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Oaxaca, Mexico: The Perfect Time To Go & The Reasons to Visit

Oaxaca is the capital of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is located in a high mountain valley close to the center of the state. Also known as “The Land of the Seven Moles”, Oaxaca had a population of around 256,000 people in 2008.

This beautiful city is gifted with great natural beauty, which for centuries has been protected by the rough geography that surrounds it. Today, it continues to offer visitors its natural marvels created through the passage of time.

The city is very rich in history and has a fascinating culture. The Spanish colonizers, led by Hernando Cortes, settled in Oaxaca in 1522. The city was first known in the Nahuatl language as Huaxyacac until 1532 when the Spanish colonizers named Nueva Antequera. The main square (zócalo) is the heart of Oaxaca and has remained so since 1529. Today, the zócalo is the site of repeated political protests and rallies, which turned violent in 2006.

Oaxaca and its surrounding towns are well worth exploring for their amazing sights. The city is home to stunning churches, fascinating colonial buildings, and marvelous ruins. Many of the earlier colonial buildings in Oaxaca are located in the center. The city is also well-renowned for its and beautiful arts and crafts. Some villages specialize in weaving, embroidery, wood carvings, and pottery. And do not forget to sample some popular food in Oaxaca.

Itineraries

The city of Oaxaca is considered by many as the ultimate vacation destination in Mexico. Among its attractions are its striking colonial architecture and nearby archeological sites, diverse indigenous culture, beautiful handicrafts, and unique regional cuisine. You can spend a few days in Oaxaca very pleasantly with trips to the city center, museums, parks and gardens, craft villages, and archaeological sites. Also, your visit will not be complete without hitting the markets for shopping and experiencing the vibrant nightlife.

There are so many sights to see and activities to experience in Oaxaca that it gives many visitors severe headaches just by thinking about what to do first. It is always a good idea to plan your Oaxaca itinerary well in advance to get the most out of your vacation, especially if you are staying in the city for a week or more. A good tip is to map out the routes for your excursions and tours to save energy as well as traveling time.

Top Attractions

There is so much to see, taste, hear, and experience in Oaxaca. It is a busy yet charming city, which demands a great deal of your time to explore all its wonders. Hover over the following top Oaxaca attractions to give you an idea when planning your trip.

Museums

Visiting excellent Oaxaca museums will add insight to the images you will see while you are in Oaxaca. Here are some of the more popular museums: Santo Domingo Cultural CenterHouse of Juárez Museum, Photographic Center Manuel Alvarez BravoRufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic ArtMuseum of Contemporary ArtThe Philately Museum, and Museum of Popular Art.

Churches

Do not fail to visit the stunning churches in the city. Include in your itinerary the Temple of Santo DomingoTemple of San Felipe NeriBasilica of the Soledad, and the Temple of San Agustín.

Monte Alban

Monte Alban is one of the most popular Oaxaca attractions. It is located at the intersection of three wide valleys on top of a mountain which the Zapotec people leveled off and established a great city that once ruled the region. Your visit to Oaxaca will be incomplete without this attraction.

Mitla

The Town of Mitla rose from the ruins of an ancient city, making a fascinating contrast between a once stunning city in ruins and the present-day city that has never reclaimed the glory of the pre-Spanish period. We suggest that you visit Monte Alban first, and if you have enough time, visit Mitla.

Other ruins

There are other ruins worth visiting in Oaxaca. These include Cuilapan (an important Mixtec center), Dainzu (which remains un-excavated), Lambityeco (the human characters in stucco are worth seeing), Yagul (see the largest ball in the Oaxaca Valley, tombs, fretted stone mosaics, huge defensive walls, and the ruins on the acropolis), and Zaachila (known as the last Zapotec capital).

Oaxaca historical sites

Other historical sites in Oaxaca worth a visit include the Plaza of the ConstitutionEx-convent of Santa Catalina of SienaGovernor´s Palace, and the Macedonio Alcala Theater.

Markets

Markets are among the top Oaxaca attractions. The Alcala Street North of Independencia is a pedestrianized shopping district where you can buy the finest Oaxacan crafts. The New Market is a huge marketplace where you can find items sold by vendors from nearby Indian villages. The Mercado Benito Juarezl sells village crafts together with fruits, vegetables, leather goods, clothing, and jewelry.

Week

Spending a week in Oaxaca will give you enough time to experience and explore this beautiful colonial city. The one-week itinerary below will allow you better understand and appreciate the offerings of this historical and cultural city.

Day 1

Start your day with a walk to the city’s cultural spots. Visit the Santo Domingo church and museum or have a walk down the Alcala street up to the Zocalo. You can also include touring on foot the Temple of San Felipe Neri,  Temple of San Agustín, and the Basilica of the Soledad.

Day 2

You can spend the next day with a day trip to the villages of Santa Maria el Tule and Teotitlan del Valle. You can also include in your itinerary the village of Mitla to give you a glimpse of the fascinating contrast between the once stunning city in ruins and the present-day city that has never reclaimed the glory of the pre-Spanish period.

Day 3

Visit the archaeological site of Monte Alban, located at the intersection of three wide valleys on top of a mountain which the Zapotec people leveled off and established great city that once ruled the region. Your visit to Oaxaca will be incomplete without this attraction.

Also visit San Bartolo Coyotepec, the village where the city’s famous black pottery is made. Then head to the town of Ocotlan de Morelos, where you can find a marvelously restored church and ex-convent.

Day 4

Spend some time visiting museums. Here are some of the more popular museums: Santo Domingo Cultural CenterHouse of Juárez MuseumPhotographic Center Manuel Alvarez BravoRufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic ArtMuseum of Contemporary ArtThe Philately Museum, and Museum of Popular Art.

Also, try traditional Oaxaca cuisine. The city has numerous flavors that will satisfy even the most sophisticated and fussy taste, so find restaurants that will delight your demanding palate. Recommended restaurants: Casa OaxacaComo Agua Pa’ ChocolateEl NaranjoLa BiznagaLa Toscana, and Marco Polo.

Day 5

Spend the day doing some sports and other recreational activities. Oaxaca gives you the opportunity to enjoy a wide array of activities to keep you busy during your vacation. Oaxacans love to play fútbol or soccer, the most popular sport in the city.

But if you are not into soccer, do not worry. The city offers many other sports alternatives: water sports, golf, mountain biking, trekking or hiking, mountain climbing, canyoning, rappelling, surfing, water skiing, kayaking, canoeing, paragliding, hang gliding, balloon flights, horseback riding, bungee jumping, and many other.

Day 6

Make sure that you visit Mercado de Abastos, Mexico’s largest outdoor market. It is also perhaps the most vibrant and colorful markets in the country. Wander around to feel the vitality of the Oaxacan marketplace. The market day is Saturday. Also, visit La Merced and Mercado de Artesañas.

Do some serious shopping. An authentic Oaxacan shopping experience does not mean hitting high-end establishments and spending a fortune. Instead, you are better off looking for rare treasures at small shops and boutiques. Here are some of the top shops you should visit: BlackboxJarcieria El Arte OaxaqueñoLa Mano MagicaMujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca, and Plaza Comercial de las Etnias.

Day 7

Preparing home time. Don’t forget to buy your souvenir items and other things you’d like to bring with you to remind you of the city.

Long Weekend

Spending three days or four days in Oaxaca will give you time to explore this colonial city. The long weekend itinerary below will allow you to appreciate the historical and cultural significance of this beautiful city. If you decide to stay longer, simply add a few days in your Oaxaca itinerary.

Day 1

Start your day with a walking tour of Oaxaca’s historical center. Visit the Santo Domingo church and museum and then walk down Alcala street to the Zocalo. Visit the archaeological site of Monte Alban, located at the intersection of three wide valleys on top of a mountain which the Zapotec people leveled off and established great city that once ruled the region.

Make sure that you visit Mercado de Abastos, Mexico’s largest outdoor market. It is also perhaps the most vibrant and colorful markets in the country. Wander around to feel the vitality of the Oaxacan marketplace. You must also visit the 20 de Noviembre and the Benito Juarez markets as well as the Mayordomo chocolate factory to stimulate all your senses.

Day 2

Spend some time visiting museums. Here are some of the more popular museums: Santo Domingo Cultural CenterHouse of Juárez MuseumRufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic ArtMuseum of Contemporary Art, and Museum of Popular Art.

Prepare yourself for exciting nightlife. Oaxaca offers exciting and pulsating night activities. It has almost everything for people with varied tastes. Jazz, salsa music, blues, and even folkloric shows are as popular as disco or rock, which makes a huge part of Oaxaca nightlife.

Day 3

Spend the day doing some sports and other recreational activities: Football, water sports, golf, mountain biking, trekking or hiking, rappelling, paragliding, hang gliding, horseback riding, bungee jumping, and many other. Also, try traditional Oaxaca cuisine. Recommended restaurants: Casa OaxacaComo Agua Pa’ ChocolateEl NaranjoLa BiznagaLa Toscana, and Marco Polo.

Do some serious shopping. Here are some of the top shops you should visit: BlackboxJarcieria El Arte OaxaqueñoLa Mano MagicaMujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca, and Plaza Comercial de las Etnias.

Day 4

Everything on this final day largely depends on what time your check-out time or flight. Most hotels in Oaxaca expect their guests to check out by 12:00 noon. They usually store your baggage in the main lobby or in a room next to reception if your flight is in the evening. You are still allowed to use all facilities including the restaurants.

Weekend

Spending a weekend in Oaxaca will give you some time (although not enough) to explore every bit of this beautiful colonial city. The three-day itinerary below will allow you to appreciate the historical and cultural significance of this beautiful city.

Day 1

A good way to start your Oaxaca itinerary is with a walking tour of the historical center in Oaxaca. You can visit the Santo Domingo church (which is also a museum) and go have a walk down Alcala street and the Zocalo. Make sure that you visit Mercado de Abastos, Mexico’s largest outdoor market. to stimulate all your senses. Also, visit the archaeological site of Monte Alban.

Do some fast shopping. Here are some of the top shops you should visit: BlackboxJarcieria El Arte OaxaqueñoLa Mano MagicaMujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca, and Plaza Comercial de las Etnias.

After the day, start preparing yourself for exciting nightlife. Oaxaca offers exciting and pulsating night activities. It has almost everything for people with varied tastes. Jazz, salsa music, blues, and even folkloric shows are as popular as disco or rock, which makes a huge part of Oaxaca nightlife.

Day 2

Spend some time visiting the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Pre-Hispanic ArtMuseum of Contemporary Art, and Museum of Popular Art. Also, spend the day doing sports and other recreational activities: Football, water sports, golf, mountain biking, trekking or hiking, paragliding, hang gliding, bungee jumping, and many others. Also, try traditional Oaxaca cuisine. Recommended restaurants: Casa OaxacaComo Agua Pa’ ChocolateEl NaranjoLa BiznagaLa Toscana, and Marco Polo.

Day 3

Your activities on this day really depend on what time you are bound to leave the city. However, be sure to ask beforehand the check out time in your hotel. If you are leaving a bit late, you can maximize your time dining in at one of the city’s restaurants or do last-minute shopping for souvenir items, including the food you’d like to bring home with you.

You may not have too much time to spend in Oaxaca, but with proper planning of activities, you’ll see that it would still be worth all your time.

When to visit Oaxaca?

When to go to Oaxaca? The city’s high elevation and southern latitude give it a lovely climate all year round. Daytime temperatures range between 70-75 F in winter and 82-90 F in summer. April and May are the hottest months in the city.

The summer rainy season begins in June until late September or early October. Many people say that the city can get extremely hot during the summer. But this is not necessarily the case. Actually, the increased cloud cover and summer showers create average daily temperatures in July to September cooler than late April to early June temperatures. Vegetation is one of the advantages of the summer season. If you like green, lush landscapes, then summer–fall is your season.

If you do not mind the tourist crowd, visit Oaxaca during the peak season (June to August and mid-December to early January). The 80-degree, summer days attract visitors, but the city also draws a lot of tourists during the following holidays: Guelaguetza, the festivities of the Day of the Dead, and during Easter week.

If you want to avoid the crowd, the best times to go to Oaxaca are from November to early-December and late-January to March The city does not attract many tourists during the winter months, in which temperatures can plunge into the 50s.

Sandy

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