Tips, Top Sights, & When To Visit

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Full of native attraction, stunning structure, and a few really unimaginable meals, Oaxaca City is a must-visit when in Mexico.

Here you’ll discover locals ingesting mezcal alongside vacationers, cosy plazas abuzz with exercise, and an unimaginable number of meals and smells from markets akin to Mercado 20 de Noviembre.

I’ve stayed twice in Oaxaca de Juarez, spending 2 weeks attending to know the town intimately, in addition to visiting close by villages, archeological websites, climbing routes, and extra. In this complete Oaxaca journey information, I’ll share every little thing you have to know.

Oaxaca (pronounced: wah-hah-kah) has a terrific power and far to expertise, so I like to recommend staying a minimum of 3 nights in case you can.

Best excursions in Oaxaca

Let me begin with an necessary tip!

Few blogs appear keen to confess it, however the fashionable Hierve el Agua petrified waterfalls are extremely overhyped and overtouristed.

It is consistently pushed because the ‘top thing to do’ in Oaxaca however it’s very vacationer trappy, takes a very long time to get to (as much as 3 hours a method), and might typically be so crowded as to be unenjoyable. I’ve heard complaints about bloggers and influencers misrepresenting this place, so I simply need to provide you with my trustworthy opinion.

Underwhelming Hierve el Agua

Instead, I feel your time is healthier spent sightseeing throughout the historic metropolis and nearer to Oaxaca City.

Be conscious that when looking for excursions on websites like GetYourInformation or Viator, they typically confuse Oaxaca State with Oaxaca City, so a number of excursions get really useful which can be the truth is 10+ hours driving away.

These are the three guided actions I most suggest:

  • Oaxaca is world-renowned for its delicacies, particularly because of its signature dish referred to as mole, of which there are quite a few varieties. You can search these out by yourself, although a night time avenue meals tour is one other enjoyable introduction to the native meals scene (in a manner that’s protected in your stomach!) as is taking a native cooking class.
  • Don’t miss the traditional ruins of Monte Alban! This archeological web site is extremely spectacular and solely a couple of 20-minute drive from the middle. You can discover native vacationer buses to take you there. However, you can even go on a half-day guided tour, which has the benefit of an area knowledgeable explaining all concerning the Zapotec tradition and historical past.
  • The close by villages are recognized for numerous crafts together with mezcal manufacturing and textile-making. It might be very fascinating to take a look at the distilleries and workshops, akin to with this tour.
The spectacular Monte Alban

If you’re staying for greater than 3 nights, then I feel a go to to Hierve el Agua can nonetheless be price it, particularly if it’s together with different sights.

Pick a tour that leaves early within the morning, akin to this one which begins at 7AM (all others depart at 8-9AM or later). I do know, it sucks to stand up so early, however that manner you’ll beat the crowds that start arriving round midday.

There are additionally quite a few issues you’ll be able to see in a self-guided manner; for this, take a look at my prime issues to do in Oaxaca.

Essential issues to know

And what to anticipate of Oaxaca…

The very first thing you’ll discover is how remarkably well-preserved the historic heart is. Oaxaca nonetheless adheres to its unique Sixteenth-century grid and a lot of the colourful buildings are low-rise (just one or two tales tall) and date from the colonial interval.

Throughout its historical past, Oaxaca was capable of maintain onto its personal id to a terrific diploma. Among the explanations are the mountainous terrain surrounding it, which was not as fertile or straightforward to domesticate, in addition to the dearth of main silver deposits — all this meant Oaxaca was left extra to its personal. To at the present time, there’s a lot much less business and sprawl in Oaxaca City, preserving its unimaginable attraction.

Even regardless of the Spanish conquest, indigenous languages and teams nonetheless flourish in Oaxaca, and it’s estimated that over 70% of all territories on this area are nonetheless predominantly indigenous. The metropolis is wealthy in native indigenous crafts akin to colourful textiles and numerous handicrafts.

The historical past of this area dates again a number of 1000’s of years to the instances of the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures, who had been thriving right here lengthy earlier than different world powerhouses such because the Roman Empire had even existed.

Oaxaca’s meals scene can be well-known and regarded by many as one of the best in all of Mexico.

Quite a bit is could also be owed to its early roots, given this area was additionally the birthplace of corn (between 7000-10000 years in the past!).

Today we’ll discover a vary of colourful and engaging dishes, such because the native favorites of Tlayudas, Memelas, and Enmoladas. You can discover these in most meals stands and markets across the metropolis. But it’s typically the famed dish, mole, that the majority excites foodies coming to Oaxaca. It entails a posh sauce that may have over a dozen completely different substances.

Tlayuda

Despite being one of many extra fashionable Mexican vacationer locations, Oaxaca City has loads of genuine attraction and a beautiful sense of tranquility.

The Zócalo (foremost sq.) is house to the enduring Cathedral of Oaxaca and close by Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, that are two pretty websites price taking your time to wander round.

It’s additionally straightforward to achieve the ruins of Monte Albán, which is a pre-Hispanic web site that sits on prime of a mountain and dominates the encircling plains and Oaxacan highlands.

Besides its conventional character, Oaxaca additionally has a considerably worldwide vibe. Nowadays round 15,000 Canadians and Americans make Oaxaca their house, which has led to numerous worldwide communities arising, in addition to a bilingual library and English-language actions and meetups.

Where to remain in Oaxaca

Best neighborhoods

Oaxaca City is among the many safer cities that you would be able to go to in Mexico, although the historic heart is however one of the best and most secure place for vacationers to remain in. Stay anyplace in Centro and also you’ll take pleasure in a terrific environment whereas being inside strolling distance of all of the sights.

Two adjoining neighborhoods with a enjoyable native taste are Jalatlaco and Xochimilco. You’ll discover some quirky bars and colourful cafes right here, however you’ll be barely additional away from the sights.

Suggested lodges in Centro

If you’re on the lookout for a cosy and native vibe, then I like to recommend staying in a posada, an area kind of resort. The Hotel Posada del Centro has a beautiful courtyard with many vegetation and flowers and rooms with conventional Mexican decor.

I stayed right here on my most up-to-date go to to Oaxaca and it was nice! It’s only a few minutes’ stroll from the principle sq..

If you’re after one thing extra deluxe and boutique, then check out Grana B&B. Established in an 18th-century heritage constructing, this tasteful resort is only a few blocks from the principle sq. and options trendy rooms, stunning breakfast, and a rooftop with a view of the town.

The map beneath is centered precisely on Centro. Anywhere round this foremost sq. might be best!

Oaxaca Itineraries

Once you’ve selected visiting Oaxaca City, it’s time to begin planning the way you’ll use your time right here.

Below I’ve created numerous custom-made itineraries relying in your timeframe. Feel free to make use of these and blend them up in response to your personal wants and journey fashion.

For additional inspiration, you can even take a look at our prime 10 issues to do in Oaxaca City.

Keep in thoughts that Oaxaca is a colourful and charming metropolis, so simply wandering the streets is already a prime exercise in itself.

1 Day in Oaxaca

Spending simply sooner or later in Oaxaca City is not best, nonetheless, it’s nonetheless positively potential to see among the highlights in case you’re motivated and arranged. I embrace this info understanding some travellers (maybe time-strapped Americans) could want to plan a lightning go to, however you can even merely use this part to plan your first day in Oaxaca.

You’ll first need to spend the morning heading to the Zócalo within the Historic Center. This foremost plaza is understood for its charming fountains, inexperienced areas, and outdated colonial buildings.

Here we’ll additionally discover the imposing Metropolitan Cathedral of Oaxaca, which is well-known for its large twin towers and baroque facade.

You can simply seize lunch at one of many eating places that encompass the plaza, or from the meals stands close by that serve up some tasty native dishes (I like to recommend grabbing a cool Nieve afterwards, which is sort of a creamy, iced popsicle typically served with contemporary fruits).

Afterwards, you’ll need to stroll alongside the Andador Turístico (the precise avenue title is Calle Macedonio Alcalá), which is house to many craft markets, avenue artwork, and colourful settings which can be good for a photograph. It’s additionally a great place to select up a conventional Oaxacan memento, akin to handmade ceramics or a bottle of Mezcal.

We’ll then end up the historic tour by heading to the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Built in 1724, this gold-laden cathedral is likely one of the most hanging in all the nation. Inside, you’ll discover the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca, which homes artefacts from the pre-Columbian instances (primarily Zapotec) in addition to from the Spanish occupation.

Go behind the again of the Templo de Santo Domingo and also you’ll discover the Ethnobotanical Gardens which exhibit the native flora and has a really spectacular cactus backyard.

If you may have any time left earlier than heading on, attempt to slot in the Monte Albán Ruins. But you want a minimum of about 3-4 hours to see this sight.

3 Days in Oaxaca

Three days tends to be sufficient to see the entire metropolis highlights in addition to a visit or two into the encircling areas.

I like to recommend spending your first day precisely as outlined above, and at night time heading to a Mezcal bar akin to La Mezcalerita to get into the Oaxacan fashion of issues.

Waking up (considerably) early on our second day, you’ll be able to then head on a half-day tour to the Monte Albán Ruins, that are simply an hour away.

Built in 500 BC, this web site was an important of the Zapotec civilization, and the second total in all of Mexico (after Teotihuacán).

While you’ll be able to go to independently, with a tour you’ll have all logistics sorted and a educated native information readily available to inform you every little thing you have to know.

A man pouring mezcal into a shot glass held by another person

During your prolonged time in Oaxaca, you can even decelerate a bit to soak up the extra relaxed tempo of this metropolis, in addition to go to close by cities.

The village of Mitla is likely one of the fashionable day journeys, the place you should purchase conventional loom textiles in addition to get boozy in a conventional Mezcal distillery.

5 Days in Oaxaca

For the Oaxaca completionist, I like to recommend 5 days. You might be much less in a rush so you’ll be able to wander round, take pleasure in actions akin to strolling excursions and market visits, attempt each mole obtainable, and take a look at the entire small museums. You’ll even have the chance to see extra sights within the area.

You can make a journey to the Tree of Tule, in a village about 25 minutes east of Oaxaca, which is famed for being the stoutest (widest) tree on this planet. It’s positively an awe-inspiring historic organism that’s been round for the reason that Aztecs!

If you’re right here on a Sunday, it’s extremely price visiting the Sunday market in Tlacolula, which is about 40 minutes east of Oaxaca. This is likely one of the most colourful markets you’ll be able to go to, with many indigenous folks coming down from mountain cities to do their weekly procuring, and meals stalls in giant halls serving a form of BBQ.

The most well-known web site is Hierve el Agua, which is a petrified waterfall fashioned from its heavy composite of carbonated water and wealthy minerals.

If you’re in Oaxaca for longer, I feel it turns into price it, because the journey to- and from there might be taking over much less of your time in relative phrases. Consider an early morning journey to Hierve el Agua to beat the crowds.

Finally, in case you love off-the-beaten-path cities and lesser touristy websites, then you definately’ll additionally need to head to the Pueblos Mancomunicados.

These villages within the mountains north and northeast of Oaxaca have banded collectively to permit for ecotourism to happen of their area. They’ve created climbing trails in addition to suspension footbridges and ziplines that supply breathtaking views over the mountain-nestled cities.

When to Visit Oaxaca

November to April is the dry season and the general hottest time to discover Oaxaca.

Due to its common elevation of 1,555 m (5,102 ft), Oaxaca’s local weather is milder than the low-laying elements of Mexico. Mornings generally is a bit chilly, with scorching afternoons.

Daily common temperatures are heat, ranging between 63-72°F (round 20°C). Highs can attain as much as 87°F or 30°C, particularly in April, which is the most popular month of the yr.

Early May to October is the moist season. As you’ll be able to think about, rainfall is heavy throughout this time and might range between 3-6.5 inches every month.

Although the showers can interrupt out of doors exploring, the moist season is nice for getting journey offers on flights and lodging because it’s a much less touristy time to go to.

Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad in sunny November

Day of the Dead ideas

Travel guides typically tout Oaxaca as one of the best place to witness the Day of the Dead festivities. This has now elevated demand to such a degree that it’s a must to be very early to e book your lodging!

I believed 4 months upfront would nonetheless be early to e book however I discovered that 95%+ of lodging had already been claimed. To safe your most popular kind of resort (and even hostel), I like to recommend reserving many months forward of time — contemplate 6 months to make sure.

No matter while you e book, room charges might be a lot larger than the conventional worth, so be ready to empty your pockets if you wish to be in Oaxaca throughout this particular time.

By the best way, not every little thing facilities round October 31! The celebrations are unfold over many days. Although in English we are saying ‘day’ of the useless, it’s actually nearer to an entire week. This does assist to restrict your worry of lacking out while you’re in Oaxaca for the festivities, as there isn’t simply “one” parade you can miss.

Being in Oaxaca as a visitor, make sure you respect the graveyards and depart locals to do their factor there in peace. The graveyards all have completely different opening instances that are proven on banners on the entrances.

The metropolis is certainly stuffed with festive power and you may see the colourful decorations in all places, so it’s an thrilling time to go to Oaxaca.

That stated, Day of the Dead celebrations might be witnessed throughout Mexico. If you’re too late to e book in Oaxaca, don’t despair! You can contemplate many different locations, a few of which supply a extra intimate expertise. Nowadays, Mexico City additionally has an enormous Day of the Dead parade, and this metropolis is far much less more likely to run out of lodging.

How to get to Oaxaca

Arriving Internationally

If Oaxaca is your first cease in Mexico, then you may have just a few choices.

There is a small airport which does welcome some worldwide flights immediately, akin to from the USA (Dallas and Los Angeles), with a one-way ticket costing between $250-350.

Guatemala is the opposite, which is greatest for vacationers who’re in Central America (roughly $150 for a one-way).

Otherwise, you’ll in all probability arrive by bus from Mexico City, which has way more worldwide flight connections.

Arriving Domestically

From Mexico City: A coach bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca will take about 7 hours and price round USD $40. The first-class busses akin to these from the businesses ADO or AU are very snug.

From San Cristóbal de las Casas: This route can take anyplace from 12-15 hours (all the time go for the night time bus on this leg) and prices roughly $50.

From the Oaxacan coast: there are coach buses in addition to direct shuttle minibuses from Puerto Escondido and the Mazunte/Puerto Angel/Huatalco space. Check my information on the way to get to Oaxaca City from the Oaxacan coast.

You may also fly immediately into Oaxaca City from numerous airports everywhere in the nation.

The hottest airports to fly from embrace Mexico City, Cancún, Monterrey, and Guadalajara. A one-way will value you between $35-55 (with out baggage).

The Zocalo, or foremost sq.

Oaxaca Travel Tips

Is it protected to discover Oaxaca?

While different Mexican cities might be hit and miss in the case of crime, Oaxaca City alternatively is generally protected to stroll round, even in case you’re travelling alone.

You can go to sights independently with out having to be overly anxious, though excursions are nonetheless a good suggestion (given you’ll study way more with a information).

Your largest concern might be when exploring contained in the markets, as petty theft has been reported. Always preserve your telephone and pockets in your entrance pockets, and depart all flashy equipment and valuables again in your lodging.

Whilst Oaxaca is likely one of the most secure states in Mexico, there’s nonetheless a danger of petty theft occurring. This is probably at night time or throughout the busy markets, the place you’re much less conscious of every little thing occurring round you.

If you’re planning on a heavy night time of Mezcal, simply be sure that to jot down down the place you’re staying so you will get again in a single piece!

The colourful Jalatlaco neighborhood

Climate and what to pack

One of an important issues to recollect when heading to Oaxaca City is to deliver a variety of garments.

Given Mexico is often perceived to be scorching in all places, many vacationers are sometimes caught out shivering when the solar goes down in these highland areas.

Usually, a jumper is sufficient, though it’s possible you’ll need to deliver a lightweight coat if heading in winter (or a poncho if visiting within the moist summer time months).

During the day you’ll need to put on shorts, gentle clothes and lather up with sunscreen, and particularly when heading into the mountains to locations like Monte Albán and Hierve el Agua.

The monumental Mercado de Abastos

When to go to

Something else I extremely suggest vacationers do is to plan their journey to Oaxaca City across the main holidays.

Whilst costs might be a bit of dearer, you’ll get to see some really memorable cultural occasions.

Día de los Muertos (early November) is one in all these, the place the rowdy parades, colourful preparations, and choices for previous family members might be actually eye-opening.

Other nice occasions to witness embrace Semana Santa (late March-early April) and the Guelaguetza (late July).


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Posted JAN 25, 2024



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