Oaxaca City is chock-full of activities, but there are even more treasures to find outside of the center on a fun day trip or tour.
Whether you want to drive out into mezcal country and sample artisanal mezcal straight from farm to cup or want to explore the most important Zapotec archaeological sites, you can do it on a short day trip from Oaxaca.
Keep reading below to discover the best tours and day trips to take from Oaxaca City! In this guide, I’ll share everything you need to know, including how to get there, activity details, and the best (responsible) tour operators to book with.
Best Tours & Day Trips From Oaxaca
Go on a Mezcal Distillery Tour
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Mezcal is synonymous with Oaxacan culture, so what better way to learn about the nuances of this agave spirit than with a full-day mezcal distillery tour?
I know what you’re thinking… “But what if I don’t like mezcal?” Even if you don’t enjoy the smokiness of this spirit, or don’t drink alcohol at all, you can still benefit from a mezcal tour. While sampling artisanal mezcal is a big part of these tours, you can just politely say no.
The highlight of a mezcal tour—beyond the tastings—is getting to learn about the harvesting, distillation and production processes. It’s incredible to see the behind-the-scenes of this growing industry and learn from the passionate families who have been immersed in the culture of mezcal for generations.
Want an insider’s look into what a mezcal distillery tour is like? If so, read my in-depth guide about the best mezcal tours in Oaxaca.
Most mezcal tours will depart from Oaxaca City and take you on a one-hour drive to the “World Capital of Mezcal” in Santiago Matatlán.
From here, you’ll typically visit a handful of mezcal distilleries to see and learn about how artisanal mezcal is made. It’s important to choose a responsible tour provider so you don’t end up visiting/touring industrial mezcal distilleries. For detailed recommendations, read my article linked above.
Tour the Monte Albán Archaeological Ruins
Monte Albán is the most important Zapotec archaeological site in Oaxaca, followed by Mitla. These ruins sit perched on the top of the hill, dubbed the “White Mountain”, and overlook the Central Valleys of Oaxaca.
You can visit Monte Albán with a guided tour, or, tour on your own. If you do a DIY tour, you have two options for visiting: either hire a local guide at the entrance to walk around/explain the ruins to you or visit on your own (self-paced) without a guide.
You can read more details in my guide about visiting Monte Albán from Oaxaca City.
To get there, hop in a taxi ($200-300 pesos) or in a colectivo ($10 pesos). Monte Albán is not super far from Oaxaca, and is easy to visit in just half a day. I highly recommend going in the early morning so you can enjoy your visit without the crowds or the heat of the day.
Visit the Àrbol del Tule (Widest Tree in the World)
The Tree of Tule is the world’s widest tree — crazy, right? And it’s located just 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca City in the Zapotec town of Santa Maria del Tule, making it a great day trip adventure.
You can visit the Tule Tree one of three ways:
- As part of a day trip tour (like this one)
- On your own by taxi
- By bike
The town of Santa Maria del Tule is super cute and ideal for a half-day trip. You can visit a mezcal distillery, eat at the gastronomic food hall (and try yellow and green mole enchiladas), and stroll the curated gardens.
Day Trip to Mitla’s Stunning Archaeological Ruins
San Pablo Villa de Mitla, better known as just Mitla, is another awesome day trip from Oaxaca City.
Mitla is known for its archaeological ruins, characterized by its mosaics and cut-stone architecture. The ruins are unlike others you’ll find among Mesoamerican religious ruins in Mexico, so it’s worth the day trip!
After you tour Mitla’s ruins and tombs, head into the town for the Mercado de Abastos. During the Día de Muertos celebrations, the town of Mitla bursts with color and decorations.
Since Mitla is close to Hierve El Agua, you could visit both on a full-day trip from Oaxaca City. Santiago Matatlán is also just a stone’s throw away!
Explore Hierve El Agua Petrified Waterfall
Hierve El Agua is one of the top things to do in Oaxaca, so it’s also one of the top day trips to take from Oaxaca City.
Hierve El Agua is “unofficially closed” because the two indigenous communities, who own/govern the land, are disputing. As of May 2022, you can still visit Hierve El Agua, but it’s not very responsible to do so (from our understanding from speaking to our mezcal tour guide who grew up in the city).
Since the situation on the ground can change rapidly, just make sure to check for updates before you go ahead and book a tour to Hierve El Agua. Once it’s safe to do so, you can book your Hierve El Agua day trip with Coyote Adventures.
The tour guides peddling Hierve El Agua tours on the Zocalo square are disregarding the fact that the main road is closed and are by-passing it via rocky, back roads (and tipping off the landowners, which is further aggravating the issue at large). I wouldn’t exactly say those guys are exactly socially-responsible tour operators, so it’s a hard pass for me until the situation gets better.
Take Your Tastebuds for a Ride: Oaxaca Food Tour
A food tour in Oaxaca is a must! With this authentic food tour, you can stroll the streets of Oaxaca and learn—and taste—the culture via its food and drink.
This tour will have you “explore the flavors and smells of Oaxacan cuisine from the most traditional places” such as inside the local markets and street vendors peppered around the city squares. You’ll try traditional Oaxacan street food like tlayudas and drink the ancestral cacao and corn drink tejate.
Want to take your experience to the next level? You should also consider doing this ancestral Oaxacan cooking class with Chef Miguel Alvarez.
Do the Oaxaca City “Free” Walking Tour
Whenever I first arrive at a new destination, I always look to do a walking tour. Oaxaca City has so many hidden gems and it would’ve taken me much longer to uncover them had it not been for our 2-3 hour walking tour.
P.S. Even though it’s advertised around the world as free, most city walking tours are donation-based; meaning, you are more/less expected to offer whatever you can afford to pay based on the perceived value of the tour. In most cases, between $50-$150 pesos per person, although this varies.
Love food, art, AND culture? Then you should also check out this exclusive street art tour of Oaxaca City.
Pin this guide to Oaxaca’s best tours and day trips for later planning!