Located in southern Mexico, the vibrant colonial city of Oaxaca boasts some amazing qualities that make it a perfect destination for travelers who want to explore the world without spending a fortune.
In beautiful Oaxaca, accommodation is quite inexpensive and the food and drink are delicious and affordable, so from the start, your major daily expenses are reasonable.
Next, you might be wondering what to do during your Oaxaca vacation. We’ve found some of the best things to do that are cheap or free and places to go that will save your precious pesos.
Let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Oaxaca.
The culture in Oaxaca is so diverse and interesting. The sights, the sounds, and the aromas are all intoxicating and so much of it is free to explore.
Take a nice stroll through the city and neighborhoods and see some amazing street art everywhere, especially in the historic areas of the Centro, Jalatlaco and Xochimilco.
You can easily walk between those areas and the architecture is beautiful too, especially in the Unesco World Heritage area in the central area.
Many tourists are attracted to the day of the dead-inspired paintings in Jalatlaco, which you might have seen in travel magazines or Instagram feeds.
The Centro Fotografico Alvarez Bravo, named after the Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo and housed in the former home of Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo, has free exhibits from contemporary artists from Mexico and abroad.
The permanent photography collection showcases works from many influential photographers and the temporary exhibitions are always amazing too. You don’t need to be a photographer or artist to appreciate the quality of the work on display.
Visit the Zocalo, the central section of the city of Oaxacan. You can sit under a shady tree and watch the world go by as the street musicians and artists create their art.
Sometimes there will be bands and dancers performing to liven up the day of everyone passing by. This is a perfect area to soak up the atmosphere and culture of Oaxaca. Every Sunday, you can see live performances that are a highlight of the week for many locals and tourists.
The 16th-century baroque Catholic church is fantastic to look at both inside and out, making it one of the top places to visit in all of Oaxaca. There are botanical gardens in the back to explore.
The inside is decorated with 24-carat gold leaf and is shiningly beautiful. Entrance to the church is free, and it is open every day from 7 am to 1 pm and again from 4 pm to 8 pm except during mass.
If you can spare some coins, stop at the Museo de las Culturas. While not free, it is well worth the $3 entrance fee with its wide variety of historical displays conveniently located right inside Santo Domingo.
The shopping in Oaxaca is wonderful, with markets, shops, and galleries to explore.
You might want to pick up some hand-woven Zapotec rugs, black pottery and unique artwork for your home and souvenirs for friends and family back home.
There are so many markets around Oaxaca which are interesting to roam around even if you are not planning on buying anything.
It is one of the best things to do in Oaxaca.
Another fun and free thing to do in Oaxaca is to find yourself a fiesta. If there is one thing that Oaxacans excel at, aside from creating a wide variety of art, it is throwing a party!
You can almost always find a party going on, but if you go around certain times of the year, you can catch some special ones like the Guelaguetza in July (a folk festival with elaborate costumes), Día de los Muertos in mid-October to November and then all of the Christmas celebrations.
If you want to dance and feel the rhythm of Oaxaca, you won’t have to look far.
When it comes to exploring and finding adventures in Oaxaca, you have plenty to discover. You can see the free sights, get your fitness fix and meet the locals all at the same time.
For a stunning view of the city, take a trip up to Cerro del Fortin. You’ll get a panoramic scene, which is best in the morning when the light is nice and the views are clear.
It’s a little bit of a walk with many stairs, but it is worth it for the scenic view when you reach the top. Don’t forget your camera because these photos might be some of the best you take during your whole trip.
Another fun and free thing to do in Oaxaca is a trip to Monte Alban. These ruins of the Zapotecs are one of the coolest archeological sites in Latin America and are only a 12-minute drive from Oaxaca.
You are still allowed to climb one of these pyramids, meaning you can take in some astounding views of the area. Take a picnic with you to enjoy your lunch while taking in the epic views.
Take a hike out to Hierve el Aqua which is another amazing vantage point to take in the sights. You can find some great rock formations and even better are the mineral springs that you can soak in.
With the high calcium deposits in the area, the rocks have been sculpted over the years into what looks like a frozen waterfall. This unique place is located about 70km outside the city past Mitla.
Visit the ruins at Mitla to see the religious center for the Zapotecs. With some incredible sections left, one of the most famous spots at these ruins has to be the Column of Life.
Legend has it that if you wrap your arms around this column, the space between your hands shows how much time you have left on this planet. Test at your own risk if you dare! It is certainly one of the most unique things to do in Oaxaca.
On the way to Mitla, stop and check out the world’s widest tree. The Great Tree of Tule is a wonder of nature. This Montezuma cypress has a circumference of an astonishing 54 meters and is believed to be between 1,200 to 3,000 years old.
At first, it looks like a bunch of trees grown together, but it has been DNA tested and proven to be a single tree. This spot is definitely worth a visit, especially if you are a nature lover.
Pop into a few graveyards for a spooky little time. The Panteon General has some pretty diverse funeral architecture and the ruins of an abandoned church. There are a few others, but this one is by far the most amazing one.
You’ll want to come back again and again to explore new corners of the city, just like many annual holidaymakers love to do. We hope this list helps you add a few things to your sightseeing agenda when you go to Oaxaca.
Book your flight today and have fun in the beautiful Mexican city of Oaxaca.
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