You have arrived in the beating heart of Mexico, where the colors of modern life and the crumbling colonial buildings coexist in perfect harmony. Oaxaca is a mountainous paradise that every adventurer should visit at least once. There’s something for everyone in Oaxaca, whether it’s the city’s storied past, vibrant art scene, or the tempting scent of its award-winning food. This book will help you plan a trip to Oaxaca that you’ll never forget by taking you on a virtual walking tour of the city’s historic streets and disclosing its top attractions, cultural events, safety recommendations, and more.
Discover the Must-Visit Attractions in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca’s rich history and cultural diversity are on full display at the city’s many charming and well-visited tourist destinations. Monte Alban, a UNESCO World Heritage site that attests to the splendor of the ancient Zapotec civilization, should be your first stop. This ancient site, perched on a mountain, features spectacular stone buildings, tombs, and a museum. Take in the entire city and its neighboring valleys from this vantage point.
Visit the Santo Domingo Temple in downtown Oaxaca thereafter. This former Dominican convent is a beautiful example of baroque architecture and gold-leaf interior design that has been painstakingly restored. The Ethnobotanical Garden, located right next to the church, is a haven for native plant, cactus, and tree species that are unique to this area.
Take a leisurely stroll through the Andador Turstico, a pedestrian strip replete with stores, galleries, and eateries. See the incredible works of local artists at the Museum of Oaxacan Painters. It’s also a good idea to check out the bustling Benito Juarez and 20 de Noviembre markets. Oaxaca’s culinary specialties, traditional arts and crafts, and the exciting rhythms of city life are all available here.
Traveling to Oaxaca: How to Get There.
Thanks to Mexico’s well-developed network of highways, trains, and airports, traveling to Oaxaca from any major city in the country is a breeze. Several airlines offer daily direct flights between Mexico City and Oaxaca. The flight takes around an hour, making it a fast and easy choice. Most foreign flights will require a stopover in Mexico City.
ADO, a respectable bus company in Mexico, also operates long-distance buses for individuals who prefer road excursions. It takes about 6-7 hours to travel by bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca. Taking this route will take more time, but it is less expensive than flying and will allow you to explore the stunning Mexican landscape.
When you get to Oaxaca, you may choose from a number of different modes of transportation to reach where you need to go. Taxis are easily accessible and affordably priced. But before you set out on your trip, be sure you’ve settled on a price. You may get around the city for even less money by taking one of the local buses. Consider renting a car if you want to explore the local towns or ancient sites on your own. Make sure you have a valid driver’s license and study up on the rules of the road before hitting the road.
Best Time to Visit Oaxaca.
Because of its strategic location, Oaxaca enjoys a moderate climate throughout the year, making it a popular tourist destination regardless of the season. However, the dry season (October through April) has the greatest weather and is widely regarded as the ideal time to visit. Expect crowds, especially around Christmas and Easter, as this is Oaxaca’s peak tourist season. If you want to see the beautiful sight of migrating Monarch butterflies, the best time to visit is between November and March.
From May to September, we have the rainy season, which is marked by rain in the afternoons. Despite the rain, the countryside is very beautiful during this time of year. In addition, sights will be less congested and busy because less people will be visiting during this time.
Planning your trip to coincide with one of Oaxaca’s many traditional festivals is another way to enrich your cultural experience without having to worry about the weather. Most notably, towards the end of October and beginning of November, people celebrate Day of the Dead. Parades, traditional music and dance, and elaborately decorated gravesites transform the city into a stunning display. The Guelaguetza Festival is another important cultural event that takes place in Oaxaca every year in the month of July.
Oaxaca’s Traditional Festivals and Events.
Oaxaca is a city that celebrates all year round with festivals and events that honor ancient customs and provide fascinating glimpses into the local culture. The Guelaguetza Festival in July is one of the most important celebrations. It’s a colorful celebration of Oaxaca’s indigenous culture, when people dress in their native garb and perform dances unique to each region. The city comes alive with music, parades, and regional delicacies during these celebrations.
The city celebrates Da de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” in November. Beautifully decorated altars, food offerings, marigold flowers, and processions to the cemeteries are just some of the ways that families have shown their respect for the dead for generations. Marigolds, sugar skulls, and candlelit altars transform the city into a vibrant spectacle.
Don’t miss the one-of-a-kind ‘Noche de los Rábanos’ (Night of the Radishes) celebration towards the end of the year, where local artists display their skills by carving intricate scenes on enormous radishes. This odd custom, which dates back more than a century, draws in visitors and residents alike to the city’s central square and gives the holiday season its own special character.
The city is also home to the internationally renowned Oaxaca Film Festival, which takes place every year. The ‘White Night’ event is a must-see for art lovers, since galleries and museums stay open late and provide free admission to their displays until midnight.
Oaxaca’s Cuisine: Dishes and Drinks You Must Try.
Oaxaca’s ‘Land of the Seven Moles’ moniker is well-deserved in the culinary world. Its cultural diversity is reflected in its cuisine, which features a wide variety of mouthwatering and unique delicacies.
The complex sauce known as mole is the crown jewel of Oaxacan cooking. It is typically created with a variety of peppers, spices, and even chocolate. From the sweet and spicy Mole Negro to the fruity Mole Amarillo, the seven basic forms of mole each have their own unique flavor character. When in Oaxaca, you must have the moles that are traditionally served over poultry.
Tlayuda, sometimes called the Mexican pizza, is another delicacy you shouldn’t overlook. You can either fold or leave this enormous corn tortilla open-faced after filling it with refried beans, Oaxacan cheese (quesillo), cabbage, avocado, and your preferred meat.
Chapulines (fried grasshoppers) are delicious and worth trying for the more daring diners. Said to resemble the flavor of salty, tangy popcorn, these crunchy animals are a favorite snack in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and are seasoned with lime and chile.
Mezcal is the star of the show when it comes to drinks. The culture of Oaxaca, Mexico is inextricably linked to this smoky alcoholic beverage created from the agave plant. Tours and tastings are commonplace at mezcal distilleries, where visitors may learn about the spirit’s history and how it’s traditionally made.
Finally, a visit to Oaxaca is not complete without trying some of the traditional hot chocolate. Oaxacan hot chocolate, in contrast to its western counterpart, is made with cacao beans, sugar, and cinnamon, yielding a sweet and fiery beverage. The local sweet bread, pan de yema, is often used as a dipping accompaniment.
Unleashing the Adventurer: Hiking Trails and Outdoor Activities in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca has a lot to offer outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers. Mountains, woods, waterfalls, and rock formations of all shapes and sizes decorate the region with beauty.
Hierve el Agua, near Oaxaca, is a collection of rock formations that look like little waterfalls and is widely regarded as one of the world’s most impressive natural sights. Hiking routes in the area of Hierve el Agua provide stunning panoramas of the petrified waterfalls and the valleys beyond.
A network of well-marked hiking paths connects eight unsettled Zapotec settlements in the Sierra Norte mountains, popularly known as the Pueblos Mancomunados. The routes’ varying degrees of challenge make them accessible to walkers of all experience levels. Beautiful scenery and a wide variety of birds can be seen as you make your way through dense pine and oak groves.
Consider taking a journey to Manialtepec Lagoon, a birdwatcher’s heaven and site of a rare natural phenomenon called bioluminescence. At certain times of the year, the high concentration of bioluminescent plankton in the lagoon’s water gives off a mysterious glow.
Horseback riding on Puerto Escondido’s beaches is another popular activity, as is surfing on Zicatela Beach, which is noted for its ferocious waves. The calm waters of the Huatulco bays are perfect for a leisurely boat excursion.
Family-Friendly Attractions in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is a fantastic vacation spot for families since it has so many exciting things to do for kids of all ages, in addition to being a cultural and culinary paradise for adults. Oaxaca is a fantastic destination for tourists because it offers so many exciting activities.
Children can benefit greatly from a trip to the Jardn Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, which features a wide variety of local plant life. The indigenous traditions of Oaxaca can be studied while children explore the region’s gigantic cactus and other unique vegetation.
The many handicraft villages in Oaxaca offer a unique cultural experience for families. Children may watch the process of creating the world-famous black pottery in the community of San Bartolo Coyotepec. Alebrijes (wooden legendary creatures) are popular in the area, and visitors to San Martin Tilcajete can witness local artists at work creating these works of art.
Take the kids to Parque Zoológico del Centenario for a day of excitement. The zoo is home to many different species of Mexican animals and features fun play areas for children.
The Manialtepec Lagoon and the beaches of Puerto Escondido are great destinations for a day excursion with the kids. There is a wide variety of things for kids to do at these locations, from watching birds to riding horses.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico.
Travelers to Oaxaca should prioritize their own safety with other travel priorities. Thankfully, Oaxaca is widely regarded as one of Mexico’s safest tourist spots. However, like with any vacation spot, it’s wise to take the necessary steps to guarantee a trouble-free trip.
Try not to flaunt any expensive jewelry or stacks of cash. You should only use ATMs in well-lit, popular places. When not using a rented car, always keep the door closed and never leave anything of value in plain sight.
Keep to well-populated areas of the city when sight-seeing, especially after sundown. Oaxaca is a relatively risk-free destination, but it pays to exercise caution and watch your surroundings at all times. Keep your hotel or a reliable friend apprised of your daily whereabouts and activities.
While the public transit system in Oaxaca is secure, tourists are advised to only utilize official taxis. Be sure to enjoy the local mezcal and other alcoholic beverages in moderation if you decide to try them.
When planning a trip, it’s important to think about your health and have any necessary vaccinations up to date. A first-aid kit with bandages, disinfectant wipes, and over-the-counter pain relievers is also recommended.
Finally, be sure to remember to bring the address and phone number of your country’s embassy or consulate in Mexico. This is a crucial point of contact in the event of an emergency.
Exploring Cultural and Historical Sites in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca’s cultural and historical landmarks tell different stories from the city’s long and illustrious past. The city is a treasure trove for history buffs, with everything from ancient ruins to well-preserved colonial buildings.
The Monte Albán archaeological site is a must-see because it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This hilltop site originally served as the political and economic hub of the Zapotec people. Explore the main square and take in the breathtaking vistas of the surrounding valleys as you marvel at the beautiful engravings on the Danzantes stones.
Mitla, about an hour’s drive from Oaxaca city, is another significant archaeological site. Mitla was an important Zapotec religious site, and it is famous for its mosaic fretwork and geometric motifs.
The Santo Domingo de Guzmán Church is located in the middle of Oaxaca City, and it is a wonderful illustration of Oaxacan Baroque design. The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca is located in the church, and it features displays about the city’s many cultural traditions.
Visit the city’s historic core, which is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Oaxaca’s rich cultural past is reflected in the city’s picturesque cobblestone streets, bustling markets, and brightly painted houses.
Day Trips from Oaxaca: Exploring Nearby Destinations.
There’s a lot to see and do in Oaxaca itself, but the region’s varied landscapes and interesting sights also make it perfect for short excursions.
The archaeological sites of Monte Albán and Mitla are just a short drive from Oaxaca city, and both provide fascinating insights into the ancient Zapotec culture. Both locations are well worth the trip due to their breathtaking vistas over the neighboring valleys.
Another must-do is visiting Hierve el Agua. Located about an hour and a half outside of town, these petrified waterfalls are a sight to behold. After a strenuous hike to the waterfalls, reward yourself by cooling off in the mineral-rich pools with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains.
The Sierra Norte Mountains are well worth the trip for any outdoor enthusiast. There is a network of hiking routes and ecotourism activities available in the eight Zapotec communities of the Sierra Norte, also known as the Pueblos Mancomunados.
Visit Puerto Escondido if you’re longing for some time at the beach. This sleepy coastal hamlet is well-known among surfers for its beautiful beaches.
The region around Oaxaca has enough to offer everyone, from history buffs to nature lovers to beach bums.
Q&A: Frequently Asked Questions about Traveling in Oaxaca.
How do I get to Oaxaca from the nearest major city?
There are several ways to reach Oaxaca, with the most convenient being by air. Oaxaca’s Xoxocotlán International Airport (OAX) is serviced by several domestic airlines with flights from major cities like Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Cancun. From Mexico City, the flight is approximately one hour. If you’re up for a road trip, you can also reach Oaxaca by bus or car from Mexico City, which takes about 5 to 6 hours.
What is the best time to visit Oaxaca?
Oaxaca can be visited year-round, but the best time to go depends on what you want to do. For fewer crowds and pleasant weather, consider visiting between September and February. However, if you want to experience Oaxaca’s vibrant festivals, plan your visit during the Guelaguetza in July or Day of the Dead celebrations at the end of October.
Are there any traditional festivals or events in Oaxaca?
Oaxaca is famous for its cultural events and festivals. The most significant of these is the Guelaguetza, a two-week celebration in July featuring traditional music, dance, and food. Another major event is the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in late October, where families honor their departed loved ones with altars, marigold flowers, and traditional foods.
Are there any recommended hiking trails or outdoor activities in Oaxaca?
Oaxaca offers numerous outdoor activities for nature lovers. You can hike the trails in the Sierra Norte Mountains, swim in the natural pools at Hierve el Agua park, or explore the Manialtepec Lagoon. For beach activities, head to Puerto Escondido for surfing and horseback riding.
Are there any nearby destinations that can be visited as day trips from Oaxaca?
Yes, there are several day-trip options from Oaxaca, with tourist attraction such as the archaeological sites of Monte Albán and Mitla, the petrified waterfalls of Hierve el Agua, and the beach town of Puerto Escondido. You could also consider visiting the artisan villages around Oaxaca, where you can witness the making of black pottery and vibrant alebrijes.
Wrapping Up: Make the Most of Your Oaxaca Vacation
Oaxaca, with its rich history, vibrant culture, mouth-watering cuisine, and picturesque landscapes, offers a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re exploring the ancient ruins of Monte Albán, tasting your way through Oaxaca’s culinary scene, or soaking up the sun on the beaches of Puerto Escondido, there’s something to cater to every interest.
Remember, it’s not just about the most popular tourist attractions and spots. Dive deep into Oaxaca’s indigenous communities, discover off-the-beaten-path attractions, and engage with the local artisans to truly appreciate the heart and soul of this vibrant region.
Planning your itinerary carefully, taking into account the local customs and advice given in this Oaxaca travel guide, will help ensure your trip is both enjoyable and meaningful. The magic of Oaxaca lies in its diversity, and there’s no better way to experience it than by immersing yourself fully in everything this stunning region has to offer.
Items I used when traveling..
Hi there! My name is John Hawkins, and I am originally from Texas. However, I now call Cozumel, Mexico, my home. I have a passion for travel and love sharing my adventures and experiences with others. On my travel blog, I will take you on virtual journeys to various destinations and provide insight and tips on making the most out of your trips. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or just starting to plan your next adventure, I hope my blog inspires you to explore the world and create unforgettable memories.
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