santo domingo church in oaxaca city mexico

31 Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico in 2022


Wondering, What is there to do in Oaxaca?

You’ve come to the right place, because this article highlights the 31 best places to visit in Oaxaca state.

The list includes the best things to do in Oaxaca City, the best Oaxaca beach towns and mountain villages, and some unique Oaxaca hidden gems.

The best way to see everything is by renting a car in Oaxaca and driving, as Oaxaca public transportation in rural areas can be inefficient; though it’s still doable.

No matter how you choose to see the sites, let’s get to this list of the top places to visit in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

1. Hierve el Agua Waterfall

woman at the pools in hierve el agua in oaxaca mexico
The mineral springs and pools at Hierve el Agua are one of the most Instagram worthy Mexico destinations. (Photo: Sebastian Huber via Unsplash, Oaxaca day tours)

💧 Is Hierve el Agua open?

Yes — Hierve el Agua reopened to the public in October 2021 after being closed for about 1.5 years. Head to Hierve el Agua Oaxaca Mexico: Ultimate Visitor’s Guide for more info.

Located about 45 miles from Oaxaca City, is perhaps Oaxaca’s most famous natural wonder — Hierve el Agua, which means boiling water.

The mineral pools are the main attractions and most photographed things here, but don’t miss the “cascadas” (waterfalls). Cascadas is in quotes because there are two cliff faces at Hierve el Agua that look like waterfalls, though they aren’t.

Rather, the two cliff are covered in calcified mineral deposits, which just so happen to look like falling water. You can see the waterfalls from afar from at the thermal pools, or you can hike down for a closer look at these unique rock formations.

best HIERVE EL AGUA TOURS in Oaxaca

The easiest way to experience Hierve el Agua? On a tour of Hierve el Agua, of course! Check out the great, and varied, tours of Hierve el Agua below, ranging from half- and full-day trips to one of the best Oaxaca places to visit.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

2. Monte Alban Ruins

monte alban ruins in oaxaca mexico
Though not as well-known as Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, Monte Albán archaeological site is the perfect place to see pre-hispanic ruins in Oaxaca.

Located about 30 minutes outside of the Oaxaca City Center, Monte Alban is the most-visited of all archeological sites and ancient ruins in Oaxaca Mexico. It is among the best pyramids and ruins in Mexico, and a Oaxaca must see for all visitors.

You can visit on your own, but tours of Monte Alban means having a guide explain all the ways this site is so important — and there are many. If you’re visiting on your own, arrive early to beat the crowds and the midday sun; Monte Albán opens at 8am.

Things to do at Monte Alban Oaxaca Ruins

There’s a lot to see at Monte Alban, and it’s a pretty large site.

Plan for at least 2-3 hours if you want to see everything, including Los Danzantes (the most famous artifacts found at the site), the Ball Court, El Palacio (The Palace), the Observatory, and more.

When visiting, remember to wear a hat, eco-friendly sunscreen, sunglasses and comfy shoes.

Don’t forget to bring your Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico, and keeps you hydrated. ▶︎ Use code SOLO15 for 15% OFF your order.

Best Monte alban tours in Oaxaca

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

3. San Pablo Villa de Mitla (Oaxaca Pueblo Magico)

stone building in mitla oaxaca mexico
The Mitla pueblo magico (magic town) is worth a visit to see the ancient ruins, shop from street vendors and enjoy the local culture.

After Monte Alban, Oaxaca’s second most important archaeological site is in San Pablo Villa de Mitla, which is usually just called Mitla. The town of Mitla is one of the Oaxaca pueblos magicos, which means magic towns.

Mitla is also one of a Mexico UNESCO World Heritage Site; it shares the spot with the Prehistoric Caves of Yagul. As Mitla is easy to access, and the caves are not, most tours and visitors only go to the Mitla archeological site.

Mitla Ruins

Unlike most Mexico ruins sites, there aren’t large pyramids and temples at Mitla. Rather, this holy Zapotec site has smaller buildings with intricately-carved geometric patterns and designs.

For this reason, it’s one of the most visually unique archeological sites in Oaxaca.

Town of Mitla Oaxaca

Besides the ruins, there’s also the town itself. Mitla is a small pueblo, but it’s fun to visit. There are colorful mercados (markets) and street vendors selling everything from fresh fruit and nieves (sorbet), to locally-made arts and handicrafts.

Best Mitla Oaxaca tours

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

4. Yagul Ruins in Oaxaca

yagul ruins in oaxaca mexico | best places to visit in oaxaca
Yagul Ruins is one of the more off the beaten track archaeological sites in Oaxaca Mexico.

Yagul Archeological Site is a must see if you’re someone fascinated by the ancient ruins in Mexico. While not as famous as some other sites, like Chichen Itza in Yucatan or Teotihuacan near Mexico City, Yagul is worth checking out.

It is located only about 10 minutes by car from Mitla Ruins. If you’re renting a car in Oaxaca, you can combine these two for best day trips from Oaxaca City.

Want to visit more of the off the beaten path Oaxaca Ruins? Check out Dainzu Ruins, Zaachila Ruins and Atzompa Ruins.

Yagul Ruins are known locally as the pueblo viejo, meaning old town. What you’ll see at these ruins are a series of buildings that almost look like an ancient home. They were built from about AD 750 to AD 950 by the Zapotec of Oaxaca.

Things to see at Yagul Archeological Site

If you want to see Zapotec Ruins without the crowds, like you will have at Monte Alban, then head to Yagul.

When you arrive, don’t miss the main buildings and structures: Patio 4, the Underground Tombs, and the Palacio de los Seis Patios (Palace of the Six Patios).

There’s also the Juego de Pelota (Ball Court), which is the second largest ball court ever discovered in Mesoamerica; the largest is at Chichén Itzá Mayan Ruins in Yucatan.

For the best views of the Yagul site, climb up to the top of the Fortaleza (Fortress).

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

5. Oaxaca City Historic Center & Zócalo

colorful buildngs in centro historico, downtown oaxaca city
The beautiful Macedonio Alcalá Theater in Downtown Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico.

While it may just look like a beautiful colonial city now, Oaxaca City and Centro de Oaxaca (Downtown Oaxaca), dates back to 1529 when it was originally occupied by the native Oaxaca Zapotec people.

Today, it is a mix of old and new. Out of the hundreds of sites listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list, very few entire cities have made the cut, but Oaxaca City does. You can get to know it on the Oaxaca Free Walking Tour.

🤑 Note: Though free, tips are customary.

Andador de Macedonia Alcala (Pedestrian Street)

Andador de Macedonia Alcalá Pedestrian-Only Street in oaxaca city mexico
Colorful Calle Macedonia Alcala is a pedestrian-only street with some of the best restaurants and mezcal bars in Downtown Oaxaca City, Mexico.

Calle Macedonia Alcala is a main thoroughfare in Oaxaca City, as it connects the Santo Domingo Church with the Oaxaca Zocalo (Town Square).

As you walk this lively street, you’ll pass all the best Oaxaca art galleries, shops, bars, museums, street art, and many of the best restaurant in Oaxaca City. If you’re looking to try some yummy Mexican cuisine, this is a great street to visit.

Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude

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 Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude is one of the most beautiful Churches in Oaxaca City. It was built in the late-17th Century, and dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude, patron saint of Oaxaca.

Each year on December 18, Oaxacans celebrate the Festival of the Virgin of Solitude in her honor.

6. Best Oaxaca Markets

Mercado Benito Juárez

colorful purses for sale in oaxaca market
You’ll find everything from clothing and textiles, to mezcal and fresh produce, at Benito Juarez Market in Oaxaca City, one of the best markets in Oaxaca.

One of the best things to do in Oaxaca City is stroll the mercados (local markets). Of the most-visited, there’s Benito Juarez Market, ideal for souvenir shopping and trying traditional Oaxacan foods and drinks, like aguas casildas.

🌮 Looking to do a food tour in Oaxaca? The Eating with a Local at the Markets Tour is one of the highest-rated small group tours in Oaxaca (4.99 out of 5 Stars), and lead by a local foodie.

Opened in 1926 by the late Casilda Flores Morales, Aguas Casilda in Mercado Benito Juárez Market is where the local people go for their aguas casildas. These are a local variation of aguas frescas, or fresh fruit waters.

Make sure to try the chilacayote, a family recipe that’s been passed down for generations. If you’re interested sampling more of the traditional cuisine, Mercado Benito Juarez Oaxaca is chock full of delicious food.

Sunday Market in Tlacolula

If you’re visiting Oaxaca on a Sunday, head to the massive Mercado de Tlacolula in the city of Tlacolula. This is one of the best markets in Oaxaca, and one of the longest-running.

Vendors from all over the Oaxaca Valley come here to sell everything from farm-to-table produce, local cuisine and mezcal, to traditional clothing to artesanias (handmade crafts).

Mercado 20 de Noviembre

cooking meat at pasillo de humo AKA smoke alley in oaxaca city november 20 market
Visit all the best Oaxaca markets, including Mercado 20 Noviembre Oaxaca, on the Eating with a Local at the Markets tour where you’ll sample from the best food stalls.

Much like Benito Juarez Market, this traditional Oaxaca market has large selections for fresh fruits and veggies, arts and crafts vendors, and a food hall section. In fact, this is a popular market to eat, where you can go to different stalls and try a variety of foods.

Pasillo de Humo (Smoke Alley)

Located inside the November 20 Market, you’ll find Pasillo de Humo (meaning Smoke Hall or Smoke Alley).

Here, there are rows of vendors selling different varieties of meats and veggies a la carte. You can buy what you’d like, in any amount, and have it cooked al carbon (over charcoal) for a delicious smoky flavor.

If this will be your first visit to the Oaxaca Pasillo de Humo, it can be intimidating — especially if you don’t speak Spanish. You can book the Eating with a Local at the Markets tour to go with local guides, or check out this YouTube video.

👩‍🍳 Looking to make your own Mexican food? Book this Traditional Oaxacan Cooking Class with Sonia Silvia, one of the highest-rated cooking classes in Oaxaca (4.98 out of 5 Stars).

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

7. Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzmán

Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman in oaxaca city
Located in Oaxaca’s main square, the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán is a 16th Century New Spanish Baroque church, and the main religious center in town.

Santo Domingo Oaxaca church is one of the oldest buildings in Downtown Oaxaca City, and its construction dates back to 1551.

It is part of the Santo Domingo Complex, which includes the church, Oaxacan Museum of Culture and Oaxaca Botanical Gardens. They are all located next to one another, and within walking distance of the Oaxaca Zocalo (Town Square).

🍷🍽 Looking to do some fine dining in Oaxaca? Head to Casa Oaxaca, located next to the Santo Domingo Temple. This is not only one of the best hotels in Oaxaca City, but one of the best places for Mexican cuisine.

Oaxaca Museum of Culture

This museum has 23 permanent exhibition rooms. It takes visitors through Oaxaca’s history — from pre-Hispanic times to the Colonial Period when the Spanish arrived, and ultimately, Oaxacan independence.

Don’t miss the room with the Treasure of Tomb 7 from Monte Alban.

Note: This museum goes by a lot of names! You may see it called the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (meaning Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca), the Oaxaca Cultural Center or Oaxaca Cultural Museum, but they all refer to the same place.

Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden

cacti and plants in oaxaca botanical garden | best things to do in oaxaca city mexico
One of the top things to see in Oaxaca Mexico is the beautiful Botanical Garden in Oaxaca City.

To see some native Oaxaca flora, head to Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca (Oaxaca City Botanical Garden). It is located next door to the Santo Domingo Church.

This 2.5-acre garden showcases the immense biodiversity in Oaxaca, with hundreds of local plants and cacti.

🌵 Oaxaca Travel Tip

Due to the fragility of the garden’s ecosystem, you can only enter with a guided tour. English tours take place Monday to Saturday at 11am, and last two hours. Oaxaca Botanical Garden tours cost $100 pesos ($5 USD) per person.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

8. Catedral Metropolitana de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Cathedral)

elaborate church in oaxaca mexico

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, usually just called the Oaxaca Cathedral, is the most important church in town for religious Catholics. If you’re into architecture and unique interiors, don’t miss this beautiful Oaxaca City church.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

9. Puerto Escondido Oaxaca

playa carrizalillo beach in puerto escondido mexico
Puerto Escondido has some of the best beaches in Mexico. (Photo: David Liceaga via Unsplash)

This is the most popular Oaxaca beach town of them all! For those who have seen photos of the best Puerto Escondido beaches, you already know why this Oaxaca coastline town is so popular.

💁‍♀️ Oh, an in case you were wondering, Puerto Escondido means “hidden port.”

One of the things that put Puerto Escondido on the map are its surf waves — some of the best in North and South America.

Puerto Escondido’s famous big wave surf spot is Playa Zicatela beach, where the Mexican Pipeline wave can reach 10 feet (3 m) in height 🏄‍♀️ Pipeline isn’t a beginner wave, but you’ll find smaller waves at Playa La Punta and Playa Marinero.

Though surfing is one of the best things to do in Puerto Escondido, you can also just enjoy the beaches, like Playa Manzanillo and Playa Puerto Angel.

Playa Carrizalillo, Oaxaca

Stairs leading down to a tropical beach in Mexico
The staircase down to Playa Carrizalillo beach in Puerto Escondido Mexico, a great option for swimming because it has gentle waves.

Playa Carrizalillo ranks among the best beaches in Puerto Escondido. It’s not easy to get to, as you must walk down (then back up) about 155 stairs to get to the beach.

However, Carrizalillo is gorgeous, and ideal for swimming and snorkeling, so it’s worth the trek.

Playa Zicatela, Oaxaca

Hands Sculpture at Playa Zicatela Beach in Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Puerto Zicatela is one of the best Puerto Escondido beaches, with easy access from the main road.

Zicatela is one of the main beaches in Puerto Escondido, and home to the Mexican Pipeline wave.

The waters here aren’t always safe for swimming, but the beach itself is very nice and there are a lot of great restaurants, bars with live music, and shops on Playa Zicatela.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

10. Bahías de Huatulco Oaxaca

empty beach in huatulco mexico
Bahías de Huatulco Oaxaca has nine bays, as well as the 36 Huatulco beaches.

Located about two hours west of Puerto Escondido, there’s Bahías de Huatulco, usually just called Huatulco (pronounced wah-tool-coh). Huatulco is the perfect area for travelers looking for resort style accommodations and gorgeous beaches.

Huatulco has 36 beaches and nine bays. In fact, the word bahías means “bays” in Spanish.

With so much beachfront real estate and beautiful landscape, the best things to do in Huatulco involve being in or around the ocean, at a Huatulco Mexico beach.

There’s also Huatulco National Park, a 29,000-acre (117 km²) park that’s partially on land and partially in the protected waters off the coast.

In 2005, Huatulco received Green Globe Certification, as it has more protected space than all other Mexico destinations.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

11. Mazunte, Oaxaca

beach town of mazunte oaxaca mexico pueblos magicos

Mazunte is one of Mexico’s 135 or so pueblos magicos (magic towns). It is the only Mexico pueblo magico located on the coast of Oaxaca, and one of just six Oaxaca pueblos magicos in the entire state.

As the word “pueblo” may have cued you in to, Mazunte is a small town. There are no stoplights, one main road going through town and about 25 restaurants in Mazunte.

There are, however, some really great Mazunte hotels that are quaint yet luxurious.

🤔 What is a pueblo magico?

The Mexico Tourism Board awards this designation to pueblos (small towns) with characteristics like exceptional natural beauty and unique culture. The Pueblos Magicos Program aims to highlight towns with a high tourism value.

Punta Cometa Lookout Point

Punta Cometa is just a short and easy hike up from Playa Mazunte. You can walk up there all day, but it’s an especially popular area at sunset because you’ll get some amazing views from the clifftop.

Just below Punta Cometa, you have an ocean view of Playa Mermejita.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

12. Zipolite, Oaxaca (Nude Beach)

Though Zipolite is notorious as the only (legal) Mexico nude beach, many go to simply enjoy some nature and relaxation. (Photo: Lorraine Mojica via Unsplash)

Zipolite Mexico is one of the beaches that make up the Riviera Oaxaqueña (Oaxacan Riviera), along with San Agustinillo and Puerto Angel.

Despite increasing tourism, these small fishing villages have retained their old school vibes and laid back charm.

Of the three, Zipolite is the most famous — or, infamous — as it has Mexico’s only legal public nude beach.

Besides Zipolite, nudity is tolerated in other Mexico beach towns, and there are even other beaches on the Oaxacan Coast that permit being topless.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

13. Lagunas de Chacahua National Park

woman's feet up on a railing at a tropical beachfront cabana in chacahua, oaxaca, mexico | Best Oaxaca Beaches
No list of the best things to do in Oaxaca is compete without mentioning the small city of of Chacahua, located on the Pacific Coast.

One of the most off the beaten path places to visit in Oaxaca is Lagunas de Chacahua National Park, usually just called Chacahua (pronounced cha-caw-wah). This Mexico National Park in Oaxaca is gaining in popularity each year, though it’s still a hidden gem.

🤔 Wondering how to get to Chacahua? From Puerto Escondido, you can book private transportation to Chacahua, drive your rental car or take a taxi to the town of Zapotalito, where you’ll catch the boat to Chacahua.

There’s just one long stretch of beach in Chacahua, so it’s easy to find the best beach in town. The surfers congregate next to the jetty rock wall, so you can go a bit further down to get away from them, or swim in the lagoon which has calmer waters.

Best Things to Do in Chacahua Mexico

blue fishing boat on a lake with trees on either side | Lagunas de Chacahua, Oaxaca, Mexico | Best Oaxaca Beaches
Boating through the mangroves in Lagunas de Chacahua, Oaxaca Mexico.

Chacahua is one of those Oaxaca Mexico beaches to think, admire nature, lay in a hammock, surf, read a book, go for a swim, watch the gorgeous sunset and eat fresh seafood. The WiFi is basically nonexistent, so it’s the perfect place for peace and quiet.

This island sits on the Pacific Ocean, and is popular with surfers and backpackers. The waves are medium-sized, but there are locals that offer lessons for beginner surfers, as well as board rentals if you want to take some Oaxaca surf lessons when you visit.

For those who don’t surf, there’s a small crocodile zoo, the El Faro lighthouse you can climb up to and watch the sunset from, and a boat tour through the mangroves.

When the sun goes down, you can take another boat tour to see the bioluminescence in Chacahua.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

14. Arbol del Tule Tree in Santa María del Tule

el tule tree in oaxaca mexico, the widest tree trunk
El Arbol de Tule (Tule tree) is located in Santa Maria del Tule, one of the best small towns near Oaxaca City.

A must see Oaxaca site! El Tule (AKA The Tree of Enlightenment) is a giant Montezuma cypress tree located right next to the pretty Templo Santa María de la Asunción Church in the pueblo (small town) of Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca Mexico.

It has the world’s biggest tree trunk at 46-feet (14 m), which takes at least 30 people with clasped hands to wrap around. Scientists date this tree at about 2,000-years-old.

However, the Zapotec people of Oaxaca say the Wind God Ehécatl planted it about 1,400 years ago.

15. San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya

About six miles (10 km) from El Tule, you’ll find the charming town of San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya, Oaxaca, home to the 16th Century San Jerónimo Church.

For those who love all the beautiful, Colonial churches in Mexico, this is among the most unique thanks to its painted ceiling.

If you’re renting a car in Oaxaca and doing some Oaxaca City day trips, make sure to add both the El Tule tree and San Jeronimo Tlacochahuaya to your itinerary. They are only located about 30 minutes from Oaxaca City, and worth checking out.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

16. Santiago Matatlan: Land of Mezcal

mezcal making process in oaxaca city
Learn how mezcal is made on a mezcal tour at El Rey de Matatlán mezcal distillery in Oaxaca.

Santiago Matatlan Oaxaca has about 140 mezcal distilleries, and produces the most mezcal in the state of Oaxaca.

While there’s an overwhelming amount of distilleries to choose from, many head to Gracias a Dios and El Sabino, the distillery behind Mezcal Macurichos. They both offer tours and a mezcal tasting.

Santa Catarina Minas

Santa Catarina Minas Oaxaca is located about one hour from Santiago Matatlan.

It is home to Solo Uno, a union of 15 master mezcaleros (mezcal makers) who are keeping the traditional mezcal-making process alive at places like Lalocura and Los Amantes.

El Rey de Matatlan

Most Mexican mezcal comes from Oaxaca, so there’s a plethora of agave fields, mezcal distilleries and tasting rooms to choose from. El Rey de Matatlan is one of the most-visited, and has free tours that show the whole farm to table mezcal process.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

17. Oaxaca Pueblos Mancomunados

The Pueblos Mancomunados, located in the Sierra Norte Mountains, are the best places to learn about indigenous cultures in Oaxaca and Mexican culture. (Photo: Flashpack Journal)

The Pueblos Mancomunados of the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca are eight self-governing, indigenous Zapotec Villages. They are located a few hours from Oaxaca City, and provide immersive Mexico ecotourism experiences.

The phrase pueblos mancomunados means “commonwealth of villages,” as these operate autonomously of the Mexican government.

The eight Pueblos Mancomunados are: Amatlán, Benito Juárez, Cuajimoloyas, La Nevería, Lachatao, Latuvi, Llano Grande and Yavesía. 

The nature trails on their land are a network of rural footpaths, country roads and mountain bike trails that span more than 62 miles (100 km).

It is a virtually-untouched natural area, so if you want to see the best Oaxaca nature sites, head to the Pueblos Mancomunados. For nature lovers in Oaxaca, these pueblos are a must-visit.

How to visit the Pueblos Mancomunados

Since it’s very easy to get lost, you’ll need to visit with a local guide who knows the trails. You can book this Guided Hiking in Pueblos Mancomunados of the Sierra Norte, and your guide will safely show you around these Oaxaca pueblos.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

18. Teotitlán del Valle (Oaxaca Rug Town)

man making a rug on a loom in oaxaca mexico
The wool and cotton carpets of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca Mexico, which are made by hand, using only natural dyes and materials.

Teotitlan del Valle Oaxaca is a quiet, picturesque pueblo (small town), located about 18 miles (30 km) from Downtown Oaxaca. The town is known for its history, culture, tradition, and the colorful rugs made here by local weavers.

Besides a great place to buy Oaxaca carpets (the prices are often cheapest here because it’s not very touristy), there’s other things to do in Teotitlan del Valle.

Don’t miss the beautiful hike to Cerro Picacho Mountain and the Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo church and ruins.

19. Santo Tomás Jalieza (Textile and Rug Town)

In Santo Tomás Jalieza Oaxaca, you’ll see the entire textile-making process — from hand-dying the yarn with natural materials, to how the famous Oaxacan rugs are made on a loom.

There’s a large selection of rugs for sale, with shipping available.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

20. San Martin Tilcajete (Oaxaca Alebrije Town)

colorful alebrije statue, which is a hybrid animal
Oaxacan alebrijes are fictional hybrid animals, like Dante and Pepita in the movie Coco.

Alebrijes (pronounced al-lay-bree-hays) are iconic and colorful Mexican folk art creations carved from wood.

On first glance, they look like animal figures — but when you look closer, you’ll see each one combines a few animals into one figure.

👩‍🎨 For a unique Oaxaca experience, join the Learn to Paint Your Own Alebrije class.

First made by artist Pedro Linares in the town of San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico, many head to this pueblo (small town) to buy their own unique alebrije figure. As these are handmade, no two Oaxaca alebrijes are alike.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

21. San Bartolo Coyotepec (Black Pottery Town)

black pottery from oaxaca mexico
You’ll see local artisans making the famous black pottery of Oaxaca on the Black Pottery, Alebrijes, Textiles Villages Tour. (Photo: Airbnb, Oaxaca things to do)

In the Oaxacan black pottery town of San Bartolo Coyotepec you get to see where the famous barro negro (black clay) comes from, and the artisans who make it.

Along with the Oaxacan carpets and alebrijes, black pottery is one of the most popular Oaxaca arts.

This pottery was first made by Rosa Real Mateo de Nieto, AKA Doña Rosa, hundreds of years ago, and is still the town’s main source of income today.

She realized she could polish the clay before it completely dried, giving it the characteristic matte black sheen.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

22. Santa Maria Atzompa (Green Pottery Town)

green pottery from the town of Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca Mexico

Besides the barro negro black pottery, there’s the green pottery town of Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca. Though most famous for its vivid green-colored ceramics, you can buy pottery in a variety of colors, all made by local artisans.

To buy some, head to the Santa Maria Atzompa Mercado de Artesanias (Santa Maria Atzompa Artisan Market), the main mercado in the center of town. Some local artisans also open their homes and workshops to the public.

Besides the pottery, if you’re visiting on the weekends, try a local Oaxaca food delicacy — barbacoa. This translates to barbecue, and it’s only eaten on weekends, usually for breakfast or brunch.

To try some Oaxaca barbacoa, head to Barbacoa de Borrego Jardines de Sofía.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

23. San Agustin Etla Oaxaca

decorated cemetery in San Agustin Etla for Day of the Dead Oaxaca
A decorated cemetery in San Agustin Etla during the Oaxaca Dia de Muertos festival.

San Agustin Etla is a small town about 35 minutes by car from Downtown Oaxaca City.

It is popular with nature enthusiasts and artists thanks to the Centro de las Artes de San Agustín (San Agustin Etla Arts Center) and numerous hiking trails through the mountains.

Day of the Dead in San Agustin Etla

The most lively Oaxaca Day of the Dead celebrations take place in this small pueblo. San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, is known to have the biggest, most wild comparsa (parade) in the area — and locals prepare for it all year.

The Panteon San Agustin Etla cemetery is also one of the most festively-decorated, and visitors come from miles around to see it during Día de los Muertos. There’s also a elaborate celebrations during Semana Santa, or Holy Week.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

24. San Jose del Pacifico: Oaxaca Mushroom Town

san jose del pacifico, magic mushroom town
San Jose del Pacifico is located way up in the mountains and above the clouds in Valles Centrales, the Oaxaca Central Valley. (Photo: Angelobcn, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

San Jose del Pacifico is most commonly known as the Mushroom Town in Oaxaca Mexico. Besides psychedelic mushrooms, there’s temazcal (sweat lodge) ceremonies, mushroom foraging (for the kind you cook with), and great hiking in the Sierra Sur Mountains.

Want to visit other Oaxaca towns in the Sierra Sur Mountains? Check out San Sebastian Río Hondo and San Mateo Río Hondo.

Magic Mushrooms in San Jose del Pacifico Oaxaca

For centuries, psychedelic mushrooms (Psilocybe mexicana) have been used as plant medicine in San José del Pacifico by traditional Zapotec practitioners.

Today, people come from all over Mexico and the world come to do mushrooms for healing purposes. You can buy mushrooms from coffee shops, restaurants and local tiendas (shops) all over town.

Do note that magic mushrooms are illegal in Mexico, though the Mexican government is aware of their use in San Jose del Pacifico, and seems to just look the other way.

🍄 The best time to visit San Jose del Pacifico to do mushrooms is from July to October, during the rainy season.

For more info, check out this San Jose del Pacifico website with cabin rentals and general information about the town.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

25. Ex-Monastery of Santiago Apóstol

ancient convent in oaxaca mexico (Ex Convento de Cuilapam)
The Ex Monastery of Santiago Apóstol is a beautiful place that’s full of interesting history, and located in the small town of Cuilápam de Guerrero, Oaxaca.

Located just outside Oaxaca City, Cuilápam Convent is a 16th Century church and temple space.

Photographers will love the aesthetics at this ancient site, and the temple itself is unique as it blends the pre-hispanic religions of indigenous people with Catholicism.

Unless you have a rental car, you’ll want to visit on a tour. Many tours, like the Oaxaca Antigua Full-Day Tour, make a stop at Cuilápam Convent, along with other must see Oaxaca sites like the Monte Alban archeological zone.

Want to visit other charming small towns near Oaxaca City? Check out San Andrés Huayapam, home to the beautiful San Andrés Huayapam Church and Parque Ecoturístico Huayápam.

Note: You will see this city spelled as Cuilápan de Guerrero (with an “n”), or Cuilápam de Guerrero (with an “m”), but both refer to the same place in Oaxaca. This temple is also sometimes called the Ex Convento de Cuilapam de Guerrero.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

26. La Cumbre Ixtepeji EcoPark

cloud forest in La Cumbre Ixtepeji nature preserve in oaxaca mexico
It’s safer to visit La Cumbre Ixtepeji Cloud Forest on this guided tour, so you don’t get lost.

La Cumbre Ixtepeji EcoPark is a favorite among mountain bikers, hikers and nature enthusiasts. Many visit to see the cloud forest, though you will want to book this Hike in the Oaxacan Cloud Forest with Luis Fernando, as it’s easy to get lost.

27. Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Biosphere Reserve

The Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Reserve is popular for hiking, and home to Río Papaloapan River, massive mountains and verdant valleys.

The terrain is incredibly varied, and you can go from a cacti-filled desert to a forest and end up on a mountaintop all in one single hike.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

Oaxaca Mixteca Region

One of the best Oaxaca hidden gems, the Mixteca Region (pronounced meesh-teck-uh) is home to mountains, waterfalls, hiking trails, colonial churches and more.

Within the region, check out Santiago Apoala, Tamazulapam del Progreso and Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán.

28. Santiago Apoala Oaxaca

antiago Apoala Waterfall, on of the best places to visit in Oaxaca Mexico
Santiago Apoala is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Oaxaca Mexico.

Santiago Apoala is a small town, with a population of about 1,000 people, and some of the most beautiful nature in Oaxaca.

If you love places where you’re the only visitor, rent one of the modest cabañas in Santiago Apoala, and enjoy being off grid and out in nature.

Santiago Apoala Waterfall

Though Hierve el Agua is the famous Oaxaca waterfall, it’s not really a waterfall at all (well, it’s technically a petrified waterfall, but there’s no water falling from it). If you want to see a real waterfall in Oaxaca, head to Santiago Apoala.

Located about 2.5 hours north of Oaxaca City by car, the Cascadas de Santiago Apoala (Santiago Apoala Waterfalls) will really wow you. This off the beaten path natural area is perfect for hiking, relaxing, and swimming in the waterfall pools.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

29. Tamazulapam del Progreso

woman standing at the edge of swimming pool with rock wall
Balneario Atonaltzin in Tamazulapam del Progreso, Oaxaca. (Photo: Tamara Tapia Luna via Donde Ir)

Tamazulapam del Progreso has some lovely natural areas to explore, like Los Chorritos Waterfall and the Cañon de Tamazulapam (Tamazulapam Canyon). There’s also a few places to go swimming in the natural sulfur spring pools the town is famous for.

Within town, head to Balneario Atonaltzin and Piedra de Agua, two local tourist attractions with picnic areas, restrooms, etc.

There are also more natural swimming holes to enjoy, like the Ojo de Agua Grande (Large Pool) and Ojo De Agua Chico (Small Pool).

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

30. Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán

colonial church in oaxaca, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan Convent mexico
The Museo Regional del Ex Convento de Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán, or Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán Church.

The massive Ex Convento de Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan (Ex-Convent of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan) is the crown jewel in the small town of Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan Oaxaca. This former convent was built during the 16th Century.

It is one of convents on the Oaxaca Dominican Route, which has some of the most unique and most beautiful Oaxaca churches.

The other churches on this route include Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol and Ex Convento y Templo de San Pedro y San Pablo Teposcolula.

There’s also the Geopark Mixteca Alta, a 160-square-mile (415 km²) UNESCO Global Geopark.

The park spans nine municipalities in the Oaxaca Mixteca Alta Region, and has everything from hiking trails through varied landscapes, to a 16th Century Colonial church.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

31. Oaxaca Textile Museum

pieces of fabric blowing in the wind at Oaxaca Textile Museum in Oaxaca City
The Textile Museum in Oaxaca is one of the best museums in Oaxaca City.

The architecture of the Oaxaca Textile Museum is just as impressive as the colorful textiles inside. If you happen to be visiting during Oaxaca Day of the Dead, you’ll find it covered in thousands of marigold flowers, for a beautiful smell and look 🌼

This is not a huge museum, but head inside to see the traditional Oaxacan textiles and beautifully-displayed handicrafts. The museum gift shop also sells artisan textiles by locals from the areas surrounding Oaxaca City.

Admission to the Oaxaca Textile Museum is FREE.

Best Oaxaca Museums

Want to check other nearby museums in Oaxaca City? Below you will find five suggestions of great museums to visit when traveling to Oaxaca City.

  • Rufino Tamayo Museum: Featuring more than 1,000 historic artifacts collected throughout the life of famous Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo.
  • Museo de Sitio Casa Juárez: The house at García Vigil 609 where Benito Juarez, the much-beloved former Mexican President, once lived.
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MACO): A must-visit for art lovers, MACO showcases an eclectic mix of art from across the world, and also local Oaxaca artists.
  • Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca: Founded by Mexican artist, Francisco Toledo, it boasts paintings from all across Latin America.
  • Oaxaca Stamp Museum: Featuring stamp collections and works by local surrealist artists, this museum is much more interesting than the name suggests!
Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

Oaxaca Travel Guide and FAQ

colorful buildings in oaxaca city
Famed for its cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, the city of Oaxaca Mexico is a must-visit.

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, Guerrero 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 by car or bus. You can book direct flights to Oaxaca from Mexico City.

Oaxaca Map

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

What is the best time to visit Oaxaca Mexico?

The best time to travel to Oaxaca is during the dry season, October to May. However, the temperate weather in Oaxaca City means it can be a year-round destination.

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

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 weather

oaxaca weather chart

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.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

Is Oaxaca safe to travel to?

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 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.

⚠️ 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; 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.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

Is there Uber in Oaxaca?

passenger calling uber in oaxaca from their cell phone

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.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

How many days do you need in Oaxaca?

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

OAXACA CITY

Within Oaxaca City itself, you can see the highlights and best things to do in Oaxaca in 2-3 full days.

For those who want to explore the villages outside town, like Hierve el Agua in San Lorenzo Albarradas, 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 Juarez), the Oaxaca beach towns and the Oaxaca mountain towns, you’d want at least three weeks. 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. In fact, Oaxaca is called the Foodie Capital of Mexico, so try the street food in Oaxaca and the restaurants.

Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca Mexico

Is Oaxaca worth visiting?

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

As you’ll usually need to take at least two flights to Oaxaca, Mexico, or even a flight and a bus, you might be wondering if traveling to Oaxaca is worth it. I hope this guide to Oaxaca made it clear that FU+K YES IT IS!

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 mezcal, beautiful nature, colonial architecture, indigenous artisan villages, and of course, Oaxacan food.

Final Thoughts: Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca State

While we have reached this end of this pretty long list, it just scratches the surface of all the amazing places to see and best things to do in Oaxaca state.

To maximize your time traveling, consider renting a car in Oaxaca and doing a road trip.

You can get around by bus, colectivo (shared van) and public transport, but sometimes travel in rural Oaxaca isn’t easy, and it isn’t usually fast.

Routes that can take two or three hours by car can sometimes take eight hours via public transportation.

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.

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