8 exciting Oaxaca day trips to get you adventuring outside the city
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Sometimes, the best thing to do in a city is to get out of the city. Now, I’m not saying that Oaxaca’s centre doesn’t have a huge amount of great things to do (I recommend these 14 things!), but you’d really miss out if you didn’t include at least a couple of Oaxaca day trips during your visit, too.
The city’s surrounding area has so much richness, and I’m here to tell you which Oaxaca day trips are best to spend your time on!
History-lovers are going to love what Oaxaca day trips have to offer, but so are nature-enthusiasts, hikers, culture-vultures and the people I understand least in life – tequila/mezcal-drinkers.
Most of the Oaxaca day trips in this post are within an hour and a half’s travel from the centre, depending on how you decide to get there. You can visit almost all of them independently, but using a small-group tour will give you the convenience of having all the difficult travel arrangements sorted for you, and give you access to several Oaxaca day trips succinctly within one trip. I’ll share which tour I recommend at the end of this post!
How to pronounce Oaxaca: wa-HA-ca
Once you reach the end of this post on the best Oaxaca day trips for your time in Mexico, don’t miss these useful guides:
What beautiful chaos! If you’re in the city on a Sunday, it’s an absolute must that you take this Oaxaca day trip down to Tlacolula market, 45 minutes away from the centre.
It has everything from tourist souvenirs to artisanal wonders, to street food, to machetes & farm equipment, to clothing, to leather goods, to fruits & veg, to meat, to toys, to breads, to household items, to literally anything else you can think of.
If you want a guide to get you there in comfort, help you negotiate and teach you what everything is, catch a space on this top-rated small group tour that lets you experience the market like a local.
2. Monte Albán (from the ground)
Monte Albán is an archeological site just 10km out of the city centre, and probably the easiest of Oaxaca day trips to organise and go on. It’s a site filled with ancient pyramids, chambers and other ruins for you to explore.
The most significant find within these ruins were the tombs built by the Zapotecs to bury their deceased. Generations later, the Mixtecas also used this site as a burial ground for their dead.
This means that the discovery of these ruins was one of the most monumental in Mexican archeology. Thousands of stunning artefacts were found buried alongside the dead, giving unprecedented insight into their lives, deaths and belief systems.
You can get to Monte Albán independently via taxi (around 150mxn each way), but I strongly recommend taking a Monte Albán guided tour with transport so that you know what the significance of what you’re looking at once you get there, otherwise, as my travel buddy wisely said, “It’s a lot of rock”.
They only let 400 visitors into the Monte Albán ruins a day, so this is something you need to be there in the morning for.
3. Monte Albán (from the air!)
Want to see Monte Albán from a whole new perspective? For as little as 3000 pesos, you can take a hot air balloon over the archeological site and channel Cappadocia vibes.
While it’s a bit of a trek out of the city, it would be silly to miss this off your list of things to do in Oaxaca! Hierve el Agua is a glorious natural wonder formed up in the mountains by millennia of petrification of a waterfall and its surrounding natural pools.
The reason this site is so important is that the Zapotec people considered it their underworld, though again, the Mixtecs later adopted the site and put their own mark on it as a burial ground.
The ruins are among the most well-preserved of Oaxaca’s archeological sites, because when the Spanish conquistadors arrived, they noticed crosses carved into many of the walls, and therefore were too superstitious to destroy them.
You’ll also have the chance to buy some of their artisanal Zapoteca creations, something that will no doubt stand out from anything you’re able to find back home.
7. Arból de Tule
Oaxaca state boasts the widest tree trunk in the world, and well, people like to go see it! It is known as the Árbol de Tule, and legend has it that it was planted by a famous Zapoteca priest 1400 years qgo.
I could probably waffle and gush a bit here as travel bloggers do, but I’m not going to pretend I have anything else to tell you about this. It’s a big-arse tree.
The Oaxaca area is known as the birthplace of the tequila-like spirit mezcal, so get yourself immersed in the production and taste of this far-too-much-like-tequila-for-me spirit on a Oaxaca day trip along the Caminos del Mezcal. This is a strip of mezcalerías every 500m or so along the road to Tlacolula, and each one will give you a run-down of how the mezcal is made and then offer tasting.
Some mezcal experiences in Oaxaca are notably better than others. I rocked up at a random mezcalería with a group of travel buds after our taxi driver admitted 10 minutes into the journey that he had no idea where the one we were actually trying to get to was. Lasting approximately 90 seconds, it wasn’t the best mezcal tour in Oaxaca, but the woman was sweet and the tour was free. She then simply plied us with mezcal until one of us bought a bottle.
Reserving a place on a guided mezcal tour from Oaxaca is therefore a really good way to a) guarantee quality information and b) get you there and back smoothly.
But wait! You can save yourself a lot of time and hassle on your Oaxaca day trips…
Many of these Oaxaca day trips can actually be done in one day (!), with the same all-day tour that I recommend for visiting Hierve el Agua. Over a spicy 11 hours, the tour takes you in comfort to all of these stops:
Hierve el Agua
Mitla archeological zone
Arból de Tule
Teotitlan del Valle weaving village
El Rey de Matatlan, another important spiritual site for the Zapotec people
Mezcal distillery tour
Whether you’re tight on time, want to meet new people as you travel or just don’t want to have to deal with working out how to get from place to place, this tour is a really spot-on way to see a ton of important sites outside of the city that could otherwise turn into Oaxaca day trips in themselves.
How to get to Oaxaca city
Well, you can’t embark on any Oaxaca day trips without first getting to the city itself! Oaxaca has a mid-sized ADO bus terminal with buses from cities and towns such as Mexico City, Veracruz, Mérida, Puebla and more – BusBud has all the departures and tickets for you to book. Here’s a detailed guide to how to get to Oaxaca from Mexico City via ADO bus.
There is also a small airport. This sees fairly frequent flights between limited Mexican cities like Mexico City, Tijuana and Cancún, as well as international destinations such as Los Angeles and Dallas.
Where to stay in Oaxaca
Best hostels in Oaxaca
If you want a strong friendly community vibe but don’t mind feeling like everything around you is at least a little bit dirty in a natural, hippy kind of way, check yourself into Azul Cielo. The Mexican mole breakfast is made by some local ladies and it’s bloody fantastic.
If you prefer things clean & modern, and want to be closer to the city, Casa Angel is a great little hostel. Vibes are a little bit party-esque, but the terrace bar closes at 11pm which pushes all the partiers to go and try some of the local bars instead of disturbing sleepers. They host activities like BBQs and salsa/yoga classes every day so it’s easy to mingle with other backpackers (and find friends to go on Oaxaca day trips, of course!).
Depending on your budget, I recommend reserving one of the deluxe pod beds at Casa Angel, as these were much quieter and easier to sleep through in than the curtained beds in the larger dorms (yep, I tried both!).
Best hotels in Oaxaca
If you would prefer to experience Oaxaca with the privacy of a hotel stay, budget travellers should check out Hotel Casa Antigua which is nice and central.
However, for those with looser purse-strings, the bougie-and-somehow-also-rustic Pug Seal Hotel is an exceptional place to rest your head.
Now that you’ve come to the end of this post on the best Oaxaca day trips for your time in Mexico, read these guides next: