Tours & Excursions

Instituto Cultural Oaxaca


In order to maximize your cultural immersion during your stay, the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca recommends you to visit various villages and places of archaeological and historical importance outside of the city of Oaxaca.


Also, the Instituto offers various kinds of tours.  If you take “the one-day tours”, you will visit 4-5  different places surrounding Oaxaca City.  You can ask for more information and sign up for the tours in the office when you arrive.  

*All the tours leave from and return to the Instituto.

Tours Oaxaca
  • Monte Albán
    • Is the great Zapotec ceremonial center, about 10 km (6 miles) west of the city, which stands on an artificially-leveled mountain top with compelling 360-degree views.

      Monte Albán served as the ancient capital of the Zapotecs between 900 B.C. and 800 A.D.  At its peak the city was inhabited by more than 40,000 residents. Today, visitors can explore the site. Points of interest on the Grand Plaza include temples and palaces; bas-reliefs of human figures known as the danzantes; a ball court; and observatory; and tombs that once held gold, silver, jade, alabaster and turquoise treasures (now housed in the Museo de las Culturas Oaxaqueñas in Oaxaca City).

  • Mitla
    • Following the decline of Monte Albán, Mitla became one of the most important Zapotec centers.  The ruins at Mitla consist of 5 “ruin clusters”.  Archaeologists speculate that some of the ruins were used for ceremonial and religious purposes, while others served as houses for the elite.  Unique to Mitla is the greca decorations found on ruin walls.
  • Yagul
    • Is an archaeological site 45 km (28 miles) east of Oaxaca.  Due to the complexity and size of Yagul’s buildings, it is thought that the area at one time functioned as its own city-state.  Unique to this site is the Palace of Six Patios, the ball court (the second largest in Mesoamerica), and the site’s magnificent view of the Valley of Tlacolula.

  • Tlacochahuaya
    • San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya has located 21 km (13 miles) east of the city of Oaxaca.  Its main church is the Templo de San Jerónimo, which was built along with a monastery at the end of the 16th century.  Constructed and decorated by indigenous people, this church is an excellent example of religious syncretism in the Valley of Oaxaca of special interest are the three oil paintings depicting the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe that adorn the name of the church, as well as the restored 16th-century pipe organ.
  • Cuilápam de Guerrero
    • The Ex Convento de Santiago Apóstol, an elaborate but unfinished 16th-century ex-convent is located in the town of Cuilápam de Guerrero.  Prior to the arrival of Hernán Cortés, the site was a Zapotec and then a Mixtec indigenous settlement.  In the 1500s, the construction of the basilica began, the goal was the evangelization of the indigenous population of the area by friars of the Dominican order.  The Ex Convento de Santiago Apóstol is also the site of the 1831 execution of Vicente Guerrero, war hero of the Independence and ex-president of Mexico.

  • San José Mogote
    • Remains from the mogotes (mounds) dotting the town of San José Mogote reveal that the area was inhabited around 1500 B.C., prior to the founding of Monte Albán.

  • Arrazola
    • Known for its alebrijes, the craft of carving wooden animals, or colorful hand carved and painted animals that are seen in markets and tourist shops in and around Oaxaca. You will have the opportunity to visit local homes where the wooden creatures are produced.
  • Tlacolula
    • Was founded around 1250 A.D. and was originally a Zapotec village known as Guichiibaa (“Place between Heaven and Earth”).   One of the best things to do in Tlacolula is visiting a Sunday market which is one of the largest, oldest and most diverse in Oaxaca. You also have the opportunity to see the main town church, la Parroquia de la Virgen de la Asunción, with interests are the expressive sculptures, paintings and gold scrollwork found in the chapel, la Capilla del Señor de Tlacolula.

  • Teotitlán del Valle
    • Known for its woven rugs (tapetes) and textiles.  These products, woven on traditional handlooms, are often made with carded, spun and dyed wools.  Students have the opportunity to visit a local home where this process is explained in detail.
  • Santa María Atzompa
    • (Population of 5,000)  Located in the west of Monte Albán. This village is famed for the green-glazed pottery that many of its citizens produce.  Beginning in 2009, there has been excavation at the Atzompa archaeological site as a part of Monte Albán, and it is now open to the public.

  • San Martín Tilcajete
    • An artisan pueblo whose inhabitants dedicate themselves to the craft of carving wooden animals, otherwise known as alebrijes.  For the most part, the men in the pueblo carve the figurines, while the women and children paint them.

  • San Bartolo Coyotepec
    • Located 11 km (6.8 miles) south of the city of Oaxaca, with about 600 families in the area dedicated to the production of Barro negro.  The origins of Barro negro pottery extend over centuries, with examples of it found at a number of archeological sites, fashioned mostly into jars and other utilitarian items.  It has remained a traditional craft of the Zapotecs and Mixtecs of the Central Valleys area to the present day.  Originally, Barro negro pottery was matte and grayish.  In the 1950s, a woman by the name of Doña Rosa Real discovered that she could change the color and shine of the pieces by polishing the clay pieces and firing them a slightly lower temperature.  This innovation makes the pieces more breakable, but it has made the pottery far more popular with Mexican folk art collectors.

  • Santo Tomás Jalietza
    • Inhabitants are especially its women, dedicate themselves to making cotton tablecloths and belts woven on a backstrap loom. In the center of town, there is a small market where the women sell their merchandise. Additionally, most families are more than happy to open their homes to visitors to allow them the opportunity to view more textiles, and to gain an insight into the way of life in Santo Tomás.

  • San Agustín Etla
    • The Centro de Artes de San Agustín (CASA), is an arts center overlooking the beautiful Etla Valley. The building served as a textile factory in the early 20th century but is now dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art and holding art workshops.  Also, there is a small paper factory near the CASA, where artisans produce handmade papers from natural and recycled fibers and dyes. Some of the paper is bound into notebooks but many sheets are left unbound to be used for drawing and printmaking purposes.

  • Zaachila
    • 6 km away from Oaxaca City and is famous for its Thursday markets, which spread over much of the center of town and have been a tradition since pre-Hispanic times.  There is a section that is dedicated to the sale of animals such as goats, pigs, sheep, cattle, etc

  • Hierve el Agua
    • Renowned for its natural springs and surrounding mountain beauty.  Although the springs perpetually appear on the point of eruption, the natural temperature of the water fluctuates between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius (72 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit) allowing visitors to comfortably enjoy a refreshing dip in the springs.  

      Because Hierve el Agua was a sacred spot for the ancient Zapotecs, thus archaeological investigations have discovered important information concerning the lives of the original inhabitants of the region.  They used to produce salt to sell in prehispanic times. Archaeologists recently discovered an irrigation system that dates back more than 2,500 years old.  At Hierve el Agua, visitors may enjoy the option of swimming in one of its fabulous spring,s or in a recently constructed pool.  

  • El Tule
    • A village about 14 km (8.7 miles) east of Oaxaca.   “The Árbol del Tule” is dated at over 2,000 years old, measures 50 m (165 feet) in circumference, and is about 15 stories tall. It is said that El Tule may be the largest tree in all of Latin America.

  • Sierra Norte Ecotours
    • In addition to our normal day-long tours, the Instituto offers 2-day all-inclusive eco-tours to the Sierra Norte, the mountains directly above Oaxaca.  These tours include delicious meals, accommodation in comfortable shared cabins and visits to various high altitude ecosystems such as cloud forests and bromeliad and orchid habitats.

      These tours give you an opportunity to view another, less-seen, aspect of Oaxaca. The rural mountain towns such as Cuajimoloyas, Latuvi, and Lachatao provide a view of the radically different lifestyles of those who live in Oaxaca’s mountains. The eco-tourism organizations that we work with are all community-owned and use the revenues generated from visitors to fund schools, clinics and public works in the mountain towns.

      The tours conveniently leave on Saturday mornings at 9 am and return on Sunday at 7:30 pm

  • Day of the Dead tour
    • During día de Los Muertos, we run tours to some of the well-known cemeteries in places such as Xoxocotlán and San Felipe del Agua in order for you to explore and understand what you are experiencing. As many activities take place during the same day and often at the same time, we make it possible for you to choose those which you feel would be more enjoyable.

  • Fundación En Vía
    • The Instituto is proud to sponsor Fundación En Vía, a non-profit organization working to fight poverty in Oaxaca by combining interest-free microloans, educational programs, and sustainable tourism.  The microloan program gives women the opportunity to create or expand small businesses, empowering them to better provide for themselves and their families.  You can participate in one of their weekly tours to villages just outside of Oaxaca to meet the women entrepreneurs, learn about their loans and project plans, and offer financial support for their success. Contact