11 Best things to do in Oaxaca

by | Mar 14, 2023 | MEXICO, Americas

With its rich cultural heritage, colorful indigenous culture, and delicious cuisine, Oaxaca is a destination rivaling any Latin American cultural city.

The city boasts majestic churches, incredible squares, and a deep sense of history that culture lovers come here to explore.

And, while its pretty churches are highlights, Oaxaca has much more to discover.

These are the best things to do in Oaxaca during your next trip.

Things to do in Oaxaca
Oaxaca – Gabriel Tovar

What are the best things to do in Oaxaca

Santo Domingo Temple

The Santo Domingo temple, with its carved Baroque-style façade and golden interior decorations revolving around painted figures, is a magnificent example of Oaxaca’s churches.

The Capilla de la Virgen del Rosario, located on the temple’s south side, is the most elaborate. The church takes on a magical, warm glow during candlelit evening masses.

Santo Domingo was built between 1570 and 1608 as part of the city’s monastery, with the help of the best craftsmen from Puebla and other parts of Mexico.

Santo Domingo Temple – Kirk K via Creative Commons

Museum of Cultures

The Museum of Cultures, connected to the Temple of Santo Domingo, is one of the best regional museums in Mexico, with more than 15 exhibits that will take you through the history of the state of Oaxaca. The museum’s mission is to protect, preserve, investigate, and disseminate the state’s cultural heritage.


Mitla, one of Oaxaca’s most important archaeological zones, is a destination rich in a cultural mix due to its past inhabitants – Zapotecs and Mixtecs. The complex contains several buildings, columns, panels, and a church, and the details of its structures are replicated in textiles and other crafts produced in the area.


The Zócalo, a traffic-free area surrounded by artisan shops, cafes, and restaurants, is the perfect place to soak up the Oaxacan atmosphere. Day and night, marimba ensembles and brass bands roam the streets among the crowds, street vendors offer their goods, and everyone sits, drinks and watches from the surrounding area.

Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua, several natural pools created over thousands of years, is a wonderfully colorful area in the Oaxacan territory. The pools have surprisingly cold water and look like a waterfall, but there is no running water, just bubbling pools.

Hierve el Agua was created by a slow process, with spring water bubbling through the limestone, picking up minerals along the way, calcifying, and spilling over the cliff edge, creating rock formations that resemble waterfalls.

Hierve el Agua – Abraham De La Cruz

The Guelaguetza

La Guelaguetza is a traditional Oaxacan celebration that has been going on for more than 500 years. It is part of the “Fiestas de los Lunes del Cerro,” a word in Zapotec that means sharing or offering.

Rufino Tamayo Museum

Rufino Tamayo Museum is a first-class museum that displays a wonderful collection of pre-Hispanic art donated by the city’s most famous artist, Rufino Tamayo.

A first-class museum, even by Oaxaca’s high standards, displaying a wonderful collection of pre-Hispanic art donated by the city’s most famous artist, Rufino Tamayo.

Dating back to artistic developments in pre-conquest times, it includes some truly beautiful pieces in color-lit display cases in a series of rooms around a lovely 17th-century courtyard.

Here you will find an abundance of prehistoric figures, some as old as 1250 B.C. C., that come from sites all over Mexico and are displayed as art rather than archaeology.

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Monte Alban

Monte Albán, the most important archaeological zone in Oaxaca, has great cultural importance due to the religious, political, and economic control that the Zapotec state exercised over the population of the Valley of Oaxaca for more than thirteen centuries.

It was founded in 500 B.C. and inhabited by different cultures, including the Zapotec, who established their capital there.

Monte Alban – Matthew Essman

Tule Tree

The Tule Tree, the largest tree in the country, over 2,000 years old, is 12 kilometers from Oaxaca. It has the largest trunk in the world, measuring almost 44 meters in circumference, and its trunk has various shapes, such as an elephant, the head of a lion, and a crocodile.

The tree has different legends and beliefs associated with it.

The Zapotecs say that the tree was planted 1,400 years ago by Pechocha, a priest and God of the wind.

Another legend speaks of King Condoy, an ancestral leader of the Mixe region who buried his heavy cane, which began to sprout and grow into the great Tule tree, which means “tree of illumination.”

The Mixtec dance of the sabino is a ritual used to venerate the tree with offerings and ceremonies.

Historical Center

The historic center of Oaxaca is a perfect example of a 16th-century colonial city with preserved buildings and streets.

The center integrates the miscegenation of pre-Hispanic symbols and European techniques, creating a great urban landscape, while the art and details testify to a unique cultural richness.

Visitors can find beautiful regional handicrafts and garments made with looms.

What to Eat in Oaxaca?

Oaxaca is an unparalleled destination for gastronomy; from classic regional dishes to well-known eateries and roadside snacks, there’s something to suit all tastes.

From the region’s traditional cuisine to its popular restaurants and street food options, there’s something for everyone.

Oaxaca’s traditional cuisine has its origins in indigenous culture, being transmitted through the ages. It features unique ingredients such as chiles, squash blossoms, huitlacoche (corn fungus), and chocolate which are used to create dishes such as mole negro, tamales oaxaqueños (filled with black beans or chicken), and tlayudas (a large crispy tortilla).

Many dishes include locally grown vegetables such as zucchini flowers and epazote leaves.


What are 3 interesting facts about Oaxaca?

1. Oaxaca is home to the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures, two of Mexico’s most ancient civilizations. Before becoming an independent state in 1821, Oaxaca was part of the Aztec Empire.

2. The city of Oaxaca is known for its vibrant art scene, with numerous galleries showcasing works from local artists as well as an international talent. Additionally, it has a number of festivals throughout the year celebrating traditional music and dance styles such as marimba and son jarocho.

3. Oaxaca’s cuisine is one of its biggest attractions; many dishes are made with ingredients native to this region, like mole sauce, tlayudas (large tortillas), chapulines (grasshoppers), or cemitas (sandwiches). All these specialties make it a must-visit destination for food lovers.

What is special about Oaxaca, Mexico?

Oaxaca, Mexico, is a unique destination that offers an unparalleled experience. Oaxaca, Mexico, offers travelers a range of stunning natural landscapes, from lush rainforests to towering mountains and valleys.

The region also boasts a rich cultural heritage in its traditional markets, ancient ruins, vibrant festivals, and colonial architecture.

Oaxaca has something for everyone – whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation; luxury or budget travel; culinary delights, or historical sites – there’s always something new to discover here.

What does Oaxaca have to offer?

Oaxaca is a vibrant destination full of culture and beauty. From the stunning colonial architecture to the lush green valleys, Oaxaca has something for everyone. Visitors can explore ancient ruins like Monte Alban or take part in traditional festivals such as Guelaguetza.

The region also offers an array of outdoor activities, including trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and rafting on some of Mexico’s most beautiful rivers. Oaxaca offers a one-of-a-kind experience, with its renowned gastronomy and artisanship created by locals utilizing ancient practices to make textiles, ceramics, and jewelry.

With mild temperatures year-round, it makes for an ideal luxury bespoke trip that will be remembered forever.

How do you spend a day in Oaxaca?

Begin your Oaxaca experience with a visit to the 18th-century Baroque Templo de Santo Domingo, nestled in the city’s center. Afterward, explore some of its many museums and galleries, such as Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca or Galeria Quetzalli, for a unique cultural experience.

Afterward, enjoy lunch at one of the city’s renowned restaurants, Casa Oaxaca, where you can sample traditional Mexican cuisine. Spend your afternoon exploring Monte Alban – an ancient Zapotec archaeological site on top of a mountain overlooking beautiful valleys and lush vegetation.

End your evening by participating in lively music performances around Plaza de la Danza before returning to your hotel for a restful night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Oaxaca is a cultural destination with a rich history and diverse gastronomy, where culture lovers come to enjoy the Mexico of Zapotec and colonial legend.

With its majestic churches, incredible squares, archaeological zones, museums, and natural pools, Oaxaca has much to discover and explore.

The city’s historic center and artisan shops offer a unique cultural experience, and visitors can also take a little piece of Oaxaca with them by buying souvenirs.

Oaxaca is undoubtedly a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Mexican culture and history.

Oaxaca – Crisoforo Gaspar


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