If there's one region of Mexico perfect for a quick getaway, it's the southwestern state of Oaxaca. Here you'll get a lot of bang for your buck as you spend four days enjoying excellent street food, touring pre-Columbian archaeological sites, and visiting local artisan towns. Cap the trip with a stop at Hierve el Agua, one of the most incredible waterfalls in Mexico.


  • Stroll the colorful streets of Oaxaca City
  • Visit the ancient pre-Hispanic city of Monte Albán
  • Tour Oaxacan crafts villages and visit waterfalls

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Oaxaca, Optional Activities Oaxaca
Day 2 Tour Monte Albán, Visit Local Villages Oaxaca
Day 3 Day Trip to Mitla, Hierve el Agua & Teotitlán Oaxaca
Day 4 Depart Oaxaca  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Oaxaca, Optional Activities

Oaxaca's city center
Stroll the colorful, historic streets of Oaxaca's capital city

Welcome to Mexico! With only four days to create an unforgettable itinerary, you've chosen the perfect region. The state of Oaxaca is a beguiling mix of Indigenous heritage, Spanish colonial history, and beautiful high-desert landscapes. Not to mention, this region boasts some of the most delicious food in Mexico—and the world. 

You'll arrive in the state capital of Oaxaca City. This metropolis may have been officially founded by the Spanish in 1532, but its history runs far deeper, which you can see in the area's pre-Columbian archaeological sites. The region is home to the Zapotec and Mixtec Indigenous peoples, which define the culture here. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to the city, where you'll check in to your hotel.

After getting settled, feel free to head out and explore. The city boasts fine museums like the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, which celebrates tradition and craftsmanship while giving urban and rural artisans a venue to display their artistic creations. You could also stop by the Ethnobotanical Garden (entrance only with a local guide), famous for its towering cacti. If you're feeling peckish, grab a Oaxacan spiced hot chocolate and snack on an esquite banquetero (Mexican street corn).

Day 2: Tour Monte Albán, Visit Local Villages

See one of the longest-lasting ancient civilizations at Monte Albán
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Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

After a hearty Mexican breakfast, meet your guide and head to the ruins of the great Zapotec city of Monte Albán for a two-hour tour. Situated atop a hill in the Oaxaca Valley, this is one of Mesoamerica's largest pre-Columbian archaeological sites (it covers 4 sq mi/10 sq km). Monte Albán also lasted longer than many other ancient cities. It was founded in the sixth century BCE and was the capital city of the Zapotec people for a staggering 13 centuries until 800 CE. You'll visit the North Platform, the Great Plaza, Los Danzantes (bas-relief stone sculptures), ball courts, and more.

From Monte Albán, you'll drive to historic villages in Oaxaca's central valley whose residents earn their living making art and handicrafts. The first is Arrazola, known for its alebrijes—colorful folk-art sculptures depicting fantastic creatures. Next, visit Culapam de Guerrero, a town famous for its grand basilica and monastery that started construction in 1570 but was never finished. The day ends in Coyotepec, where you'll visit a local woman's workshop specializing in black-clay pottery. 

Day 3: Day Trip to Mitla, Hierve el Agua & Teotitlán

Visit landmarks in Mitla, like the church of San Pablo

In the morning, you'll leave Oaxaca City on a one-hour drive east to the archaeological site of Mitla, once a prominent pre-Hispanic city. Stop along the way at Santa María del Tule to see this little town's major attraction: the Árbol del Tule (Tree of Tule). This ancient Montezuma cypress tree is between 1,200 and 3,000 years old and boasts the largest trunk of any tree in the world (about 137 ft/42 m in circumference). 

Then continue to Mitla. During pre-Hispanic times this Zapotec city was the most important religious center and burial site in the Oaxaca Valley (the name Mitla means "Place of the Dead"). It was inhabited as far back as 900 BCE, and the earliest remaining structures here date to around 450. When the Spanish arrived in 1521, they set their sights on dismantling Mitla and then built Catholic churches over Zapotec temples. You'll tour the site's five main structures, including Zapotec/Mixtec ruins and ancient churches like the Iglesia de San Pablo, a Catholic church founded in 1590.

After Mitla, you'll take a detour to Hierve el Agua, one of the true natural wonders of the region. Located in the mountains, a group of rock formations here creates terraced waterfalls and mineral-rich pools (which you can bathe in). The day ends with a visit to the small colonial village of Teotitlán del Valle. Here you'll head to the workshop of a local artisanal weaver specializing in wool rugs. Upon arrival, your host will share the techniques used in making these traditional items, including the process of dyeing wool with natural inks.

Day 4: Depart Oaxaca

Sun setting over Santo Domingo Cathedral, in historic Oaxaca

And just like that, you're brisk sojourn to Oaxaca has come to a close. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up at the hotel and transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch your flight home. Adiós!

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Map of Discover Oaxaca: Mexico's Cultural & Culinary Gem - 4 Days
Map of Discover Oaxaca: Mexico's Cultural & Culinary Gem - 4 Days