Nestled in the heart of Mexico, Oaxaca stands as a testament to the country’s rich cultural tapestry. This enchanting city isn’t just a destination; it’s an experience that captures the essence of Mexico’s ancient heritage and contemporary zest. Its allure, like a siren’s call, beckons travelers from across the globe to immerse themselves in its vibrant spirit.
Oaxaca’s appeal lies in its seamless blend of history and modernity. Ancient ruins whisper tales of civilizations long past, while the aroma of exquisite cuisine wafts through its bustling streets. From the vivid strokes of street art to the intricate patterns of indigenous crafts, Oaxaca is a canvas where tradition meets timeless beauty.
So, what makes Oaxaca so irresistible? Let’s delve into the 20 best experiences this mesmerizing city has to offer.
1. Discover the Historic Core and Zocalo: Begin your journey in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Oaxaca’s historic core. The central square, or zocalo, is the heart of the city, where history comes alive amidst ancient architecture and vibrant local culture.
2. Walk the Pasillo de Humo in Mercado 20 de Noviembre: Immerse your senses in the overwhelming aromas and flavors of Oaxaca’s famous Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Explore the Pasillo de Humo, a corridor of carne asada stalls, and savor the essence of Oaxacan culinary traditions.
3. Explore Oaxaca’s Markets: Oaxaca boasts a variety of markets, each offering a unique experience. Dive into Mercado 20 de Noviembre for prepared foods and ingredients, Central de Abastos for an extensive selection, and Benito Juarez Market for souvenirs and local delicacies.
4. Indulge in Oaxacan Cuisine: Oaxacan cuisine is a gastronomic delight, offering delicacies like tlayudas, enmoladas, chapulines, and seven varieties of mole. Whether from street carts or fine-dining restaurants, Oaxaca’s food scene is a culinary adventure.
5. Take a Swim in a Frozen Waterfall at Hierve El Agua: Experience the surreal beauty of Hierve El Agua, where calcified mineral deposits create an illusion of frozen waterfalls. Relax in natural mineral infinity pools while relishing breathtaking mountain and forest views.
6. Walk like a Zapotec at Monte Alban: Explore Monte Alban, the ancient Zapotec capital, and witness a preserved collection of palaces, tombs, and plazas perched on a hilltop. Marvel at the remnants of Zapotec and Mixtec civilizations, shaping Oaxaca’s rich cultural tapestry.
7. Experience Temazcal: Partake in the ancient Temazcal ritual, a healing steam lodge ceremony rooted in indigenous traditions. Embrace the therapeutic benefits of this centuries-old practice while immersing yourself in Oaxaca’s spiritual heritage.
8. Admire Templo de Santo Domingo: Visit Templo de Santo Domingo, a spectacular Baroque Catholic church adorned in gold. Marvel at its ornate interior and immerse yourself in the city’s architectural splendor.
9. Celebrate Day of the Dead: Join the vibrant festivities of Dia de los Muertos, a cherished Mexican celebration honoring departed souls. Experience the colorful parades, intricate offerings, and lively music, immersing yourself in Oaxaca’s rich cultural heritage.
10. Sip Mezcal in Its Birthplace: Delight your taste buds with smoky Mezcal, Oaxaca’s renowned spirit crafted from agave. Visit Mezcal bars like La Mezcalerita Oaxaca and savor the diverse flavors of this iconic beverage.
11. Explore Mitla: Discover Mitla, the religious center of the Zapotecs, and explore its fascinating ruins, including the mystical Column of Life. Immerse yourself in the ancient legends and architectural marvels of this historical site.
12. Marvel at Oaxaca’s Murals: Wander Oaxaca’s streets adorned with vibrant murals, a testament to the city’s creative spirit. Lapiztola, a local collective, spreads messages of change through art, adding a touch of contemporary flair to Oaxaca’s cultural landscape.
13. Soak up Art and Culture: Delve into Oaxaca’s artistic heritage by visiting museums and galleries such as the Museo Textil de Oaxaca and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Immerse yourself in Oaxaca’s diverse artistic expressions, from traditional textiles to contemporary woodwork.
14. Visit the World’s Widest Tree: Witness the awe-inspiring El Tule, a Montezuma Cypress Tree in Santa Maria del Tule. Revered as the tree of enlightenment, its colossal trunk stands as a testament to nature’s magnificence.
15. Savor Oaxacan Hot Chocolate: Indulge in Oaxaca’s delectable hot chocolate, made with water and spun to perfection. Visit Cafe Brujula and pair this exquisite beverage with delightful banana bread, elevating your culinary experience.
16. Journey to San Jose del Pacifico: Embark on a scenic three-hour drive to San Jose del Pacifico, a tranquil mountain town nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains. Explore its pine forests, engage with the local community, and discover the town’s unique charm.
17. Road Trip to Oaxaca’s Coast: Continue your adventure southward to Oaxaca’s coastline, where you’ll encounter some of Mexico’s best surfing spots. Explore beach towns like Huatulco, Puerto Escondido, Zipolite, Puerto Angel, and Mazunte, each offering a blend of surfing, laid-back vibes, and fresh fruit delights.
18. Stay with Oaxaca’s Indigenous Communities: Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Oaxaca’s indigenous communities by staying with Pueblo Mancomunados. Engage in ecotourism projects, explore the region’s natural wonders, and connect with the local Zapotec people, fostering a deep appreciation for Mexico’s roots.
19. Celebrate Guelaguetza: Join the exhilarating Guelaguetza Festival in July, a grand celebration of Oaxacan culture, art, and cuisine. Experience colorful parades, traditional dances, and diverse culinary delights, celebrating the essence of Oaxaca’s cultural diversity.
20. Relax at the Botanical Gardens: Unwind amidst nature at Oaxaca’s Botanical Gardens, located near Templo de Santo Domingo. Take a leisurely stroll, explore native plant species, and revel in the serene ambiance, offering a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
Oaxaca is not just a destination; it’s an immersive experience, a celebration of Mexico’s rich heritage, and a testament to the enduring allure of this captivating city. Embrace the heart of Mexico, discover the wonders of Oaxaca, and let its magic leave an indelible mark on your soul.