaxaca?

Well, if I had to choose I would go on a cooking class that included a market visit and mezcal tasting, and, I would spend the Day at the Santo Domingo Temple, at el Museo de las Culturas, and the Jardín etnobotánico de Oaxaca

How many days do you need in Oaxaca?

If you are a traveler that is going at a fast pace through Mexico, 2 nights and 3 days is enough to take in the city and do some day trips. 

If you have a bit more time and more budget while traveling through Mexico but still can’t do a full week, give Oaxaca 4 nights and 5 days. 

If you are specifically planning to come to Oaxaca only and you can do it, stay the full week or even 10 days. 

Natural Dying tecnique in Oaxaca

Is Oaxaca safe right now?

To speak about safety these days is not easy because we have to take into consideration the worldwide situation that we are still living in and that still keeps changing things from one second to the other, but, if we stick to physical integrity or keep our things and valuables safe, then, the answer is YES; but you have to always apply common sense. 

Just like we talked about on our article on safety in Mexico, the basic principles to stay safe are summed up in the following list.

  • Do almost everything in daylight.
  • Don’t flash money.
  • Keep your valuables in the safe of the hotel or develop your own very safe hiding places.
  • Don’t flash jewelry or many electronic gadgets in areas like local public markets or at crowded events.
  • Don’t get too drunk and mix and mingle with just anyone.
  • Do not do drugs.
  • Do not leave your things unattended ANYWHERE.
  • Keep your purse or bags in front of you.
  • Do not put anything valuable in your clothes pockets
  • By no means become a revolutionary and join social demonstrations of any kind. 

All of the above applies to men, women, and all. 

What 3 things is the state of Oaxaca known for?

The Oaxaca state is mainly known these days for its gastronomy, for the Day of the Dead, and its arts and crafts. 

What food is Oaxaca Mexico famous for?

The most popular food of Oaxaca is of course mole, chapulines, Tlayudas, and their tasajo meat. 

After this thorough article, I am sure you are ready to tackle the city and make the most of your time there. Stay tuned as more articles on the city are coming out soon.

✨ Mexico Travel Planning Guide ✨

👉 Do I need travel insurance to travel to Mexico?

I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and know that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out SafetyWing which I have used and find it affordable and comprehensive and also Travel Insurance Master which is great because you can insert all your information and what kind of insurance you need and their system will pull out the best insurance for your need.

🚰 Can I drink tap water in Mexico?

No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.

🚗 Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I recommend Discover Cars because the site offers the option to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.

Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.

📱 Will my phone work in Mexico?

It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!

🤕 Is it safe to travel to Mexico right now?

The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around.

Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunting expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keeping a low profile.

Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:

💉 Do I need any vaccine to travel to Mexico?

No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico

🇲🇽 Do I need a visa to travel to Mexico?

If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form that you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine.

Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards.

It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa

💸 Where do I find the best travel deals for Mexico? 💸

A trip to Mexico can be expensive if you love to travel with all the comforts (like I do). There are a few tricks that will help you find the best deals. Here are my tips:

👉 DON’T travel in the high season, which is Holy week, Christmas and winter in general, and August.
👉 Book months in advance to find early booking discounts
👉 Use aggregators such as Discover Cars to find price comparisons and VRBO for vacation rentals!
👉 Look for packages flights+hotels on Expedia.
👉 Check on Booking.com or Hotels.com for hotel deals

Happy travels!!

About the Author: Bianca Muñoz

bianca munoz author portrait

Bianca is a woman, Mexican, a traveler, an ally, a dreamer, a creative, 100% human and so much more. Bianca has +20 years of experience in personal travel throughout 3 continents, and many countries, cities, towns, and communities. She also comes with +20 years of experience with customer service in the hospitality and tourism industries. A passionate advocate of her country (despite it all), an amateur writer & blogger, an art lover, a certified yoga teacher, an entrepreneur, a neophyte researcher, a philosophy fan, and knowledge obsessed, she has one dream and mission in life:
“To achieve, through her venture, for travel to be considered and used as a tool for a better education and human development in Mexico”
And, even if in baby steps, she is making the dream, come true through her brand:
Mexico4Real Journeys.