14 best things to do in Oaxaca, Mexico

Looking for the best things to do in Oaxaca? I visit three times a year and this list is according to my local contacts. I love visiting Oaxaca and through the years, I have collected the most unique things to do.

Hi Trisha! I followed your Instagram stories in Oaxaca. I loved it and you made me want to go! I am planning my trip now but somehow didn’t see any things to do in Oaxaca article on your blog? I am a solo traveler so I would also love for you to connect me with people to meet. I read in your other post that you can introduce me to your local friends. That would be very much appreciated! Thank you for all the work that you do. Your articles about Mexico have served as my guide. They are so complete so thank you again for your service!

Hazel Hayman, Tulsa, OK
things to do in oaxaca

Dear Hazel,

Thank you so much for being here! Oaxaca is one of my favorite destinations in Mexico. I surely spend day of the dead here all the time and visit it with Puerto Escondido during the summer.

I love this so much and I still haven’t figured out if I want to move here! My dogs love the beach so living in Cabo suits us better at the moment. If you ever come to Baja California, feel free to send me a message and I will show you around!

Anyway, here are the best local things to do in Oaxaca. I update this regularly so make sure to save it for your trip. Good luck! I am in Oaxaca every October for day of the dead. Join my trip if you like!

Xx,
Trisha

Change how you travel and see the world by going deep into the culture. Come and travel with me!

.

🌟 Best things to do in Oaxaca

Ethnobotanical Garden

The Ethnobotanical Garden showcases an astounding collection of plants native to the region, all meticulously preserved and maintained, offering a unique peek into local ecology.

The garden is not just about flora; it’s a living tapestry of the region’s ethnobotanical history, revealing the intimate relationships between people and plants.

oaxaca itinerary

You can only visit this garden through a guided tour and there are no reservations required. However, you need to fall in line as early as 7:00 AM to get a slot.

🎟️ Tickets and hours: The Ethnobotanical Garden is open from 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM and the tickets cost 100 pesos (about $6 USD). The tours are available in different languages.

Tip: The English tour is longer and is always full so if it is not important to you to listen to a guide and you just want to see the garden, fall in line in the Spanish or French tours.

Andador Turistico

Andador Turistico is Oaxaca’s pedestrian-friendly promenade. Lined with colorful colonial buildings, it’s a bustling hub of restaurants, cafes, and artisan shops selling traditional crafts.

oaxaca itinerary

Here, you will find local street vendors or upscale eateries or try a traditional Mezcal at one of the many bars. You can also see impromptu street performances or peruse the bustling markets for indigenous textiles and ceramics.

Andador Turistico is one of the scenic walks and a must when visiting Oaxaca!

Tip: The best restaurant to try here is Los Danzantes (best for brunch). If you are here in the evening, you can have mezcal cocktails at Los Amantes Mezcaleria.

Tasting menu in Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City is a culinary capital, with its unique blend of indigenous influences. This is one of the best things to do in Oaxaca that will enable you to explore this culinary landscape in depth.

It’s a journey through flavors, textures, and cooking techniques specific to Oaxaca, curated by chefs who carry the traditions forward. From the famous mole varieties to locally sourced meats and artisanal cheeses, every dish tells a story.

things to do in oaxaca

Accompanied by traditional beverages like Mezcal and Pulque, a tasting menu is more than a meal – it’s an immersive cultural experience.

🍷 Where to do a tasting menu: Criollo and El Destilado are two of the bet restaurants with tasting menus from $100 USD per person.

Santo Domingo Church

The Santo Domingo Church in Oaxaca City is an architectural masterpiece right in the heart of centro. Its stunning façade and ornate interior, adorned with gilded sculptures and vivid frescoes, are a sight to behold.

things to do in oaxaca

Not just a religious monument, the church also houses the Cultural Centre of Oaxaca, offering insights into the region’s vibrant history and culture.

You won’t miss the church as this is the most iconic image of Oaxaca!

Tip: You can visit these landmarks on your own but if you want a guide who will explain history, you can join a walking tour. [Book Oaxaca Walking Tour]

Pasillo de Humo

Pasillo de Humo, or “Hallway of Smoke,” is one of the best things to do in Oaxaca, especially for those who want a deeper food adventure.

Here, you can try a wide variety of traditional dishes cooked over open flames, echoing the time-honored cooking techniques of Oaxaca. Options for food include barbacoa, succulent grilled meats, and flavorful mole sauces.

oaxaca itinerary

Its open-kitchen concept will allow you to observe the preparation process, adding an element of culinary theater.

Tip: The portions of meat served here are by the kilo so make sure to visit with a group!

Textile artisans of Oaxaca

Teotitlan del Valle is the heartland of Oaxacan textile artistry, renowned for handwoven rugs and tapestries created on traditional Zapotec looms.

Visiting this village is a fascinating journey into centuries-old weaving practices. You can learn from artisans skillfully crafting textiles with intricate designs, using natural dyes derived from local plants and insects.

things to do in oaxaca

If you want to purchase handmade textiles directly from the weavers, this will support the local economy of traditional loom weavers! Credit cards are not accepted so bring cash.

🧭 Tours and getting there: This activity takes 4-6 hours and starts at $125 USD. You need to book a tour to visit the families. [Book Textile Tour]

oaxaca map

Travel to Oaxaca with all my recommendations in the city. This Oaxaca map includes over 600 places, divided into different categories!

Hierve El Agua

Hierve El Agua is a compelling blend of geological marvel and breathtaking beauty. These “petrified” waterfalls, formed by mineral-rich spring water, create an ethereal landscape that captivates every visitor.

Aside from the stunning views, you can spend an afternoon dipping in the mineral pools, with views of the vast valley stretching below. Nearby, you can explore ancient Zapotec irrigation systems.

hierve el agua

The site also offers hiking trails (about 40 minutes each way). Remember to bring swimming clothes, towels, and comfortable hiking shoes when you go to Hierve El Agua.

🧭 Tours and getting there: It is challenging to get to Hierve El Agua on your own so booking a private tour is recommended (from $140 USD). [Book Hierve El Agua Tour]

Late-night eats in Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City’s late-night street food culture is a must, especially for those who plan to add the nightlife to their Oaxaca itinerary.

The more it gets darker in Oaxaca, the more roadside stalls come alive, radiating warmth and enticing aromas on every street you walk on. From tacos to tlayudas, you’d be overwhelmed by the options for after-party eats!

things to do in oaxaca

The experience is not just about food; it’s about community, with locals and travelers alike sharing stories over shared tables on the bustling streets, making Oaxaca’s nightlife a vibrant, flavorful, and convivial affair.

🌮 Best late-night eats in Oaxaca: Tacos Carmen Alto and Lechoncito de Oro are the two best places open til after midnight!

Mezcal tour in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is the birthplace of mezcal, so naturally, a tour of the local Palenques (mezcal distilleries) should be of your top things to do in Oaxaca.

These small, family-run establishments follow traditional methods, roasting, fermenting, and distilling agave hearts in a process that can take decades to master.

things to do in oaxaca

A Palenque tour lets you witness this age-old process first-hand, from agave harvesting to tasting the final product. You’ll learn about the various types of agave and how their distinct flavors shape each mezcal.

🧭 Tours and getting there: You have to book a tour to get to a palenque. I recommend this local family who will also cook you lunch in their home in between the tour! The tour starts at $129 USD. [Book Mezcal Tour]

Mezcal bars in Oaxaca

Put mezcal bars in your things to do in Oaxaca list, that’s not necessarily for tasting but just for a night-out or brunch.

day of the dead in oaxaca

With a wide variety of artisanal mezcals on offer, these bars provide a unique opportunity to sample diverse flavors, guided by knowledgeable bartenders who educate patrons on the production process, agave species, and tasting notes.

🥃 Mezcal bars to visit in Oaxaca: Go to Sabina Sabe or Los Amantes Mezcaleria for the the best local and non-commercial mezcal!

Day of the dead in Oaxaca

Oaxaca City provides an unrivaled experience for observing Day of the Dead, or “Día de los Muertos”. This deeply rooted tradition becomes a city-wide celebration, where the streets brim with vibrant marigolds, intricately designed altars, and processions of calacas (skeletons).

day of the dead in oaxaca

At night, cemeteries glow with candlelight, as locals remember their departed loved ones with music, food, and stories. The city’s famed sand tapestries, created in honor of the holiday, add an artistic touch.

💀Join my day of the dead group trip every year from October 29 to November 3! [See available slots]

Oaxaca cooking class

Attending a cooking class in Oaxaca is a hands-on things to do in Oaxaca, and is a great way to delve into its rich culinary heritage.

things to do in oaxaca

You’ll learn about unique Oaxacan ingredients, traditional cooking techniques, and the cultural significance of dishes. Whether you’re crafting complex mole sauces, making tlayudas, or baking pan de yema, you’ll be guided by local chefs sharing generations-old culinary wisdom.

It’s not all about recipes but it’s also a great activity if you are traveling alone to Oaxaca!

Jalatlaco neighborhood

Oaxaca’s Jalatlaco neighborhood is my favorite area in Oaxaca. I usually go here during the evenings to hang out in bars and go to events. This neighborhood is really small but there’s a lot to do in here!

There are no fixed events in Jalatlaco but you’ll probably find that if you join the Oaxaca Social Meet Ups Whatsapp group (see things to do in Oaxaca #1).

oaxaca itinerary

Every time I receive a text that there’s an event in Jalatlaco, I automatically go because fun is always guaranteed in Jalatlaco! But be careful if you go here at night – always take a taxi. It’s a 40-min walk from downtown.

The streets of Jalatlaco are very colorful you’ll spend hours wandering around here. There are also a few specialty coffee places and lots of street food at night!

Best tlayudas in Oaxaca

Tlayuda is a popular Oaxacan dish and you can’t really find it anywhere apart from Mexico City. It is a large, thin, and crunch tortilla with beans, cabbage, avocado, Oaxacan cheese, salsa, and meat (usually beef).

The locals stalls are always full but they work so fast they are able to cater to everyone in an organized manner. The stall is super small and I was so amazed to see how systematized they were – it’s like I’m in a tlayuda factory on the streets!

things to do in oaxaca

These tlayudas are big so it’s also for sharing. They only cost $80 pesos ($4 USD) and almost 4 people can share them! Order the famous tasajo – this is my favorite!

Tip: At the corner of Mina and Bustamante streets in Oaxaca, you will find the best tlayuda in town. Honestly, I’ve tried many tlayudas in different parts of Mexico and this is the best, no kidding!

Markets in Oaxaca City

Oaxaca is home to textiles and the best cuisine in the world so its markets are usually bustling with both. Within Oaxaca, there are already many markets namely:

things to do in oaxaca
  • Mercado Benito Juarez: this is a covered marketplace where you can buy food, textiles, and souvenirs. It is one of the biggest markets in Oaxaca.
  • Mercado 20 de Noviembre: The meat tunnel is here. This market has more food than souvenirs. You can buy Oaxacan cheese here and other Oaxacan food products.
  • Mercado de Artesanias de Oaxaca: If you want a bigger selection of souvenirs, this is the market to go to!

Tip: It is highly encouraged to visit them all since they are very distinct. You can do this on your own but you can also sign up for a market tour in Oaxaca. I discovered a lot of other markets that are not on the Internet when I joined this tour! [Book Oaxaca Markets Tour]

Oaxaca murals on a bicycle

Oaxaca is one city lined with street murals, graffiti, and posters. What better way to appreciate these than a nice bike tour!

If you are an art enthusiast, you will surely love this activity that’s filled with backstories and insights of the artwork and the artists in the community. On this 4-hour tour, you’re not only going to experience the art, but also Oaxaca’s history, culture, and heritage.

living in oaxaca

You will be departing from Bicibella Oaxaca in downtown Oaxaca. You’ll be passing by the neighborhoods of Jalatlaco, Centro, Xochimilco and you’ll be surprised to see murals that are upcoming. In your journey, there will be stops along the way at workshops and important spots.

🚲 Oaxaca bicycle tour info: The fees you pay are inclusive of the certified guide, insurance, use of bicycle, helmet, bottled water, snacks, and entries to workshops. This tour can accommodate up to a maximum of 8 travelers. [Book Oaxaca bicycle tour]

Mezcal and mole pairing

Pairing mezcal with mole can create a harmonious symphony of flavors, as both these Oaxacan specialties offer complex taste profiles. The rich, multifaceted flavors of mole, ranging from sweet and smoky to spicy, can be enhanced by the smoky, fruity, and sometimes peppery notes of mezcal.

things to do in oaxaca

Lighter mezcals may go well with a less spicy mole, while a robust, smoky mezcal might complement a richer, spicier mole.

There is an extremely unique tour, about 20 minutes outside of the city and I always recommend this activity to friends who like to explore deep gastronomy!

🥃 Booking and tickets: The mezcal and mole pairing starts at $85 USD with an expert sommelier. [Book Mezcal and Mole Tasting]

⁉️ FAQ: things to do in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is best known for its rich indigenous culture, culinary scene, particularly mole and mezcal, and vibrant arts and crafts.

Oaxaca’s popularity stems from its unique blend of cultures, UNESCO-listed historic sites, diverse natural beauty, and its reputation as a gastronomic hotspot.

The best month to visit Oaxaca is from November to May when the weather is cool and zero rainfall. In these months, interesting Oaxacan festivals also take place like the day of the dead.

Oaxaca’s city center is quite walkable, with many attractions close by. You don’t need any transportation in Oaxaca City as long as you stay in areas like Centro Historico or the Zocalo.

Some knowledge of Spanish can enhance your experience, but English is also widely spoken in tourist areas. Small towns around Oaxaca and street food vendors do not speak English.

Uber is not available in Oaxaca. Oaxaca City uses the Didi app, although hailing yellow taxis is very safe. (both pay in cash methods).

Yes, you need pesos in Oaxaca. Oaxaca does not accept US dollars or other currencies. There are many money exchange houses in the city and at the airport, but you have to bring pesos.

Tipping cab drivers in Oaxaca is not customary, though appreciated for exceptional service.

The best way to get around Oaxaca is by walking for short distances, and using taxis or local buses for longer ones. You may also rent a car if you are driving to other parts outside of Oaxaca City.

🇲🇽 Oaxaca travel recommendations

  • Go on a mezcal tour in a palenque just outside of Oaxaca City. This includes an agave farm visit and lunch with a local family.
  • Visit the textile cooperative of locals to learn about the artisan goods of Oaxaca.
  • Enhance your cooking skills, discover secret family recipes, and enjoy the flavors of real Oaxacan cuisine through an authentic Oaxacan cooking class.
  • Explore the captivating mix of indigenous and colonial architecture, stroll through colorful markets, savor the city’s rich gastronomy, and meet fellow travelers through a Oaxaca walking tour.
  • Dive into Oaxaca’s rich art scene in our hands-on Alebrijes Workshop. Learn to create your own vibrant Alebrije – a whimsical, colorful folk art sculpture – under the guidance of local artisans.
  • Experience the vibrancy of Oaxaca’s Day of the Dead celebrations, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage event. Witness the colorful parades, join the candlelit vigils, and honor the departed in this unique blend of indigenous traditions
  • Discover the timeless charm of Oaxaca’s Jalatlaco and Xochimilco neighborhoods. Wander through cobblestone streets with colorful houses, traditional markets, and quaint cafes.
  • Experience the bustling energy of Andador Turistico, Oaxaca City’s vibrant pedestrian walkway. Explore various artisan shops, traditional markets, and exquisite local eateries. Absorb the city’s rich history as you stroll by colonial-era architecture, lively squares, and vibrant murals.
  • Discover a diverse array of indigenous plants, learn about traditional uses in medicine, food, and crafts, and admire the stunning design that intertwines nature with culture at Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden.
  • Visit the stunning petrified waterfalls of Hierve El Agua, bathe in mineral-rich thermal pools, and take in the spectacular panoramic views.
  • Journey into the ancient world at Monte Alban, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Oaxaca.
  • Benito Juarez Market offers a wide array of goods from colorful handicrafts, textiles, and pottery to local produce and traditional Oaxacan snacks.
  • Just a stone’s throw away from Benito Juárez, the 20 de Noviembre Market is known for its mouth-watering array of local food stalls.
  • Slightly off the tourist trail, La Merced is noted for its food vendors, selling traditional Oaxacan staples like barbacoa, tamales, and quesillo.
  • Juana La Vintage, Vikers Vintage, and Añorarte are key stops for vintage lovers. You can shop here for as low as $3 USD.
  • Experience the fusion of luxury and culture at Grand Fiesta Americana Oaxaca with elegant spacious rooms, gourmet dining, and a tranquil spa, all set within a beautifully restored colonial building.
  • Escape to Pug Seal Hotel, where boutique charm meets authentic Mexican hospitality. Uniquely designed rooms, lush gardens, and delightful cuisine just a few steps away from Oaxaca’s vibrant cultural and historical landmarks.
  • Selina Hostel is an eclectic, budget-friendly accommodation that offers a mix of private rooms and shared dorms, all set within a lively community atmosphere – a great place to meet solo travelers!
  • Mexico is currently experiencing a housing shortage for locals because of platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo. The local community would appreciate it if you book local-run hotels and accommodations.
  • Oaxaca is a walking city so there’s no need to worry about transportation. You can walk anywhere! Just make sure to book an airport taxi transfer as the airport is far away from the center.
  • If you are planning a Oaxaca road trip, it is highly recommended to rent a car, especially those who want to see the Oaxacan coast (Puerto Escondido, Huatulco, etc).
  • Don’t travel to Mexico without insurance. Ekta Traveling is the recommended insurance (for travelers ages 2 months to 100 years old).

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9 Comments

  1. So much variety of things to do in Oaxaca. After I got familiar with the city, I would take a day trip to Monte Alban. Mexico has such interesting archaeological sites.

  2. I NEED to visit Hierve El Agua! It looks amazing. I also would love to wander this city and explore the streets, especially the Jalatlaco neighborhood. It would be fun to see the marigold fields in bloom, we had them growing up but I can’t seem to grow them now in SoCal.

  3. You make Oaxaca sound so beautiful. I would love to explore it someday and live like a native for sometime. It would be nice to take a cacao tour, see the marigold fields. Cooking class also sounds fun.

  4. Thank you for the reminders and the safety tips. Noted on the yellow taxi. Love the idea of joining the social meetups. It would be a wonderful experience to meet other people. Thanks for sharing the Whatsapp group.

  5. It’s great that you have so many friends in Oaxaca and you can visit so often. You seem to really like it there a lot and that’s not surprising, considering the city is so easy to explore and it has so many attractions. Jalatlaco neighborhood would surely be my favorite neighborhood too. I would also like to take that trip to Monte Alban. I’m in love with archeological sites like that.

  6. Great tips for exploring Oaxaca. I spent a few days there years ago and always wanted to go back for a few weeks. The Mezcal Tour and the Cocoa Tour must be wonderful and interesting experiences!

  7. A wonderful post on Oaxaca and great place to explore. The marigold fields, the Hierva El Agua and the archeological sites are amazing 😍

  8. I am in love with marigold fields and would not like to miss the opportunity when in Oaxaca. I am amazed at the different options to look at while being there. The best way for me to explore would be to walk around. Attending a cookery class would be interesting.

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