Discover a side of Mexico that's as rich in history and indigenous culture as it is beautiful. Over 11 days, you'll experience the highlights of magical Oaxaca and go off the beaten path on nature hikes, participate in cultural workshops, and visit historic ruins. The journey continues to the Pacific Coast and the resort town of Huatulco, where you'll enjoy some well-deserved R&R on Oaxaca's inviting beaches.


  • Enjoy history and food tours of Oaxaca
  • Tour Monte Albán, the largest ancient city in Mexico
  • Take nature hikes in the wooded mountains of Oaxaca
  • Visit the beaches and waterfalls of the Oaxacan coast

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Oaxaca, Optional Activities Oaxaca
Day 2 Walking Tour of Oaxaca City Oaxaca
Day 3 Day Trip to Mitla: Tule Tree & Mezcal Tasting Oaxaca
Day 4 Cooking Workshop in Rural Oaxaca Oaxaca
Day 5 Tour Monte Albán, Visit Local Villages Oaxaca
Day 6 Hike the Sierra Norte Mountains Oaxaca
Day 7 Oaxaca to Huatulco, Optional Activities Santa María Huatulco
Day 8 Guided Beach Hike Santa María Huatulco
Day 9 Group Waterfall Hike Santa María Huatulco
Day 10 Free Day in Huatulco Santa María Huatulco
Day 11 Depart Huatulco  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Oaxaca, Optional Activities

Welcome to Oaxaca

Welcome to Mexico and Oaxaca! Oaxaca. This is the capital and largest city in the Mexican state of the same name. Despite being founded by the Spanish in 1532, it has many pre-Columbian archeological sites. It is home to the Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous peoples, which define the region's culture. Upon arrival, a driver will be waiting for you at the airport to transfer you into the city, where you'll check in to your hotel.

After getting settled, feel free to head out and stretch your legs. It's home to fascinating 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), home to diverse flora, including many cacti. If you have a sweet tooth, sample traditional Oaxacan spiced hot chocolate. Then grab a cup of esquite banquetero (Mexican street corn) on your walk back to the hotel.

In the evening, you'll dive right into Oaxaca's gastronomy, a highlight of Mexico that it's been designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Experience this delicious cultural offering when you visit a famous local restaurant to enjoy an unforgettable dining experience. It includes tasting traditional dishes prepared by indigenous chefs representing each of the eight regions in the state of Oaxaca. 

Day 2: Walking Tour of Oaxaca City

See Oaxaca on foot

In the morning, you'll head out for a 3.5-hour guided tour to discover this incredible city's cultural and historical legacy. You'll visit the 18th-century stone Aqueduct, the historic (and colorful) Garcia Vigil street, and the Seminary of the Holy Cross. The latter is where Benito Juárez studied as a teenager. Juárez was a member of the Zapotec Nation and Mexico's first indigenous president. He's considered the father of modern Mexico, as he guided the country through revolutions and invasions. Further on, you'll find El Templo del Carmen Bajo, a charming 16th-century church.

At the corner of the botanical garden sits Santo Domingo de Guzmán, an impressive Baroque church dating to the 16th century. Inside, the monastery's area has been converted into a museum and cultural center. Here you'll find pre-Columbian artifacts, including the contents of a tomb from the nearby archeological site of Monte Albán. You'll also stroll the cobbled, pedestrian walkway of Alcalá Street and visit the 16th-century Metropolitan Cathedral, which overlooks the Zócalo, the busy main square filled with vendors and surrounded by cafés and restaurants.

Day 3: Day Trip to Mitla: Tule Tree & Mezcal Tasting

The Church of San Pablo in Mitla

In the morning, head out for a full-day tour outside Oaxaca City. You'll leave on a one-hour drive east to the archeological site of Mitla, once a prominent pre-Hispanic city. However, you'll 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 feet/42 m in circumference). Afterward, you'll stop at a mezcalería to learn the process of making this traditional, agave-based Oaxacan spirit.

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.

Plan your trip to Mexico
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Your day will end 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: Cooking Workshop in Rural Oaxaca

Hands in the dough: rural cooking workshop in Oaxaca
Learn to prepare handmade tortillas 

In the morning, you'll leave the city on a 6-hour culinary adventure to discover the ancient and delicious flavors of Oaxaca. Venture into the Oaxaca Valley, where a local Zapotec family will welcome you into their rural home for a culinary workshop. Authentic Oaxacan cuisine has its roots in humble places like this, where daughters, mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers cook over traditional wood stoves using fresh, seasonal products. You'll see how fresh they are since many ingredients are harvested on the property.

The person who guides you through the process is known as a comidera. This title is bestowed upon the ladies who've mastered the art of Oaxacan cooking and enjoy local renown for their culinary knowledge and educated palates. These women are in charge of preparing the banquets for all festivities in their communities. Over about four hours, you'll learn how to prepare by hand three authentic dishes, which range from tortillas and soups to empanadas and desserts. When the dishes are ready, you'll sit down and enjoy your creations.

Day 5: Tour Monte Albán, Visit Local Villages

Archeology and handicrafts in Monte Alban, Arrazola, Cuilapam and Coyotepec
Zapotec ruins at Monte Albán

In the morning, head to the ruins of the great Zapotec city of Monte Albán for a three-hour tour. "Great" may be an understatement, as this pre-Columbian site is one of the most important ancient cities in Mesoamerica. Not only is it one of the largest (it covers 4 sq miles/10 sq km), but it was founded way back in the 6th century BCE and was the capital city of the Zapotec people for a staggering 13 centuries (500 BCE to 800 CE). Situated atop a hill in the Oaxaca Valley, you'll tour landmarks like the North Platform, the Great Plaza, Los Danzantes (bas-relief stone sculptures depicting dancers), ball courts, and more.

Next, you'll visit historic landmarks and villages filled with talented artisans creating handicrafts and works of art. The first is Arrazola, known for its alebrijes—colorful folk-art carvings and sculptures often depicting fantastic creatures. Later, visit the Ex-Monastery of Santiago Apósto, a jewel of Dominican architecture that dates to 1570 and is where General Vicente Guerrero, revolutionary general and ex-president of Mexico, was executed by firing squad in 1831. The journey ends in Coyotepec, where you'll visit a local woman's workshop specializing in black-clay pottery. 

Day 6: Hike the Sierra Norte Mountains

The forested mountains of the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca

Lace up your hiking boots because today, you're embarking on an excursion into the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca Mountains. The trailhead is located an hour from Oaxaca City and leads into the "enchanted forest" of Ixtepeji, filled with ancient pines and oaks. During this two-hour hike, you'll ascend to great viewpoints overlooking the Oaxaca Vally. Of course, there are plenty of exotic flora and fauna to spot, and bird species you might see include hawks, hummingbirds, warblers, flycatchers, and more.

The trail ends at a river where you'll sit down to a lunch of fresh fish caught right out of the water. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel in Oaxaca City.

Day 7: Oaxaca to Huatulco, Optional Activities

Unwind and enjoy the beach in Santa María Huatulco

In the morning, you'll board a 40-minute flight from Oaxaca city to the resort town of Santa María Huatulco, located on Oaxaca's Pacific Coast. Upon arrival, a driver will transfer you to your hotel, where you can unpack and unwind. Then you'll want to head out and take in the scenery.

Backed by the towering Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains and fronted by turquoise Pacific waters, Huatulco is famous for its many picture-postcard bays, like San Agustin and Cacaluta. There are also dozens of golden beaches nearby, with La Crucecita, Playa La Entrega, and Playa Organo being a few of the highlights. You can enjoy almost every kind of aquatic activity here: snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, taking a sunset cruise, or riding horses on the beach.

Day 8: Guided Beach Hike

See Huatulco from the mountains to the beach

After breakfast, you'll head out on a five-hour guided exploration of Huatulco on foot. Hiking from the coastal jungles down to the beaches is a great way to find the best lookout points and most secluded beaches. During the hike, you'll also observe a great variety of birds since hundreds of species call this area home—particularly around the nearby estuary of the Copalita River. Over a few hours, you'll see dozens of birds, including hummingbirds, flycatchers, and tanagers, with the possibility to spot the rare Colima pygmy owl.

Once at the water, you can dive in and explore the coral reefs and the various marine mammals congregating around them. Besides tropical fish and sea turtles, you might even spot dolphins and whales. After the hike, you'll return to your hotel in Huatulco and have free the rest of the evening. 

Day 9: Group Waterfall Hike

Visit "magical waterfalls" 

You'll head out for a full-day group hike to the region's most romantic waterfalls in the morning. Your group transport will take you into the jungle to the trailhead. Then certified guides will lead you on a hike that follows along the clear waters of the Río Copalita. As you go, you'll pass smaller waterfalls while your guides point out the region's natural wonders and cultural significance. Eventually, you'll arrive at the main waterfall, a real gem that plunges into emerald lagoons. There are also cave grottoes right behind the falls, which you'll also get to explore.

This leg of the hike finishes up in a large swimming area, where you'll take another refreshing dip. Then enjoy a traditional lunch before heading back down the trail to the starting point. 

Day 10: Free Day in Huatulco

Bahía Conejos

Today is yours to enjoy Huatulco however you wish. You can head out and explore its nine bays and dozens of beaches if you want. Stake out a stretch of golden sand and while away the hours near the surf with a good book. If you wake up early enough, head east of Huatulco to Bahía Conejos and watch the stunning orange and purple sunrise over the ocean. Later you can do some snorkeling and/or take a boat trip.

Then maybe take a stroll in La Crucecita, the heart of Huatulco. There are many shops and traditional Oaxacan restaurants to enjoy here (and a few mezcalerías, if you want to imbibe). Visit the Cathedral, which overlooks the Zócalo (main square) and is famous for its 65-foot (20-m) ceiling mural of the Virgin of Guadalupe (supposedly the largest in the world). For culture, head to the Museum of Handicrafts, which since 1992 has been showcasing the works of master artisans throughout Oaxaca. Items you can purchase include handwoven rugs, alebrije figures, black pottery, and more. 

Day 11: Depart Huatulco

Goodbye, Oaxaca

This is your last morning in paradise. Your driver will transfer you to the airport in Huatulco at the appropriate time, where you'll catch your flight home. Adios!

More Great Mexico Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Mexico? Check out these other Mexico itineraries, explore different ways to spend 11 days in Mexico, or learn about the best time of year to visit Mexico.


Map of Oaxaca & the Pacific Coast - 11 Days
Map of Oaxaca & the Pacific Coast - 11 Days