The state of Oaxaca is located in southwestern Mexico and is situated partly on the Pacific Ocean with the rest of the region being inland.
It’s home to many indigenous people and has a distinct and unique culture, that is different from the rest of Mexico. There is so much to see and so many things to do in Oaxaca.
There is a very diverse mix of both tiny villages and larger cities.
The most well-known place is the state’s cultural hub, Oaxaca City, which is known in Mexico as Oaxaca de Juarez.
What makes Oaxaca so unique is its blend of culture, food, and history that you won’t find anywhere else in Mexico.
Of course, Oaxaca is full of beautiful beaches as well.
So if you are looking for things to do in Oaxaca, then you came to the right place.
This article will give you a mix of all the beautiful places worth visiting and the best things to do in Oaxaca City and the state of Oaxaca as a whole.
Best Tour in Oaxaca
Get full experience in Oaxaca with a traditional cooking class. Learn all about the cuisine and enjoy what you create.
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Top 15 Things to do in Oaxaca
1. Visit Oaxaca City and Take a Walking Tour
Oaxaca City is located in the center of the state of Oaxaca. It’s the cultural hub of the area and there is so much to see and explore.
Of course, the best way to get a feel for a city is to take a free walking tour.
The tours starts every day at 10 am just outside of the Oaxaca Cathedral and usually last around two hours.
Walking tours are a great way to find out local hotspots and where to eat in the area.
It’s also a great chance to see much of the city and learn its history and culture from a local and knowledgeable guide.
2. Rummage at Mercado Benito Juárez
Markets can be found all over Oaxaca City where local vendors sell fresh produce, small souvenirs, and snacks among many other things.
The most well-known market in Oaxaca City is Mercado Benito Juárez which is open for 12 hours a day every day of the week.
This is a great market to buy any souvenirs that you plan on taking home.
When visiting Oaxaca City, you should check out as many markets as you can.
They’re fun to stroll around. Great for buying cheap and unique foods.
You also get a sense of what life is like for the locals. Emerge yourself in the culture of Mexico and hit up the local markets.
3. Marvel at Templo de Santo Domingo
The church in the center of Oaxaca City known as Templo de Santo Domingo is a beautiful structure and a great place to wander in and out of.
It is also a great place to people watch. Get to know the locals, and watch them in their day-to-day lives.
Plan on visiting in the late afternoon or evening hours to take advantage of the delicious street food options situated here.
Eating street food is not only a good way to save on money, but it is also delicious. It can also help you save money to splurge on a 5-star hotel in Oaxaca.
4. Visit the Ethnobotanical Garden
This botanical garden is full of diverse life and important to ecological development.
It aims to present the history of the Oaxacan people’s interaction with plants by diving the garden into sections.
The bio and cultural diversity through themes include, for example, areas of plants used to make soap, dye, or medicine.
It’s a calming environment for strolling around but also full of unique plants to enjoy.
A great place to spend the afternoon if you are looking to unwind.
5. Food Tour & Mezcal Tasting
What is a trip to Mexico without some street food and mezcal tasting? This is defiantly something you must add to your things to do in Oaxaca.
Not sure what Mezcal is? Mezcal is made from agave and is an alcoholic beverage very popular in Oaxaca.
It’s mostly consumed straight and has a smoky flavor. It goes perfectly with tacos and mole, which is one of the local cuisines in Oaxaca.
Learn all about Oaxacan cuisine, while you explore the culinary world. Eating is such a huge part of travel. which is why food tours are always a good time.
6. Check out the Observatory
Located on top of a hill, the astronomical observatory offers a beautiful view of Oaxaca City.
It is also a great place to check out the stars at night.
There is a telescope for viewing planets and other cosmic events.
It is a great activity to do during the night.
Skip the bars and head up to the observatory. You will get a completely different feel for the city and a unique experience that most tourists fail to do.
7. Enjoy the Street Art
Oaxaca city is full of amazing street art. It is an amazing and free thing to do in Oaxaca.
The murals are quite amazing. You can spend a relaxing afternoon on a personal scavenger hunt for some of the best art in the city.
The city is also full of vibrant and brightly colored buildings which makes the place feel very lively. It is also a great activity to pair with some margarita tasting or a street food tour.
8. Take a Cooking Class
Why not embrace the Mexican culture and enjoy some great food? Taking a cooking class can be a great way to dive into the culture and freshen up your skills.
It is a great way to learn, eat and do something cultural.
When taking a cooking class try to get one that includes a trip to the local market. There you will learn how to pick out the freshest ingredients,.
You will probably learn a few new foods that you didn’t know existed and get to try something new.
I love taking a cooking courses almost everywhere I go.
Other Things to do in Oaxaca State
9. Gaze at the Tule Tree
Just outside of Oaxaca City in Santa Maria del Tule is one of the oldest and largest trees in the world known as the Tule Tree.
It is like no other tree around.
It’s a Montezuma Cypress tree and has the stoutest trunk in the world.
It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list and the age of the tree is somewhere between 1,200 – 3,000 years old. Now that is old.
It’s so wide that originally people thought it was multiple trees but it’s actually just one.
Apparently, it would take roughly 30 people holding hands to completely hug the tree.
It’s a magnificent sight to see.
10. Visit Monte Albán
Monte Albán is a pre-Columbian archaeological site and one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica.
It was once an important socio-political and economic center to the Zapotec people around 500 BC but by 500-750 AD it was mostly abandoned.
The site sits on a 1,300-foot high hilltop in the valley so it has beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and the small towns in the valleys below.
It is an important archaeological site. Some of the remains include palaces, temples, a ball court, and an observatory.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-visit and thing to do in Oaxaca with so many ruins to explore.
The structures are very impressive and have held up for thousands of years.
11. Explore Mitla
The city of Mitla is another archaeological site of the early Mesoamerican people.
Mitla is a bit smaller than Monte Albán and was more of a religious center for the Zapotec people than a central hub.
Because most of the buildings have what appear to be small crosses carved on the structures, the Spanish who colonized the area and destroyed almost everything that was already standing spared these buildings because they thought it’d be back luck.
Because of the tiny crosses and the quality of the structures, they’ve lasted 10,000 years in almost perfect condition.
Located not too far from Monte Albán, Mitla is a great place to visit because it was known as a sacred burial ground and has impressive ruins.
12. Swim at Hierve el Agua
Located about an hour and a half outside of Oaxaca City is the beautiful natural wonder known as Hierve el Agua which stands for boiling water.
If you are looking to enjoy the outdoors in Mexico, then this is something that must be added to your things to do in Oaxaca list.
Here you will see beautiful waterfalls with big and small pools of turquoise blue water.
These waterfalls are created from mineral-rich springs and are calcified.
It’s also not boiling hot like its name states, but instead refreshing and great for swimming. It just appears to be boiling.
You can hike the area for amazing views of the falls.
The place looks completely surreal and unlike anything else. It’s one of the best places to visit in Oaxaca of one of Mexico’s hidden gems.
13. Discover the Sierra Norte Region
Far away from the beaches lies this forested and mountainous area where a few communities of people live.
The group is called Pueblos Mancomunados and is comprised of 8 villages of roughly 3,000 people total.
This group is not controlled by the Mexican government and instead self-governs with their own president, laws, and legal system.
It’s a unique place worth visiting with the opportunity to hike, bike, and just enjoy the fresh and natural landscape.
Eco-tourism is important to the community and they have been welcoming guests for over 20 years.
They are committed to sharing their culture with others while always focusing on protecting the environment.
It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy a Mexican experience well off the beaten path that is often overlooked.
14. Visit the Beautiful Beaches
There are so many amazing beaches in Oaxaca worth checking out. Oaxaca is also a famous place to surf worldwide and home to some of the best surf spots in Mexico.
Playa Mazunte is a great place to check out to see some sea turtles. The town itself is very chill and relaxing.
Playa La Entrega is a beautiful beach located in Huatulco and is a great snorkeling spot.
You can’t go wrong if you plan on taking a beach vacation in Oaxaca.
15. Visit a Traditional Weaving Village
There are many different villages filled with people who have been weaving their whole life but a good place to visit is Teotitlan del Valle which is about 17 miles or 45 minutes by car from Oaxaca City.
The locals will show you how they use natural dyes from things found in nature such as bugs, flowers, and moss.
Then they use these things to dye fibers of sheep wool and weave them together into interesting patterns.
It’s a really detailed process that is enjoyable to watch. You can even buy souvenirs if you’re interested.
As you can see there are plenty of things to do in Oaxaca
It is worth visiting because it has a variety of beautiful landscapes such as the Sierra Notre highlands, the valleys below, and the coastal beaches on the ocean.
Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s best places to visit because of its delicious food, rich culture, and preserved history.
If you’re looking for a more traditional Mexican experience, it’s the perfect place. You’ll love everything about the region and can’t go wrong with a trip anywhere in Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is a unique place in Mexico that is worth checking out, you can’t go wrong when you come here. It also is way less touristy than other parts in Mexico which is a refreshing change.
Do you have a favorite thing to do in Oaxaca that wasn’t mentioned on this list? Say so in the comments below