Ultimate guide to travel to Oaxaca


The Ultimate Guide to Travel to Oaxaca

Oaxaca always leaves you with a good taste in your mouth 

Visiting Oaxaca City

I wrote this ultimate guide to travel to Oaxaca with a happy heart. Whenever I visit Oaxaca, the warmth of its people makes me feel at home. Its extraordinary gastronomy and its authentic mezcal are a pair I don’t want to part with. And its archaeological sites, handicrafts, festivities, and markets make me want to return again and again.

When you travel to Oaxaca, a city full of color, you have to go with your eyes wide open. You will be amazed by the immense range of colors found in its traditional markets, in the clothes of Oaxacan women, and in the sky during sunsets. Indeed, it is one of those destinations that still preserve the spirit of colonial Mexico; you will notice it by its monuments.

Planning to visit Oaxaca? Tell us your travel ideas and we will design a unique and hassle-free trip for you.

A warm and colorful city in a valley between mountains.

Oaxaca location 

When starting a trip, I always recommend taking a map and locating the destination we want to reach. In this case, Oaxaca is located right in the southwest of Mexican territory. From Mexico City, it is approximately 5 hours by road. To the north of Oaxaca, are the states of Puebla and Veracruz, with the south it borders the Pacific Ocean, to the east with the picturesque state of Chiapas, and to the west with Guerrero. 

Oaxaca weather

Oaxaca is the fifth-largest state in the country and its weather varies according to the region. Although to be honest, there is no single season when it is best to travel to Oaxaca. In other words, every month has its charm, and I assure you that you will find magic in this destination. 

However, it is essential to know that the weather is enjoyable the first months of the year, and the last two months, with a bit of cold. The rain arrived by June, July, August, and September and could affect some of your outdoor activities.

Keep in mind that in July, Oaxaca turns into a big parade, as the Guelaguetza begins; a tradition that has remained since pre-hispanic times, being a ritual to the gods. 

Dance and color at the Guelaguetza – Paulina Gutierrez

Get the most out of Oaxaca 

Museums and mezcal

What museums to visit in Oaxaca City?

To start getting to know Oaxaca, you should definitely visit one of the city’s museums: 

  • El Museo Textil de Oaxaca
  • Museo de las Culturas 
  • MACO – Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca

All three have interesting exhibits that will allow you to delve deeper into Mexican culture. Moreover, don’t forget to visit the Jardín Etnobotánico and one or two mezcalerías to warm up your throat. 

Museo Textil – TripAdvisor

If your thing is the beverage of the gods, you can’t miss the mezcal route. During one day, you will learn about the ritual behind mezcal, where the planting and harvesting of mezcal becomes a cult.

Mezcal Route

You will visit Matatlán, a place where farmers bring offerings to the cross and offer their agaves. Inside the fields, you will learn about some of the varieties of agave used in the production of this drink and then enter the elaboration and decoration of the traditional mezcal cantaritos.

Among agave landscapes, the mezcal tour will take you through communities of small local producers that allow you to meet the people who produce mezcal in a very authentic way. You will continue to Chichicapam, where a local family will welcome you to their table for a traditional meal.

Finally, in Ocotlán you will visit a cantina where they make cured mezcal; one of the last places where the tradition of putting fruit in the mezcal bottles for tasting is still preserved.

Would you like to include the Mezcal Route in your itinerary? At Rutopia, a local travel specialist will create with you the ideal itinerary to travel to Oaxaca. So save time and get to know the real Mexico. Request your trip now.

Mezcal Route – Rutopía

Between flavors and aromas 

Authentic Oaxacan gastronomy  

Of course, in this guide to travel to Oaxaca City I can not fail to recommend: 

  • La Terraza los Amantes and its spectacular view of the Temple of Santo Domingo.
  • Los Danzantes Oaxaca is one of the most traditional restaurants in the city. 
  • Tierra de Sol Casa Restaurante, where you can enjoy the “mixteco” flavor, tradition, and a lot of love. Grandmothers like Doña Chonita, besides their wisdom, have a fantastic seasoning that they transmit to the new generations. 
Tierra de Sol – Oaxaca mi amor
Terraza Los Amantes
Los Danzantes – TripAdvisor

But I can’t leave behind the gastronomic offer found inside the markets either. The traditional visit to the “Mercado 20 de Noviembre” and its smoky aisle will whet your appetite in just a few seconds. The tlayudas are the most classic; they are these gigantic tortillas of 30 centimeters in diameter, usually prepared with lard, quesillo, beans, jerky, avocado, and salsa.

And please, when you visit the market, don’t forget to have a typical yolk bread in one hand and a cup of hot chocolate in the other. 

Mercado 20 de noviembre

Another great recommendation I have for you is the restaurant “Las Quince Letras” where you will find a selection of meals from every corner of the state, including the emblematic mole negro.  

Las Quince Letras

Strolling along the Andador Turístico is a pleasure. It is found along Macedonio Alcalá Street, the same street that leads to the Templo de Santo Domingo, whose exterior is a fantastic example of baroque ecclesiastical architecture. Formerly a monastery, it now houses a museum dedicated to pre-Columbian artists and artifacts, as well as the Jardín Etnobotánico.

Jardín Etnobotánico – Tamara Garcevic

Enjoy the afternoon in a café in the zócalo or go in search of one of the best ice creams you will ever taste in your life. I’ll give you a hint, they are in the tianguis, right next to Santo Domingo. 

Templo de Santo Domingo – Adventurous Kate

Do you still have energy left? If your answer was yes, of course, you have to see the city at night. A drink at Selva Oaxaca Cocktail Bar is a unique experience for its richness and diversity of local ingredients and Mexican distillates. Or, an esquite banquetero is always a good idea to end the day.

*The word “banquetero” means to eat an esquite right on the sidewalk

Selva Oaxaca Cocktail Bar

Rural cooking workshop in Oaxaca

If you are one of those who like to put your hands in the dough, there is a rural cooking workshop in Oaxaca, where in a country atmosphere, you will discover the authentic flavors of Oaxaca traditional cuisine with a wood stove, always with seasonal products and some of them harvested in the plots or patios of the families you will visit. The workshop takes place in a Zapotec community in the Valley of Oaxaca, in the home of a family that will welcome you with open arms to teach you all their secrets. You will have the opportunity to prepare 3 dishes and sit down to taste your creations.

Rural cooking workshop

Cultural treasures  

Traditional handicrafts of Oaxaca

Alebrijes – Alberto Romero

Of course, the Mercado de Artesanías is a must-stop to see the variety of handicrafts that Oaxaca has; which is one of the most extensive in the country.

Also, from the Mercado Benito Juárez, you will be able to admire the colorful typical costumes, such as the guayaberas and huipiles, the result of a mixture of indigenous culture and colonial techniques. You will be able to acquire an endless number of handicrafts, which have become a tourist attraction. From cloth dolls, wooden toys, clay dishes and the famous alebrijes, these imaginary beings formed with the parts of different animals, with very bright colors.

Clay – Xavi Calvo
Mexican rugs – Angélica Silva

Oaxacan neighbors 

Getting to know the surroundings of Oaxaca City

I definitely recommend you stay in downtown Oaxaca and dedicate one or two days getting to know the surroundings of the city.

Visit the great Zapotec city of Monte Albán

The pre-Columbian archaeological site of Monte Alban, south of Oaxaca City; one of the largest Mesoamerican cities of its time (100 B.C. to 200 A.D.). In about 3 hours you can visit Monte Alban, the great Zapotec city developed on a hilltop in the center of the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, which had a great influence on the development of Mesoamerica.

Monte Albán

Discover Mitla and the majestic Tule Tree

The second recommendation I have for you is a tour where archeology and nature meet in synergy. You start the day visiting the millenary Tule tree with more than 45 meters in circumference and 2000 years of life; then continue to Mitla, where you will find the most important religious center of the Zapotecs during the post-classical period. Its buildings were decorated with geometric shapes and are a clear example of the splendor and development of this ancient civilization. 

Tule Tree, Oaxaca – Bárbara García
Mitla – Maddy´s Avenue

Hike and tour of the handicraft village of Teotitlán

And finally, the hike and tour of the artisan village of Teotitlán is a must. You will be able to get to know the town of Teotitlán del Valle very closely; from its diverse nature around the lake, to its traditional handicrafts and the secrets of its production (weaving and dyeing of natural colors).

The tour begins at the town’s dam at the foot of the imposing Sierra Norte mountains, where sunrise is a spectacular time for bird watching. You will hike to the top of the nearest mountain, where you will have a view of the entire eastern valley of Oaxaca. 

A local family will welcome you into their home to eat traditional meals together. They will then show you the authentic craftsmanship that has been in the family for more than five generations of carpet weaving; actual weavers at heart! You will learn how the wool is cleaned, prepared, and dyed using natural materials such as plants, insects, leaves, and lime to create a rainbow of brilliant colors.

Teotitlán del Valle – Flickr

In conclusion, I assure you that with this ultimate guide to travel to Oaxaca, you will end up filling your eyes with color, your mouth with authentic flavors, your nose with unique aromas, your ears with joyful music, and your hands with handcrafted souvenirs to take home with you. 


More than 1500 travelers, 5 stars in Tripadvisor

tripadvisor travelers choice 2020




Victoria O.

September, 2022
Two Weeks in Mexico
Seamless transfers, excellent hotels particularly in Mexico city and Puebla, combined with various cultural and food tours. Particular highlights were the cultural/food tours in Mexico city and Puebla (also including the anthropology museum in Mexico city), and the rural tours in Oaxaca where we visited textile workshops, mescal producers and participated in a cooking class using traditional equipment. Also, although we didn't need it, the on call remote assistance was reassuring. I would definitely recommend Rutopia.
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia

Kris S.

April, 2022
Enjoyed using Rutopia
Enjoyed using Rutopia (Marisol and Melina) to plan my trip to Mexico. Marisol helped me figure out the best options fand booked everything. Melina was my in country support. Rutopia (the company through Kim Kim) is great and would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to take the burden out of vacation planning. My son and I truly enjoyed the trip knowing everything was taken care of and we just had to have fun. Thanks!
Kimkim Review of Rutopia

Melissa W.

July, 2022
Adventures in the Yucatán!
Such an amazing time in the Yucatán! Between floating in the mangroves to visiting Chichén Itzá to spending a whole day on the beach in El Cuyo, I couldn’t have planned a better trip without their help. Thank you so much for an unforgettable birthday vacation!! Simply amazing! Don’t think twice about having them help you plan your next vacation!
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia


April, 2022
Great experience with this agency, totally recommend!
Great experience with this agency. Our tour in Mexico was perfect and organised with great passion and precision. Special thanks to Mel (our direct contact during the trip) for being super responsive and to Jorge Barbosa (our tour guide in Mexico City). Totally recommend this tour operator!
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Sue G

June, 2022
Mayan Site Tour in Yucatan Penninsula Mexico
Rutopia did an outstanding job with the arrangement and execution of a 9 day tour of Mayan sites in the Yucatan peninsula. We provided Rutopia with the general parameters of the trip we wanted and they suggested an itinerary. After our approval, they set up the hotels, transportation within Mexico, and site tours. The hotels were good quality, and all of the drivers and tour guides showed up on time. We were very impressed with the quality of the tour guides and learned a lot on the trip. Jorge handled setting up the itinerary, and Melina handled the execution of the trip and was readily available via WhatsApp throughout the trip for any questions or issues. Melina was particularly helpful in changing our transportation arrangements to the airport at the last minute per our request. I would recommend Rutopia and would use them again for future trips.
Kimkim Review of Rutopia
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July, 2022
Fantastic Will do it again
My wife and I had a fantastic holiday in Mexico thanks to Marisol, Ana, Teresa and their colleagues & partners. The entire itinerary and arrangements were put together in less than 4 days. What we really liked about Marisol & her team was that they were only a message or a phone call away for any query/suggestion, etc. The trip was bespoke to the extent that Rutopia had kept in mind about our interests, food habits & executed bookings, tours. They were also very flexible in catering to last minute changes/requests. The team took upon them to ensure that our entire trip was comfortable & safe by taking care of even small stuff that one normally finds out post getting to a place. We would definitely like to use their services again!!
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Elena R.

April, 2022
A literally perfect trip to the Yucatan peninsula
Tom and I knew we wanted to go to Mexico. We knew we wanted a little bit of culture, some wildlife, and maybe a splash in the ocean. That's it. With the vague and minimal information we gave them, Rutopia was able to put together a perfect trip for us. We had a flawless itinerary. It's so clear that Rutopia really cares about the communities (animals and humans) in Mexico. Everything we did and everywhere we stayed felt like they were helping us experience Mexico as authentically and respectfully as possible. It's almost impossible to pick a highlight, but top of the list has to be the day we shared with Enrique, a Mayan host who was unbelievably generous with us. He shared the community gardens, including history and background about the families that live in Nuevo Durango and other nearby communities. He showed us the neighborhood cenotes, Punta Laguna, Uma Nojoch Keej (a wildlife reserve), and more. We picked and prepared the plants as Enrique and his wife Blanca showed us the best way to cook them (and rescued us when we were pricked by the nopales!). We saw howler monkeys and spider monkeys in the wild which was very cool. That had to be the very best day, but every day was amazing. Sian Ka'an reserve was lovely, the Mayan ruins were spectacular, the snorkeling in Puerto Morelos was fabulous, the bicycle cenote tour was jaw'droppingly gorgeous. I'm waxing superlative but it really all was like a dream. Beyond the activities, the scheduling and pace was perfect for us. We felt like we really made the most of our six days, but with enough downtime to explore and enjoy at our leisure. From picking up our car at the airport to finding our accommodation, the logistics were very smooth at every interaction. Special shoutout to Melina who pretty much instantly helped us when we had any questions about the trip. We've never used a travel planning service like this before. But after this trip, we'll never go back to the old way!
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia
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July, 2022
Journey to Mexico City, Cholula and Cuetzalan
We had a wonderful time. We started out in Mexico City with a 2 day tour filled with museums, food, and beautiful sights. We then went on to Cholula to experience the culture in a smaller town, see a local market, and eat traditional food. We finished the tour in a small town called Cuetzalan, where most people speak an indigenous language. All of our guides were great. Thank you for a memorable vacation!
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia


March, 2022
Just wonderful!
We had an amazing trip excellent organized by Jorge and supervised by Melina from Rutopia. We spent 10 days in Mexico, starting in Ciudad de Mexico where we visited the amazing Teotihuacan and then we flew to Yucatan for the amazing sites of Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Ek Balam, Tulum, Merida, Valladolid and the great Island Holbox. The trip was perfectly organized, the hotels were very good, and the guides were carefully chosen. We highly recommend Rutopia and especially Jorge!
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Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia
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Bikø J

November, 2021
Chiapas, Neri and her family
I traveled to Chiapas for an ecotourism experience with Rutopia and I liked it very much, the team responds very quickly to all questions and accompany the traveler throughout the experience, I missed my flight and they were very flexible to accommodate the entire itinerary, My destination was the lakes of Tziscao, where I was received by Neri with his family in very nice cabins next to a lake with incredible views and a magnificent tranquility, with them you make experiences of beekeeping and coffee and tours to nearby lakes, Montebello is a must! 100% recommended.
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia
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March, 2021
Super local agency
We have worked with Rutopia for several tours in Mexico in the Yucatán and Chiapas and we have never been disappointed. Authentic experiences, with locals, in magical places and off the beaten tourist track. Our contact Marisol was always super available and responsive, understanding and anticipating our desires. And she speaks very good French. I highly recommend Rutopia!
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia
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Mikel D

April, 2021
The best moment lived in Mexico
We were traveling as a group of friends with nothing organized. We like to improvise and be able to find alternative plans to the conventional tourist routes. We arrived in Puerto Escondido - Mexico's paradise - and started looking for options. A Mexican friend recommended us to contact Rutopia and we did. We explained our way of traveling - which they quickly understood - and in a few hours they came to us with a perfect selection of activities. We chose one of them and the next day we found ourselves galloping through beautiful hills, crossing a small lagoon in canoes, bathing on an unspoiled beach at sunset and sipping freshly picked coconuts with some mezcal. We had dinner in the only hut on the beach, eating fish that had been caught that day from the lagoon. Then we went to see the luminescence of the placton with paddle canoes until we were surprised by one of the biggest and reddest moons I have ever seen in my life. We ended up sleeping in bamboo huts a few meters from the waves. There were no more than 5 huts on the miles of beach that we could see. And at ALL times with an exquisite treatment - sympathy, kindness and attention. This is just one of the plans we booked with Rutopia, which definitely changed the course of our trip. Without a doubt, I would repeat this experience in any place I would like to visit in Mexico. Viva Mexico!
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Claudia A

September, 2020
Super organization, great accommodations and nice team
The trip was perfectly organized, we were always exclusive or in very small groups and had freedom to do our own activities. All accommodations were fantastic and sustainable, the food almost always local and very good, we could always fill our Rutopia water bottles and travel as plastic free as possible. We were met at the airport and had assistance getting a rental car. After that, we traveled independently but had our fixed dates and reservations with Rutopia. It was the perfect mix!
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia
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March, 2020
Circuit in Yucatan
Discovering wonderful and surprising sites, Mayan communities with an unforgettable welcome, breathtaking landscapes, a very pleasant climate in the middle of March...and smiling people! A big thank you to Rutopia and his team for the elaboration of this ideal circuit, alternating nature, city life, simplicity and comfort. Thanks to Mélina for the follow-up during our trip. We don't speak Spanish well enough, and we appreciated having a French-speaking contact person who could be reached if necessary. We still have a lot to discover and hope to come back very soon, and with Rutopia without hesitation!
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia
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Sabrina N

March, 2020
For those who don't like to manage logistics like hotels, rental cars, activities. And above all, to have someone who speaks fluent French that we can reach at any time for the unexpected... You are in the right place! Thank you to Chloe for the preparation of our trip, to Melina our Ariadne's thread and Teresa for her welcome and help at the arrival and departure. A big thank you to Enrique and Blanca from Nuevo-Durango for their welcome, their smiles, their family, a lot of emotions at the time to leave you. Thanks to Mémo for your teaching of Mexican customs (Sian Ka'an) The Yucatan is a magnificent region. And the population is very pleasant. Only downside Holbox... Too much dust, too much smell of fuel oil, too much tourist. I will keep in memory these wonderful moments!
Tripadvisor Review of Rutopia

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