So, I’ve just come back from an epic adventure in Oaxaca. Yes, that’s right – the heart of Mexico, where history is woven into cobblestone streets, the food is a gastronomic revelation, and every day feels like a fiesta.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably asked yourself, “How many days in Oaxaca to spend?” Well, let me tell you, that’s one tough cookie to crack.
With so many cultural treasures, mouthwatering dishes to try, and breathtaking natural wonders to explore, pinning down the ‘perfect’ number of days can feel like mission impossible.
But don’t worry, I’ve got your back. I’m here to spill the beans about my own trip, and give you the lowdown on how to plan yours.
Whether you’ve got a long weekend, a full week, or even more time on your hands, I’ll help you figure out how to make the most of your days in this magical Mexican city. So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the vibrant world of Oaxaca!
How Many Days In Oaxaca Is Enough?
Generally speaking, 3 full days is the perfect amount of time to visit Oaxaca. This will give you enough time to get to know the city, take a day trip to Hierve el Agua (one of the coolest natural landmarks in Mexico), and explore a 2600-year-old Zaoptec archaeological ruin.
Spend your first day exploring the city’s incredible street life and culture, diving deep into the local markets and sampling the fantastic culinary scene. Oaxaca de Juarez is often touted as one of Mexico’s finest if you’re a foodie, even ahead of Mexico City, the country’s capital city.
Keeping things local on your first day will help you to get a real feel of the southern Mexican city, before moving on to day 2 with a fascinating day trip to visit Hierve el Agua. This tourist destination is only one of the few ‘petrified waterfalls’ in the world.
Day three will see you delve deep into the ancient history of the region by visiting Monte Alban, a mesmerizing archaeological site and former ‘city’ ruled by the Zapotecs dating back almost 2,600 years to 600 BC.
How To Decide How Many Days To Spend In Oaxaca?
Do You Plan on Partying Hard?
Like the majority of larger Mexican cities, you’ll be able to find a lively nightlife scene in Oaxaca, with the city being home to an established network of chilled-out bars, local food, thumping nightclubs, and the ear-piercing sound levels of live music venues.
Sample shots of tequila as you go, before heading into one of the many bars for a night of traditional Mexican music and lots of Latin-inspired dancing. If you are feeling adventurous, try one of the local mezcal, one of my favorite drinks in the world. (I do have to warn you, it’ll burn.)
There’s no hiding it, the Mexicans can put their drinks away, and as a result, bars and clubs stay open until very late meaning there is an amazing buzz around the historical central part of the city throughout the evening and into the night.
One too many tequilas or cocktails later and people spill out onto the street in search of some fiery and authentic street food to soak up all of that booze before retiring back to their hostels, hotels, and guesthouses.
If you like to party, it may be worth staying a few days extra so you can experience a variety of different ‘nights out’ so to speak.
Are You A Slow Traveler?
One of the most amazing things I found about Oaxaca City was that, as a slow traveler, you could just get lost in the streets and just stay there forever.
Strolling around the city, you immediately notice the relaxed atmosphere that it gives off, with its gorgeous cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and colonial architecture.
It really just sets the perfect scene for doing nothing apart from sitting in a quiet corner of a coffee shop or courtyard with nothing more than your notepad or journal and a book.
People-watching is one of my favorite things to do while traveling. It helps to detach myself from the seemingly never-ending itinerary of buses, planes, and trains and visiting Oaxaca’s main square is the perfect place to do just that.
Slow travelers prefer a city like Oaxaca, watching street performers juggle, sing, or dance, tourists pointing and taking pictures, and locals going about their daily lives.
It’s a magical place to just embrace the slower pace of life and soak in the atmosphere of a city like Oaxaca.
Do You Plan on Taking Day Trips?
Oaxaca City is in an excellent location for the adventurous traveler wanting to head out on a variety of day trips. Aside from the one-day trip that is absolutely necessary on any visit to Oaxaca, Hierva del Agua, there are plenty more day trips you can take.
Teotitlan del Valle is a small and remote village hidden in the hills known across Mexico for its textiles. Local villagers have been weaving all kinds of colorful textiles like rugs and blankets for centuries. It is only a 45-minute drive from the center of Oaxaca, making it ideal for a small day trip.
Another day trip worth visiting is Mitla. It’s the second-most important archaeological site in the state and the most significant of the Zapotec culture.
Mitla is renowned for its unique architecture, particularly the intricate geometric mosaics that adorn the walls of the buildings, which are believed to be symbols with spiritual and religious significance.
If you want somewhere you can stay overnight, check out the mountain town of San Jose del Pacifico. It’s quite high up and very much unlike the rest of Mexico, but I love it so much!
📚 Read More: What Is Mexico Famous For?
Suggested Oaxaca Itineraries
1 Day In Oaxaca
One day anywhere in the world is going to be very tough for you to get a sense of the place you are in, get your bearings, and then enjoy said place.
However, one day in Oaxaca is not the be-all and end-all that it may sound. You’ll at least be able to fit in the must-sees of the city as they are all in a great location, which is the most important.
Oaxaca is so old that historians and archaeologists believe that the Oaxaca Valley has been inhabited since 11,000 BC!
As a result of this fascinating history, Oaxaca and its historical old town have been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. With only one day to explore, the city’s old town is pretty much as far as you’re going to get.
The main square, Zocalo, is famous for its buzzing atmosphere at all times of the day, and Oaxaca Cathedral and the Government Palace are located next to the historic center of it making it easy for you to tick three sights off your list straight away.
Once you’ve finished appreciating the colonial architecture and history, head over to Benito Juarez Market, just one of the city’s bustling markets.
It’s a magical blend of colors, sights, and smells, and get lost in amongst the stalls full of local produce delicious food, crafts, and souvenirs. Practice the local lingo and speak Spanish to the sellers, trying to get a good bargain.
After grabbing some authentic Oaxacan cuisine or street food for lunch, the stunning baroque Santo Domingo Church is next on the list. Dating back to the 16th century, the church has been the site of some important events in Mexico’s history.
If you’re feeling up to it, you may want to consider squeezing in a trip to the botanical garden, or Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca, for a late afternoon stroll before heading back to your hotel to freshen up before a night out experiencing the best of Oaxacan cuisine and the vibrant nightlife along Alcala Street.
2 Days In Oaxaca
For a 2 day Oaxaca itinerary, your first day should look pretty similar to the above, and then for your second day, I highly recommend heading out to Hierve el Agua on a guided tour. I’ve already discussed what this magical natural wonder is so I won’t be doing it again, but this is what your second day in Oaxaca should consist of.
If you want to really maximize your time in Oaxaca and the surrounding area, you can combine visiting Hierve el Agua with the famous textile village of Teotitlan del Valle.
You’ll pretty much be driving right past the village along the 190 Highway on your way back from Hierve el Agua, so you should make the small diversion to visit this fascinating local village and pay tribute to the hard-working local weavers that reside here.
There are guided tours (such as this one) that have Hierva del Agua, Teotitlan del Valle, and even a stop at El Tule Tree, one of the oldest and largest trees in the world.
3 Days In Oaxaca
3 days in Oaxaca is the ideal amount because it will allow you to experience the actual city itself at your own pace, and the two important day trips nearby as well as enjoy two nights of Oaxacan nightlife, if that’s your thing.
So, as well as the two itineraries above, your third-day Oaxaca itinerary should consist of booking yourself onto a tour of Monte Alban and exploring this magnificent ancient archaeological site and the fascinating ruins that still stand today.
Aside from its mind-blowing historical value, one of the best things about Monte Alban is its proximity to Oaxaca city itself. It’s just a short 20-minute drive from the city center and is therefore easy to get to.
You can get your own taxi from your hotel which should cost no more than 150 MXN which is of course by far the easiest method, but you can also get the shuttle bus through tour operators in the city. This is far cheaper than a taxi at around 90 MXN for a return ticket.
4 Days In Oaxaca or More
For an extended Oaxaca itinerary, you should do all of the above but also pay a visit to the interesting museums that are based in the historic city center.
The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, or the Oaxaca City Museum of Culture is an excellent choice and should be at the top of your list of museums to visit in the city.
You’ll get a greater understanding of the Oaxacan culture, indigenous communities, and be able to see a huge range of artifacts, books, and manuscripts.
The Museo Textil de Oaxaca is also great for a quick visit, and learning about the history and importance of the beautiful local textiles.
If you’ve visited the museums, I would highly recommend you to book a cooking class to learn about the secrets of Oaxacan local cuisine and what makes it some of the tastiest food on the planet. You’ll get to learn how to make some of the most iconic dishes of the region such as Mole!
You can easily spend up to a week here, visiting the lesser-visited sights and attractions like the botanical gardens of the city, Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca, several museums, and soaking up the chilled atmosphere.
Visiting Oaxaca FAQs
Is Oaxaca Worth Visiting?
Yes, Oaxaca is definitely worth visiting. As one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse states in Mexico, it is a top destination for those interested in experiencing rich culture, fascinating history, and delicious cuisine.
Is 5 Days Too Much Time for Oaxaca?
5 days is not too much time in Oaxaca. Yes, it is more than our recommended length of time to stay, but the city is full of things to do and day trips you can take. With five days, you’ll have ample time to explore the city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and diverse culinary scene.
Final Thoughts: How Many Days In Oaxaca To Spend?
I personally recommend spending at least 3 days in Oaxaca City. This is just enough time to explore the downtown Oaxaca, take a day trip, and visit the famous Monte Alban ruins.
If you don’t have three days, try to have at least two days. You can still see everything you would in the 3-day itinerary, but your schedule will be crammed, hence why I don’t recommend it!
Hopefully, this has helped you plan your visit to Oaxaca de Juarez, one of my favorite places in Mexico!
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