The Mexican state of Oaxaca is located in the south of the country among the mountains and valleys. The state name comes from its capital, Oaxaca de Juárez. This city is surrounded by mountains and dramatic landscapes. The population, of more than 260,000, makes the city a very active place with a reasonable size. It is a charming city, safe and full of culture. It is also one of the most famous areas of Mexico for cooking and mezcal. Thanks to the mountains, the mornings and evenings are cool and the climate is pleasant. This is already a lot of good reasons to visit, but in addition the locals are incredibly welcoming. We felt so good there we stayed for 20 days.
Plan the time of your stay according to the incredible local events
Late October / early November for the day of the dead, El Día de Muertos or July for the Guelaguetza festival. It is also possible to attend a Guelaguetza show (with traditional dances and clothes) at the Quinta Real hotel (over a buffet of local delicacies) every Fridays.
This alcohol is a speciality from the region. There are many types of Mezcal and tequila is one of them. Take a mezcaleria (distillery) tour to learn more about the production and taste the different varieties. Careful, it is very very strong!
Walk to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad
And eat tacos in the outdoor market after the visit.
Be amazed by Hierve el Agua petrified waterfalls and swim in the natural pools
Hierve el Agua is definitely worth a visit and if you have the opportunity, spend half a day or a full day to hike down the falls. We stayed for one hour and would have liked to spend more time there. The problem is the falls are difficult to access by road so going through a tour is a good solution but make sure how long they stop there.
Entrer into Santo Domingo Church
And walk down the Calle Macedonio Alcalá pedestrian street.
Try several moles sauces
Moles are sauces (usually served on chicken) typical of the region and they come in many different colours and flavors. The mole negro is made of chocolate. It may surprise at first, but it’s very good. You can not leave Mexico without tasting it. In Los Pacos it is possible to order an discovery plate of seven moles.
Stay with locals and feel like family with Coquis and Goyo
Stroll in one of the many mercados
The Mercados 20 de Noviembre is the most popular. The city is full of indoor markets and they are all very interesting. Markets are the perfect place to try local specialities at low price. Also have a look at Mercado Benito Juarez if you want to buy local souvenirs. A complete aisle is dedicated to shoes!
Discover Monte Albán ruins
A Zapotec archaeological site located on top of a mountain. It offers a breathtaking view Oaxaca city below and the mountains around. Allow about 3-4 hours of visit, the site closes around 16:30 pm.If you want to do it by yourself the round trip by bus costs 58 pesos and you need 70 pesos for the site entrance. You can take the bus from Viajes Turisticos Mitla. The other solution is to do one of the tours which includes Monte Albán in their excursions (be careful to research, tour prices vary from single to double and are negotiable).
Which relates the local population history and enjoy the view of the botanical garden.
Taste all the tacos at Taqueria el primo
Another must do Mexican dish often very affordable!
By taking classes in a school (we recommend Spanish Immersion School) or around a café with locals doing a free language exchange found on Meetup or Duolingo. Do both to become really good! Also read our 5 tips to learn Spanish.
Visit an alebrijes studio
The best known being Jacobo & Maria Ángeles in San Martin Tilcajete Alebrijes. We had the chance to meet the artists and discover our respective alebrijes. Clémentine is a snake-dog and Nicolas is a double deer. Guided tours are free.
Rich in protein grasshoppers prepared with spices.
Hike in the mountains
Some treks start within walking distance from San Felipe del Agua. A guide is needed in the mountains because the paths are not marked.
Go back in time at Mitla archaeological site
Second most important Zapotec archaeological site from the Oaxaca region.
A locals favorite dish at Tlayuadas El Negro.
Read in the biblioteca publica
The building is very interesting and typical. They also offer temporary exhibitions during El Día de Muertos.
Feel tiny in front of the Arbol del Tule
This gigantic tree is over 1400 years old! Visit the square and its church around.
Have a tamales feast…
Learn about crafted tapestry…
…in Teotitlán village.
Go over the budget at Los Danzantes restaurant
Renowned to be one of the best restaurants in the city.
Enjoy the museums
Drink a chocolate con agua
Chocolate is another region speciality! A nice café is the Jaguar Yuu cafe.
Get your shoes cleaned at the Zócalo
(Yes, as in the movie Disney Coco) then enter the Catedral de Nuestra Señora De La Asunción.
Clémentine’s reading and film list
- The Rough Guide to Mexico is a very complete guide.
- The novel Like Water for Chocolate from Laura Esquivel : a novel (adapted to a movie) whose magical realism refers to the great works of Latin American literature. The narration is mixed with traditional cooking recipes.
- The movie La Jaulo de Oro about Guatemalan teenagers trying to reach the United States through Mexico.
- For kids (and grown-ups) the Disney movie Coco shows the Mexican traditions, including the very important Día de Muertos.
Feel free to check out our other articles on Mexico.