The Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City: Food, Pyramids and Dia de Muertos!

Crickets AKA Chapulines, a culinary delight
Crickets AKA Chapulines, a culinary delight

Oaxaca City is one of the best places to experience authentic Mexican culture, check some of the best things to do in Oaxaca City here!!! 

With a rich and ancient heritage, Oaxaca City shines in terms of cultural and natural attractions that will amaze all travelers that are lucky enough to explore this wonderful region of Mexico.

Here’s a handful guide to some of the best things to do in Oaxaca City featuring the best food in the world, the Monte Alban Pyramids, the Dia de Muertos celebration and much more!

Enjoy my wonder friends!!!

The Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City #01: See the Wonders of the Monte Alban Pyramids 

Your first natural and cultural stop on Oaxaca City should be a visit the Pyramids of Monte Alban, conveniently located just a short drive away (roughly 8 KM with a taxi costing you around 3 USD each way) from the city center.

This archeological site dates back to the year 500 BC and was built by the Zapotec civilization that once dominated this region of the world. Grab a lot of water and a pair of good shoes because you’ll be walking a lot!

How to reach Monte Alban from Oaxaca City
The Man of Wonders contemplating the nature at Monte Alban

Monte Alban has a lot of many interesting temples and pyramids to explore so I really recommend you to take a guided tour (or to read my article about it that I linked above) in order to fully understand the ingenuity and way of living of the ancient Zapotecs.

As of 2018, the entrance fee to Monte Alban is 70 MXN (roughly 4 USD). On Sundays, Mexican citizens and residents enter for free so plan accordingly in order to avoid big crowds.

Also, if the sun is way too heavy for you, be sure to buy a hat from some of the souvenir sellers on-site!!! Don’t you wanna rock a Mexican fedora?

How to reach Monte Alban from Oaxaca City
The majestic beauty of Monte Alban, Oaxaca

The Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City #02: Visit Tlacolula, a charming town near Oaxaca City

Of all the charming towns around Oaxaca City centre, the one that you really shouldn’t miss is Tlacolula, a very interesting off the beaten path destination located 35KM away from Oaxaca City (if you don’t have a car, you can take a colectivo taxi from the baseball stadium for under 1 USD).

The main attraction of Tlacolula is the archeological ruins of Yagul, a rarely visited site that, despite being smaller than Monte Alban, offers a more intimate experience thanks to its isolated nature. Plus, you can enter some of the ancient tombs and hike towards some epic cave paintings.

Tlacolula and the Yagul Ruins
Tlacolula and the Yagul Ruins

When it comes to Tlacolula proper, it is a fine example of what Oaxaca felt like a couple of decades ago before the tourism boom arrived. From eating in a local comedor at the market to tasting the many flavors of ice cream (mezcal ice cream for the win!!!), our stay at Tlacolula was wonderful.

The icing on top of the cake? Visiting the beautifully decorated Church of El Señor de Tlacolula and playing a centuries old organ!!!

Sure, my organ skills are worse than my non-existent piano skills but it sure made for a good laughs.

The beautiful art inside Tlacolula's church
The beautiful art inside Tlacolula’s Church

The Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City #03: Take part in the Dia de Muertos Celebrations

Every year during the last week of October, Oaxaca begins to prepare for the yearly Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. If you watched Pixar’s Coco you already know what to expect: candy skull faces, altars with tons of delicious food and a mariachi here and there, right?

Well, turns out that Hollywood is actually right on this one! Dia de los Muertos (don’t be confused with Halloween) is a joyous and colorful celebration of life rather than a gloomy and depressive remembrance of death. And yes, Oaxaca City is one of the BEST destinations in Mexico to see how much Mexicans care about it.

Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca, a cultural celebration
Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca, a cultural celebration

Stay tuned for a future article about the best way to celebrate Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca City and please let all pre-conceptions and societal rules at home: this is the time of the year where it is 100% socially acceptable (and even encouraged) to eat and drink at a local graveyard while you sing along with a Mariachi band.

PS. Don’t make the same mistake I did last year in thinking that in November 1st and 2nd (the official dates of the Dia de los Muertos) is where the whole bulk of the celebrations take place because you’ll miss out on a lot!!!

Arrive in late October and ask the locals about what’s happening around the city my friends!

A traditional Day of the Dead altar in Oaxaca
A traditional Day of the Dead altar in Oaxaca

The Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City #04: Explore the Petrified Waterfalls of Hierve el Agua 

Hierve el Agua, located about two hours from Oaxaca City, is the perfect day trip from Oaxaca City. Its main attractive are the so called petrified waterfalls as well as the natural pools of water in which you can swim after a hot day of adventures.

To get to Hierve el Agua from Oaxaca City you have a couple of options: either drive yourself, take a tour, hire a taxi for the day or come by public transportation (take a colectivo taxi to Mitla then take a shared van to Hierve el Agua).

The Petrified Waterfalls of Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca
The Petrified Waterfalls of Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca

There’s plenty of restaurants located at the parking lot of Hierve el Agua so ideally, my recommendation is for you to arrive as early as possible in order to avoid the crowds and enjoy a hearty Mexican brunch after you took all of your awesome photos.

After all, you don’t want to wait in a queue in order to take photos of Hierve el Agua’s most scenic places, right?

PS. Please don’t make the mistake as I did: if you want to fly a drone, ask for permission beforehand or you might get fined.

The Man of Wonders at Hierve el Agua
The Man of Wonders at Hierve el Agua

The Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City #05:  Taste some of the best Food of the World

Oaxaca’s cuisine is often regarded to be one of the best ones of the entire world. Some of the unmissable Oaxaca dishes you need to try out include:

Mole Rojo: a very extravagant sauce made out of chocolate (yes, CHOCOLATE!!!) and chili. It is often paired with chicken and/or tortillas. It’s sweet and spicy at the same time!!!

Quesillo: this salty string-cheese is the best souvenir you can bring from Oaxaca…although it is so tasty that I doubt it will make it past the airport if you ask me. Put it inside some flour tortillas and melt it in the micro wave to make some epic sincronizadas!!!

Chapulines: one of the biggest surprises to foreigners (and even to some Mexicans from the big cities) is that crickets are considered to be an staple food in Oaxaca. Trust me, they’re pure protein and they’re so crunchy that you could just close your eyes and pretend you’re eating granola! Eh…kind of.

Crickets AKA Chapulines, a culinary delight
Crickets AKA Chapulines, a culinary delight

Tlayuda: the so-called Mexican Pizza, this humungous dish is a crispy tortilla filled with infinite toppings such as beans, meat, cheese, mole and whatever else rocks your boat. The sky’s the limit!!!

Tasajo: why ask for a New York strip steak when you can taste some tasajo instead? The tasajo is a well-cooked thinly sliced beef cut that is extremely addictive. Be sure to pair it up with some quesillo on top of a tlayuda!!!

You can taste all of these culinary delights (and much much much more) at the traditional markets of Oaxaca as well as in some of the best restaurants of the city.

Some of my favorite spots to have an unforgettable Dinner of Wonders include: Restaurante Quince Letras, Restaurante Catedral and Restaurante Tierra del Sol. Who’s ready for some hungerlust?

Exploring the food market of Oaxaca City
Exploring the food market of Oaxaca City

How to get to Oaxaca City

From Mexico City, you have plenty of options to reach Oaxaca City. You can either drive yourself (460 KM, 5-6 hours), take a bus (30-40 USD, 6-7 hours) or fly (30-100 USD, 1 hour).

Whenever I visit Oaxaca City, I usually just take the bus from Mexico City and sleep it off but during my most recent visit, I was flown to Oaxaca City by Interjet after being hosted for one night at the Holiday Inn Mexico Dali Airport and I LOVED it.

The views you can from the window during the Mexico City to Oaxaca City flight were truly epic!!! I hope one day to climb all of those mountains of wonders!

The view of Hierve el Agua from the Drone of Wonders
The view of Hierve el Agua from the Drone of Wonders

Where to stay in Oaxaca City

During my most recent stay at Oaxaca City (October 2018) I was kindly hosted by the Holiday Inn Express Oaxaca Centro-Histórico, a beautiful charming property located just a few steps away from the Santo Domingo Temple.

The hotel features spacious and comfortable rooms, a pool for you to cool off after a sunny day and yes, a truly wonderful buffet breakfast to fill up your energies. Be sure to try the traditional chocolate caliente (hot chocolate) yo!!!

You can make a booking for this and more properties via our Booking.com Affiliate Link of Wonders!

Same price for you and a small pocket money commission for this website of yours.

Sweet deal, uh?

Oaxaca City as seen from above the Holiday Inn Hotel thanks to my Drone
Oaxaca City as seen from above the Holiday Inn Express Oaxaca Hotel thanks to the Drone of Wonders

I hope you have enjoyed this article about the best things to do in Oaxaca City. Don’t forget to subscribe in order to get more awesome updates and tips straight to your e-mail!

Have you ever visited Oaxaca City? Would you like to? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think?

Until next time, my friends!!!

Things to Do in Oaxaca City, Mexico #Oaxaca #DiadeMuertos #Oaxaca
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Disclaimer: This article was brought to you with the collaboration of IHG and Oaxaca Travels. All opinions are my own.