What to do in Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca was not part of my initial travel itinerary. But due to the busy Semana Santa (Easter week), I had to change my plans. Picking a new destination was not very difficult. I had heard a lot about Oaxaca’s laid back atmosphere and beautiful architecture. Somewhat spontaneous, I booked a ticket and without any preparation, I dove into the colorful city.

Oaxaca City


Oaxaca is a relatively small city with a beautiful historic center, colorful houses and majestic cathedrals. I didn’t do very much in the city, except for aimlessly wandering around, marveling at the architecture and shopping. It seems the city has some interesting museums, such as the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. But I am not a fan of museums, so I skipped this activity. Shopping seemed to be a better plan. Especially because the markets offer some wonderful souvenirs, such as traditional woven clothes, poncho’s, jewelry, mezcal, leather, hats, Mexican food products etc.


There is a big market around the Zócalo and also two covered markets of which I visited one of them: Mercado de Benito Juarez. In this market you can find vegetables, fruit, fish meat and even pets next to the typical tourists products.

Monte Albán

Actually, I didn’t intend going to Monte Albán, but I met a guy at the hostel who motivated me to come along with him. Since I didn’t have any other plans anyways, I accepted his offer.


Monte Albán is an archealogical site, about 9 km from Oaxaca, which has been inhabited during 1500 years by several different tribes. And this is where my historical knowledge about this site ends. As I have mentioned earlier, I am not a big fan of dusty facts and information, so I didn’t really dig in to the history. In fact, I had only joined because I didn’t want to leave Mexico without having visited at least one ruin complex. Eventually, I enjoyed it to a certain extend, but I wasn’t impressed that much. At the end of the day, I am a nature girl and ruins simply don’t count to my favorite sights. Fortunately, I had a great time with my funny new friend which made the trip worthwhile after all.

Day tour

All tour operators in Oaxaca offer a typical day tour, where you can visit several sights near the city.

Tule

Tule is the first stop. There is not much to see here, except for a huge 2000 year old tree (which did impress me!). With a diameter of 36.2 meters it is the widest tree in the world.

Teotitlán del Valle

The next stop is Teotitlán del Valle. Here you get a demonstration of the traditional weaving technique and how the different colors for the wool are produced. Afterwards, they show several carpets which you can purchase subsequently.

Santiago Matatlán

The third stop is a mezcal brewery. Here you get an explanation how the traditional mezcal is brewed. Afterwards, you can taste some of the mezcal, which again you are allowed to buy in the end.

Hierve el Agua


The next stop was supposed to be Mitla. I guess you are not suprised to hear I was not interested in the ruins of Mitla. My nature-loving heart rather wanted to proceed as quickly as possible to the next stop: the rock formations and springs of Hierve el Agua. I skipped Mitla and the subsequent lunch and went on my own to Hierve el Agua, where I would meet the tour bus later. Unfortunately, I had just missed the bus and was the first one to wait. The bus driver told me he would leave as soon as eight or more people had gathered. Eventually, I had to wait an hour before we finally took off.


When I arrived, I was overwhelmed by the huge amount of people. Secretly, I had hoped I would avoid the masses by skipping Mitla and arriving earlier. Unfortunately, this was not the case. The view was still beautiful, but the hordes of people in the pools and on the plateau reduced the beauty. In hindsight, I would have preferred coming by myself early in the morning to avoid the masses. But please don’t get me wrong, I still greatly enjoyed the view.


I was very grateful for the 1.5 hours extra I had to spend compared to my group mates who only had an hour. This enabled me to explore some of the hiking paths. The paths are not long, but lead to some nice viewpoints over the valley.

General impressions


Generally, Oaxaca is a very pleasant and vibrant small city. Even though it seems to be one of the poorest cities in Mexico, I still felt very safe. Occasionally, you can see people begging, but I never felt threatened or unsafe in any way.

After being in Baja California Sur for two weeks, I enjoyed very much seeing that Oaxaca has preserved more of the Mexican traditions. I loved  seeing the people in their colorful clothes. Every time I saw someone passing by, wearing these beautiful bright colors, it conjured a smile to my face.

All in all, I enjoyed my stay in Oaxaca. The city is beautiful, the activities around are fun and the people are very friendly. I can definitely recommend staying a couple of days and soaking in the atmosphere!

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