3 Days in Oaxaca: The Perfect Itinerary (First Time Visit)


How to spend 3 Days in Oaxaca: The Best Itinerary + Where to Stay

You’re going 3 days in Oaxaca (Mexico) and you’re looking for the best itinerary?

You’re at the right place!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you the perfect 3-day itinerary in Oaxaca.

During your trip, you will discover Oaxaca’s must-see attractions as well as the city’s surrounding, such as Monte Alban, the artisan villages, a mezcal distillery, the ruins of Mitla and the stunning waters of Hierve el Agua.

In addition to the best places to visit and things to do for each stage of your itinerary, I will also give you all my best tips and accommodation suggestions depending on your budget.

So, what are the best things to do in Oaxaca in 3 days? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

The Ultimate 3-Day Oaxaca Itinerary

Day 1: Exploring the Heart of Oaxaca

A. Morning at Santo Domingo

Start your adventure at the Ex-Temple of Santo Domingo complex. This historical treasure is home to three must-visit locations in Oaxaca:

  • The Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzman: This stunning church is a masterpiece of baroque architecture, with intricate gold leaf designs inside that are a must-see.
  • The Museum of Cultures: Located next to the temple, this museum offers a deep dive into Oaxaca’s rich history and diverse cultures, featuring an impressive array of artifacts.
  • The Ethnobotanical Garden: This garden showcases the diverse plant life of Oaxaca and offers a peaceful retreat with its well-designed landscapes and informative displays.
santo domingo de guzmán oaxaca
santo domingo de guzmán oaxaca

B. Exploring and Dining in Oaxaca’s Bustling Markets

After immersing yourself in Oaxaca’s rich history, wander through the lively Mercado 20 de Noviembre and Mercado Benito Juárez.

These markets are not just shopping hubs but also cultural hotspots where you can experience the authentic local atmosphere, taste traditional foods, and find a variety of unique souvenirs that capture the essence of Oaxaca.

For lunch, head to the Pasillo de Humo in the 20 de Noviembre Market, where you’ll find some of the best grilled meats in Oaxaca.

The food is great, affordable, and eating there has become a tradition for me. Plus, enjoying a fresh Modelo beer with my meal is perfect, especially since it can get pretty hot and smoky in there, almost like a sauna. 😄

Chorizo, cecina and tasajo at Pasillo de Humo, Oaxaca

C. Strolling Along the Vibrant Streets

Post-lunch, make your way to the Zócalo, home to the majestic cathedral. Treat yourself to a delightful hot chocolate at El Mayordomo—it’s a local favorite!

oaxaca zocalo mexico
The Zocalo, Oaxaca

In the afternoon, wander through the colorful streets of Jalatlaco neighborhood. This area is known for its vibrant murals and quaint charm.

cafe jalatlaco

D. Unwinding with a Drink after a Day of Exploring Oaxaca

End your day with a refreshing drink at one of Oaxaca’s popular bars like Mezcalogia or Sabina Sabe. 

For more great options, be sure to check out my guide to the best 5 bars in Oaxaca, where I share my top picks for a memorable night out.

mezcalogia oaxaca
mezcalogia oaxaca

Day 2: Cultural Heritage and Artisan Villages

A. Explore Monte Alban

Kick off your second day with an early visit to Monte Alban. Arriving at opening time (10 am) lets you avoid the crowds and experience the site in a more serene setting.

This ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not only significant for its well-preserved ruins but also as one of the first major cities in Mesoamerica! Its importance as a center of Zapotec and Mixtec culture offers a unique glimpse into the region’s rich history.

There’s so much fascinating information about Monte Alban that I highly recommend hiring a guide, which you can easily find at the entrance.

If you don’t have a car, you can opt for a guided tour of Monte Alban (click here to book it!) that includes transportation from your hotel.

My guide at Monte Alban

B. Oaxaca’s Artisan Villages and Their Crafts

After Monte Alban, delve into the artistic heart of Oaxaca by visiting the artisan villages of San Antonio Arrazola, San Bartolo Coyotepec, San Martin Tilcajete, and Santo Tomas Jalieza. Each village offers a unique glimpse into the local crafts and traditions.

My Advice
If you don’t have a car, I strongly suggest opting for a tour that includes hotel pickup. Those are my two best recommendations:


convento Cuilápam de Guerrero
Cuilápam de Guerrero Convent

C. Tasting Tradition at Oaxaca’s Mezcal Distilleries

If you’re passionate about mezcal, I recommend adding a visit to Mezcal Lalocura or other renowned mezcal producers around the area to your itinerary.

These tours offer a fascinating insight into the entire mezcal-making process, from the sprawling agave fields to the final distillation.

You’ll get a chance to see how this iconic drink is crafted and enjoy tastings of different varieties.

My Advice
If you don’t have a car, choosing a mezcal tour that includes hotel pick-up is your best bet!

On this tour, you’ll visit an agave plantation and explore two mezcal distilleries. It’s a great opportunity to see how mezcal is made from start to finish and to sample different varieties.

Book your spot on the mezcal tour here:

mezcal lalocura oaxaca
mezcal lalocura oaxaca

Day 3: Exploring the Historical and Natural Beauty of Oaxaca

A. Discover the Ancient Splendor of Mitla

As you embark on the last day of your three-day trip in Oaxaca, begin at the archaeological site of Mitla.

This site holds immense historical importance as it was a religious and ceremonial center for the Zapotec civilization.

The detailed geometric patterns adorning the walls and buildings of Mitla are not just artistic marvels; they are also symbolic representations of the Zapotec’s beliefs and cosmology, offering a deep insight into their sophisticated culture.


B. Hierve el Agua’s Natural Springs and Scenic Beauty

After stepping back in time at Mitla, immerse yourself in the natural splendor of Hierve el Agua.

These extraordinary petrified waterfalls, complemented by natural pools and breathtaking vistas, are a testament to the beauty of nature.

Whether you choose to take a dip (bring your swimsuit!) or simply enjoy a scenic walk, this location promises a serene and picturesque experience, making it a must-visit on your Oaxacan journey.

Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca

C. Teotitlan del Valle and Its Traditional Textiles

Before wrapping up your three days in Oaxaca, make sure to visit Teotitlán del Valle particularly celebrated for its exquisite handwoven rugs.

As you wander through the local workshops, not only do you get to observe artisans skillfully creating these beautiful pieces, but purchasing directly from them ensures that your money goes straight to the craftspeople.

This was where I found my favorite carpet, bought at a fair price, and knowing that my purchase directly supported the artisan made it all the more special.

Make sure to visit the Balaa Xtee Guech Gulal museum, managed by the local community. This visit is a fantastic way to support them while immersing yourself in the area’s crafts, customs, and connecting with friendly locals.

My tip
If organizing the day seems daunting, consider booking a tour which includes hotel pick-up, Mitla, Hierve el Agua, and Teotitlán del Valle.

It’s a hassle-free way to experience these incredible spots as part of your “Oaxaca in 3 Days” adventure! You can book it here:


3-Day Oaxaca Highlights: Your Essential Map Guide

Here is the map outlining the best things to do in Oaxaca in 3 days, as detailed in my definitive guide:

My Best Tips to Make the Most of Your 3 Days in Oaxaca

Maximizing your time in Oaxaca is key. Here’s what you should keep in mind:

1. Use the Itinerary as a Guideline: The suggested itinerary includes the top things to do in Oaxaca in 3 days, but don’t feel pressured to follow it strictly. Enjoy at your own pace, soak in the city’s vibe, and remember, you can always come back to see what you missed.

2. Plan for Early Mornings: Start your days early, especially when visiting popular sites like Monte Alban or Mitla, to avoid crowds and the midday heat. This also allows you more time to explore other attractions or relax in the afternoons.

3. Choose Central Accommodation: For convenience and ease of exploration, pick a place to stay in the center of Oaxaca. Staying centrally located allows you quicker access to major attractions, markets, and dining options, making it easier to maximize your time and experience the heart of the city more intimately.

4. Consider Booking Tours if Without a Car: If you’re not planning to rent a car, the best alternative to explore Oaxaca’s surroundings is to book a tour. Fortunately, Oaxaca offers a variety of excellent tours that cover key attractions, including archaeological sites and artisan villages. These tours not only provide transport but also offer insightful guidance, making your experience both convenient and enriching.

5. Carry Cash for Small Purchases: Many smaller vendors, markets, and local eateries may not accept credit cards. Having some cash in Mexican pesos is handy for these transactions and ensures you don’t miss out on local goods or delicious street food.

Is Spending 3 Days in Oaxaca Enough?

You might wonder, is three days really enough to experience Oaxaca? Well, it’s a tight squeeze, but you can certainly get a great general idea of the city and its surroundings.

In my experience, those three days were packed with culture, food, and unforgettable memories. Sure, more and more people are opting to stay a week or longer, but if you’re short on time, three days can still be magical.

For more insights and tips on exploring Oaxaca, be sure to check out my other detailed guides:

street art xochimilco oaxaca
Street Art in Xochimilco, Oaxaca

Top Hotel Picks for Your 3-Day Stay in Oaxaca

  • Andaina Youth Hostel: Located in the heart of Oaxaca, only 300 meters from Santo Domingo Church and 800 meters from the Zocalo. Cozy and colorful dormitory or private room with shared bathroom, from 16 $usd per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the friendly atmosphere, the rooftop terrace, the free activities and tours. This is my choice for a budget-friendly hotel in Oaxaca!
  • Casa Barroco Oaxaca: Elegant room with balcony, just a few steps from the main square in a listed colonial house, with two beautiful patios, from 89 $usd per night. Strong points: the beautiful colonial-style building, the charming garden, the helpful staff.
  • Casa de Sierra Azul: Located in the historic center of Oaxaca, 200 meters from Santo Domingo Church and 600 meters from the Zocalo. Classic and cozy room with private bathroom, from 140$ usd per night. Strong points: the central location, the bicycles available for guests, the free parking, the delicious breakfast.
  • Quinta Real Oaxaca: Located in a former convent from the 16th century, 500 meters from Santo Domingo Church and 700 meters from the Zocalo. Elegant room and romantic atmosphere, from 260 $usd per night. Strong points: the stunning architecture, the outdoor pool, the gourmet restaurant. This is my choice for a luxury stay in Oaxaca!

Rent a car in Mexico

Renting a car is definitely the most efficient way to discover Oaxaca and fully enjoy your visit!

When it comes to car rentals, I consistently choose Rentalcars.com, and here’s why:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

Finding a Budget Flight to Oaxaca

Direct flights from a range of locations land at Xoxocotlán International Airport in Oaxaca, connecting it to domestic cities like Mexico City, Tijuana, and Guadalajara, and international destinations including Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Cancun, Merida, and Guatemala City.

To get the best deals on flights to Oaxaca, use our Skyscanner partnership flight comparison tool. It’s your go-to for grabbing the cheapest flights!

My tip
Once you arrive in Oaxaca, you can rent a car, take a cab, or book an airport transfer to your hotel 
Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

You’re using Pinterest? Here is the picture to pin!

best places to visit in Oaxaca in 3 days


I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

Leave A Reply