Oaxaca embodies Mexican culture and heritage; in this southern state, you will find the soul of Mexico with its delicious cuisine, rich culture, and unbeatable landscapes of coastlines and ancient ruins.
The state capital is a place full of contrast and wonders; downtown will keep you busy for at least two days, not to mention it was awarded the first place of best cities in the world 2020 by Travel and Leisure. You can start by visiting a local market such as Mercado Benito Juarez. Here you will find a sample of local crafts and, of course, food. Then, just a couple of blocks from there, you can visit the Oaxaca Cathedral with its elaborate baroque style façade build in 1553.
The Santo Domingo Temple is a place you cannot miss; also located in downtown Oaxaca, it is one of the city’s highlights. The architectural style is also characteristic of the 17th century baroque. Here you can visit a cultural center with a permanent exhibition walking you thru the history of the city. And to top it all off, the Ethnobotanical Garden will give you a glimpse of Mexico’s biodiversity.
Other places of interest are the Ruffino Tamayo museum, he was a well-known artist and collector, and you can observe its impressive collection of pre-Hispanic artifacts. Museo Casa Juarez is a museum dedicated to former President Benito Juarez. He lived from 1818 to 1828 in this humble-looking house. You will have the opportunity to admire related memorabilia from the era. And while you wander around downtown, do not miss the chance to visit a mezcal bar and a local restaurant to taste Oaxaca Mole.
Take a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Oaxaca and admire the magnificence of Monte Alban pyramids. It is one of the most important archeological sites in Mesoamerica, and it is extraordinary because the Spanish did not destroy them during conquer. You get to see the full splendor of this city. The construction of this Zapotec capital started in 500 BC and 300 years later was abandoned for unknown reasons. You can easily access the ruins by bus or taxi, and you can explore by yourself or book a guided tour. However, if you want to make the most out of your visit, a tour will be the best option since you will visit other places of interest and get to know more of this site’s history.
Hierve el Agua
Located 43 miles east of Oaxaca City, this unique rock formation appears to be a petrified waterfall, and it sits above the valley, which provides impressive views of the natural surroundings. You can take a swim in one of the two warm pools located at the edge of the cliffs. If you want to take amazing photos and avoid the crowds, get there early or book a night in a nearby accommodation so you can start your day in this amazing location before the tour groups show up.
Oaxaca is more than a colonial and pre-Hispanic architecture playground; it has a magnificent Pacific Ocean coastline known to be the perfect spot for surfing competitions. Thousands come and visit to test their surfing skills on Playa Zicatela, considered one of the best beaches to surf in the world. If your plans include kids, you should head to Playa Puerto Angelito, a beach with a natural pool ideal for snorkel and diving.
Santa Maria del Tule
If you happen to visit Oaxaca during the second Monday of October, make sure you visit Santa Maria del Tule, since their famous Tule Tree is celebrated on that day. The oldest Tule tree in this town is more than 2000 years old, and it has a 54-meter circumference (164 feet). To understand how old this tree is, it already existed when the Zapotec civilization flourished in Monte Alban.
Your visit to this town should not only consist of having a look at this ancient cypress tree. The surroundings are worth exploring; within the central plaza, you can look at local artisans and get a postcard for your collection. Taste some local ice creams made of unconventional flavors like tuna, a cactus fruit not confused with fish. Try some fresh fruit at a local market and enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants with a Tule tree view.
If you want to visit Mexico and get to know its culture, Oaxaca will not disappoint. It is the most diverse state ethnically and linguistically, and it treasures both pre-Hispanic and colonial architecture. Book your trip and escape to this magical city in Mexico.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com