Traveler’s Guide: What to Do in Oaxaca City

church of santo domingo de guzman oaxaca city

A trip to Oaxaca City should top your list for a delightful and fulfilling adventure. Here, you will be spoiled with opportunity while being exposed to the country’s fascinating culture, stunning scenery, and vivid array of colors.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the endless array of sites to visit and explore – but don’t worry! This comprehensive guide outlines all the best places to go when visiting Oaxaca City.

From old colonial-era churches and ancient ruins to modern attractions like vibrant art galleries and renowned museums, this article provides you with a complete local itinerary for exploring gorgeous Oaxaca City and its spectacular landscapes.

Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua is a stunning site to visit when exploring Oaxaca City. It’s an incredible natural rock formation carved by the passing of time over thousands of years. At the base of the formation lies a pool filled with crystal clear water, perfect for taking a refreshing dip in the hot Mexican climate.

The natural beauty and scale of Hierve el Agua make it one of the most popular sites to visit in Oaxaca. If you’re up for a bit of scrambling, you can climb up and around the rocks for spectacular views. The area is beautiful but also quite fragile, so visitors should be mindful not to litter or cause unnecessary wear and tear to the environment.

hierve el agua at dusk oaxaca city

Monte Albán

Monte Albán is one of the most iconic sites to explore in Oaxaca City. This ancient city was built around 500 BC by the Zapotecs. Its ruins are surrounded by some of the most stunning views in town. As you wander through Monte Albán, you’ll see numerous ancient temples, tombs, and plazas that reveal the intricate culture of this great pre-Columbian civilization.

The greatest treasure in Monte Albán is the High Temple Pyramid, which boasts breathtaking steps leading up to an incredible view of the valley below. The entire site covers over five square kilometers and offers an amazing experience for visitors looking to learn more about this city’s long and fascinating history.

Teotitlán del Valle

Teotitlán del Valle is a breathtakingly beautiful village about 30 minutes from Oaxaca. It is renowned for its traditional Zapotec weaving techniques, arts, and crafts, as well as its gorgeous wool rugs, which delight both modern designers and traditional art collectors.

Visitors to Teotitlan will be mesmerized by the vibrant colors of these hand-woven wool rugs. Each rug is individually crafted with natural vegetable dyes and can take months to complete.

Besides admiring the artisan rugs, you can experience firsthand how they’re made at several weaving workshops in the village. You’ll get to know some of the local weavers who are passionate about keeping this ancient art form alive. It is an unforgettable experience.

At Teotitlán del Valle, you can soak in both contemporary texture hotspots, such as retail stores and cute cafes, while still delighting in centuries-old customs like weaving workshops – it’s a fantastic blend of old and new Mexico.

street lights on an empty street oaxaca city

Tule Tree

The Tule Tree is an ancient tree in Oaxaca City, and it is a must-see site. This beautiful tree has been around for over 1,500 years and is even recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. It is known to have massive trunks with a circumference of up to 150 feet. Its majestic roots spread out from the trunk and look like giant tentacles on the ground.

It’s said that this tree was once so large that it could shelter up to 20 people in its shade. Visitors can marvel at its incredible size and imagine how long it must have taken to reach such an immense size.

This ancient tree also has great cultural significance for locals. It was considered an important ceremonial center for Zapotecs before colonization, making it a favorite spot for visitors to experience Oaxaca’s rich cultural heritage.


Mitla is a beautiful and remarkable cultural site located just 45 minutes east of the city. As an archaeological site, Mitla’s original inhabitants settled the area around 800 BC. As one of the most important ruins of Oaxaca, you can explore the UNESCO-protected ruins perched on a plateau & visible from miles away.

The architecture at Mitla distinguishes it from other archeological sites in Mexico. Unlike most pre-Hispanic sites that are pyramidal, Mitla features large buildings with intricate geometrical designs & geometric façades instead.

At Mitla, you’ll find natural wonders like the artificial caves that were created for burials & relics of a civilization long gone. You’ll also find native flora and fauna from the region, giving you an even richer experience as you explore this incredible site.

convento en oaxaca in the daytime

San Antonio Arrazola

San Antonio Arrazola is a great spot to experience Mexican folk art in Oaxaca City. Here, you’ll find a village of wood carvers known for their beautiful and intricate alebrijes figures.

Alebrijes are sculptures made from the native pines of the area. Families create these amazing works using age-old techniques passed down for generations.

Visitors will appreciate the colorful works of art made by the locals here – it’s relaxing to browse and marvel at their craftsmanship. San Antonio Arrazola also offers visitors a peek into rural life in Mexico. Street food, pre-Hispanic traditions, and a glimpse into local culture make this a unique place to visit while exploring Oaxaca City.

Benito Juarez Market

The Benito Juarez Market is one of the top tourist attractions in Oaxaca City and should not be missed. It is located on 5 de Mayo street and is open every day. This market has been around since 1830, and it is well known for serving quality local produce and Oaxacan specialties such as chocolate, local mezcal, cheese, and a variety of spices. It’s an excellent place to explore the flavors of the city without spending a lot of money. You can find typical souvenirs here too!

The atmosphere here is relaxed. It’s lively but manageable, and you won’t feel mobbed by vendors. You can spend hours talking to shopkeepers and exploring the stunning array of ingredients available.

salsa display benito juarez market oaxaca city

20 de Noviembre Market

If you’re visiting Oaxaca City, make sure to check out the 20 de Noviembre Market! It’s a bustling traditional market with plenty of delicious eats and vibrant Oaxacan handicrafts. You’ll find a great variety of shopping opportunities in stalls lined up alongside each other, operating out of the sun-filled courtyard of a 16th-century convent.

The market is known for its lively atmosphere and delightful wares, from woven huipils (traditional dress) to the iconic carved wooden animal figurines that Oaxaca is famous for. It’s also a top destination for grabbing lunch, with pushcart vendors selling tacos filled with succulent meats and piled high with toppings like cilantro, onions, salsa, and guacamole. With cheap prices as low as 20 pesos per taco, even if you don’t buy anything else, it’s worth exploring.

Cuilapam Convent

The Cuilapam Convent is a must-see during your stay in Oaxaca City. Your journey to the convent will take you through the breathtaking Cuilapam Valley, where cascades of color envelop the landscape.

Steeped in colonial history and rustic charm, this place makes for an incredible trip. Inside this former monastery’s grand and gothic walls awaits a world of beauty. From opulent side chapels to exquisite ceiling frescoes, every corner of this old building offers something extraordinary, encouraging exploration as each step reveals some new surprise to marvel at.


Oaxaca is a magnificent tourist destination with plenty of exploration and adventure opportunities. From the majestic archaeological sites to the vibrant nightlife, it’s easy to see why Oaxaca is considered one of Mexico’s most beautiful cities.

Whether you have one day or one week in Oaxaca, there’s no shortage of things to do. Spend time meandering through its charming neighborhoods and indulge in Authentic Mexican cuisine.

Be sure to explore gargantuan archaeological sites like Monte Albán and Mitla, as they offer insight into Oaxaca’s ancient roots while allowing visitors to admire spectacular Mexican architecture. Try to seek out some of its quaint colonial towns so you can learn about the local cultures and customs.

Oaxaca City truly has something for everyone! If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican experience with plenty of culture, traditions, and fantastic sightseeing opportunities, then this city will not disappoint!

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