Oaxaca, located in southern Mexico, is a cultural and culinary gem that offers travelers a unique and vibrant experience. With its rich indigenous traditions, stunning landscapes, and delicious cuisine, Oaxaca has something for everyone. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, a food lover, a history buff, or simply seeking adventure, this charming city and its surroundings have plenty to offer. In this guide, we’ll explore the 15 best things to do in Oaxaca.
1. Explore the Historic Center of Oaxaca
The heart of Oaxaca is its beautifully preserved historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stroll along cobblestone streets lined with colorful colonial buildings, visit the stunning Santo Domingo Church, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the Zocalo, the central square. Don’t forget to stop by the local markets and shops to purchase handcrafted textiles, ceramics, and jewelry.
2. Visit Monte Albán
Just a short drive from the city center, Monte Albán is an ancient Zapotec archaeological site perched atop a hill. Explore the pyramids, ball courts, and tombs while enjoying panoramic views of the valley below. It’s a captivating glimpse into Mexico’s pre-Columbian history.
3. Discover Oaxacan Cuisine
Oaxaca is famous for its diverse and flavorful cuisine. Try traditional dishes like mole, tlayudas, and chapulines (fried grasshoppers) at local markets or restaurants. Take a cooking class to learn how to prepare these delicacies and immerse yourself in the world of Oaxacan gastronomy.
4. Mezcal Tasting
Oaxaca is the birthplace of mezcal, a distilled alcoholic beverage made from agave plants. Visit a mezcaleria to learn about the production process and sample different varieties of this unique spirit. It’s an experience that offers a taste of Oaxaca’s history and culture.
5. Explore Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Agua is a surreal natural wonder, featuring mineral-laden springs that create petrified waterfalls and pools. Hike along the trails, take a refreshing dip in the pools, and savor breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
6. Artisan Villages
Oaxaca is renowned for its artisan villages, each specializing in different crafts. Visit places like Teotitlán del Valle for intricate rugs, San Bartolo Coyotepec for black pottery, and Ocotlán de Morelos for alebrijes (colorful wooden sculptures).
7. Day of the Dead Celebration
If you visit Oaxaca in late October to early November, you’ll have the chance to experience the vibrant Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Witness the city’s streets and cemeteries come to life with colorful altars, marigold flowers, and traditional festivities.
8. Explore Tule Tree
Visit the ancient Tule Tree in the town of Santa María del Tule, just a short drive from Oaxaca. This massive Montezuma cypress tree is estimated to be over 2,000 years old and has one of the widest tree trunks in the world.
9. Enjoy the Beaches
Oaxaca’s Pacific coastline boasts some stunning beaches, including Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. Whether you’re a surfer, sunbather, or nature enthusiast, you’ll find a beach that suits your preferences.
10. Hike in Sierra Norte
For nature lovers and adventure seekers, Sierra Norte offers a pristine natural landscape with lush forests, waterfalls, and hiking trails. Guided tours provide an opportunity to immerse yourself in the region’s biodiversity.
11. San Pablo Villa de Mitla
Visit the archaeological site of Mitla, known for its well-preserved Zapotec ruins and intricate stone mosaics. Explore the ancient temples and learn about the history and culture of the Zapotec people.
12. San Agustin Etla
The former textile factory turned cultural center, Centro de las Artes de San Agustin (CASA), is a hub of contemporary art and culture. Explore galleries, workshops, and exhibitions while enjoying the picturesque surroundings.
13. Benito Juarez Market
Discover the vibrant flavors of Oaxacan street food at Benito Juarez Market. Try local specialties like tlayudas, memelas, and quesadillas while mingling with the locals.
14. San Jose del Pacifico
Nestled in the cloud forests of Oaxaca, San Jose del Pacifico is a tranquil mountain village known for its mystical atmosphere and views. It’s a perfect place for relaxation, meditation, and stargazing.
15. Guelaguetza Festival
If you’re in Oaxaca during late July, don’t miss the Guelaguetza Festival. This colorful celebration showcases the diverse indigenous cultures of the state through dance, music, and traditional clothing.
In conclusion, Oaxaca is a captivating destination that offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you’re savoring the flavors of its cuisine, exploring ancient ruins, or simply taking in the colorful atmosphere of its streets, Oaxaca promises an unforgettable experience. So pack your bags and get ready to embark on a journey to one of Mexico’s most enchanting destinations.