Traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico, is a destination on any savvy traveler’s bucket list. And like a clever traveler, you’re likely wondering how to pack in the best things to do in Oaxaca if you only have a weekend to spend there. If you’re nodding your head, keep reading; I’ll give you tips for making the most of your time.
Oaxaca City vs. Oaxaca state
You might be wondering—what is Oaxaca known for? Among its spicy chocolate mole sauce and Guerreros baseball team, Oaxaca has a reputation for being a confusing name.
The word “Oaxaca” refers to both Oaxaca City and the state of Oaxaca (which includes Oaxaca City). Most of the time, people mean Oaxaca City when they say “Oaxaca.” So in this article, I’ll be doing the same.
First things first: Arriving in Oaxaca
Before I cover what to do in Oaxaca, let’s make sure you know how to get there. Below are some popular Mexican destinations you can travel from. Remember, all of these will take you to Oaxaca City.
|Mexico City to Oaxaca||Bus, car, flight||7 hours, 5.5 hours, and 1 hour, respectively||Starts at US $30|
|Merida to Oaxaca||Flight||1 hour, 30 minutes||Starts at US $43|
|Santa Maria Huatulco to Oaxaca||Minivan||30 minutes||Starts at US $11|
|Tijuana to Oaxaca||Flight||3 hours, 40 minutes||Starts at US $89|
|Monterrey to Oaxaca||Flight||1 hour, 55 minutes||Starts at US $42|
|Guadalajara to Oaxaca||Flight||1 hour, 30 minutes||Starts at US $54|
Getting your fill of Oaxaca in 2 days
Here’s some good news—seeing the highlights of Oaxaca during a weekend is totally feasible without you having to rush too much. Are you ready to experience a fabulous Saturday and Sunday in the Sierra Madre mountain range? If so, get your pen and paper ready to jot down this Oaxaca 2-day itinerary.
Day 1: Sticking to the city
Upon your arrival in Oaxaca City, beautiful architecture adorned with pastel colors will greet you. Pack a good pair of sneakers because I recommend spending the morning on your feet—it’s by far the easiest way to get around.
Start your day at the Santo Domingo Church where you can get a feel for the pulse of Oaxaca. Vendors and performers fill the square in front of the church, and cafes and tourist shops line the perimeter.
Once you’ve peeked inside the church, head down Alcala Street. You’ll likely spend a lot of time there—this bustling pedestrian street has block after block of balcony-framed colonial buildings.
Alcala Street ends at Oaxaca’s zócalo, which is a Mexican word for the main square. Here, you’ll have lots of restaurants to choose from that serve up Oaxaca’s famous mole and pizza-like tlayudas. Head past the zócalo and you’ll encounter the Benito Júarez and 20 de Noviembre markets. Trust me—you don’t have to worry about walking past them. Simply look for basketfuls of dried crickets for sale!
In the afternoon, give your feet a rest and take a taxi or bus up to Monte Albán, a pre-Columbian archaeological site. The ruins are small but nice, and you’ll get to enjoy beautiful views of Oaxaca from the top of a small mountain.
Finish off day one of your Oaxaca itinerary by re-exploring the streets and plazas that you saw earlier—the city is stunning lit up at night!
Day 2: Take a day trip
One of the top things to do in Oaxaca is visiting Hierve El Agua, a petrified-looking waterfall on the side of a mountain. You can arrive at Hierve El Agua in around 1.5 hours if you drive direct from Oaxaca City. However, I recommend turning your Hierve El Agua journey into a multi-stop day trip.
Start by visiting the Tree of Tule, which is the widest tree in the world. At over 2,000 years old, it’s an ancient tree. However, it doesn’t claim the title of the world’s oldest.
You may have already downed some mezcal during your time in Oaxaca, and if not, making a stop at a mezcal factory will fix that in a hurry. There are plenty of tours offering the route I’m covering here, so no need to fight over who will be the designated driver if you don’t want to. Regardless of the mezcal factory you stop at, they’ll teach you how Mexicans turn agave plants into this beloved alcoholic beverage.
If the history of Monte Albán piqued your interest, don’t miss out on the chance to visit the Mitla Ruins. As a hub for Zapotec culture, you’ll get to learn about how the ruins were the most important place for the Zapotecs while enjoying scenic Tlacolula Valley views.
I know it sounds like a lot, but it’s easy to visit all these sites in a day while still allowing plenty of time for you to bask in the natural pools at Hierve El Agua.
Spending a long weekend in Oaxaca
Do you have a long weekend to spend in Oaxaca? Lucky you! If you’re wondering what to see in Oaxaca during your extra day, below are some ideas to get you started.
Consider arranging your 3-day Oaxaca itinerary so you can watch a Guerreros baseball game. As a professional Mexican baseball team, the Guerreros are Oaxaca’s pride and joy. Mexican baseball begins in late March or early April, with the regular season finishing at the end of August.
You can also head to the beautiful Ethnobotanical Garden. Located on the grounds of the Santo Domingo church, the garden was formerly a 16th-century monastery. Alternatively, book a cooking class so you can bring the taste of Oaxaca home with you.
Thanks to its small size, Oaxaca allows weekend-goers the chance to see the city’s highlights and take a day trip to other sites of interest. With your itinerary well underway, all you have to do now is decide if you should squeeze in some extra workouts so that you can go all out and order traditional stone soup with your mole.