Oaxaca, located in the southwestern part of Mexico, still holds onto a significant portion of its indigenous identity. Because of this, the region is definitely worth experiencing because it has a very distinctive vibe in comparison to the rest of the country. Oaxaca is renowned for its enticing mix of different peoples, cultures, and languages.
While the state’s difficult mountainous geography helped protect and preserve the homelands of people such as the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs from the Spanish Conquistadors, the state’s diversified landscapes also allowed for a wide variety of flora and wildlife to grow throughout the state.
As a consequence of this, Oaxaca is one of the most biologically diverse regions in Mexico, and its amazing scenery encompasses everything from towering mountains and sweeping valleys to a gorgeous beach-filled Pacific coastline.
What is It That Oaxaca is Most Well-Known For?
Oaxaca is well-known for a variety of things. It is one of the states in Mexico that has the greatest number of different ethnic groups, and it is also home to some of the most delicious food and mezcal in the entire country.
It also has some of the most beautiful natural scenery and beaches in the country, in addition to the vibrant Oaxaca markets.
The Best Places to Visit in Oaxaca
The greatest places in Oaxaca are truly unlike anyplace else in Mexico because the state is home to a multitude of fascinating archaeological sites as well as charming communities that are brimming with native traditions, arts, and gastronomy.
1. The Cathedral of Oaxaca
The construction of Oaxaca Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Seora de la Asunción, began in the middle of the 16th century and lasted for about 200 years. The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Assumption.
The cathedral is famous for its sturdy building style and its two low towers. These towers were restored in their present style after being devastated by an earthquake in 1931, which was not an uncommon occurrence in the region. The cathedral is located on the northwest side of the Zócalo, which is the main square of the city.
2. Zócalo and Mercado, Mexico
The historic downtown core of Oaxaca is an area that is concentrated around the city’s principal plaza, often known as the Zócalo or Plaza de Armas. This is where you will find many of the most important and best attractions to visit in the city.
In addition to its attractive bandstand, its beautiful old trees, and countless cafés, it is here that many of the city’s most important festivals and events are held, including the extremely colorful Fiesta de Rábanos—quite literally, the Night of the Radishes — which takes place here on December 23rd each year with festivities such as fireworks, dances, and parades spilling over to Christmas (and yes, there’s even a radish-carving contest).
3. The Santo Domingo de Guzman Church
The magnificent Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, also known as the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, is a Dominican church that was established in 1575 and is well worth taking the time to investigate.
This remarkable tower, as well as the adjacent convent, which houses the Cultural Center of Oaxaca and is a must-see attraction, was constructed with walls that are two meters thick to make it nearly totally earthquake-proof.
4. The Monte Albán
The historic hamlet of Monte Albán (Zona Arqueológica de Monte Albán), which is located just eight kilometers west of Oaxaca and is easily accessible by tour bus or cab, has an area of around forty square kilometers and has served as an important place of worship for a variety of various population groups for approximately two thousand five hundred years.
It is possible that the core of the ruins, which is situated on a man-made platform that is 400 meters above the Oaxaca Valley, is the oldest and most spectacular Pre-Columbian monument in all of Latin America.
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The city was established in the sixth century BC, and at the height of its power, it was home to approximately 35,000 people.
5. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and Quietness
The Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude (Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad), dedicated to the patron saint of Oaxaca, was constructed of green Cantera, a stone unique to the area, between 1682 and 1690 and is one of the city’s finest religious sites.
The figure of the Virgen de la Soledad with her black velvet robe embroidered with gold and other valuable stones, including a big pearl on her forehead In addition to its magnificent atrium, built from limestone blocks and enclosed by a covered walkway, it is also famous for its figure of the Virgin de la Soledad.
6. The Museum Named After Rufino Tamayo
The Rufino Tamayo Museum (Museo Rufino Tamayo), presented to the state by famous Mexican artist Tamayo, lies in an old palace just a short walk away from the Zócalo.
In addition to displaying archaeological objects from Mexico’s many Indian cultures, this rich collection of Pre-Columbian art was established to ensure the more than 1,000 historic artifacts collected over Tamayo’s lifetime remained intact and safe from illegal traders.
7. The Museo Casa Juarez: A Residence Befitting a President
Benito Juarez, who would later become President of Mexico, worked as a servant at the house located at 609 Garca Vigil from the years 1818 through 1828. The house, which currently serves as a museum, is notable in Mexico for being the location where he lived. Don’t let the unremarkable appearance of the home’s façade fool you.
The interior of the structure features an expansive central courtyard that is home to the Museo Casa Juarez, a sizable museum that displays relevant artifacts (the President was in fact born in 1806 in the neighboring town of Guelatao).
8. The Benedictine Community of Santiago Apóstol
Cuilapan de Guerrero is a little hamlet located just 12 kilometers south of Oaxaca. It was historically famed for its production of cochineal, a vivid scarlet dye manufactured from insects with the same name.
The magnificent medieval Church and Ex-monastery of Santiago Apóstol have significantly contributed to the town’s status as an important tourist destination in modern times.
This large construction was begun in 1555 and is remarkable for its Renaissance facade and two interior colonnades, of which half collapsed as a result of an earthquake. Additionally, there is a stone pulpit that is accessible via a short flight of stairs.
9. Both Saint Jerónimo and Saint Maria of the Tule
Santa Maria del Tule is a little community located just a short drive east of Oaxaca. It is most well-known for the old Tree of Tule, also known as El Arbol del Tule. It is thought that this gigantic cypress tree, which is 40 meters wide and 42 meters tall, has been standing in front of this quaint little church for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 years.
A further 10 kilometers away is the similarly fascinating town of Tlacochahuaya, which is home to the San Jerónimo Church, which dates back to the 16th century.
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The local Indians depicted their creative and religious views through paintings of stars, flowers, birds, suns, and angels. The highlights include the building’s elaborately adorned interior, which is crammed full of colorful murals done by the local Indians.
10. Oaxaca’s Cultural Center
The former convent church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán now serves as home to both the Cultural Center of Oaxaca (also known as Centro Cultural Santo Domingo) and the Regional Museum of Oaxaca (also known as Museo Regional de Oaxaca). Both names refer to the same institution.
This must-see destination is highly recognized for its exceptional collections relating to native culture, as well as for its ecclesiastical and secular exhibits from the time period of colonial rule in Oaxaca.
It is widely considered to be one of the best places to see in Oaxaca. In addition to archaeological items from the nearby ruins, the exceptional ethnological collection features garments, masks, jewelry, and ceremonial and household implements that belonged to Indian tribes from the region.
Travelers are drawn here not only because of the city’s beautiful architecture but also because of the city’s rich cultural calendar. The most well-known event on this calendar is the Guelaguetza, which is an Indigenous celebration that takes place in July and features plenty of traditional dancing, costumes, music, cuisine, and crafts.