With its quiet, country lifestyle, everything slows down in Oaxaca City. This is where you go to enjoy beautiful weather, tuck in to delicious local cuisine and then get steeped in rich Mexican culture. You can also take a trip into history, with multiple exciting ruins to visit.
This UNESCO World Heritage site was built by the ancient Zapotec people and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside, besides the well-preserved ruins that exist today.
At Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, you'll be able to learn all about Oaxaca City's culture and history with exhibits on former indigenous civilizations like the Zapotec and Mixtec peoples.
MOC Adventures is the service for you if you hope to catch and truly engage with the week-long Dia de los Muertos or "The Day of the Dead" holiday.
Experience the Guelaguetza Festival in July, where descendants of the local indigenous cultures proudly display aspects of their heritage and rituals.
Book your first foray into the spiced realms of Oaxacan cuisine with several services such as Nora Valencia or El Capi Oaxacan Cooking.
A complex system of cloisters, courtyards, abbeys, and silent pews make up the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman, which was formerly a monastery. The outside, however, is an ode to Baroque ecclesiastical architecture. It was founded by the Dominican Order and, in modern day, also houses a museum dedicated entirely to pre-Columbian artists and artifacts. It also has an ethnobotanical garden where traveler can stroll and take in numerous species of the native Oaxacan flora.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude, as it is better known, was built in dedication to the patron saint who is said to watch over and protect Oaxaca. Its architectural marvels include intricate, expert, and delicately carved figurines, gorgeous Baroque-style flourishes, and tall spires as part of its facade. Not for nothing, this celebratory Basilica was noted as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and purposely built low to the ground to survive local earthquakes.
Like a strange, other-worldly cross between a desert and a forest, the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden is a wonder all its own. Francisco Toledo's farewell, swan song to Oaxaca, this winding trip through Oaxacan culture, indigenous arts and, amongst everything else, its native foliage is sure to leave any visitor stunned. Here, zigzagging pathways guide those passing through and consecutive agave plantings are not a mistake but, rather, an intentional commentary meant to signal the importance of this plant to the culture. Nothing is a mistake at the Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden, but it would surely be a mistake to miss them.
The Zapotec called Monte Albán something else entirely: the sacred mountain of life. And, indeed, their lives revolved around what is now a pre-Columbian archaeological site, rising tall in the Valley of Oaxaca. Much of their ways have been preserved and the famous Monte Alban pyramid complex draws travelers from near and far. Though its history is long and complex, the ruins have been abandoned and uninhabited since around 750 to 1000 AD. Yet major sites such as the Main Plaza, the impressive stairs leading to the South Platform, and the Altar remain behind to offer clues about its former inhabitants.
There is a sense of continuity that the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures establishes that would otherwise simply be lost to the sands of time. An impressive collection of exhibits, artifacts, crafts, installations, and excavations show a clear thread from the pre-Hispanic through to Colonial periods. This is partially because of the curatorial effort put through by museum organizers as well as the way the viewer must move through the rooms. Thus, visitors are guided on a path of progression: they move from Zapotec to Mixtec, to pre-Hispanic and Spanish civilizations, showing how the latter re-used and re-built upon foundations of the former.
You can visit Oaxaca City all year round because of its agreeable climate. Daytime summer temperatures are humid and reach 91.9 °F. Dry, winter-month weather sees temperatures drop to 48 °F.
Coming into the city, you'll land at Xoxocotlán International Airport that's located 4.34 miles south of the city. Use the local first or second class buses to get to the city center.
Please note: as of 2000, there are no more passenger trains running from Mexico City to Oaxaca City or any other neighboring towns.
Coming from Mexico City, get on to the 150D going west and then travel south by exiting on to the 135D, arriving in Oaxaca City in 6-7 hours.
Buses to Oaxaca run constantly and arrive at the Oaxaca ADO first-class terminal. Fares run between MXN450-950.
If you love luxury, check out a night at the Suites Bello Xochimilco. Otherwise, Hotel de la Parra is a neat colonial residence transformed into a present day hotel. Budget travelers will enjoy the hospitality of Iguana Hostel.
Zócalo - known also as the Plaza de la Constitución, this area has beautiful gardens, kiosks and live marimba bands playing at the base of statues and fountains.
Andador Macedonio Alcalá - known as the local "tourist corridor", this street is paved with parks, a pedestrian-only walkway and many museums and galleries.
Monte Albán - Though not technically a district, this area is home to the most significant aspects of ancient Oaxacan culture and history thanks to its gorgeous indigenous ruins.
To get around Oaxaca city, use the first or second-class bus lines and operators. Fares depend on where you're traveling to in the city.
Taxis are readily available, though most trips have pre-determined costs. Taxis by the hour have a flat rate of around MXN37.50 and cost roughly MXN32.4 per mile after that.
You can rent a car from companies like Alamo, Europcar or Hertz starting at MXN473/day for a small car.
There are multiple markets to cruise around. Check out Pochote Marke for some delicious prepared food or the popular Mercado Benito Juarez for everything from leather goods to fresh fruits.
A quart of milk costs around MXN15 and a dozen eggs will come to MXN22.
Tuck into scrumptious local cuisine with a tasting menu at Casa Oaxaca for MXN605 per person. Or, enjoy some ceviche with beer at Marco Polo for around MXN400 per person.