Heading to Oaxaca City, but want to see the authentic side of the city and avoid the tourists’ crowds ? This is your sign to read this article! This is the ultimate travel guide to learn about unusual and non-touristy things to do in Oaxaca City.
The hidden gems in Oaxaca City
Oaxaca de Juarez is a charming city that is worth exploring. If you get off the beaten track, you will be able to taste the authenticity of Oaxaca de Juarez.
Visit Xochimilco, the non-touristy & oldest neighbourhood of Oaxaca City
The barrio of Xochimilco is a unique area in the north of Oaxaca city. It has its own charm with colourful streets and old architecture. Indeed, this is the oldest neighbourhood of the city where you can find an old aqueduct.The neighbourhood of Xochimilco is also surprisingly a great urban art scene. You can explore the area to see beautiful street arts all along the way.
Discover the Jardín Etnobotánico of Oaxaca City
The Jardín Etnobotánico is a botanical garden in the middle of the city center, in the courtyard of a former convent, next to the Santo Domingo Church. You need to visit it with a guide who will explain the history of the place and of course, you will learn more about the plant species of the region. There are limited places and specific time to visit it. That way, it helps to preserve the place. Moreover, it’s a very photogenic place if you like photography like I do.
Visit the colourful neighbourhood of Jalatlaco
Jalatlaco is a beautiful and colourful neighbourhood where you can have a taste of Oaxacan life. The vibes is super lovely and there are many nice coffees and restaurants. This area is a great alternative to the main touristic streets of Oaxaca City. So if you want to feel the authenticity of the city, with less tourists, in a charming area, I advise you to go there. In the heart of the neighbourhood, there is the church of San Matias Jalatlaco. The facade is beautiful, and the square next to it is charming and quiet.
Go to Cerro Fortin to admire Oaxaca City from above
Don’t miss the beautiful view from the Cerro Fortin. It’s an easy walk from the city center. To get there, you can take the street with the stairs that will lead you directly to it, called Escaleras del Fortín.I was surprise to see hardly any tourists. I went there twice, once in the morning, once to admire the sunset. This is definitely a ideal place to watch the sun going down, behind the mountains.
The Plaza de la Danza, a gathering of architectural gems
The Plaza de la Danza is a square that brings together amazing edifices. The two main buildings are the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, as well as the Palacio Municipal of Oaxaca City. These are architectural gems. The Basilica has an impressive facade, and has the particularity to have chequered domes, as the main Church Santo Domingo.
I found it to be a great alternative to the Zocalo, which is also beautiful, but attracts much more tourists.
The best places to taste the specialties of Oaxaca
What’s best to discover the authentic side of a city than to taste the typical food? They are several specialties of the region to discover : mole, queso oaxaqueño (quesillo), tlayudas, mezcal, hot chocolate (with canela).
Taste the hot chocolate at the organic food market
The organic food market is a great place to discover the several Mexican specialisties of the region, as there are several booths with different kind of food. I strongly advise to try the hot chocolate, which is prepared in the old-fashioned way. It’s made with chocolate oaxaqueño and cinnamon. Absolutely delicious.
Try the typical Tlayudas
The mercados in Mexico are usually the ideal place to taste typical food for a really good price. There are several others mercados in the city where you will find Tlayudas. It’s like a big taco, but with a crispy tortilla.
You can go to the Mercado 20 de Noviembre or the one opposite, to try a good tlayuda. The restaurant Tlayudas El Negro is also a nice place where to go, there are shows every evening.
Eat a Mole in the restaurant Taniperla
The mole is one of Mexico’s most emblematic dishes. It’s a dish with a sauce made with chilli and chocolate. Although you can find it everywhere in Mexico, the mole is typical of Oaxaca.
We went to the restaurant Taniperla to taste it. This is a familial restaurant in the city centre, with a lovely atmosphere. The food is very qualitative and the owner really nice.
Unique places to discover in the surroundings of Oaxaca City
There are some unusual and unique places to see around Oaxaca. The ones mentioned are easily reachable, even if you don’t have a car.
Explore the archaeological site of Monte Alban
The ruins of Monte Alban was the most important pre-hispanic site of the state of Oaxaca. The site is smaller than the ones of Teotihuacán or Chichen-Itzà, but it is still quite big regarding the location. Indeed, it is located at an altitude of 2000 metres. So the site also offers a beautiful view on the surrounding mountains.
How to get there
We had to take a taxi to get there, because we couldn’t find the colectivo that was suppose to get there, despite the information I searched online. We didn’t get the same information from the locals, so we just gave up on this idea.
Go to Santa Maria del Tule to see the widest tree of the world
The widest tree of the world and the oldest of Mexico is located near Oaxaca City, about 10km east, in a town called Santa Maria del Tule. El Árbol del Tule is located next to the Church, in the main square. The tree has an age of at least 2,000 years.
How to get there
You can get there with a taxi colectivo (red and white taxi). You can find them in front of the Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos, on the carratera International 190. Find a colectivo that goes in direction of Mitla and ask to stop to Santa Maria del Tule. It is about a 20-minute drive.
Enjoy a day trip to Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Agua consists of a series of huge petrified waterfalls. At the top of these waterfalls are standing natural hot springs, which offer an incomparable view of the valley. The water of these hot springs is a beautiful clear blue, that offers a stunning scenary.
There is also a hike to do where you can see the waterfalls from below. It’s a 45 minutes hike where you can see the petrified waterfalls up close. You also have a beautiful view on the surrounding mountains.
How to get there
You can get there by colectivo. That’s what we did. First, you have to take a colectivo that goes to Mitla (same coletivo as the one that goes to Santa Maria del Tule). It will take approximately one hour. Once there, you need to take another colectivo that will get you to the entrance of the park of Hierve el Agua (a 45 minutes drive).
There are also tours offering to go there, but I prefer to avoid it when I can (limited timing, so you can’t enjoy it at your rhythm).
That was my non-touristy guide to visit Oaxaca City, offering some ideas of unusual things to do in Oaxaca City and its surroundings. I advise to stay at least a full week to enjoy the city and its surroundings.
Check out my Instagram to see more photos of my trips.