Oaxaca is getting a trove of traveler love these days. From gracing the cover of National Geographic to showing up in the Instagram feeds of your coolest friends, it’s a popular destination that’s clearly having its moment. And there’s a lot to love in Oaxaca: it’s surrounded by interesting landscapes and unique terrains, it has one of Mexico’s most innovative food scenes, it’s gloriously warm nearly all year long, and the mezcal, which has gained international notoriety of late, is free-flowing.

We highlighted our favourite spots in Oaxaca in the travel guide we published a few months back, but fresh off the heels of another visit, we’ve got a visual travel guide to Oaxaca to inspire your wanderlust. Enjoy!

Oaxaca Photo Travel Guide

Oaxaca is a particularly picturesque town with cobblestone pedestrian streets, intensely colourful buildings, and stunning architecture including Templo de Santo Domingo, its flagship building.

Known for its artisan culture, Oaxaca is an excellent spot to shop for handmade things such as rugs and woven products. There are many art shops scattered throughout the town centre (the artist co-op La Casa de las Artesanías de Oaxaca is our favourite) as well as an artisan market (Mercado de Artesanías) where you can buy all sorts of things. For quirky souvenirs, the town’s main market is also not to be missed.

The food and drink scene in Oaxaca makes it a destination alone. Don’t miss out on a memorable meal at Los Danzantes, Casa Oaxaca, or Sabina Sabe or a pint at craft beer spots Consejo Cervecero or La Santisima Flor de Lupolo. If you’re into mezcal (or even if you’re not, you should give it a chance while in Oaxaca), there are several excellent bars to imbibe including favourites La Mezcalaria, Los Amantes Mezcalaria, and Mezcaloteca.

Art has long been a means to protest political and social conditions in Oaxaca, led by ASARO (Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca). You can’t walk far in the town centre without coming across politically charged street art, and many of the city’s most influential artists have shops where they sell their pieces. Stop in at any and grab an artist passport, which lists all of the graphic art shops in town.

A quick drive from Oaxaca is Monte Alban, the impressive ruins of an ancient Zapotec city with its origins in the 8th century BC. The UNESCO Heritage Site is expansive, with pyramids, plazas, and tombs, and it can be explored independently or with a tour guide.

About 90 minutes from Oaxaca, Hierve el Agua is an incredible natural phenomenon. Though often incorrectly called a ‘petrified waterfall’, Hierve el Agua is best explained by Wikipedia: The site consists of two rock shelves or cliffs which rise between fifty and ninety metres from the valley below, from which extend nearly white rock formations which look like waterfalls. These formations are created by fresh water springs, whose water is over-saturated with calcium carbonate and other minerals. Whatever it is, it’s absolutely not to be missed.

Teotitlán del Valle, a small town near Oaxaca, is a hub for rug production. There are over 8,000 artisans here, many of whom follow the traditional methods of rug-making including hand-weaving and using natural dyes. There are an abundance of workshops and showrooms to visit as well as classes to learn the art form.

Another important Zapotec site, Mitla is fascinating. The intricate geometric carvings are beyond impressive – and a photographer’s dream. The archeological ruins were the region’s primary religious site, and thought of as the link between life and death, an important element in the Zapotec culture.

The mezcal route stretches far throughout the state with hundreds of mezcalarias lining the way. Many of these mezcal distilleries have been making their signature alcohol using traditional methods for generations, and are still family owned and operated. Visitors to Oaxaca can see where mezcal comes from and how it’s made by heading, as well as sampling many different varieties, a little ways out of town.

Oaxaca Travel photos by JP Bervoets and Lauren Barth