How to Maximize 1 day in Oaxaca City, Mexico

How to Maximize 1 day in Oaxaca City, Mexico

When I was figuring out my travel plans in Mexico, I thought I’d stay in Oaxaca for 3 or 4 days. Now, when I say Oaxaca, I don’t mean the coastal part of the state (which by the way is supposed to be an incredible sliver of the Pacific Ocean). I mean the area in and surrounding Oaxaca City.

But as the day went on, I quickly realized that what I really needed was a stretched out 12 hours.

So here is what I did:

Leaving Mexico City

I left Mexico City on a night bus headed to Oaxaca City. I found the bus line through the site Rome2Rio. Once I found the time of the bus I wanted, I went down to the Mexico Norte bus station and booked a night bus on the only line that runs to Oaxaca from Mexico City – ADO.

The bus was about 7 hours in total. I had a sassy Mexican teenage girl sitting next to me who kept trying to steal my jacket every time she thought I had fallen asleep. Granted, the bus was freezing and she was wearing shorts. I felt bad but hey, I was cold too!

Arriving to Oaxaca

I arrived to the Oaxaca City ADO bus station around 7:30 in the morning. Oaxaca is a sleepy yet colorful town in the morning, so I found a hostel (I had found a few I was interested in prior to arriving, and just went from one to the next trying to find the best deal before booking) and put my bag down. It was too early to reserve a room so I just left my backpack in a corner and went off to give myself a mini tour around town.

Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico - Have Epi Will Travel
Oaxaca City
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico - Have Epi Will Travel
Vibrant Vendors as Oaxaca City Starts to Wake Up
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico - Have Epi Will Travel
Oaxaca City Streets in the Morning

As I wound through the beautiful, colorful streets of the city, places and people were starting to wake up. Many tour companies came up to me asking if I wanted to go to Mitla, a Mezcal distillery, or Hierve el Agua. Which hello I’m a tourist so obviously yes I do.

One of the tours was particularly interesting – and inexpensive – so I bit. It was leaving in 2 hours so I decided to find my way back to my bag to grab some things I needed. On my way back, I stumbled upon the cutest cafe I had seen in a long time. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the name and I don’t remember the location, but I that’s where I stopped for a breakfast coffee – which was the second best coffee I’ve ever had in my life by the way (the first being in Mexico City).

First Stop: El Árbol del Tule

El Árbol del Tule is the widest tree in the world. There isn’t much to see or do around there, but the town the tree is located in is adorable. There were tons of little shops and people walking around, and everything was as bright and colorful as can be.

El Tule - the widest tree in the world - Have Epi, Will Travel
El Árbol del Tule, The Widest Tree in the World
El Tule - the widest tree in the world Have Epi, Will Travel
El Tule Town Square -El Árbol del Tule can be seen behind it

Second Stop: Matatlan Weaving Village

Here we were shown the process of weaving a rug from start to finish. Members of the village learn how to weave from age 4. Their skill is incredible. They start by creating colors from lime, plants, flowers, and bugs. They create hundreds of colors this way. They then spin the wool into usable yarn which they dye by boiling it with the colors they create. They then weave the colors of yarn together to make amazing rugs, bags, belts, etc.

Matatlan weaving Village - Oaxaca Mexico: Have Epi, Will Travel
Weaving in Matatlan
Matatlan Weaving Village - Dying Wool: Have Epi, Will Travel
Dying Process
Matatlan Weaving Village - Drying Process for the yarn: Have Epi, Will Travel
Drying Dyed Pre-Spun Wool

Third Stop: Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua, or the Petrified Waterfall, is truly breathtaking. When you go there, you will first happen upon a natural infinity pool that overlooks the entire valley. You then look to your right and see the gorgeous “waterfall” staring at you. The waterfall is in fact a set of natural rock formations that appears to glide and billow like a waterfall.

Hierve el Auga, Oaxaca Mexico: Have Epi, Will Travel
Natural Swimming Pool at Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Auga, Oaxaca Mexico: Have Epi, Will Travel
Natural Swimming Pool at Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Auga, Oaxaca Mexico: Have Epi, Will Travel
Hierve el Agua from above

I don’t know what it was about Hierve el Agua. But for me – time stood still while I was looking at it. I sat for probably 15 minutes just staring and thinking. But alas, the time came to move onto the next place: Mitla.

Fourth Stop: Mitla

Mitla is an incredible Zapotec ruin. It was the religious center for the Zapotec culture and is covered in stone mosaics assembled by the Zapotecs without any use of mortar. This is the only site in Mexico that used this technique.

Mitla Ruins: Have Epi, Will Travel
Mitla, Holy Ancient Zapotec Ruins
Mitla Ruins: Have Epi, Will Travel
Ancient Mosaics on Mitla Ruins
Mitla Ruins: Have Epi, Will Travel
More Ancient Zapotec Mosaics on the Mitla Ruins

Last Stop: Mezcal Distillery

Mezcal is made from a few different types of agave plants that are native to Oaxaca. The process of creating Mezcal includes quite a long a strenuous process that, to be honest, I don’t remember each detail of. But if you get to a Mezcal factory and you can find out for yourself!

Back to Oaxaca City

When I returned to Oaxaca, I realized that I didn’t have much left to do or see. So instead of checking into the hostel, I grabbed my bag and went straight to the ADO bus terminal. I labored between buying a ticket to Puerto Escondido to check out the Oaxaca beach life or going straight onto San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas.

I bought a ticket to San Cristóbal and with 20 minutes to spare, went next door to a restaurant to buy 4 quesadillas and 2 tortas to take with me on the ride. (P.S. I did not need to use my allergy cards, as the cook spoke minimal english. He showed me the oil he uses and assured that he doesn’t use any peanuts or nuts at all.)

And that, my friends, is how you can make the most of 1 day in Oaxaca.

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