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Things to Do in Oaxaca - page 2

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Abastos Market (Central de Abastos)
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2 Tours and Activities

Abastos Market is located in Oaxaca, Mexico, and is one of the largest markets in the country and by far the largest --and oldest -- in the city of Oaxaca. Its official name is Central de Abastos, meaning the central place of supplies and that name holds true as you can find just about everything at this massive outdoor marketplace in Oaxaca.

A popular souvenir to get while at Abastos is the green and black pottery Oaxaca is known for. You can also find luxury brand knock-offs, homeware, rugs, jewelry, auto parts, produce and food...so much food. The list goes on and on. Basically, if it's grown or produced in Mexico, chances are you'll be able to find it at Abastos Market.

At the stalls you'll encounter hanging pieces of meat, strings of garlic, local candy, bugs, exotic fruit, spices and much more. One top food product to find at the market is chili ranging from whole to paste and mild to spicy. If you want some authentic mole, which the region is famous for, you're in luck – on any given day you should be able to find every variety of mole being sold at Abastos Market.

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Benito Juárez Home (Casa de Benito Juárez)
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Once home to former Mexican president Benito Juárez, the Benito Juárez House-Museum (Museo de Sitio Casa de Juárez) is now a modest museum situated in a restored 17th century building. Visitors can learn about the extraordinary life of Mexico’s first indigenous president, marvel over personal artifacts once belonging to Juárez, and observe the bookbinding shop which belonged by the building’s owner, Antonio Salanuevas.

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Oaxaca Culture Museum (Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca)
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This beautifully restored monastery is connected to the Templo de Santo Domingo and houses one of the nation’s most impressive museums. Well-curated exhibits transport travelers through the history of Oaxaca, from ancient times to modern day. Visitors will learn not only about New World influences, but about pre-Hispanic traditions through halls lined with handmade crafts, herbal medicines and local costumes.

Perhaps the most impressive item in the Oaxaca Culture Museum (Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca) is the Mixtec hoard from Tomb 7, which dates back to the 14th century. A rare collection of silver, jade and gold, which was discovered by Alfonso Caso in the early 1930s, showcases the ancient tradition of burying royalty among riches.

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Yagul
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High on a cactus-studded plateau, the ruins of Yagul offer a view of Oaxaca’s Tlacolula valley. Yagul dates back to at least 500 AD, but most of the existing structures were built several hundred years later, after the decline of the nearby city of Monte Albán . When the Spanish arrived in Oaxaca, Yagul still had a population of 6000.

Due to the easy-to-defend location and fortifications, archeologists believe Yagul was a military center. Like the other major ruins in the area, the site was occupied at various times by both the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs. The ruins include the second largest ancient ball court in Mesoamérica, several typically creepy tombs, and a labyrinthine stone palace with six small stone courtyards.

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Zaachila
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Imagine shopping at a livestock market that’s existed for 800 years, or wandering the grounds of an ancient city that’s riddled with unearthed tombs. Both are possible here in Zaachila, a small town on Oaxaca’s outskirts where visitors travel for the weekly market and glimpse of Zapoteca culture. While the Zapoteca political movement is complicated at best, there’s no denying the autonomous culture you encounter here in the hills. Market day is every Thursday, which is a time when indigenous farmers and traders exchange their wares in the same way their ancestors have done for centuries. It’s believed that the tianguis, or weekly market, has taken place in a similar style since before the Spanish arrival, and even today you will still find merchants conversing in Zapotec tongues. Nearby, outside the town, the Zaachila archeological site is a mostly unexcavated pre-Hispanic city that many say was a regional capital upon the Spanish arrival. A few of the important tombs have been excavated, but the ruins still largely exist untouched as they have for 500 years, with views of the surrounding valley and town stretching out from the pyramid’s peaks.

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Tamayo Museum (Museo Tamayo)

Unlike most museums of its kind in Mexico, Tamayo Museum (Museo Tamayo) brings together a collection of over 1000 pre-Hispanic artifacts and presents them as artwork rather than archaeological finds. At this 18th century Oaxacan mansion-turned-museum, visitors can marvel over Mayan, Olmec, and Purepecha sculptures, figurines, and more—once the private collection of Zapotec artist Rufino Tamayo.

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Teotitlán del Valle
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The state of Oaxaca is famous for the rugs and blankets of Teotitlán del Valle, a small town 24 km southeast of the capital. Weaving is chiefly a cottage industry in Teotitlán del Valle; you can buy rugs and blankets from street vendors, from hole-in-the-wall shops, or even from private homes.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the artists in action. Although the modern weavers of Teotitlán del Valle work on a style of treadle loom introduced to the area in the 1500s by Dominican friars, Zapotec weaving traditions date back to at least 500 BC. If you visit the Zapotec ruins of nearby Mitla and Monte Albán , you’ll spot consistencies between the geometric wall frescos and the rug patterns of Teotitlán del Valle. Traditional motifs includefleches (arrows), a zig-zag pattern calledrelampago (lightening) and a floral shape known as thesol Zapoteca (Zapotec sun). Traditionally, these designs are woven from handspun wool colored with natural dyes made from cactus fruits, walnut husks, pecan bark, indigo, and the larvae of cochineal, an insect that lives in thenopal cactus.

If you want to continue your weaving education, check out the interesting little community museum across from Teotitlán del Valle’smercado de artesanias (craft market).

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La Crucecita
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La Crucecita sits just inland from Santa Cruz Bay on the coast of Oaxaca. Originally built as the service town for the Huatulco resort area, today La Crucecita has an authentic atmosphere draws that visitors from the beaches to its lively streets. Highlights include a traditional market, a historic church, specialty shops, and restaurants.

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Finca La Gloria

Get a first-hand look at the process of turning fresh coffee berries into a cup of aromatic brew at Finca La Gloria. This family-owned coffee plantation in the Sierra Madre de Oaxaca is known for its fertile green farms and butterfly sanctuary. Here you can tour the working coffee farm and sample high-quality organic blends straight from the roaster.

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Copalita River (Río Copalita)

Copalita River, or Río Copalita, is a river in Huatulco that is popular with surfers and river rafters. During Huatulco’s rainy season from May to October, the Copalita River swells, becoming an ideal spot for river rafting excursions. Río Copalita empties into the ocean several miles northeast of Tangolunda. On the beach, you are likely to find local surfers and boogie boarders hanging out. The surfing is so popular here that there is an annual Huatulco surfing and boogie board championship that dates back to 2003. Rafting along the Copalita River takes rafters through a series of adrenaline-pumping rapids – everything from Class I to Class IV rapids. Class I rapids are considered easy with fast moving water, but few obstructions and small waves. Class IV rapids are advanced, with intense turbulent water and a risk of unavoidable obstacles and waves. Tours that include river rafting typically require rafters to travel between 5 to 7 miles (8 to 11 km) on the Copalita River.

Guides will start with a required safety briefing and then a provide examples on how to properly use the paddle. Each raft will have a guide who will provide navigational instructions as you hit each class of rapids.

The scenery you will experience on a Copalita River rafting trip is unsurpassed. During the slower Class I rapids, you can observe natural habitats of animals and birds, which live amongst the riverbank’s pristine landscape. Stunning rock formations and waterfalls round out the epic adventure in Huatulco.

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More Things to Do in Oaxaca

Playa La Entrega (La Entrega Bay)

Playa La Entrega (La Entrega Bay)

Playa La Entrega, or La Entrega Bay, is an important beach in the Santa Cruz region of Huatulco, Mexico. In 1831, Insurgent General Vicente Guerrero was betrayed by a Genoese sea captain and delivered to his enemies on this beach, where he was taken as prisoner and subsequently shot by a firing squad days later. The name of the beach means “The Delivery” in remembrance of the 1831 events.

On a more light-hearted note, La Entrega Bay is the southernmost beach in the Santa Cruz area with a bit more than 600 feet of beach frontage, important ecological significance and beautiful coral reefs in its waters. Look for a wide variety of fish, including the blowfish, which puffs up when it senses danger.

Playa La Entrega’s waters are clear and calm, making it a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors will be particularly interested in the underwater trail that leads to an underground cave, where you can find insect-eating bats in a chamber filled with round pink stones.

For an unusual spa experience, consider a Zapoteca Mud Bath. Done at La Bocana, the silt in the region turns to mud believed to contain medicinal healing properties. The mud, called lodo in Spanish, has been used for hundreds of year by indigenous tribes, and today, a local women’s cooperative offers the mud bath to visitors for a very small fee. You can even purchase a bag of silt to take home to make your own mud treatments.

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San Bartolo Coyotepec

San Bartolo Coyotepec

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Visitors looking for the perfect Oaxaca souvenir can find a unique reminder in the municipality of San Bartolo Coyotepec, located about 15 kilometers south of Oaxaca. Known for its black clay pottery, its quiet streets are lined with shops, galleries and studios selling this regional pottery that has been a part of Oaxacan tradition for hundreds of years.

Visitors can check out the work of local artisans, which ranges from old school matte finish pottery to shiny and black, then head to Museo Estatal de Arte Popular de Oaxaca, where a large collection of this state treasure is on display. Afterwards, stop by the newly opened Baseball Academy, where a massive mural of barro negro (black pottery) is painted.

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Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden (Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca)

Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden (Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca)

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Designed by Juan Pelaez de Berrio, this popular town center has been attracting locals and travelers since it first opened back in 1529. The lively town square, known as Constitution Garden, has become a gathering space for those looking to find respite from the hustle of Oaxaca’s streets. Cobblestone sidewalks and a pristine marble fountain lend a touch of old world charm to this urban green space, and easy access to several museums, galleries and shops make it the perfect place to circle up before exploring city streets.

Travelers in search a slice of local life will find it at Constitution Gardens, where street vendors gather to sell fresh local fare, and a central bandstand framed with laurel trees proves the ideal stage for live music, including the state’s own marimba band.

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