How to Spend 3 Days in Oaxaca
If you have three days to spend in Oaxaca City, there’s time to sample a little of everything; learn more about indigenous cultures, visit Mayan archaeological sites, and delve deeper into traditional Oaxacan cuisine. Here’s how to get the best from three days in Oaxaca.
Day 1: Take it easy
Spend your first day getting your bearings in the historic centre of Oaxaca. For local insight that you wouldn’t get if exploring alone, take a walking tour. Tours typically stop at markets such as 20 de Noviembre or Benito Juárez Markets and reveal traditional Oaxacan breakfast foods and local coffee. Observe local life in the zócalo (plaza) with a homemade ice cream or spicy elote (corn) before strolling along Calle Alcalá to the Santo Domingo Temple.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at one of Oaxaca City’s restaurants—trying traditional mole sauce is a must for food lovers—and sample mezcal or pulque afterwards. If it’s Guelaguetza season, skip dinner in the city and take an excursion to the festival’s hilltop music and dance performance which spotlights indigenous cultures—you won’t go hungry as dinner is typically included with these packages.
Day 2: Take a trip
Dedicate day two to a day trip. Oaxaca City is surrounded by indigenous villages and handicraft towns, making it the ideal base from which to discover new cultures and crafts. Some trips cover several handicraft and artisan villages, such as San Bartolo Coyotepec and Arrazola, while other excursions focus on specific products such as tortillas or mezcal.
If you’re more into archaeology, leave the logistics to the experts and take advantage of tours that stop at both Mitla and Monte Alban—where you can sometimes enjoy skip-the-line privileges—in just one day. Or, cool off in the midday Oaxacan heat at Hierve el Agua, a petrified waterfall with excellent photo opportunities. Excursions to Hierve el Agua often make additional stops at places such as Tule, home to one of the world’s biggest trees; the weaving town of Teotitlán del Valle; and the mezcal hotspot of Santiago Matatlán.
Day 3: Take a class
Pick up some new skills on day three in Oaxaca City during a cooking class, tasting tour, or craft course. Learn how to properly taste and appreciate the smoky flavors of mezcal at a sampling session in one of the city’s many mezcalerías (mezcal bars). Or, get to grips with Oaxacan cooking instead. Many cooking classes start mid-morning, allowing you to enjoy a leisurely breakfast before getting hands-on in the kitchen with a chef.
If you’d rather create a souvenir to take home with you, it’s worth venturing a little outside the city to San Martín Tilcajete, where you can get hands-on insight into alebrijes (painted wooden figures) during a workshop.