Oaxaca is a vibrant city located in southern Mexico, known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and delicious cuisine. Whether you’re looking to explore cultural attractions, indulge in culinary experiences, or enjoy the great outdoors, Oaxaca has something for everyone. In this comprehensive traveler’s guide to Oaxaca, we’ll cover everything you need to know to plan an unforgettable trip to this beautiful destination, including the best neighborhoods to stay in and things to see and do.
Getting to Oaxaca
Before we dive into the best things to see and do in Oaxaca, let’s first discuss how to get there. The main airport in Oaxaca is the Xoxocotlán International Airport (OAX), which offers flights to and from major cities in Mexico and the United States. If you’re traveling from within Mexico, you can also take a bus to Oaxaca, with frequent departures from cities such as Mexico City, Puebla, and Veracruz. Finally, if you prefer to drive, the city is easily accessible by car, with well-maintained highways connecting it to other major cities in Mexico.
Neighborhoods to Stay in Oaxaca
Oaxaca offers a variety of neighborhoods to choose from, each with its own unique charm and personality. Here are some of the best neighborhoods to stay, depending on your preferences and budget.
The historic center of Oaxaca is one of the most popular neighborhoods for tourists, thanks to its stunning colonial architecture and proximity to many of the city’s main attractions. Here you’ll find beautiful churches, bustling markets, and lively plazas, all within walking distance of each other. If you want to be in the heart of the action, the historic center is the perfect place to stay.
Jalatlaco is a quieter neighborhood located just a few blocks from the historic center. Here you’ll find narrow cobblestone streets, charming cafes, and peaceful courtyards, all set against a backdrop of colorful colonial architecture. If you’re looking for a more relaxed and residential atmosphere, Jalatlaco is a great option.
Reforma is a more modern neighborhood located to the north of the historic center. Here you’ll find wide boulevards, high-end shops, and upscale restaurants, all in a sleek and contemporary setting. If you’re looking for a more upscale and luxurious experience, Reforma is the place to be.
Things to See and Do in Oaxaca
Now that we’ve covered where to stay in Oaxaca, let’s explore some of the best things to see and do in this beautiful city.
Oaxaca is steeped in history and culture, and there are plenty of museums, churches, and ruins to explore. Some of the top cultural attractions in Oaxaca include:
- Santo Domingo Church – This stunning Baroque church dates back to the 16th century and is one of the most iconic landmarks in Oaxaca. Inside, you’ll find a treasure trove of religious art and artifacts, as well as a fascinating museum.
- Oaxaca Regional Museum – This museum is housed in the former convent of Santo Domingo and features exhibits on its history and culture, including pre-Columbian artifacts, colonial art, and contemporary crafts.
- Monte Alban – This ancient Zapotec site is located just outside of the city and is one of the most impressive ruins in Mexico. Here you can explore the ruins of temples, pyramids, and ball courts, all set against a stunning mountain backdrop.
The city is known for its rich and diverse cuisine, which combines indigenous ingredients with Spanish influences. Here are some culinary experiences you won’t want to miss in Oaxaca:
- Mercado Benito Juarez – This bustling market is the perfect place to sample traditional Oaxacan dishes, such as mole, tlayudas, and quesillo. You can also stock up on local ingredients and handicrafts to take home with you.
- Cooking Classes – Many restaurants and cooking schools in Oaxaca offer classes on how to prepare traditional dishes. This is a great way to learn more about the local cuisine and bring home some new recipes to impress your friends and family.
- Mezcal Tastings – Mezcal is a type of tequila that is made in Oaxaca using agave plants. There are many small distilleries in the area that offer tastings and tours, allowing you to sample different varieties and learn about the production process.
It is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, and there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.
- Hierve el Agua – This natural wonder is located about an hour and a half from Oaxaca and features petrified waterfalls and natural pools. It’s a great place to hike, swim, and take in beautiful views.
- Sierra Norte Mountains – These mountains are located just north of the city and offer hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities. There are also several small villages in the area where you can learn about indigenous culture and traditions.
- Beaches – While it is not located directly on the coast, there are several beautiful beaches within a few hours’ drive. Some of the top options include Puerto Escondido, Mazunte, and Zipolite.
Vacation Rentals in Oaxaca
While there are plenty of Oaxaca hotels and guesthouses, vacation rentals are also a great option for those looking for more space and privacy. Many vacation rentals in Oaxaca are located in historic buildings, offering a unique and authentic experience. They also often come equipped with kitchens and living areas, making them a great choice for families or larger groups. Some popular vacation rental websites to check out include HOLT.
Oaxaca is a beautiful and fascinating destination that has something for everyone. Whether you’re interested in culture, food, nature, or simply soaking up the atmosphere of this charming city, you won’t be disappointed. By choosing the right neighborhood to stay in and exploring some of the top attractions and experiences, you’ll have an unforgettable trip to Oaxaca.
Lynn Martelli is an editor at Readability. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University and has worked as an editor for over 10 years. Lynn has edited a wide variety of books, including fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and more. In her free time, Lynn enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with her family and friends.