flags up for day of the dead, one of the best festivals in oaxaca

11 Unique Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico [Updated 2022]


Want to attend some Oaxaca Festivals?

You’ve come to the right place, because this article will highlight the 11 best festivals in Oaxaca Mexico.

While most festivals take place in Oaxaca City, the state’s capital, there are also unique festivals in some Oaxaca pueblos (small towns) located outside the city.

From Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), the largest festival in Oaxaca, to religious festivals, and even a radish festival, there’s truly some a unique Oaxaca festival traditions.

Ready to get to this list of the 11 best festivals in Oaxaca Mexico? Let’s dive in!

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

1. Oaxaca Day of the Dead (November 1-2)

day of the dead skull in oaxaca mexico
Oaxaca Day of the Dead is one of the most fun times to visit Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico.

You can’t make a list of Oaxaca festivals and not have Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at the top of the list. It is not only one of the biggest festivals in Oaxaca, but one of the biggest, most lively, fun and best festivals in Mexico.

💀🌺💀 For a complete guide to attending the celebration, head to Day of the Dead in Oaxaca: Everything You Need to Know to learn more.

When is Day of the Dead in Oaxaca?

Wondering, What day is Day of the Dead in Mexico? Though it’s called “Day” of the Dead, the holiday takes place over two days, November 1-2. It has the same dates each year.

The different days of the correspond to different spirits — November 1 is for thee departed children, and November 2 is for adults.

With such an elaborate affair, the Oaxaca City preparations begin at least a week prior. It’s fun to see the city getting decorated with marigold flowers, watching the ofrendas (altars) being constructed, and visiting the cemeteries during the day.

What is Day of the Dead?

The comparsas (parades) are one of the best Day of the Dead traditions.

Wondering, What is Dia de Muertos? The first thing you need to know about Day of the Dead — it is not Mexican Halloween.

Day of the Dead is, however, one of the most important holiday celebrations in Oaxaca, and one of the best Mexican holidays. It is similar to the Hanal Pixan holiday, sometimes called Mayan Day of the Dead.

Unlike many present-day rituals around death, Day of the Dead is not a somber funerary event. On the contrary, Oaxaca Dia de Muertos is a celebration, one so grand even the deceased return to attend the party held in their honor.⁠

Brief History of Day of the Dead

The holiday’s origins date back to the Aztec celebration of the goddess Mictecacihuatl, their Queen of the Underworld. Much like the current incarnation of Day of the Dead, the Aztec festival was a celebratory affair.

After Mexican colonization by the Spanish, who brought with them Christianity, the festival was moved from summer to fall.

Its new dates coincided with what Christians called Allhallowtide, another multi-day holiday commemorating the deceased.

How to Attend Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

Don’t end up sad like this guy! Book your Day of the Dead Oaxaca flights, hotel, VRBO and tours early.

Besides the Day of the Dead dates, which are November 1st and 2nd, there are two key things to keep in mind for Day of the Dead Oaxaca travel planning:

1. Book Oaxaca accommodations asAP

Oaxaca City is a smaller town, and all Oaxaca hotels, Oaxaca VRBOs, Oaxaca Airbnbs, and Oaxaca hostels will sell out.

If you have particular needs when it comes to where you stay (ie. no stairs, full kitchen), book early so you find a place that checks all of those boxes.

2. Book Day of the Dead tours asAP

If you’re looking to do a Day of the Dead tour in Oaxaca, you’ll want to book these well in advance, and as early as possible.

Most tours are kept small at just 5-10 people, and thousands attend this Oaxaca festival, so tours sell out as well.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

2. Guelaguetza Festival (July)

Woman in traditional Mexican dress doing a dance
A dancer at the Guelaguetza Festival, Oaxaca, a large folk festival held in mid- and late-July each year.

The Guelaguetza (pronounced geh-la-get-zah) is Oaxaca’s most famous folk festival.

In fact, it has been called the largest folkloric festival on the Americas continent. This annual event takes place on two Mondays in mid- to late-July; its dates vary from year to year.

The Guelaguetza festival brings together people from all regions of Oaxaca to share their food, textiles and culture through dances, presentations and gift exchanges.

In fact, Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec word, guendalezaa, meaning an offering or a gift.

When is the Guelaguetza Oaxaca?

The Guelaguetza Festival in Oaxaca is also called Los Lunes del Cerro, meaning the Mondays on the Hill.

The festival takes place on two Mondays in July, at the Oaxaca Guelaguetza Amphitheater, which is located on a hill overlooking Oaxaca City.

The dates change each year, but since 1969, the festival has been celebrated the first two Mondays immediately following July 16th.

When a Monday falls on July 18th, the day Mexican President Bento Juarez died, the festival dates are altered.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

3. Night of the Radishes (December 23)

carved radishes for night of the radishes in oaxaca mexico
The Noche de Rábanos (Oaxaca Night of the Radishes) is one of the most fun festivals in Oaxaca City.

Looking for unusual things to do in Oaxaca City? Look no further than the annual Night of the Radishes. On December 23rd each year, Oaxaca City hosts the world’s largest radish carving festival. Yes, this is a real thing!

This is actually a pretty big deal in Oaxaca, and there’s a lot of planning and prep that goes into this short event.

The artists and families carve their radishes the morning of the festival, but the event lasts just a few hours because the radishes turn brown pretty quickly.

History of the Oaxaca Radish Festival

This radish carving festival dates back to 1897 when Oaxaca mayor, Francisco Vasconcelos, made it part of the Oaxaca Christmas market.

As radishes are an integral part of Oaxaca’s Christmas cuisine, the radish contest was a fun way to promote local agriculture.

If you’re traveling to Oaxaca in December for Christmas, make sure you visit the festival to see the radishes carved into nacimientos (Nativity scenes) and other designs.

Though the radishes can be carved into any design, many opt for religious imagery because the festival is so close to Christmas.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

4. Oaxaca Mezcal Festival (July-August)

bartender pouring mezcal into a small cup

The annual Feria del Mezcal, or Oaxaca Mezcal Fair, takes place in late-July and early-August at the Oaxaca Cultural and Convention Center.

It happens around the same time as the Guelaguetza Festival and the Festival de los Moles de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Mole Festival, or Festival of the Seven Moles), so you get three Oaxaca festivals for the price of one.

If you love Oaxacan mezcal, don’t miss this popular event which sees upwards of 30,000 attendees.

Here, you’ll learn about the different species of agave plants, the mezcal distillation processes, and taste locally-made mezcals from small producers.

🥃 What is Oaxaca mezcal?

Mezcal is made from the agave plant, just like tequila, and they are also both distilled spirits. Different Oaxaca mezcals vary in flavor, but this drink is often called “smoky tequila,” as many mezcals have a deep, smoky flavor.

Mezcal vs Tequila: What’s the difference?

While about 270 species of agave plants grow throughout Mexico, it can only be called tequila when made from the Blue Weber agave plant.

Also, only a few Mexican states, like Jalisco and Guanajuato, as well as the city of Tequila, can call their product true tequila.

In fact, there’s a common saying: All tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequila.

This is the same principle that applies to whiskeys — as all bourbons are whiskeys, but not all whiskeys are bourbons.

Much like how champagne must be made in Champagne, France; tequila must be made in Tequila, Mexico and its nearby regions.

Tequila that’s made in other places can not legally be labeled as tequila — these must be called mezcal or destilado de agave (distilled agave liquor).

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

5. Semana Santa (Holy Week, March or April)

float in a religous parade during semana santa, or holy week in oaxaca

Semana Santa, also Holy Week or Easter Week, is a big deal in Mexico. This is the week leading up to Easter, and in a country that’s 80% Catholic, this weeklong holiday is an interesting time to visit Mexico

There are big celebrations throughout the country, especially in Taxco, Mexico, which has an elaborate festival.

The Oaxaca Semana Santa festival has parades and church processions that go through downtown.

Some can be graphic, depicting the death and resurrection of Jesus, while some, like the Procession of Silence, are meditative walks meant for contemplation.

La Samaritana Festival (Good Samaritan Festival)

During Lent, you will see people giving away water and other local Oaxaca drinks in front of churches, schools, businesses, parks and in the streets of Oaxaca.

This is part of Festival Samaritana, celebrated the fourth Friday of Lent, which is three weeks before Good Friday.

The tradition of La Samaritana (meaning, the good samaritan) is based on a passage from the Gospel of Saint John in the Bible.

In it, a woman offered water to Jesus at Jacob’s Well in the city of Shechem, so anyone who passes by one of the wells In Oaxaca is given a drink.

Procesion del Silencio (Procession of Silence)

hooded figure during procession of parade in oaxaca mexico
One of the hooded figures walking in the Oaxaca Procession of Silence.

The Procession of Silence is a Spanish tradition that Oaxaca has since made it its own. It follows the same pattern year after year, and is a somber event.

Attendees are asked to remain silent, with only the sound of a beating drum heard throughout the procession.

It is meant to re-enact the trial, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus, and takes places on Good Friday.

The Oaxaca Procesion del Silencio takes place on Good Friday at about sunset, and winds through the Oaxaca City’s main streets in Centero Historico (Downtown).

Martes de Brujas (Witch Tuesday Festival)

Martes de Brujas, or Witch Tuesdays, are held every Tuesday of the week following Ash Wednesday, through the start of Semana Santa (Holy Week).

Head to Parque Central in Xoxocotlan, Oaxaca, for concerts, festivities, food, fireworks and more.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

6. Oaxaca Carnaval (February)

people in colorful masks and costumes during carnival in oaxaca

Carnaval is a multi-day event, culminating on Martes de Carnaval, known as Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” in the United States.

Similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnaval in Brazil, there are parades, festive floats, dancing, elaborate costumes and street parties in Oaxaca as well.

One of the most unique Oaxaca Carnaval celebrations takes place in San Martín Tilcajete, a small town less than 20 miles (32 km) from Oaxaca City.

In this pueblo, locals done elaborate masks, colorful costumes and even paint their entire bodies for the parades.

Note: Oaxaca Carnaval usually takes places in late-February, but the dates can fluctuate.

The Carnival Season occurs just before Lent, and the most popular events typically occur in late-February or early-March, during a time known as Shrovetide, or Pre-Lent.

Carnaval in Mexico

The largest celebration in Mexico takes place in Veracruz state, but there’s also an elaborate Carnaval in the coastal city of Mazatlan.

Additional festivals take place in the Yucatan Peninsula city of Merida, on the Baja Peninsula in Ensenada, and in Tepoztlan near Mexico City.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

7. Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe (December 11)

altar with Virgin of Guadalupe in oaxaca mexico
The Virgen de Guadalupe is one of the most important patron saints of Mexico.

The Fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe in Oaxaca is a lively parade that winds through Centro Histrico and the Zócalo.

If you’re in downtown Oaxaca City on December 11, you’ll hear singing and fireworks during this festive processional dedicated to the most important saint in Mexico, the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Día de la Virgin de Guadalupe (December 12)

One of the central religious figures, images and statues of the Virgen de Guadalupe (Virgin of Guadalupe) can be seen all over Mexico.

There is even the Guadalupanos religious sect who have the Virgin as their central idol, devoted to her above all other figures (including Jesus).

The Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe is among the most important holidays for religious Mexican Catholics.

It has been celebrated for centuries, and began after the Virgin herself appeared on December 12, 1531, to a Mexican man named Juan Diego (later known as Saint Juan Diego).

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

8. Oaxaca Christmas Season

christmas festivals in oaxaca mexico

In Mexico and many Latin American countries, Christmas lasts well beyond December 25.

The Mexico Christmas Season actually starts on December 12 each year with the Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe, and doesn’t even end until the Día de la Candelaria holiday on February 2.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

Las Posadas (December 16-24)

Beginning December 16th, Posadas (nightly holiday parties), take place throughout Oaxaca.

The Posadas symbolize the Biblical story of Joseph and Mary on a month-long journey from the city of Nazareth to the city of Bethlehem, in search of a place to give birth to their baby. 

This is one of the oldest Mexican Christmas traditions.

It happens everywhere from private homes and rented halls, to public, citywide celebrations and pastorela performances that represent the journey of the shepherds to go worship Jesus.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

Calenda Navidad (Christmas Eve, December 24)

oaxaca festival

Throughout most of Mexico, Christmas Eve is known as Nochebuena. However, in Oaxaca, they have Calenda.

The Oaxaca Calenda Navidad, or Christmas Calenda, is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and parades will begin at midnight (December 25), and go on for hours.

Oaxaca Calendas

A calenda is a vibrant parade with singing, dancing, marching bands and traditional dress that’s unique to Oaxaca.

Calendas bring the local community together to celebrate holidays, weddings, the birth of children, and more, and are an integral part of Oaxaca culture.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

Christmas in Oaxaca (December 25)

Though the main holiday in the Mexico Christmas Season, the actual Christmas holiday on December 25 is pretty low key.

Most Oaxacans have the day off, and a lot of businesses close, so it’s a day to be with your family and relax at home.

🎄 Want to say Merry Christmas to a Mexican friend in Oaxaca? The translation is feliz navidad (pronounced fell-lees nah-vee-daad).

New Year’s in Oaxaca (January 1)

For those looking to party in Oaxaca on New Year’s Eve and New Year — know this is NOT a party holiday in Mexico.

Rather, it’s celebrated with family and friends in low key get-togethers at home, and most people are fast asleep by midnight.

With many adults off work, and students on a school break, many simply head to the beaches.

The best time to go to the Oaxaca beaches is from November to March during the dry season, so this is the perfect time for a tropical Christmas and New Year’s in Oaxaca.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

Día de los Reyes Magos (3 King’s Day, January 6)

rosca de reyes cake in mexico
If you find the muñeco (little doll) in your slice of rosca de reyes, you have to buy the tamales for the next major holiday, Día de la Candelaria on February 2nd.

Dia de Reyes, AKA Día de los Reyes Magos, Día de los Santos Reyes, or Epifanía (Epiphany), is celebrated on January 6.

Regardless of what you call it, this important Catholic holiday commemorates the arrival of the Three Wise Men in Bethlehem to worship the Baby Jesus.

They brought with them gifts for the baby, and nowadays many Mexican children will not get their presents until the same day Jesus did.

That’s right, one of the main 3 Kings Day traditions in Mexico is that kids actually open their gifts on this day — not Christmas.

Rosca de Reyes Cake

Besides the presents, one of the main traditions on Dia de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings Day) is eating a rosca de reyes. This is a ring-shaped sweet bread that’s somewhat similar to an Italian Panettone cake.

Inside each ring, there are a few small, plastic figurines in the shape of a child, called a muñeco (little doll).

If your slice of rosca has one of the dolls, you’ll have to buy everyone present at the gathering tamales on the next holiday — which is Día de la Candelaria on February 2.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

Dia de la Candelaria (February 2)

banana leaf tamal in oaxaca mexico (tamales oaxaqueños)
Tamales oaxaqueños (Oaxaca tamales) are one of the best traditional Oaxaca foods.

Dia de la Candelaria is a Mexican holiday that goes by a lot of names in English — Candlemas (sometimes spelled Candlemass), Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Feast of the Holy Encounter.

It is the last Mexico Christmas season holiday, and very important for religious Catholics.

For non-religious people, they usually still eat a meal with families and friends, and if they found a muñeco in their rosca de reyes on Dia de los Reyes Magos, they have to bring the tamales.

🫔 Tamales at candlemas

It is said the incorporation of tamales into this holiday is a nod to prehispanic traditions.

Tamales are made of masa (corn dough) and cooked in corn husks or banana leaves. For the ancient Maya and Aztecs, corn was a staple food and one of their most important crops.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

9. Blessing of the Animals Festival (August 31)

chihuahua dog in mexican hat and poncho cosume

Every year on Día de San Ramón Nonato, Oaxacans take their pets to church to get blessing by a priest.

Head to the Oaxaca Cathedral on August 31 and you’ll see everything from dogs and cats to turtles and rabbits dressed in costumes, waiting for their blessing.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

10. La Vela Muxe (November)

trans woman durinng Vela Muxe festival in oaxaca

La Vela Muxe is known as the most diverse Oaxaca festival. The muxes (pronounced mu-shays), are a recognized third gender among the Zapotec people, who are indigenous to Oaxaca Mexico.

The largest community of muxe live in Juchitán de Zaragoza, a Zapotec city on the Oaxacan Isthmus of Tehuantepec, where the festival takes place.

It began in 1976 as a response to persecution the muxe were facing from other Zapotec.

🎥 For more info on the Oaxaca muxe in Mexico, check out this VICE video titled Mexico’s Third Gender, which was filmed at the Vela Muxe Festival in Oaxaca.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

11. Festival of the Virgin of Solitude (December 18)

Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude colonial church in oaxaca mexico
Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude church in Oaxaca City. (Photo: Ivan Pares, Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via WikiMedia, Basilica of Nuestra Señora de Soledad)

The Fiesta de la Soledad commemorates the Virgen de la Soledad (Virgin Saint of Solitude). She is also the Patron Saint of Oaxacans, and has her own lavish church in downtown Oaxaca City called the Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude.

There is a replica of her in this church, and devotees from all over the country make pilgrimages (some on foot) to visit the Holy Sanctuary of the Virgin in Oaxaca.

Besides special Masses every hour in the church, you will likely see calendas in downtown.

Other Religious Festivals in Oaxaca

Though Mexico has no official religion, an estimated 80+ percent of the population identifies as Catholic.

As you might imagine, the Fiesta de la Soledad is just one of many Catholic Oaxaca festivals and holidays — and the ones listed below are jus some of the others.

  • Feast of the Most Holy Trinity: January 1
  • Feast of the Virgin of Candelaria: February 2
  • San José Festival: March 19
  • Festivity of the Holy Cross: May 3
  • Thursday of Corpus Christi: June 11
  • San Antonio de Padua Festival: June 13
  • Feast of the Holy Trinity: June 14
  • San Francisco de Asis Festival: October 4
  • Virgin of the Rosary Festival: October, though the day varies
  • Virgin of Juquila Festival (Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception): December 8

Other Festivals in Oaxaca and Holidays

Cinco de Mayo (May 5)

Though a rather big holiday celebration in the U.S. most Mexicans don’t actually celebrate 5 de Mayo.

In fact, it’s really only celebrated in one city — Puebla, Mexico, which is the state located just north of Oaxaca state.

Mexican Independence Day (September 16)

three patriotic people during Mexican Independence Day in oaxaca

Though most Americans would tell you Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s Independence Day — the holiday actually takes place on September 16.

It is among the Mexican traditions that best represents national pride, and the most important Mexican holiday in September.

It officially kicks off at midnight on September 16 (or the night of September 15, depending on how you look at it), with El Grito de Dolores.

However, for much of the day of September 15, there will be cultural celebrations, dancing, music and food in the Oaxaca Zocalo.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

Benito Juarez Day (March)

painting of Benito Juarez, former Mexican president and one of the most famous people from oaxaca mexico
A portrait of Benito Juárez that hangs in the Palacio Nacional (National Palace) in Downtown Mexico City. (Photo: J Mndz, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

El Día de Benito Juárez, or Benito Juárez Day, is a national Mexican holiday celebrating the birthday of former Mexican president Benito Juárez.

His actual birthday was March 21, but the holiday takes place the third Monday in March.

Benito Juárez is a national hero, credited with implementing constitutional reforms that helped establish democracy in Mexico.

He was born in San Pablo Guelatao, Oaxaca, so you often see the largest celebration in Oaxaca City, and many businesses will close for the day. Benito Juárez is one of the most famous people from Oaxaca.

Oaxaca City Anniversary (April 25)

Oaxaca was founded on April 25, 1532, and each year on this day many gather in the Oaxaca City Zocalo for a festive celebration.

This often includes, live performances, traditional dancing, local Oaxacan food, singing of Las Mananitas (Mexican birthday songs), and more.

Oaxaca Travel Guide and FAQ

How do you pronounce Oaxaca?

Wondering about the Oaxaca pronunciation? It’s a common question, so if you are, you’re not alone! The word Oaxaca is pronounced waa-haa-kah.

Where is Oaxaca located?

Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico, surrounded by other Mexican states like Chiapas and Puebla.

The southern edge of the state sits on the Pacific Ocean. Oaxaca City is the state’s capital city, and located about six hours south of Mexico City, you can book direct flights.

Oaxaca Map

What is the best time to visit Oaxaca Mexico?

The best time to travel to Oaxaca is during the dry season, October to May.

While it will rain during the Oaxaca rainy season, you’ll also get lower prices — as this is the slow season.

Oaxaca weather

oaxaca weather chart

However, the temperate weather in Oaxaca City means it can be a year-round destination.

If you want to avoid the crowds, the Oaxaca busy season runs from about late-October for Day of the Dead, through mid-January.

Many also visit Oaxaca de Juárez (Oaxaca City) for the Guelaguetza in July, the second biggest Oaxaca festival.

Oaxaca City has a desert climate, so hot days and cool nights. The temperature in Oaxaca fluctuates a lot, so be mindful and bring layers when packing for Oaxaca. If you hate the heat, avoid the hottest months of April to May.

Is Oaxaca safe for tourists?

For the vast majority of travelers, Oaxaca is safe to visit. In fact, Oaxaca is one of the safest states in Mexico. Oaxaca City is the country’s 67th largest city, with a population of about 275,000, but retains a humble, pueblo vibe.

woman walking in oaxaca city mexico
Doing some Oaxaca solo travel? Check out this first-hand account from Poonam about her solo trip to Oaxaca.

⚠️ For a deep dive into this topic and a Oaxaca safety guide, check out Is Oaxaca Safe to Travel to Right Now?

That’s not to say bad things don’t happen in Oaxaca City; they do.

However, if you take the same general travel precautions you would anywhere else — ie. stay aware of yourself, your belongings and your surroundings — you should be safe traveling to Oaxaca City.

Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

How do you get around Oaxaca City?

passenger calling uber in oaxaca from their cell phone

Oaxaca City is very walkable, so if you’re just staying in the city itself, you can walk and use taxis and public transportation as needed.

If you’re doing Oaxaca day trips, a rental car or group tour is your best bet, and I recommend booking Oaxaca tours via Viator and Airbnb Experiences.

Is there Uber in Oaxaca City?

No — There is no Oaxaca Uber service, and no Lyft in Oaxaca either.

They do have DiDi Taxi through the DiDi Rider app, which lets you call a Oaxaca taxi via the app. It’s basically like using Uber or Lyft, but you will get a regular cab.

Are taxis safe in Oaxaca Mexico?

For the majority of travelers, yes, taxis are perfectly safe to use in Oaxaca.

I personally prefer to call taxis via the DiDi Rider app, so I have a record of my trip and the price is already set for me, but you can also just hail a cab on the street.

How many days do you need in Oaxaca City?

Within Oaxaca City itself, you can see the highlights in 2-3 full days. However, many visitors could realistically spend a week in Oaxaca City — especially art, food and culture lovers.

colorful buildings in downtown oaxaca city
Colorful downtown in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.

OAXACA CITY

For those who want to explore the sites and villages outside town, like Hierve el Agua, San Agustín Etla, Teotitlán Del Valle and San Pablo Villa de Mitla, plan for 5-6 full days.

OAXACA State

To visit the entire state, including Oaxaca City (Oaxaca de Juárez), the Oaxaca beach towns and the Oaxaca mountain towns, you’d want at least three weeks — and a rental car!

Oaxaca state spans 36,275 square miles (93,952 km²), so there’s a lot to see.

What is Oaxaca known for?

Wondering, Why is Oaxaca so popular? There are five things Oaxaca is known for — art, culture, the Oaxaca Day of the Dead celebration, mezcal and food.

handicrafts for sale at a oaxaca market
You’re going to fall in love with the art, food, beauty and friendly people of Oaxaca.

In fact, Oaxaca is called the Foodie Capital of Mexico, so try the street food in Oaxaca and the restaurants.

Is Oaxaca City worth visiting?

Yes — Oaxaca is magical; it’s the Mexico people imagine Mexico to be.

There’s everything from rich history, colorful festivals, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, locally-made Oaxacan mezcal, beautiful nature, colonial architecture, indigenous artisan communities, and of course, the Oaxacan food.

As you’ll usually need to take at least two flights to Oaxaca, Mexico, or even a flight and a bus, you might still be wondering if traveling to Oaxaca is worth it.

I hope this guide to Oaxaca made it clear that FU+K YES IT IS!

Final Thoughts: Best Festivals in Oaxaca Mexico

Though Día de Muertos is the largest festival in Oaxaca, and the only one most know about, there’s so many more Oaxaca festivals to enjoy.

For those who have already been to Oaxaca Day of the Dead, you’ll definitely also enjoy the Guelaguetza.

Oaxaca Travel Planning Guide

🚑 Should I buy Mexico travel insurance for Oaxaca?

100% YES! — With basic coverage averaging just $5-10USD per day, enjoy peace of mind with a plan from World Nomads, the biggest name in travel insurance. (Read more)

💧Can you drink the water in Oaxaca?

No — You’ll want to buy a Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your drinking water so you don’t get sick from drinking water in Mexico, and helps keep you hydrated while traveling to Oaxaca. (Read more)

🚙💨 Is it safe to rent a car in Oaxaca?

Yes — Renting a car in Oaxaca is one of the best ways to see the state. I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks both international companies and local Oaxacan companies, so you get the best rates. (Read more)

📲 Will my phone work in Oaxaca?

Maybe — It depends on your company, so check with your provider. If you don’t have free Mexico service, buy a Telcel SIM Card. As Mexico’s largest carrier, Telcel has the best coverage of any Mexico SIM Cards. (Read more)

🏩 What’s the best way to book places to stay in Oaxaca?

For Oaxaca hotels, Booking is the best site. If you’re considering a Oaxaca Airbnb, also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb. For the best Oaxaca hostels, use HostelWorld.

🧳 What do I pack for Oaxaca? Head to the Ultimate Mexico Packing List + FREE Checklist Download to get all the info you need on packing for Mexico.

✈️ What’s the best site to buy Oaxaca flights? For finding cheap Oaxaca flights, I recommend Skyscanner.

🎫 Do I need a visa for Oaxaca?

Likely Not — U.S., Canadian and most European Passport holders don’t need a visa for Mexico; but check here to see if you do need a Mexico travel visa. The majority of travelers will receive a 180-Day FMM Tourist Visa upon arrival.