This blog post is not going to be very objective. I love Oaxaca. It is my favorite city in Mexico. I fell in love in 2017 with it in only 3 days, and since then, I had always wanted to come back until 2022, when I finally came back to spend 5-1 weeks, and I am already thinking of when I will come back. In this blog post, I will guide you to visit Oaxaca.
In this blog post, you will discover my top 10 to visit Oaxaca, and also essential information for an easy stay!
Other useful information:
Oaxaca: where is it? What is it?
You have to pronounce the name of the city this way, WA-RA-KA. It is the capital of the state that has the same name. It is located 460 km from México City and, more or less, 300 km from the Pacific coast, which means that it is a city that many visit before heading to the beach.
The city was already populated there is more than 1000 years ago by the pre-Hispanic population that left their tracks still visible in the city and the culture. Two of the most important presidents of the country are native from here: Benito Juarez, in his honor, the city was named Oaxaca de Juarez, and Porfirio Dias.
For short- or long-term visitors, Oaxaca is especially a UNESCO heritage city. With a fast walk through the city, you will easily understand why.
With cultural, festive, historical, and gastronomy richness, the city is an unmissable destination for each traveler that explores Mexico.
What to do in Oaxaca?
This list could be longer, but I know you don’t have time to lose. So I gather 10 places or things you can’t miss if you visit Oaxaca!
1. Enjoy the colorful streets
As soon as you arrive in the historical city center, you will be blown up by the houses’ facades. From the turquoise blue to the orange-red, passing by the mustard yellow, all offer a real colors explosion. You will have to take your smartphone to keep a souvenir of these rainbow houses.
2. The Templo de Santo Domingo
It is my favorite monument in Oaxaca, a building that arises from a square where the agaves grow and where the tourists and locals meet to enjoy this vivid place.
From the outside, the temple is fascinating. Inside, also! The genealogy tree of Santo Domingo de Guzmán is on the head of the visitors when they pass the entrance. Visiting the temple is free, you just need to arrive at the right moment since the doors are closed too often.
3. The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Soledad and the Plaza de la Danza
Another religious monument you can’t lose is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Soledad. The entrance is also free to sit down and admire the place. On the Plaza de la Danza, very close, you could sit and enjoy the beauty of the place and maybe, participate in one of the numerous events organized there.
Down the Plaza, you will find a small square full of terraces. Sit down to try the nieve, the typical ice cream Oaxaca.
4. The Catedral
The cathedral is another religious monument that is unmissable in Oaxaca. The exterior is pretty sumptuous, and the interior deserves a quick visit, especially since the entrance is free.
5. The Zócalo
Centre névralgique de la ville, impossible de visiter Oaxaca sans passer par le Zocalo. Agrémentée de quelques espaces verts, cette place est le lieu de rendez-vous de tous les locaux. D’autant plus qu’il s’y passe toujours quelque chose.
If you want to take some pictures for your Instagram, it is the neighborhood that you have to visit. Colorful facades are next to the very impressive street art. There are also a lot of cafés and cool shops.
This colonial village later became an Oaxaca neighborhood. It is also a charming place that attracts tourists. The best moment to visit it is during the Día de los Muertos when the houses are decorated and compete to attract the pedestrians’ attention. However, the neighborhood deserves a visit anytime.
8. Visit the museums
Oaxaca City is very rich in a cultural way. Wandering and being amazed by its beauty is good, but it is also nice to learn more about the destination. I introduce you to a few museums that are worth it if you visit Oaxaca.
The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
If you should visit only one museum, it should be this one. More than 10,000 years of history in 14 rooms. You can’t miss the remains found in the famous Tumba 7 in Monte Alban!
The Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños
In Oaxaca, art is everywhere y in different forms. Obviously, painting is one of them. The Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños highlights artists from the city and the area.
The Museo del Textil
It exists an amazing variety of textiles in Mexico. Every area, almost every village, has a savoir-faire and a very different style. You will notice it visiting this museum that showcases Oaxaca and Mexico pieces to highlight the different designs, techniques, and creative processes.
The Museo de la Filatelia
It is a playful museum, perfect for a family visit. It tells the history of stamps and money in the Mexican Republic.
Oaxaca is famous in all the country and outside of it for being the city of Mexican gastronomy. The food is delicious, and the variety of plates is big. Tlayudas and moles are the 2 specialties that you can’t miss. Actually, you can try 7 different kinds of mole. You have to try them all to discover which one is your favorite. Personally, the mole negro is one of my culinary obsessions.
To taste the Oaxaca food, you can go to restaurants, but I recommend you to go to markets and sit down with the locals. The 20 de Noviembre market is a mandatory visit. You will find many places there to eat.
10. Monte Albán
It is easy to go to Monte Alban from the city center. Anyway, it is a visit that you can’t miss when you visit Oaxaca. The archeological site was the most important city in the Zapotec culture. It was built on the top of the mountain that the valley. It is why it has been called Monte. I recommend you stay 3–4 hours there.
What to eat en Oaxaca?
I share with you 10 specialities that you should try when you visit Oaxaca : the mole negro, mole verde, mole almendrado, tlayuda, sopa de guías, chiles de agua rellenos, chapulines, chocolate oaxaqueño, tejate, mezcal.
This list is very subjective. The mole negro is certainly the most emblematic plate of the Oaxaca gastronomy. You have to try it! In Mexico, it is normal to eat insects. If you want to try, chapulines is an easy one to start. You can have them as a snack or inside a tlayudas o tacos. Also, you can’t leave without having a mezcal, the typical alcohol of the area.
How to go to Oaxaca?
Obviously, you can go to Oaxaca by car or bus. You can also go by plane since the city has an airport.
How to go to Oaxaca from Ciudad de México?
It is possible to get on a plane from the Mexican capital. The flight lasts around 2 hours. If you have time, and you prefer to take care of the planet, many buses make the ride.
It lasts 6–7 hours and leaves from 7 different bus stations. I recommend you leave from la TAPO, la Norte, or la Tasqueña. It is possible to buy your tickets online on the ADO webpage.
How to go to Oaxaca from Puebla?
From Puebla, the bus is the best option. It leaves from la CAPU, and the ride last 5 hours.
How to go to Oaxaca from Puerto Escondido?
Again, the bus is the best option. The road is long and tortuous. I recommend you travel by night since the ride lasts 9–10 hours.
It is possible to go to Oaxaca by colectivo, a kind of van, but it is better to avoid it if you prefer to travel comfortably or if you are sick on the bus. It is also possible to go by plane, but the ride is expensive for such a short distance.
How to move through Oaxaca?
It is easy to discover the center by walking. However, if you stay outside of it or want to explore places a little further, there are different options.
Many bus lines transport passengers through the city. Nevertheless, if you don’t know the city, it can be pretty tricky to understand where the stops are. It is always better to ask a local to know where they are.
There are different companies of taxis seguros, such as the Taxis ADO, You have to call them, and they send a car. Stopping a taxi in the street is also a solution.
How many days to visit Oaxaca?
To discover Oaxaca, all the markets, the restaurants, the boutiques, the galleries, the mezcalerías, etc. You will need several weeks.
Nevertheless, if your time is limited, with 3 days you could know the city. Anyway, I recommend staying for 1 week to really understand it, enjoying the nightlife and visiting touristy spots and villages around.
Is it dangerous to visit Oaxaca?
The city center is pretty safe. Obviously, like in the rest of the country, it is better not to walk at night, especially on empty streets. Like in other places, don’t walk around with your new iPhone in your hands, or your gold earrings.
So after 10 pm, it is better to use taxis. Anyway, some areas are more dangerous. Don’t go there, especially if you are new to the city. Always ask locals if it is safe to go to one place or another. Last tip: at night, avoid the Central de Abastos area.
Being a digital nomad in Oaxaca
More and more digital nomads go to Oaxaca. It is pretty normal since the city has many attractive things. Apart from being very pretty, you can do many activities such as cooking or grabado oaxaqueño workshops.
Moreover, the options for accommodation are numerous: cheap hostels and long duration Airbnbs. Wi-Fi is good and stable. It is possible to work in numerous coffee places, and there are a few coworking spaces.
For those who want to get everything in the same place, there are also a few colivings that allow you to be hist and work at the same place. Also, there are great places to meet fellow digital nomads.
The city attracts more tourists and digital nomads, and, as always, like in any other place of the world, it is a risk to the planet and the local communities. So, do not forget to travel sustainably!
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Travel sustainably in Oaxaca
One of the most important issues in Mexico is the lack of water. Oaxaca doesn’t escape to it, either. So it is necessary that you use water responsibly: avoid long showers, close the faucet when you wash your teeth, use the cooking water to water the plants, etc.
Don’t encourage gentrification!
The arrival of American and European digital nomads that make more money than the locals is a risk for the local communities.
The rent prices increase, obliging locals to move, and traditional bars and restaurants disappear and are replaced by western types of places where prices are way higher than usual prices, etc. As digital nomads, we have a responsibility for this phenomenon.
So, it is essential to act and spend money correctly for the local populations can enjoy this money and improve their living conditions instead of making them worst. I give you a list of ideas to avoid being a part of gentrification:
- rent rooms and flats at a correct price
- avoid accommodations that belong to big real estate groups
- buy in the markets
- eat in restaurants whose owners are locals
- avoid food chains
- do not let the taxi drivers overcharge you
- work with local craft people
- meet locals to know more about what is at stake for them with the rise of tourism.
There are many ways to fight gentrification. You just need to get some information.
My expenses in Oaxaca
I came back to Oaxaca for a week before heading to CDMX, but I share with you my expenses during October/November when I stayed there for 5 weeks. It is necessary to understand that:
- I always rent a room on Airbnb to get a real immersion
- I try to cook as much as possible, but in Oaxaca, food is so good that I ate a lot outside
- I walked 90% of the time
- I didn’t go on an excursion for lack of time.
food: 311,29€ (252,90€ for restaurants/bars, and 58,39€ for groceries)
phone (Sim card and credit): 17,39€
Bonus: Sunbathing in Puerto Escondido
After a few days or weeks in Oaxaca, you may want to feel closer to nature. There are many options around to lie on the beach or decelerate the rhythm in the mountains.
I propose you sunbathe in Puerto Escondido and enjoy a peaceful life close to the sea, beautiful sunsets, and cocktails with good company. Soon, I will share a blog post about this sunny destination.
If you were wondering what to do in Oaxaca, I hope this article will help you to prepare for your next Mexican escape. If you have any doubts or questions, leave me a comment. In case you want to share this article on Pinterest, do it!