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The Best Things To See & Do In Oaxaca State

Hierve el Agua | © jadawin42/Flickr
Hierve el Agua | © jadawin42/Flickr
Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s primary tourist attractions, with an internationally acclaimed culinary scene, coastline and cultural heritage. For many visitors, the temptation to just set up shop in Puerto Escondido and stay there for a fortnight is huge, but Oaxaca State really has so much more to offer. Here are the best things to see and do while you’re there.

Admire the archaeological ruins

Every guide to Oaxaca will tell you to head straight for Monte Albán when you arrive, given that it’s one of the country’s most famous archaeological sites with arguably some of the best views, and we’re no different. Sure, at Chichén Itzá you get your iconic Instagram worthy shot, but at Monte Albán you get drop dead gorgeous views over both the modern day and ancient city. You’ll need a couple of hours to explore the site in its entirety. Don’t forget to stop by the smaller but just as beautiful Mitla, though!

Monte Albán © Eduardo Robles Pacheco/Flickr

Immerse yourself in culture in the Pueblos Mancomunados

One of the greatest of Oaxaca’s many ecotourism regions, the Pueblos Mancomunados are eight separate and remote villages situated high in the mountains of the Sierra Madre. Perfect for those who love to hike, or even just see more of the traditional culture of a place, each one is linked by worn out roads and well-trodden hiking paths. Go it alone, or through a reputable tour agency, and make sure to stop off at least one night in the cosy cabins to be found throughout the villages.

Pueblos Mancomunados © Oisin Prendiville/Flickr

Visit the beach and learn to surf

As previously mentioned, Oaxaca State has a stretch of glorious Pacific coastline that attracts thousands of travellers a year, many of whom find it hard to tear themselves away. As you can imagine, visiting the beach is an absolute must-do while in Oaxaca; we recommend popular Puerto Escondido (where you should try your hand at surfing), Mazunte (relax and enjoy the sunset), or Zipolite. If travelling from Oaxaca City definitely take an official bus, as the smaller and cheaper minivans take a fast and windy route which is guaranteed to provoke travel sickness in even the strongest stomachs.

Mazunte © Gustavo M/Flickr

Visit some natural wonders

The state of Oaxaca is replete with natural wonders, all of which are must-sees during any visit. For Instagram-worthy photo fans, the bioluminescent Laguna de Manialtepec is essential viewing, as is the famed ‘frozen’ waterfall Hierve el Agua. Take a dip in the pool and enjoy the spectacular views over the surrounding valley. Alternatively, head to Magdalena Tlacotepec’s Ojo de Agua for a swim or to the Árbol de Tule, which is said to be the world’s largest tree.

Hierve el Agua © jadawin42/Flickr

Get trippy in Huautla de Jiménez

While San Luis Potosí is known for peyote, Oaxaca has mushrooms. For the more experimental traveller, we recommend heading to Huautla de Jiménez (or San José del Pacífico) in Oaxaca’s sierra mazateca to try out these psychedelic delicacies that are still intimately tied to religion in the region. We don’t recommend you dabble in drugs on your own though; instead, travel with one of the experienced town healers who regularly carry out group expeditions to indulge in these mind-altering mushrooms.

Huautla de Jiménez, Oaxaca, México

Try the regional food and drink

If you prefer to keep your feet and your mind firmly on the ground, then why not stick to just trying out the regional delicacies? The most obvious Oaxacan specialty (aside from queso Oaxaca and tamales Oaxaqueños) is the tlayuda, otherwise known as the Mexican pizza. However, pan de yema and the numerous insects of the state are more than worth trying out too; from chapulines (grasshoppers) to chicatanas (flying ants), you can find a wide variety. Drinks-wise, the Mesoamerican tejate is an experience, and mezcal practically goes without saying.

Tejate © Jesús Dehesa/Flickr

Take a mezcal distillery tour

Speaking of which, while you’re in the home of mezcal, you can’t pass up the opportunity to take a tour of some of the distilleries that are dotted around the state. Known as palenques in Spanish (as opposed to mezcalerías, which are mezcal bars), there are literally hundreds in Oaxaca, and many tours will take you by some of the more famous ones, allowing you to see the manufacturing process first hand, as well as taste test the products before inevitably buying several bottles in your mildly tipsy state.

Mezcal distillery © Giulian Frisoni/Flickr

Explore all the capital has to offer

Of course, no trip to Oaxaca State would be complete without stopping by the capital for at least a few days. This gorgeous pastel-hued town with cobbled, winding streets and a ton of museums and galleries to get stuck in to is also the perfect place to try some local mezcal and culinary delicacies, such as tlayudas. For a more comprehensive rundown of the essential must-dos, check out this article.

Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, México

Oaxaca City | Courtesy of author

Oaxaca City | Courtesy of author