35 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico

Aimara in Oaxaca City Mexico

Oaxaca City is pure magic! It delivers an awesome combo of authentic local experiences with a bit of cosmopolitan flair. And we can easily say that it’s one of our favorite cities in all of Mexico.

Known officially as Oaxaca de Juarez, this regional capital seamlessly blends rich indigenous heritage, frenzied local markets and trendy neighborhoods. It’s where the smell of chocolatey moles floats through the air, and smokey mezcals are served with a side of worm salt at hip rooftop bars. You can go from eating at an unassuming market stall to sipping the finest mezcals in an upscale tasting room in no time!

This city’s magic lies in its beautiful contrasts. And it takes some time to fully appreciate the different sides of Oaxaca, Mexico. And that’s why we’re here to help.

This post will share essential travel trips, amusing anecdotes, and top things to do. We hope it gives you what you need to milk your trip to Oaxaca de Juarez to the fullest!

So without further ado – here’s our list of 35 useful, not at all useful, and slightly amusing things nobody tells you about visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico!

Estimated reading time: 36 minutes

*This post contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission if you purchase using these links at no extra charge to you. The commissions help keep us on the road producing useful travel content. Thanks for supporting us!

Not Ready To Discover What Visiting Oaxaca City Is Like? Pin This For Later!

things to know about Oaxaca de Juarez

35 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico?

1. Make Sure You Know How To Pronounce It Correctly!

Oaxaca de Juarez train station
Image source: Canva

I can’t think of many other places that are as fun to say as Oaxaca, Mexico!

Say it with me: “Wah-hah-kah, Meh-hee-koh.” Wasn’t that fun?!?

The name, Oaxaca, comes from – Huaxyacac – the Aztec (Nahuatl) word for a type of tree commonly found in the surrounding area. And just like that, you just learned an Aztec word today. I bet you didn’t expect that to happen when you woke up this morning!

We heard many different variations of the name Oaxaca when talking to people about our plans to visit. But now you can confidently correct anyone with your new indigenous-language skills.


2. Oaxaca City Is Hotter Than A Jalapeño Pepper

Having rooftop drinks in Oaxaca City Mexico

No, we’re not talking about the temperature. We’re talking about Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico becoming a very trendy travel destination!

The allure of indigenous culture, abundant mezcal, and the region’s hip beach towns are bringing in record numbers of visitors from around the globe.

Travel + Leisure readers even ranked Oaxaca the number 1 city to visit in 2022. Number one – IN THE WORLD!

Despite this recognition, Oaxaca City has thankfully remained immune from the mass tourist crowds that descend on the most popular places in the Yucatan Peninsula. We can confidently say that this place is not like Tulum or Isla Holbox.

Thank goodness!

Oaxaca attracts travelers interested in experiencing the incredible traditions and history alongside the cool bars and fabulous restaurants that it is becoming known for. And wandering around the local markets, you may completely forget that you are in one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations!

3. Getting To Oaxaca Is Just A Hop, Skip & Jump Away

Map of Mexico

Oaxaca can be considered a remote travel destination in Mexico. But getting to Oaxaca de Juarez from the US is relatively straightforward.

Here’s a list of US cities with direct flights to Oaxaca:

  • Houston
  • Dallas
  • Los Angeles

Yea, so I guess there are not many direct flights from the US to Oaxaca de Juarez. But the listed cities all have major airports. And a layover is a small price to pay to visit one of the most fascinating cities in Mexico!

There are also regular flights to Oaxaca de Juarez from Mexico City, Cancun, and many other popular spots in Mexico. So you may wind up connecting through another airport in Mexico to get here.

Of course, you can also reach Oaxaca City by taking the bus from many popular stops in Mexico:

4. The Zocalo Should Be Your First Stop In Oaxaca City

Once you arrive, the best thing to do is hit Oaxaca de Juarez’s main square. Also known as the Zocalo, the central square is the heartbeat of every major city in Mexico.

Locals and tourists come here to find a shady spot, do some people-watching and simply enjoy the energy of the crowds. We personally love hanging out in Oaxaca’s Zocalo. There is just so much energy and stimulation everywhere! This crazy stimulation is why coming to Mexico is always such an awesome experience.

This country has so much character!

Just be careful of the next thing on this list of things nobody tells you about visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico.

It happens everywhere!

Wish You Could Travel More & Better? We have saved over $20k thanks to travel hacking! And we can teach you exactly how we do it (the responsible way!) – Sign up here to get started! The first step is to find out if travel hacking is right for you! (US residents only)

5. Don’t Mistake The Most Important Landmark In Town

You may believe the beautiful cathedral in the Zocalo is the most important church in town. But you’re wrong!

Sorry… I get worked up about religious monuments.

While Oaxaca’s Catedral Metropolitana in the center of town is certainly lovely, it doesn’t compare with the nearby Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman.

So take a 10-minute stroll from the Zocalo along the famous pedestrian avenue – Andador de Macedonia Alcala – to behold one of Oaxaca City’s defining images!

The Church of St. Domingo de Guzman’s interior is adorned with intricately designed features. And much of it is covered in gold leaf! And the baroque-style exterior is also amazing. Even if you’re like us and ‘baroque-style’ means little to you…

Several websites recognize St. Domingo Church as the most beautiful church in Mexico! Can these publications be trusted? I guess so…

But we did see the church with our own two eyes. And it is stunning. So we’re rolling with the claim of Mexico’s most beautiful church!

Click to see all sides of beautiful Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico!

6. Oaxaca De Juarez Is One Of Mexico’s Gastronomic Superstars

Eating tlayudas at Mercado 20 de Noviembre Oaxaca City
The best tlayudas we had @ Mercado 20 de Noviembre.

Prepare to be blown away by the ridiculous amount of delicious Oaxacan food and drinks to try during your vacation!

What’s beautiful about Oaxacan cuisine is that its ancestral origins can be found in many of its classic dishes. Centuries-old cooking methods and recipes passed down by the area’s indigenous communities give us lucky travelers a gastronomic experience that’s a delight for the senses.

Featuring toasted chili peppers, stringy quesillo cheese, and even chocolate and cinnamon flavors – Oaxaca City’s favorite dishes feature an explosion of exotic flavors!

After spending 1 month in Oaxaca City and 2.5 months in the Yucatan Peninsula, we found the Yucatan’s foods more delicious! I mean, cochinita pibil… come on!!!

What’s fascinating about Oaxacan food is its adaptability to gourmet and street food situations. It is complex enough to be served at any high-end restaurant. But the traditional stuff served up by an abuela at the market will be just as tasty!

7. Oaxaca Is The Land Of Seven Moles (Not The Rodent)

Eating moles in Oaxaca City markets

I would bet that there are 7 moles somewhere in Oaxaca. But that’s not what this section is about.

This is about the dark, velvety, smokey mole sauce that Oaxaca, Mexico is famous for!

To be real with you guys, we weren’t big mole fans. We had tried the famous mole negro elsewhere, but we weren’t convinced by the rich chocolatey flavor. But that all changed after delighting our tastebuds with Oaxaca’s moles.

Enjoying this iconic chocolate-infused sauce is essential when visiting Oaxaca City. Mole is to Oaxaca what cochinita pibil is to the Yucatan Peninsula.

Here are the different types that make Oaxaca the Land of Seven Moles:

  • Mole negro: rich, earthy and chocolatey.
  • Mole amarillo: tomato and tomatillo based. Lighter with a tart and sweet taste.
  • Mole coloradito: slightly spicy with dried chilis and chocolate.
  • Mole verde: tomatillo based and spiced with green peppers. Excludes cooked and dried ingredients.
  • Mole estofado: olives, raisins, olives and capers make estofado one of the most distinctive moles.
  • Mole manchamantel: fruitier mole prepared with pineapple and plantains.
  • Mole chichilo: heavy on charred peppers and thickened with corn meal.

This mole & mezcal tasting with a sommelier has over 600 5-star reviews!

Or try a 7-mole tasting with a chef and get to know all of Oaxaca’s iconic sauces.

8. Oaxacans Are In Love With A Certain Condiment

No, we’re not still talking about mole. That’s different. And we’re not talking about ketchup, either. That’s more of a north-of-the-border thing.

Oaxaca’s favorite condiment is mayonnaise!

And I know what you’re thinking: ‘A lot of people like mayo! There’s nothing weird about that.’ But every supermarket has a complete aisle filled with mayonnaise. Any size you want, you can get it!

Oaxaqueños slather mayo on esquites, hot dogs and hamburgers. And an entire grocery aisle dedicated to this controversial condiment? Consider my mind blown!

You can file this one under not-at-all useful things nobody tells you about visiting Oaxaca City! Time to move right along to more important Oaxacan foods…

Like this type of post? Make sure to read these posts next:

9. Tlayudas & Memelas & Tetelas, Oh My!

Okay, time to get back on track and talk about some traditional Oaxacan street food.

Anywhere you visit in Mexico, you will encounter some variation of a corn-based vehicle used to transport delicious flavors to your mouth. Of course, there is always the ubiquitous taco.

But this region’s unique contribution to the corn-based staples are tlayudas, memelas, and tetelas. Oh my!

This cooking class has over 1,500 5-star reviews!!! Learn some new recipes and bring the flavors of Oaxaca back home! And eat tons of yummy Oaxacan food while you’re at it.

These three foods are essentials of the Oaxaqueño market-dining experience. Tlayudas, memelas and tetelas are topped (or filled) with refried beans, quesillo cheese, lettuce, avocado and salsas. And they often include some kind of protein. Usually grilled beef, smoked pork, chorizo or shredded chicken.

Keep reading for a quick piece of advice for any vegans or vegetarians out there. Because there is a particular ingredient that we failed to mention.

10. Are You A Vegetarian? Beware Of Sneaky Oaxacan Dishes

Think you can order one of Oaxaca’s famous dishes without meat and be in the clear? Think again!

To the untrained eye, many of Oaxaca’s signature dishes appear vegetarian. But this is Mexico, people! Even the granola here has pieces of chicharrón in it. (No, not really).

Tlayudas, memelas, tetelas, and anything served on whatever variation of the corn tortilla will have a base of asiento. Asiento is… the leftover lard remaing after frying pork skin (chicharrón).

And Oaxaca’s famous moles are usually made with chicken broth!

So what is a vegetarian in Oaxaca to do?

Luckily you can ask for your tlayuda and similar dishes, ‘sin asiento‘ (without the pig lard). You may have a more difficult time finding moles made without chicken broth. But you can always ask: ‘el mole tiene caldo de pollo?‘ (Does the mole have chicken broth?)

WOTW Tip: one of the bonus points of being a trendy city is that you can now find enough vegan and vegetarian restaurants to keep you fed during your vacation. You can visit Oaxaca’s organic market for veggie options or Hierba Dulce restaurant.

11. Don’t Plan Your Street Food Tour On Wednesdays

Street vendor in Oaxaca de Juarez

So you just landed and can’t wait to hit the town for some epic street foods. Well, you will have a disappointing time hunting down Oaxaca’s famous street food if you arrive on a Wednesdays!

That’s because city regulations prohibit street vendors from being out with their carts on this particular day of the week.

Want to avoid flying solo on your Oaxaca City food tour? Hit the local market with an expert in Oaxacan cuisine with this 5-star experience!

Oaxaca’s various markets are still open on Wednesday. But small vendors with movable carts selling everything from tacos to Oaxacan snow cones will be missing in action.

Better to plan your food tour for another day of the week!

WOTW Tip: if you are planning a DIY food tour while visiting Oaxaca City, our best advice is to get out there early. The street-food scene in Mexico is the liveliest between 8 am – 11 am. Unlike many western countries, dinner is not the main meal of the day.

12. Oaxaca’s Bustling Markets Are So Much Fun!

The bustling local markets in Oaxaca de Juarez offer an incredible glimpse into local life. Oaxaca’s lively markets are full of brightly-dressed locals selling fresh produce, all sorts of animal parts, handmade goods and more! The exotic smells, sights and sounds are an all-out assault on the senses!

Here are the most famous local markets in Oaxaca City:

  • Mercado 20 de Noviembre: the most famous market for trying local foods. Clean, welcoming, and located only a few blocks from the Zocalo.
  • Mercado Benito Juarez: directly next to Mercado 20 de Noviembre, this market has a broader assortment of souvenirs and knickknacks than other markets. There are also some food and juice stalls.
  • Central de Abastos de Oaxaca: the market that gives a perfect glimpse into local life. You’ll find vendors dressed in traditional clothing and ladies preparing handmade tortillas. Local products like leather sandals and handbags are also more affordable in this market. Note that this sprawling market is located outside the central tourist zone.
  • Mercado de la Merced: a smaller local market with great moles and friendly people. Located near the chic Jalatlaco neighborhood
  • Mercado Sanchez Pascuas: off-the-beaten-path market near downtown. You can find everything from produce to prepared foods.

As you can see, there are quite a few fantastic markets to choose from! But they don’t all have the same diversity of products, so choose wisely. We personally consider Mercado 20 de Noviembre and Central de Abastos de Oaxaca must visits!

WOTW Tip: located in a small village just outside of Oaxaca de Juarez, Tlacolula Market is one of the biggest in the state of Oaxaca. Just a short drive from Oaxaca de Juarez, Tlacolula has the most famous and hectic Sunday market in the area. It is where you want to be if you are looking for a hardcore street-food scene.

13. Enter Smoke Alley If You Dare! (Or If You’re Hungry)

Wander around Mercado 20 de Noviembre long enough, and you’ll find thick clouds of smoke drifting out of a dark corridor. This hazy section of the market is known as the Pasillo del Humo, or ‘Hallway of Smoke.’ And eating there is beautiful chaos!

The hallway is filled with dozens of little grill stations calling for your attention. Each one grills up Mexican favorites like steak, chorizo and cecina (spiced and smoked pork). And as the name implies, this place is packed with smoke!

Everyone eating here gets shuffled to long, picnic-style tables. And you are literally eating shoulder-to-shoulder with the friendly locals!

There are also no utensils in sight. So you better say ‘sí, por favor’ when the tortilla lady asks if you want any. The tortillas are the only way to eat the grilled meats without it becoming an absolute disaster. You just gotta dive in and go for it!!!

WOTW Tip: eating at Pasillo del Humo was one of the most frantic dining experiences of our lives. Keep track of what you ordered and who owes you what. You might need to give some gentle reminders that you are still waiting for parts of your meal.

14. Oaxaca City Is An Explosion Of Colors

Street food scene near Oaxaca City Zocalo

Some Mexican cities are just so freaking colorful!

We saw it firsthand while exploring Campeche, Merida and Valladolid. And like these wonderful Yucatan cities, Oaxaca City’s historic center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This UNESCO designation helps preserve the beautiful buildings in the centro area.

A burst of vibrant hues are waiting to catch your eye anywhere you go in Oaxaca City. It’s in the traditional clothing, street art, colonial buildings, and the food served up in the markets. 

The explosion of colors in Oaxaca City radiates good vibes!

15. Jalatlaco Is The Most Flamboyant Oaxaca City Neighborhood

Jalatlaco Oaxaca Wall Mural
‘Girls have the power.’

A 10-minute walk from the chaotic centro area of Oaxaca is the colorful Jalatlaco neighborhood. Jalatlaco is where the cool kids hang out. There are stunning murals everywhere, rooftop bars with incredible views of the surrounding mountains, mezcal-tasting rooms and stylish restaurants.

What more could you possibly need in life?

Jalatlaco is particularly famous for its amazing murals and street art. You can easily get lost exploring the streets of this colorful neighborhood for a few hours! Visiting Jalatlaco is an essential part of any Oaxaca itinerary.

WOTW Tip: the quaint Xochimilco neighborhood is another hip spot that doesn’t get as much attention as Jalatlaco. It is on the smaller side, but it’s a good place to check out for people spending more time in Oaxaca.

16. The People Of Oaxaca Are Renowned Protestors

Anti-establishment graffiti in Oaxaca City
‘In Oaxaca there is no justice.’

One of the first things we noticed after arriving in Oaxaca City was the anti-establishment graffiti all over the walls of the centro historico.

Spray-painted messages and expertly designed prints blame the local and national governments for the community’s plight. The police, national guard, and military are also in the crosshairs of the protesters.

The people of Oaxaca are more vocal than their fellow countrymen regarding general injustices and specific atrocities (allegedly) carried out at the hands of the national government, military, and local police. The graffiti also supports marginalized indigenous communities and women’s rights.

One of the most famous protests in Oaxaca de Juarez was against McDonald’s. Led by Francisco Toledo, the renowned painter and social activist, the people of Oaxaca fought to get a shiny new McDonald’s restaurant out of the Zocalo. And it worked!

Get out of here, McDonald’s! Oaxaca’s Zocalo belongs to the people.

17. Locals Are Getting The Short End Of The Stick

Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico. And while tourism growth has pumped more money into the local community, the impact is more nuanced.

The main challenge faced by locals in Oaxaca City is that they have been displaced due to the increasing cost of living around the touristy areas. And while this blog doesn’t exist to examine complex social issues like gentrification, it would be unfair to avoid mentioning it.

Many of the trendy places around the city are ventures by non-locals. While we aren’t suggesting you avoid these places altogether, we do encourage you to eat at the local markets or from street vendors during your visit.

WOTW Tip: we learned about the challenges of gentrification in Oaxaca from our walking-tour guide and this article by Mexico News Daily.

Save This Oaxaca, Mexico Travel Post To Your Pinterest For Later!

Fun Facts To Know Before Visiting Oaxaca City Mexico

18. Keep You Ears Open For Indigenous Languages

One of the things we love about Mexico is the incredible diversity of cultures that exist here. We loved hearing Mayan dialects while visiting Valladolid and villages around the Yucatan Peninsula. And as luck would have it, 12 different indigenous languages are spoken in the state of Oaxaca. That’s amazing!

You’ll be able to hear locals speaking in their native tongue when walking around the local markets. You likely won’t have a clue whether they are speaking Zapotec, Mixtec or one of the other languages. But it’s still super cool to hear!

The strong presence of indigenous cultures in Oaxaca City is one of the most beautiful things about this place. And what’s even better is the way they celebrate their incredible traditions…

19. The Guelaguetza Is One Of The Best Parties In Mexico

Indigenous clothing Guelaguetza Oaxaca City
Image source: Canva

The Guelaguetza is recognized as one of Mexico’s premier parties! Occurring in early July, this annual event is the pride and joy of Oaxaca de Juarez.

The Guelaguetza celebration brings together all the unique indigenous communities from the state of Oaxaca. The different groups are dressed to the tens in vibrantly-colored clothing while sharing their traditional song and dance to a packed auditorium. It is a beautiful event that showcases the intense pride the communities around Oaxaca have for their incredible heritage.

You can buy tickets to the Guelaguetza in advance, but the quoted price on Viator is more than you would pay if you get tickets through your hotel or Airbnb hosts. Tickets for the Guelaguetza 2023 will be on sale here as of June 1st, 2023.

So make sure to check out the Guelaguetza if you want to experience the richness of Oaxaca’s indigenous culture. And make sure the check out the next thing on this list if you love radishes.

Wait… what?

20. Let Yourself Go Wild At The Night Of The Radishes!

Chalk this one up as one of the world’s oddest celebrations.

Every December, the festive people of Oaxaca City host a radish-carving competition. Yes, radishes.

La Noche de los Rabanos (Night of the Radishes) has been a Oaxaca tradition since 1897! The intricate carvings started as a way for vendors of this moderately-tasty vegetable to sell more of their product. But today it’s a massive festival with concerts, fireworks, and of course, carved radishes! The winner of the competition gets cold hard cash.

The talented artists sculpt radishes resembling saints, animals, iconic buildings and whatever these root vegetables inspire the maestros to create. Noche de los Rabanos is one of those sneakily awesome things to do while visiting Oaxaca City!

21. Mezcal In Oaxaca Flows Like Water (Don’t Drink It Like Water)

It’s finally time to talk about mezcal!

Mezcal is a smokey liquor native to the Oaxaca region. Unlike tequila, which is only produced from the blue agave plant, mezcal can be made from any agave species. And there are countless types of mezcal with many different flavor profiles.

Fun fact: tequila is technically a mezcal, but don’t tell that to the people of Guadalajara.

Para todo mal, mezcal. Y para todo bien, tambien. Y si no tiene remedio, litro y medio.

‘For everything bad in life, there’s mezcal. And for everything good, also. And if there’s no cure, drink a liter and a half.’

A proper drink of mezcal is served with sal de gusano (worm salt) and an orange slice. And yes, sal de gusano is actually made with dried and crushed worms. In addition to salt and chili powder. We are big fans 🙂

Best places for mezcal tasting in Oaxaca City:

  • Cortijo La Mezcaleria: tastings focus on small-batch and artisanal mezcals. The mezcaleros (servers) are knowledgeable and friendly.
  • La Casa del Mezcal: more of a drinking bar than a mezcal experience. But they take their mezcals seriously and can advise great tasting options for you. Just note that English-speaking skills are limited here.
  • La Mezcaloteca: pricier option for those that want a more profound educational experience. You will be introduced to mezcals based on your flavor preferences for coffee, beer and wine. Cool!

We hope that you find the answers to everything in life with Oaxaca’s mezcals!

WOTW Tip : sip – never shoot – your glass of mezcal.

22. Visit Palenques To See How Mezcal Is Made

How mezcal is made
Image source: Canva

Are the mezcal tastings in Oaxaca City not exactly what you’re looking for? Do you want to dig deeper into the nitty gritty of how this fabulous spirit is produced? Well, good! Because that’s exactly what this section is all about!

The nearby town of Santiago Matatlán is known as the ‘World Capital of Mezcal. And there are many fabulous distilleries (aka: palenques) to visit in the area. Even better, many are family-run artisanal producers that let you get a literal taste of local mezcal made with love.

Here are some of the highest-rated palenques in Santiago Matatlán:

Visit the last ancestral mezcal palenque in Oaxaca! Ancestral mezcal implements traditional distillation methods. The agave is cooked in the earth to release the sugars, and no stainless steel tools are used during production.

Here’s an interesting story: mezcal was once considered a drink for poor and indigenous people. And it was banned by Mexico’s most famous dictator, Porfirio Diaz. But today it is super-trendy and internationally-loved spirit.

WOTW Tip: the best way to get to Santiago Matatlán is by taking the bus from centro Oaxaca to Tlacolula and then jumping in a shared taxi to finish the journey.

23. Oaxaca’s Cantinas Are Spectacular Places

Drinking mezcal in a Oaxaca Catina

We fell in love with cantinas while traveling around the Yucatan Peninsula. These local watering holes really make you feel like you are in Mexico. Between the obligatory swinging doors and quirky decorations, the local cantinas are the most atmospheric places to sip on a couple of drinks.

We knocked back some Espadin mezcal and an ice-cold beer at Salón de La Fama. The people are friendly, the drinks are cheap, and the ambiance is welcoming. What more do you need?

Pop into Los Bigotes De Zapata if you’re looking for something a little more on the ‘authentic’ side.

Note that any good cantina worth its salt will serve botanas, or little snacks. And if you are (un)lucky, you may even get to try the next thing on this list of things nobody tells you about visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico!

24. What Are Chapulines And Why Do I Love Them?!?

Eating chapulines in Oaxaca City Mexico
I got a bag full of fried grasshoppers! Who’s hungry?

Let’s cut right to the chase. Chapulines are fried grasshoppers, and I love them!

First of all, I (Gordon) consumed way more grasshoppers than I ever intended. The sweet lady selling chapulines just kept feeding me samples. Big ones, small ones, spicy ones, original flavor… I tried them all! And I can say that they are surprisingly enjoyable. Even Aimara tried some of the tiny ones 🙂

Indigenous communities in Southwest Mexico have enjoyed this ‘exotic’ protein-packed snack for thousands of years. Today they are still enjoyed as ‘botanas’ – or snacks. And they would pair perfectly with a nice cold cerveza or a smokey mezcal!

So go ahead and let us know if you are hosting any happy hours – we’ll bring the chapulines!

Okay, now for a more relaxed way to explore Oaxaca’s heritage…

25. Monte Alban Is A Oaxaca Day Trip Favorite

Image source: Canva

Monte Alban is the most famous ancient city in the state of Oaxaca. The impressive ruins are an essential day trip from Oaxaca City. The beautifully preserved archaeological site was once the capital of the Zapotec civilization, and it’s one of Mexico’s most well-preserved ruins! 

The city dates back to 500 BC and was inhabited for over 1,500 years. Needless to say, Monte Alban has an incredible history! And the beautiful views from the top of the temples make this one of the best day trips from Oaxaca City!

WOTW Tip #1: we love visiting the beautiful ruins in Mexico. And our experience has taught us that it’s 100% worth it to splurge on a guide. Otherwise, you’ll have little clue about what exactly you’re looking at and why it’s significant. An English-speaking guide should cost 600 Mexican pesos ($32 US).

WOTW Tip #2: often overlooked for the more famous Monte Alban ruins, the ancient Zapotec city of Mitla is another excellent option for history junkies.

26. You Can Experience Indigenous Culture In The Surrounding Villages

Alebrijes near Oaxaca City Mexico
Image source: Canva

Oaxaca City is surrounded by countless adorable little villages strong in indigenous traditions. Many of these villages are known for their hectic markets and expertise in producing crafts, clothing, and even mezcal!.

Here’s a list of the most popular villages to visit around Oaxaca de Juarez, Mexico:

  • San Martin Tilcajete: renowned for making the colorful wood carvings (alebrijes) found in Oaxaca City’s markets.
  • Santa Maria Atzompa: locals here are recognized worldwide for their pottery-making skills. They are most famous for their black-clay pottery.
  • Teotitlan del Valle: the ladies of this village are weaving masters! Head into the center of town, away from the large showrooms, to support smaller producers of these vibrantly colored textiles!
  • Tlacolula de Matamoros: as mentioned earlier, Tlacolula is the place to be for the region’s wildest Sunday market. Many artisanal mezcal-producing families are also found around this Oaxacan village!
  • Santa Maria del Tule: famous for being home to the world’s widest tree, this is also an adorable little town worthy of a few hours of attention.

Visiting these traditional villages is a great way to fill your itinerary. Planning a trip to Oaxaca is no day at the beach…

27. Oaxaca City Is Not Near Any Beaches

Puerto Escondido Mexico
Image source: Canva

The state of Oaxaca is famous for its gorgeous beaches. But think twice before packing your flip-flops and favorite bathing suit if you’re only spending time in Oaxaca City. The closest beach is more than 6 hours away by car!

So that quick day trip to Puerto Escondido you were picturing might have to turn into a weekend trip!

A new highway between Oaxaca de Juarez and Puerto Escondido has been in the works for nearly 20 years.

The new road would cut the travel time between these two destinations in half. Unfortunately, a slew of different issues means that the new highway is not close to being completed as of February 2023.

28. You Will Enter The Land Of Eternal Summer!!!

Oaxaca de Juarez is blessed with a beautiful mountain climate. The mornings are fresh at around 50 F (10 C), and the days are typically nice and toasty. We visited in January, and the average day-time high was around 82 F (28 C). And it felt quite a bit warmer in the direct sun.

Overall, the temperature in Oaxaca, Mexico does not fluctuate a ton. But March through May are surprisingly the hottest months to visit. These months tend to be the warmest in many places in southern Mexico. We remember the brain-melting heat while visiting Merida and Valladolid in March.

Trust us, it gets f’ing hot!

So what does this all mean for you?

The best time to visit Oaxaca de Juarez is January and February. This is when the days are consistently sunny, there is little chance of rain, and the crowds are modest. October through December are also good options to skip the rainy season, which is May through September.

29. Cool Down At Hierve El Agua Near Oaxaca City

Hierve el Agua in Mexico
Image source: Canva

Did you know that Oaxaca, Mexico has its very own version of Turkey’s Cotton Castle? We certainly didn’t before coming here! Oaxaca’s travertine pools feature calcified limestone deposits that have layered on top of each other for thousands of years.

Hierve de Agua looks like a crazy glacier sliding off the side of a mountain. And what’s even crazier is that there are only a handful of places in the world where this natural phenomenon occurs!

Intrigued by calcified limestone deposits? Take a look at this half-day Hierve del Agua tour – rated 4.99/5 stars! This tour gets an early start to avoid the bigger tour groups 🙂

It’s always a great time to visit Hierve de Agua! You won’t be able to help yourself from plopping down in one of its refreshing pools.

30. Oaxaca City Is A Safe Place To Visit… Mostly

The question of safety is inevitable when discussing traveling in Mexico. And while parts of the country face a sad reality, it is a mistake to lump all of Mexico together as a ‘no-go’ territory.

Thankfully, the state of Oaxaca has been able to avoid the scary cartel violence plaguing areas in the north. It is one of the safest places in all of Mexico, with limited threats of violence and crime.

That said, it is a relatively large city. And as with most cities, you should be cautious wandering around in poorly-lit neighborhoods at night.

Our tour guide also advised that robberies can happen at the viewpoint near the Guelaguetza Auditorium. So be aware of your surroundings if you plan to go up and catch a sunset!

WOTW Tip: tourist demand for drugs in popular destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum has created an illicit market worth fighting over. This has dramatically impacted the safety of these places. Please help to keep Oaxaca a safe place to visit and don’t ask around for drugs!

31. Mask Wearing Is Still Prevalent In 2023

Market In Oaxaca de Juarez

Disclaimer: This is an FYI, not a criticism of the local Oaxaqueños’ behavior regarding Covid. Good, now that’s out of the way.

Covid masks are worn by the vast majority of locals both indoors and outdoors. And it is required to wear them when entering the local markets.

And you may sense that some people will be uncomfortable interacting with you if you are not wearing a mask. Even if you are outside.

The local communities have been significantly impacted by Covid. And the medical system lacks the resources to manage a sudden influx of patients. So you can understand where they are coming from with their high level of caution.

32. Please Help Keep Oaxaca Clean

Many places in Mexico lack the infrastructure to adequately collect and discard waste. This issue was most evident to us while visiting Isla Holbox, Guadalajara, and Oaxaca City.

Our Airbnb host was proactive in helping us to manage the lack of waste pick-up by providing an area to compost and collecting our inorganic waste so that it could be discarded the best way possible. For many, the only option is leaving trash on the sidewalks hoping it gets picked up at some point. (Note: you can be fined for doing this)

All that to say, please bring a reusable water bottle, and be conscious of limiting the use of plastic bags and similar single-use items.

33. Oaxaca City Is Becoming A Digital Nomads Hot Spot

Aspiring Digital Nomads In Oaxaca City

In theory, we were being digital nomads while visiting Oaxaca City.

But we were not really the hip, co-working, matcha-drinking type of digital nomads... you know, the kind that make money? We were more the ‘staying-on-the-other-side-of-town’ digital nomads. Also, do digital nomads drink matcha?

Who knows… ?

Regardless, the city has many great features for digital nomads in Mexico:

  • Affordable cost of living.
  • Relatively fast Wifi.
  • A few nice gyms around the Jalatlaco neighborhood.
  • Highly-rated co-working spaces: Centrico Cowork & Co404 Oaxaca.
  • A good amount of healthy food options and laptop-friendly cafes.

And considering the 180 days that travelers can spend in the country with the Mexican visitor’s permit, this is the perfect spot for anyone needing a little workation!

34. This Place Is So Special It Has A Theme Song

Dios Nunca Muere Mural

The people of Oaxaca are exceptionally proud of where they are from. The land and unique cultural heritage are tremendous sources of pride for the local communities.

The song ‘Dios Nunca Muere (God Never Dies), sung by Pedro Infante, is recognized as Oaxaca’s (un)official anthem. It is a sad song, addressing the pain of those who long for their motherland while seeking better opportunities outside their home state of Oaxaca.

Turn on the radio at noon, and there’s a great chance you will hear ‘Dios Nunca Muere.’ Any day of the week!

You might be unable to resist singing Oaxaca’s anthem after falling in love…

Wish You Could Travel More & Better? We have saved over $20k thanks to travel hacking! And we can teach you exactly how we do it (the responsible way!) – Sign up here to get started! The first step is to find out if travel hacking is right for you! (US residents only)

35. Visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico Will Leave You Smitten

Mexico selfie

We look back at our time in Oaxaca with the fondest memories. In fact, this might just be our favorite city in Mexico! At least for now…

The friendly people, fascinating culture and vibrant neighborhoods made Oaxaca de Juarez so easy to fall in love with!

And what’s amazing is that we visited this special place at a time when we pumped the breaks hard on our spending. All in the name of saving money to keep traveling the world full-time. There is so much left for us to discover in Oaxaca, Mexico!

It’s safe to say that we will be back 🙂

Thanks for reading!


Have any questions about visiting Oaxaca City? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or DM us on Instagram! PS: IG is the quickest way to get in touch with us 🙂

Visiting Mexico? Don’t forget to read these posts next:

Tired of reading? We have an entire Mexico travel series on YouTube.

Don’t forget to subscribe to follow along with the adventures 🙂

Save these Oaxaca Mexico Travel Tips to Your Pinterest!

*This post contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission if you purchase using these links, but there is no change in the price for you. This helps support us to stay on the road producing useful travel content. Thanks for supporting us!

Home » Mexico » 35 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico

2 thoughts on “35 Things Nobody Tells You About Visiting Oaxaca City, Mexico”

  1. Hello My wife and her family will be in Oaxaca on December 28 th threw the
    first week of the new you . We have a small distillery in xcalak Qroo and would
    like to do tour of rum distillery’s in your area . Is this something you can put
    together for a seven and if not can you recommend someone there ?
    Thank you in advance for any help you can give me
    David Randall

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *