The state of Oaxaca (wah-hah-kah) is a bustling center of indigenous culture, a thriving arts scene, agricultural wonders, and savory cuisine that puts traditional Mexican flavor at the forefront. While you’re planning your next trip to this vibrant state, make sure to add these stops onto your itinerary for a trip filled with culture and adventure.
1. Experience the Breathtaking Views of Hierve el Agua
These springs run into natural infinity pools off a cliff-edge and feature vast views of the sierra and blue-green mountains below. The calcium-rich water has helped to create mineral formations that look like huge frozen waterfalls, nicknamed ‘Cascada Chica’ and ‘Cascada Grande’. This stop provides both spectacular, Instagram-worthy views and a relaxing bathing experience.
2. Take a Peek at the Ancient Monte Albán Ruins.
The UNESCO site of the Monte Albán Ruins is a short distance from Oaxaca’s center and has been continuously inhabited over 1,500 years by Zapotec, Mixtec, and Olmec peoples. You’ll be able to see an ancient observatory and ball court, as well as several pyramids from the high vantage point.
3. Get a Taste of Mezcal, Tequila’s Smoky Cousin
Oaxacan mezcal is made from distilled, fire-roasted piñas. The smoky flavor is most likened to tequila, though with its own unique complexities. You can try it at a local distillery or take a guided market tour, get an intro to Mexican cuisine, and wind down with a glass of mezcal with this Oaxacan class.
4. Take in the Art and Architecture of the Templo de Santo Domingo
The center of Oaxaca is home to the Templo de Santo Domingo. This gorgeous church is filled with Baroque architecture and 3d relief that is etched into nearly every square inch. A grand painted ceiling tops it all off and makes a breathtaking scene when it all comes together.
5. Taste the Nectar of the Gods
Learn about the sacred pre-Hispanic drink of maguey, a distinct agave beverage, and the connection it has to the Goddess Mayahuel and the moon. Not only will you have a unique local foodie experience, but you’ll also be able to gain a broader appreciation for both Western and Oaxacan traditions.
6. Catch Some Waves at the Legendary Zicatela
It’s often referred to as the best-known surfing spot in Mexico courtesy of the tempestuous surfing waves of the Mexican Pipeline. All this can be found at the northern end of the beach. This spot isn’t really for the casual swimmer, as the undertow can create very dangerous situations for those with less experience. If you don’t have a board, don’t worry – the beach is a beauty in and of itself!
7. Discover the Rich, Hispanic History of Chocolate in Oaxaca’s Markets
You can taste pre-hispanic cacao drinks, local seeds, chocolate tastings, very rare types of chocolate, and heirloom maize foods all while learning about the mysterious paths of the humble cacao bean and the corn cob from their beginnings to its modern incarnations today.
8. Explore the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, One of Mexico’s Best Regional Museums
This museum of Oaxacan cultures adjoins the Templo de Santo Domingo, so it might be a good idea to dedicate a whole day to explore the two together. Venture through the history and cultures of Oaxaca state up to the present day, with emphasis on the continuity between pre-Hispanic and contemporary cultures in areas such as crafts, medicine, and food.
9. Dive Headfirst into the Joys of Festival Life
One of the most well-known is Dia de Los Muertos, also known as The Day of the Dead. From late October to early November, events, music, and alters pop up all around the city. Make sure to book your trip way in advance as this time of year can get very busy with an influx of tourists.
10. Be Adventurous and Try Your Hand at a Nude Beach
Playa Zipolite features people swimming, sunbathing or happily walking – you know, the regular beach activities, minus the clothes. Lay back, relax, and get a great all-over tan on this entertaining beach.