There are so many great Oaxaca tours worth taking when you visit Oaxaca City. It’s almost right in the center of the state, making it a great place to base yourself if you want to tour the surrounding region while still sleeping in boutique hotels and eating at amazing Oaxacan restaurants.
How to Get to Oaxaca
Flying into Oaxaca is one of the best options if you’re coming from the US. There is an airport only a few miles away and it’s cheap enough to get from the airport to the city center with a shared taxi. Simply look for the taxi sign when you come out into the arrivals area (the airport is tiny, you can’t miss it).
You can also get direct flights several times a day between Mexico City and Oaxaca. This is the cheapest option if you want cannot find direct flights from your city to Oaxaca – simply connect in Mexico City with one of Mexico’s many budget airlines.
The other option is to take a bus. The ADO bus network connects Oaxaca with most large cities and towns around the country including Mexico City, Puerto Escondido, Cancun, and destinations to the south (like Guatemala).
Where to Stay in Oaxaca
There are a ton of great boutique hotels and Airbnb places in Oaxaca that are comfortable and relaxing and that don’t break the bank (unless you WANT to break the bank, in which case you should stay here).
These are some of my favorite boutique hotel options:
- Hotel Parador San Miguel Oaxaca: Central location, clean, breakfast included, good reviews, and beautiful courtyard. Rooms start at 1,600 Pesos per night. Book here.
- Casona Oaxaca: Central location, affordable rooms, huge outdoor pool, clean rooms (although a little bit dark), and nice courtyard. Rooms start at 900 Pesos per night. Book here.
- Oaxaca Real: VERY central location, good food options including big breakfast, cute courtyard, small pool, and very affordable. Rooms start at 600 Pesos. Book Here.
I’m a big Airbnb user and always like to see if I can find my own apartment so that I can self-cater and have a nice balcony to enjoy my coffee on. Oaxaca has some really great Airbnb options. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can sign up with this link to get up to $35 USD off of your first booking (that’s at least one night free!).
- Airbnb with Rooftop Views: This is where I stayed the last time I was in Oaxaca and I loved it. I’m not positive if you still get the entire place to yourself anymore, it’s worth querying before booking, but I loved the location (so close to breakfast at Mercado Merced!) and it’s very reasonably priced.
- Airbnb La Joya: This is lovely and centrally located. It’s well priced and it looks like the kitchen is well-stocked, too.
- Mountain View Studio: This is a little bit of a walk from the center of the city, but that rooftop and those views! I think if you’ve been to Oaxaca before or if you’re planning to stay for a week or more, this would be an AWESOME option.
The Best Oaxaca Tours
Gualaguetza Show & Dinner
Gualaguetza is an annual cultural even that takes place every year during the month of July in Oaxaca. It is highly sought after and often books out very quickly. It takes place in a stage that sits at the top of a hill that overlooks Oaxaca and each night there is a show with dancers in beautiful costume, amazing music, and lots of celebrations afterward. If you are in Oaxaca in July, you’ll be able to see plenty of dancing around the Zocalo and Santo Domingo square, but outside of that month, it can be hard to see the dancing and outfits.
This tour is offered one day a week – every Friday, and it is the perfect way to learn more about Gualaguetza while you’re in Oaxaca. I didn’t learn about this tour until after my trip was over and I’m so bummed, because the dances are amazing and the costumes are unlike any I’ve seen before.
Most dances are with both men and women and they are very traditional. The music is also unique to Gualguetza, so it’s a pretty special show to see.
The only place I’ve seen this tour offered is through Get Your Guide. I’ve used this company before on my travels around Mexico and they are very trustworthy (no canceling at the last minute like some companies) and it pairs you up with local companies. You get a bilingual guide and this tour in particular, includes dinner.
This was my absolute favorite Oaxaca tour that I took while I was in the city. It’s only offered in English on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11am, so make sure you don’t miss it!
The guides are incredibly passionate, it only costs 50 Pesos to enter (you can’t enter without a tour) and I learned so much not just about the native plants that are in the gardens, but about what Mexico is doing to keep their native flora alive. This garden is doing more than just showing you some cactus, they are working to promote Mexican agriculture, to ensure that the government continues to ban GMO seeds, and they’re also creating a relaxing place for visitors to simply enjoy a slice of Mexico.
There’s no need to book in advance, simply show up at the Ethnobotanical Gardens, which are located behind the Santo Domingo Church, a few minutes before the tour starts to get your ticket.
Oaxacan Cooking Class
I wish I had taken a Oaxacan cooking class while I was touring Oaxaca. It is the culinary hub of Mexico. It’s the home of mole and a wonderful variety of corn, amongst other ingredients. There are several options when it comes to food tours in Oaxaca.
The Flavor of Oaxaca Class & Food Tour sounds like a fantastic option and is one I considered for my trip. It costs $100 per person, which is someone expensive for the area, but it takes you to a market where you can learn all about local ingredients that are the mainstay of Oaxacan cooking. Then you go back to the cooking school to learn to make your own tortillas, to try your hand at grinding down chilis to make mole, and also learning about tejate, a delicious local drink (non-alcoholic).
Another option for a cooking class in Oaxaca is the Alma de Mi Tierra Cooking Class. It’s offered three days a week (Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays). This class is $75 per person and is run by a woman who has been cooking Oaxacan food her whole life. Again you start at the market. Then you head to the chef’s home where she will teach your her recipes that have been in her family for generations. It’s a lovely option for those that want to connect more with a local person. The tour groups are smaller than the above option.
For a slightly more budget option, consider taking the cooking class at the Oaxaca cooking school, La Cocina Oaxaqueña. They offer the same setup – time at the market and then time back in the kitchen learning different recipes. All of the people who run the Oaxaca tours are trained chefs and are bilingual, so in addition to sharing recipes, they can share general cooking advice as well.
Monte Alban Tour
You can either opt to go to Monte Alban on your own or you can take a tour. I recommend taking a tour for two reasons: it makes getting there a whole lot easier and you get a bilingual guide who can explain to you all about the history and culture of the ruins. I had an AMAZING guide that I really loved when I went to Monte Alban.
Read also: What to Know About Visiting Monte Alban
I used the tour company Bamba Experience when I visited Monte Alban and I thought they did well to ensure there were enough English guides. We ended up on a van where we were the only English speakers, but when we got to the site, our Spanish-speaking driver made sure that we had an English-speaking tour guide to take us around (at no extra cost to us). This tour only includes the guide and the transportation – you have to pay for all entrance fees and meals separately.
The only annoying thing about this tour was that for lunch we stopped at quite an expensive buffet place and there was no other option for food. You couldn’t order off of a cheaper a la carte menu, it was the buffet or nothing.
Get Your Guide also offers a good Monte Alban tour option which promises an English speaking guide. Similarly, this tour does not include your entrance fees (which only end up costing about $5) or any food.
Whichever tour you choose, be sure to bring plenty of water and a hat. Ruins around Mexico notoriously lack any shade and can get incredibly hot.
Mitla, Teotitlan de Valle, & Tule
This was one of my favorite Oaxaca tours that I went on during my trip. Mitla is an incredibly intricate and well-preserved set of ruins about an hour outside of Oaxaca. Teotitlan de Valle is THE place to go for beautiful textiles and rugs. They use natural dyes and still weave using a loom machine. It’s stunning (albeit expensive). Tule is the widest tree in the world (which is cooler than it sounds).
Read also: Visiting Mitla
Again I used Bamba Experience on this tour and had a really good experience (except for yet another over-priced buffet). The Bamba Experience tour also includes a stop at Hierve el Agua.
I would either go with them or I would check out the option offered by Get Your Guide. I’m sure both will be great choices (both probably end up using the same English speaking guides like most places in Mexico to be honest!). This tour doesn’t include a stop at Hierve el Agua, but you can easily visit this site on a separate tour.
Be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, water, a snack (or a few snacks) and a hat for this tour. It’s a long day and Mexicans don’t usually breakf for lunch until at least 2:30 or 3pm.
Hierve el Agua
This is sometimes tacked onto a Mitla tour like I mentioned above, but if it’s not or you choose not to go to Mitla, I HIGHLY recommend getting to Hierve el Agua on a tour during your trip to Mexico. Getting there on your own is possible, but you’ll need a rental car and it’s on a toll road and it’s windy and I simply think taking a tour is a whole lot easier (and about the same price in the end, if not the cheaper option).
Read Also: The Majestic Beauty of Hierve el Agua
From afar these beautiful structures look like frozen waterfalls. They’re actually formed when the water (which isn’t hot), bubbles out of the ground and evaporates thanks to the sun. What is left behind is a ton of mineral stalactites, which are what you see in the above photo.
What Else to See in Oaxaca
Oaxaca is a fantastic place in its own right. It’s great to get out and take tours of Oaxaca’s surrounding area, but I highly recommend spending a few days inside the city and checking out all of the great things to do in Oaxaca.
Some of my favorite things include:
- Wandering Santo Domingo Church
- Mercado Benito Juarez (great shopping)
- Mercado de la Merced (great food stalls)
- Sitting in the Zocalo
- Shopping at the street vendors near Mercado 20 de Noviembre
- Eating chocolate from all of the shops that gave away free samples (follow your nose!)
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