Is Oaxaca worth visiting? Mexico is high up on any keen travelers bucket list and Oaxaca is a hidden gem, often forgotten about by tourists who flock to the infamous Cancun to soak up the Mexican sun. However, if you want to immerse yourself in culture and experience a unique destination like no other, Oaxaca is somewhere that you don’t want to miss!
Oaxaca (pronounced wah-hah-kah) is a cultural treasure trove and is loved by many locals for its spirit and vibrant atmosphere.
This astonishing city has everything from comfortable accommodation, beautiful views, lively festivals, historic sights and peaceful nature spots. This part of the world is perfect for both families and couples alike and is an experience that is sure to satisfy your cravings for adventure.
1. Monte Alban
Monte Alban is a stunning historical archaeological ground that has been standing in Mexico since 300BC. For anyone who likes history, this is the perfect place to see a historic monument that has been kept in its original form and tells many stories of native people in the area. Monte Alban takes the form of an ancient fortress, home to rich people that lived in the surrounding lands. The impressive structure is located on a low mountain ridge- easily seen from all areas of the city of Oaxaca.
This archaeological site remains largely untouched but is maintained by local authorities to keep their history and culture running prominently through Oaxaca City. There are barely any other buildings from this era that still remain standing in the world and, Monte Alban is not something to be missed. If you are in Mexico, you will be blown away by the sense of culture and history that you will meet when entering this sacred landmark. To make the most of the natural beauty of this valley, Oaxaca offers many tours and guided hikes of the area so that you can experience the full story behind Monte Alban.
2.The Day of the dead
Most people have heard the wanders of Day of the dead- a festival famously celebrated in Mexico that honours dead ancestors. The festival is renowned for being spectacular, but no amount of writing can prepare for the wonders of this event in real life! The day of the dead should be on everyone’s bucket list and really is one of the most beautiful festivals in the world!
The day of the dead is celebrated throughout Mexico but, Oaxaca has by far the most unique and magical traditions. The festival takes place from October the 31st to November the 2nd every year (the same time as Halloween). Over these three days, the city is completely transformed into an artistic masterpiece! It is very normal to see faces painted with decorative skulls, floral garlands enlacing every lampost, colours splashed on every wall and displays of remembrance scattered through the city. The day of the dead in Oaxaca is like nothing you have ever experienced before!
It may sound strange, but the best way to experience the day of the dead in Oaxaca is to visit one of the local graveyards. Here, you will be able to join the local people as they celebrate their loved ones with colourful decorations, candlelight and song. It is very common to see live band performances and graves decorated with funny images of skeletons. Locals are always pleased to welcome tourists. If you would like to fully experience this magical festival, the day of the dead releases an official programme of events each year which will help you to plan your activities.
3.The Church of Santo Domingo
The Church of Santo Domingo, or ‘Templo Santo Domingo‘, is one of the many spectacular churches in Oaxaca city. This church is a work of art! Baroque carvings can be seen on every inch of its walls and painted figures cascade the interior resulting in a jaw-dropping display of beauty and colour. When you visit this church, you must see the evening mass. The whole place lights up in a warm glow in the candlelight and people gather to share their religion.
Santa Domingo was built in the Dominican empire between 1570-1608. It is rich in history and culture and provides a stunning experience for everyone who enters it. This church is the outcome of two very different religions that came together in Oaxaca city and created beautiful works of art for all to enjoy. This church is considered one of the most stunning religious places in Mexico so, it is definitely not one to miss! The church is open to everyone and free of charge. It is one of the main attractions in Oaxaca and is a day that you will remember forever.
One of the many reasons that Oaxaca is worth visiting is that the city provides some of the most exquisite accommodation in Mexico. The city itself is warm and welcoming- perfectly safe for any travelers– and the array of hotels available are all designed to make sure that your experience in the city is second to none! There are so many amazing hotels around Oaxaca city, here are a few of the best ones to give you an idea of just how great the accommodation in this city really is!
Quinta Real Oaxaca
This is the best hotel for those who want to delve into the history of Mexico. Located just 150 yards from Santa Domingo, you will have the city’s most beloved history right on your doorstep! The interior is decorated in a colonial style, allowing you to travel back in time and truly experience this wonderful place.
City Centro Oaxaca
City Centro Oaxaca is perfect for those Instagram worthy shots that we all search for on our travels. The whole hotel is pink offering a romantic yet quirky atmosphere to all of its guests. You will find modern furnishings, friendly staff and great food in this wonderful hotel.
Casa Carmen Reforma
Another great hotel for seeing the attractions of the city, Casa Carmen Reforma is just 450 yards of Santa Domingo and 6.2 miles from Monte Alban. You can travel easily to anywhere in the city from here and will not be disappointed by the luxury interior and welcoming staff.
5.Hierve el Agua
If you are looking for an area of natural beauty, Hierve el Agua is the place for you. This gorgeous landmark is a set of natural rock formations that resemble cascading water- the perfect location for a picturesque hike or a family day out in the fresh air. A visit to Hierve el Agua is considered to be one the greatest things to do in Oaxaca and boasts one of the most beautiful rock formations in the world!
The best way to experience Hierve el Agua is to take an organised tour that will take you through several of the cities best attractions. This spot is incredibly popular with both tourists and locals – who enjoy coming here on lunch breaks or taking relaxing strolls through the natural beauty- so, be sure to get there early to make the most of the attraction before the crowds roll in.
The waters at Hierve el Agua are naturally hot- due to coming from springs in the ground. This makes them the perfect spot for an afternoon swim or relaxing dip after a busy day of exploring the rest of the city. Visitors are welcome to bathe in the waters as they please. The name ‘Hierve el Agua’ actually means ‘boiling hot’ in Spanish but don’t be alarmed! These waters are cool enough to swim in without burning your skin.
6.Oaxaca City Center
The center of Oaxaca city is an explosion of colour and culture, especially if you travel during the day of the dead. The center is a great place to stay in Oaxaca as it hosts a wide range of restaurants, bars, hotels and hostels that are all great for tourists. If you want to immerse yourself in the everyday life of Oaxacan locals, the city center is definitely worth a visit. You will be welcomed by locals and offered the chance to try traditional foods that will allow you to fully indulge yourself in this stunning place.
If you don’t feel like staying permanently in the center of this city, you can easily take a day trip by renting a car or taking public transport. The local people are full of passion- be prepared to witness protests when entering the center of the city! This may sound scary but is all part of the true experience of Oaxaca and will leave you with memories that you will not forget. The center of Oaxaca is unlike any other in the world!
The city offers many exciting activities for tourists who want a taste of the true Mexico. You could visit a local market and view some native artwork or try some locally baked goods. The high street art scene in Oaxaca is particularly special and is a must-see for all tourists.
7.The Ethnobotanical Garden
Located in the grounds on the Santa Domingo monastery, this display of natural beauty really isn’t something to miss. This botanical garden is one of Mexico’s most biodiverse locations and highlights the beautiful native flora- a plant that is rare in the wild. True to the Mexican landscape, the ethnobotanical gardens display a large variety of cacti and other gorgeous native plants. This is the perfect spot to unwind, relax and take in the beauty of this otherwise busy city.
This garden is a perfect example of the creativity and talent of the many artists that live in Oaxaca city. Each species of plant is placed elegantly to create a beautifully made structure that is stunning to see. Due to the spectacular beauty of this garden, it is only accessible via guided tour. The tours are very affordable and offer great insight into the history of this magnificent place.
How many days do you need in Oaxaca?
Oaxaca is a vibrant city with many great attractions to visit. Because of the number of sights that there are to see on your visit, we recommended to spend at least 4 days in this city.
There are plenty of welcoming hotels and hostels that will comfortably accommodate you on your visit and will make your experience of Oaxaca even more memorable. If you are worried about running out of time to visit all of the amazing attractions, the best way to organise your trip is to book tours that will take you through the wonders of the city and plan the best way for you to fit everything in!
When is the best time to visit Oaxaca?
If you want to experience the main attraction in Oaxaca, the day of the dead, it is best to visit the city at the end of October or early November. However, if you aren’t worried about this festival and would prefer going at a time with great weather but few crowds, it is best to go in the months of April and May. This time of year will bring warm temperatures but low numbers of tourists so is the perfect time to visit Oaxaca if you want a quiet visit.