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Best Things To Do in Oaxaca

Oaxaca contains a lot of what you'd expect from a city vacation – a bustling square with coffee shops, restaurants and bars (the Zócalo), gorgeous churches (Templo de Santo Domingo) and interesting museums (Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca). But on top of these, Oaxaca offers travelers the chance to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site at Monte Albán and the infinity pool to beat all infinity pools at the Hierve el Agua

How we rank Things to Do

Updated May 17, 2017

  • #1
    The Zócalo
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    #1 in Oaxaca
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Oaxaca's main square – formally referred to as the Plaza de la Constitución de Oaxaca, but colloquially called the Zócalo – is a must-see. Skirted by cafes and eateries and bounded by the Palacio de Gobierno (the State Government Palace) on its south side, the Zócalo is a prime spot for people-watching, picking up a souvenir or two and watching day fade into vibrant night. Thanks to its leafy landscaping and many trees, it's also a relaxing place to cool off in the shade. Plus, the Mercado Benito Juárez sits just minutes from the square. 

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  • #2
    Templo de Santo Domingo
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    #2 in Oaxaca
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Dating back to 1555, the Templo de Santo Domingo acted as a convent and church before being used as military barracks in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the convent portion of the building contains the Santo Domingo Cultural Center's Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca and botanical garden. But the real feast for the eyes is the church itself, which is outfitted in baroque design, applied in gold leaf and other rich materials. And don't forget to look up: The domed ceiling is covered in medallions featuring Catholic martyrs. 

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  • #3
    Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
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    #3 in Oaxaca
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca is a regional culture museum that walks visitors chronologically from ancient times all the way to modern-day Oaxaca. Other halls are thematic, featuring Oaxacan medicine, music, language and pottery – and show that much of the cultural traditions have endured. One of the museum's real gems is the "Treasure of Tomb 7," a cache of delicate gold jewelry, precious stones and carved bone discovered in a Monte Albán tomb. Keep in mind that the museum's signage is in Spanish, though there are audio tours available in English. Visitors should also take some time to visit the museum's gift shop, which contains a diverse collection of books on Oaxacan architecture and art.

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  • #4
    Monte Albán
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    #4 in Oaxaca
    Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Monte Albán, literally "White Mountain," contains the preserved ruins of a Zapotec city. Travelers will find pyramids, temples, plazas and more atop this mountain, which rises 1,300 feet above the floor of the Oaxaca Valley. For a deeper understanding of the city, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, travelers can book a tour guide on-site. Keep in mind that the official licensed guides will wear a badge from the Mexico Secretary of Tourism.  

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  • #5
    Hierve el Agua
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    #5 in Oaxaca
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Hierve el Agua – Spanish for "the water boils" – are natural mineral springs located on a clifftop, about a 90-minute drive from Oaxaca City. Along with swimming in the warm springs, visitors can hike on paths above and below Hierve el Agua's petrified mineral falls. 

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  • #6
    Andador de Macedonia Alcala
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    #6 in Oaxaca
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Andador de Macedonia Alcala or Calle Macedonio Alcala, as it's sometimes known, is a pedestrian-friendly street that connects the Templo de Santo Domingo and the Zócalo. This north-to-south route is a great way for travelers to orient themselves with the city, especially since many of the top things to do are located in close proximity to it.

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  • #7
    Benito Juarez Market
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    #7 in Oaxaca
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    To get a taste of Oaxaca, visitors should head to the Benito Juarez Market (Mercado Benito Juárez). Different stalls purvey everything from crickets and mole to grilled meats and homemade tortillas to mezcal and cheeses. Stalls also contain handicrafts and souvenirs. 

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