Oaxaca Travel Guide

Photo of Oaxaca

Oaxaca Overview

Culturally rich and welcoming visitors with open arms, Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s most rewarding destinations and arguably the finest of all the countrys colonial cities. Deeply-rooted in the time-honored traditions of the indigenous communities Oaxaca is a vibrant place where travelers can take pleasure in the folklore, colorful festivals and bustling local markets. Like many colonial towns and cities, the beating heart is El Zocalo, the historical centre lined with a colonial legacy of grand arcaded passageways, palaces and churches that all watch over the daily life of the indigenous residents. There is rarely a dull moment here and the happy-go-lucky spirit of the Oaxacans regularly leads to some form of spontaneous daily fiesta.

 
As beautiful and gratifying as the actual city is, it is the surrounding countryside that often provides the most lasting memories. Head out on daytrips to ancient archaeological sites and on to experience the life of tradition villages such as San Jose El Mogote and Teotitlan del Valle. Encompassed by unspoilt valleys and mountainous ranges there are also an abundance of opportunities to take part in outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking.
 
Oaxaca sits in the south of Mexico almost equidistantly from Acapulco, Mexico City and Veracruz with bus services connecting to them all. The city also commands a good position from where to explore the rest of the countrys southern regions, with Villahermosa, San Cristobal and Palenque being popular onward destinations.

Things to do in Oaxaca

Benito Juarez Market - Although being swamped with tourism this market, one block from the zocalo, is the best spot in town for purchasing handicrafts and souvenirs produced in the villages of Oaxaca state. Leather goods, clothes, dolls and green china are just some of the things available, alongside a host of fresh produce. Be prepared to bargain hard in order to get the best price.

 
Mercado 20 de Noviembre - This market, a few blocks south of the zocalo, is the place to send the taste buds and sense wild, home to the citys largest assortment of fresh produce and local snacks. This is Oaxacas liveliest market and the place to sample chapulines (crunchy baked grasshoppers) and plenty of pork crackling. The food is cheap and tasty and the best bet is to head to the stands that are already busy with locals.
 
Museums in Oaxaca
Galeria Quetzalli - Art enthusiasts will love this collection of famous Mexican artists such as Toledo and Hernandez.
La Curtiduria - Check out this cultural centre for art exhibitions, classes and live music and dance performances.
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo - Housed in the wonderful 18thC Casa de Cortes are fine exhibitions showcasing the work of Oaxaca artists.
Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca - A fascinating journey through the history and culture of the Oaxaca state housed in a stunning Dominican monastery.
Museo Rufino Tamayo de Arte Prehispanico de Mexico - Superb collection of pre-Hispanic art and artefacts donated to the city by Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo.
 
Outdoor Activities - Around town are a number of companies organizing outdoor adventures and tours in the surrounding countryside, at nearby Monte Alban and the hilly Pueblos Mancomunados region. Mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding trips can all be arranged through Rancho Buenavista and Expediciones Sierra Norte.
 
Learn Spanish in Oaxaca - Oaxaca is a great place to learn the local lingo and anyone planning to stay around for an extended stay will find group and individual classes at numerous schools across the city. Amigos del Sol, Solexico and Insituto Cultural Oaxaca all offer competitive courses, cultural activities and assistance with long-term accommodation.
 
Cooking Classes in Oaxaca - Oaxaca is also a great place to learn how to cook the best in local cuisine as well as many other Mexican favourites. Courses vary in length but usually involve visits to markets to learn about and purchase ingredients, preparation, cooking and, of course, sampling the dishes. Those interested in Mexican gastronomy should check out Casa Crespo, Seasons of My Heart and La Casa de Mis Recuerdos for their variety of classes.
 
Oaxaca Nightlife
Bars & Live Music Clubs in Oaxaca
Bar Sagrario - Three storey location incorporating a bar, pizzeria and restaurant. Also good for live music.
Café Central - The heart of Oaxacas bohemian and alternative happenings hosting live music and indie films.
Freebar - Vibrant bar frequented by a young crowd and foreign language students.
La Candela - Laidback café bar with an entertaining house band playing salsa, merengue and cumbia.
 
Clubs in Oaxaca
La Divina - Lively party bar with a DJ spinning everything from salsa and ska to electro and house.
La Tentacion - Party every night of the week, mix with locals and meet fellow travellers.
 
Theatres in Oaxaca
Teatro Macedonio de Alcala - Catch a concert or theatre production at Oaxacas finest theatre, founded in 1903 and built with a French sparkling white marble style. With a capacity of 1700 there is plenty of room, however book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Hotels in Oaxaca

Budget Hotels Oaxaca

Casa Angel Youth Hostel - Popular backpacker spot in Oaxaca downtown offering cheap beds and rooftop terrace. Tel (52) 951 514 2224.
Hostel Don Nino - Spotless dorms and private rooms opposite Parque Paseo del Llano. Tel (52) 951 518 5985.
La Villada Inn Hostel - Superb lodge 15-minutes outside the centre with large rooms, swimming pool and mountain views. Tel (52) 951 518 6217.
 
Midrange Hotels Oaxaca
Hotel Casa Arnel - Family hotel also offering self-catering apartments. The hosts are well-known for their Christmas parties. Tel (52) 951 515 2856.
Hotel Casa Cue - Modern hotel 2-minutes walk from the main square and market with a laidback rooftop terrace. Tel (52) 951 516 7786.
La Casa de Mis Recuerdos - Small and charming bed & breakfast in the Oaxaca countryside. Check out their cooking classes. Tel (52) 951 515 8483.
 
Luxury Hotels Oaxaca
Camino Real - 5-star hotel housed in a refurbished 16thC convent complete with leafy patios and gardens. Tel (52) 951 501 6100.
Casa Cid Leon - Luxury boutique hotel offering large suites ideal for couples and families. Tel (52) 951 514 7013.

Oaxaca Weather

Oaxaca Travel Resources

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