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Oaxaca City, Mexico – Photography Journal


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Kathe Metcalf



Welcome to Oaxaca City, a gem nestled in the heart of Mexico. With its rich cultural heritage, vibrant street life, and stunning natural beauty, Oaxaca City offers a myriad of opportunities for photographers to capture captivating images.


Located in the southwestern part of Mexico, Oaxaca City is renowned for its historic center, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is a perfect blend of old-world charm and contemporary flair, making it a paradise for photographers seeking to capture the essence of Mexico.


From the moment you set foot in Oaxaca City, you will be welcomed by the warm-hearted locals who are proud of their traditions and eager to share their stories. The city’s colorful festivals, mouth-watering cuisine, and iconic landmarks provide endless photography possibilities.


This photography journal will take you on a visual journey through the enchanting streets of Oaxaca City, showcasing its unique cultural tapestry and natural wonders through the lens of a camera. So grab your camera, pack your bags, and let’s explore the incredible sights and sounds of Oaxaca City.


Exploring the Historic Center

One of the highlights of Oaxaca City is its beautifully preserved historic center. As you wander through its cobblestone streets, you will be transported back in time, surrounded by colonial-era architecture and vibrant colors.


The main square, known as the Zocalo, is a photographer’s paradise. Towering over the square is the magnificent Cathedral of Oaxaca, with its intricate facade and towering bell towers. Capture the splendor of this iconic landmark against the backdrop of a clear blue sky or during the golden hour for truly breathtaking results.


As you stroll through the historic center, you’ll encounter numerous colonial buildings, each with its own unique charm. From the brightly colored facades adorned with intricate balconies to the hidden courtyards bursting with bougainvillea, there’s no shortage of photo opportunities. Don’t forget to explore the historic markets, such as Mercado Benito Juarez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre, where you can capture vibrant scenes of locals selling produce, crafts, and traditional delicacies.


One cannot miss the Santo Domingo de Guzman Church, a stunning example of baroque architecture. Its ornate interior, adorned with gold leaf and vibrant frescoes, provides endless opportunities for capturing the intricate details. For a different perspective, head up to the church’s rooftop terrace, where you can capture sweeping views of the cityscape below.


The historic center of Oaxaca City is also home to numerous art galleries and museums. From the renowned Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca to the Rufino Tamayo Museum, there’s plenty of opportunities to capture the rich cultural heritage of the region. Explore the galleries and immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene, capturing the unique perspectives and talents of local artists.


Whether you’re capturing the grandeur of the colonial architecture, the vibrant street life, or the captivating art scene, exploring the historic center of Oaxaca City will provide you with countless photography opportunities.


Capturing the Vibrant Street Life

Oaxaca City is renowned for its lively and vibrant street life, offering photographers a wealth of captivating moments to capture. From bustling markets to colorful street art, the energy and liveliness of the city’s streets make for stunning photographs.


Start your exploration of the street life in the vibrant markets of Oaxaca City. The Mercado 20 de Noviembre is a must-visit, with its bustling atmosphere and aromatic scents. Capture the vibrant displays of fresh produce, local spices, and traditional crafts. Engage with the friendly vendors and capture their genuine smiles as they go about their daily routine.


Another photography hotspot is the Mercado Benito Juarez, where you can capture scenes of locals selling everything from textiles to pottery. The market is a riot of colors, with beautifully embroidered textiles catching your eye at every turn. Don’t be afraid to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of the market and capture candid shots of people going about their daily lives.


As you wander through the streets of Oaxaca City, keep an eye out for the vibrant street art that adorns the walls. From large-scale murals to intricate graffiti, the city is a canvas for local and international artists. Capture the vibrant colors and thought-provoking messages that these artworks convey. Street art not only adds visual interest to your photographs but also tells the story of the city and its people.


Street musicians and performers are another highlight of Oaxaca City’s vibrant street life. From traditional dance performances to musicians playing traditional instruments, these artists add a lively atmosphere to the streets. Capture their passionate expressions and the joy they bring to both locals and visitors alike.


Lastly, don’t forget to capture the daily rituals of the locals in Oaxaca City. From the early morning crowd gathering at the local coffee shops to the evening walks in the parks, these moments showcase the authentic spirit of the city. Candid street portraits or shots of people engaged in their daily routines can add a human touch to your photography and deepen the connection between the viewer and the subject.


Immerse yourself in the vibrant street life of Oaxaca City and let your camera be your guide as you capture the essence of the city’s energy and its people.


Discovering the Rich Cultural Heritage

Oaxaca City is a treasure trove of cultural heritage, with a history that dates back thousands of years. From ancient ruins to traditional customs, photographers will find endless opportunities to document and celebrate the city’s rich cultural tapestry.


One of the highlights of Oaxaca City’s cultural heritage is its archaeological sites. Just a short distance from the city, you’ll find Monte Alban, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most important archaeological sites in Mexico. Capture the grandeur of the ancient Zapotec ruins against sweeping panoramic views of the valley below. The intricate stone carvings and the preserved architectural structures offer fascinating subjects for your photographs.


Another archaeological site worth exploring is Mitla, known for its intricate geometric patterns and elaborate stonework. Capture the intricate details of the ancient mosaic designs and the stone columns that still stand tall after centuries.


The cultural heritage of Oaxaca City is not just limited to ancient ruins. The city is also home to various museums and galleries that showcase the region’s rich history and traditions. Visit the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca to learn about the indigenous cultures and their artistic traditions. Capture the intricate textiles, pottery, and jewelry on display, giving a glimpse into the artistic mastery of generations past.


Traditional customs and festivals are another important aspect of Oaxacan culture. The city is known for its vibrant celebrations, such as the Day of the Dead, a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Capture the intricate altars and floral arrangements that adorn the streets during this time, and document the spirit of remembrance and celebration that fills the air.


In addition to the festivals, traditional dances and music play a vital role in preserving the cultural heritage of Oaxaca City. Whether it’s the lively Guelaguetza performances or the traditional folk dances, these cultural expressions provide an opportunity to capture the beauty and grace of Oaxacan traditions.


Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Oaxaca City, capturing the ancient ruins, traditional customs, and vibrant celebrations that have shaped the city’s identity. Through your lens, preserve these cultural treasures for generations to come.


Immersing in the Local Cuisine

When it comes to culinary delights, Oaxaca City is a haven for food lovers. The city’s rich and diverse cuisine offers a multitude of flavors, textures, and colors that are a delight to the senses and a feast for the camera.


One of the most iconic dishes of Oaxaca is mole, a complex sauce made from a blend of chili peppers, spices, and other ingredients. Capture the vibrant hues of different types of mole, such as mole negro or mole rojo, as it is prepared and served. Whether it’s the swirling patterns on the plate or the drizzle of mole sauce over a traditional dish, these culinary creations are a photographer’s dream.


As you explore the local markets and street stalls, keep an eye out for tlayudas, a popular Oaxacan street food. These large, crispy tortillas are topped with beans, cheese, meat, and avocado, creating a delicious and visually appealing dish. Get up close to capture the cheese stretching and the toppings arranged in perfect harmony.


Chapulines, or roasted grasshoppers, are a unique culinary delicacy in Oaxaca. Their vibrant colors and crunchy texture make for intriguing photographic subjects. Whether it’s capturing a handful of chapulines or a dish garnished with these edible insects, these photographs will tell a story of Oaxaca’s adventurous and diverse cuisine.


Traditional beverages are also an important part of Oaxacan cuisine. Try capturing the process of making tejate, a refreshing and sacred pre-Hispanic drink made from roasted cacao, corn, and other ingredients. From the grinding of the ingredients to the frothy surface of the beverage, these moments provide a visual representation of the local culinary traditions.


Don’t forget to capture the bustling food markets, such as Mercado de la Merced and Mercado 20 de Noviembre. These vibrant markets are filled with stalls selling local produce, spices, and traditional snacks. The colorful displays and the lively atmosphere offer endless opportunities for capturing the essence of local cuisine.


Immerse yourself in the flavors and aromas of Oaxacan cuisine, capturing the vibrant colors, meticulous preparation, and delicious results. Let your camera be your guide as you document the culinary treasures that make Oaxaca City a food lover’s paradise.


Exploring Oaxaca’s Natural Beauty

Oaxaca City is not only a cultural haven but also a gateway to the breathtaking natural beauty of the region. From lush mountains to serene waterfalls, photographers will find themselves immersed in the stunning landscapes that Oaxaca has to offer.


One of the must-visit natural wonders near Oaxaca City is Hierve el Agua. These natural rock formations resemble cascading waterfalls and offer spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. Capture the contrast between the petrified waterfalls and the vibrant blue pools, creating an otherworldly landscape. Visit during golden hour to capture the warm glow as the sun sets over the horizon.


The Sierra Norte mountain range offers endless opportunities for nature photography. Explore the various hiking trails and capture the panoramic views of the mountains, valleys, and forests. From the mist-covered peaks to the vibrant flora and fauna, the Sierra Norte is a paradise for landscape photographers.


Photographing the stunning waterfalls of Oaxaca is a must for nature enthusiasts. Cascada de Hierve el Agua and Cascada La Reforma are just a couple of examples. Capture the cascading water against the rocky backdrop, and don’t forget to experiment with long-exposure techniques to capture the smooth flow of the water.


No visit to Oaxaca would be complete without exploring its beautiful coastline. Puerto Escondido and Huatulco are popular beach destinations that offer pristine sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and stunning sunsets. Capture the crashing waves, the vibrant beach umbrellas, and the golden hues of the setting sun for idyllic beach photography.


The landscapes of Oaxaca are also home to a variety of wildlife. Keep your camera ready to capture shots of colorful birds, exotic insects, and even elusive species like the jaguar. Visit bird sanctuaries such as the Laguna de Manialtepec to capture stunning images of migratory birds in their natural habitats.


Whether it’s capturing the dramatic rock formations, the lush mountains, the cascading waterfalls, or the stunning coastlines, Oaxaca’s natural beauty provides endless opportunities for photographers to explore and capture the awe-inspiring landscapes.


Photographing the Colorful Festivals

Oaxaca City is widely known for its vibrant and lively festivals, which are a visual delight for photographers. From the elaborate costumes to the exuberant dances, these festivals offer a unique opportunity to capture the spirit and rich cultural traditions of the region.


One of the most iconic and widely celebrated festivals in Oaxaca is the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. This multi-day celebration is a time to honor and remember loved ones who have passed away. Capture the colorful altars adorned with marigolds and candles, as well as the intricately designed sugar skulls. The vibrant costumes and face paint of the participants add an extra layer of visual interest to your photographs.


The Guelaguetza festival is another major highlight of Oaxaca’s festival scene. This yearly event showcases the music, dance, and traditional costumes of the various indigenous cultures of the region. Capture the swirling skirts, the vibrant patterns, and the energetic dances of the performers. The festival provides a window into the rich cultural diversity and heritage of Oaxaca.


The Radish Night (Noche de Rábanos) is a unique festival that takes place on December 23rd. During this event, artisans carve intricate scenes and figures out of giant radishes, showcasing incredible creativity and craftsmanship. Capture the detailed radish carvings and the proud expressions of the artists as they display their creations.


Carnaval de Putla is a colorful carnival celebrated in the town of Putla Villa de Guerrero. It features masked dancers known as “chinas oaxaqueñas” who wear intricate costumes adorned with sequins and mirrors. Capture the vibrant masks and costumes of the dancers as they perform lively dances in the streets.


As you photograph these festivals, be sure to capture not only the main events but also the candid moments that unfold in the streets. People dressed in traditional attire, children’s faces lit up with excitement, and the bustling atmosphere make for captivating photographs that truly capture the essence of the celebrations.


These festivals offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant colors, joyful music, and lively dances of Oaxaca’s cultural heritage. Embrace the spirit of the festivities and let your camera tell the story of these vibrant and exuberant celebrations.


Visiting the Iconic Artistic Landmarks

Oaxaca City is renowned for its thriving art scene, with numerous iconic artistic landmarks that are a treasure trove for photographers. From stunning murals to intricate craft markets, these landmarks offer a glimpse into the artistic soul of the city.


One of the most famous artistic landmarks in Oaxaca is the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. Housed in a former Dominican monastery, the museum is home to a vast collection of archaeological artifacts, textiles, and contemporary art. Capture the elegant architecture of the building and the intricate details of the historical exhibits.


For lovers of street art, the Barrio de Xochimilco is a must-visit neighborhood in Oaxaca. The walls of the neighborhood come alive with vibrant murals, showcasing the creativity and talent of local and international artists. Explore the winding streets and capture the burst of colors and thought-provoking messages painted on the walls.


The unique craft markets of Oaxaca are also artistic landmarks in their own right. Visit the Mercado de Artesanias to capture the vibrant array of handmade crafts, including textiles, pottery, carved wooden figurines, and traditional Oaxacan alebrijes. The intricate craftsmanship and attention to detail make for visually stunning photographs.


Another must-visit landmark is the Instituto de Artes Graficas de Oaxaca (IAGO). This cultural institution promotes contemporary art and hosts exhibitions, workshops, and talks. Capture the gallery space and the artworks on display, showcasing the creativity and vision of local and international artists.


As you explore the city, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the various art galleries scattered throughout Oaxaca. From contemporary art at CASA gallery to traditional Zapotec weavings at Galeria Fe y Lola, these galleries offer a glimpse into the diverse artistic expressions that thrive in the city.


Lastly, no visit to Oaxaca’s artistic landmarks would be complete without experiencing the craft of handmade mezcal. Visit a local mezcaleria to witness the traditional process of mezcal production and capture the centuries-old techniques used to create this iconic Mexican spirit. The rustic settings and the passionate artisans will provide you with unique photographic opportunities.


Whether you’re capturing the vibrant street art, the intricate crafts, or the diverse artwork on display, visiting Oaxaca’s iconic artistic landmarks will immerse you in the city’s vibrant art scene and provide you with a wealth of inspiring subjects to photograph.


Interacting with the Warm-hearted Locals

One of the most enriching experiences in Oaxaca City is the opportunity to interact with the warm-hearted locals. The friendly and welcoming nature of the people adds a special charm to the city and provides photographers with authentic and candid moments to capture.


As you explore the streets, take the time to strike up conversations with the locals. Whether it’s the vendors at the markets, the artists in their studios, or the residents in the neighborhood, Oaxacans are known for their warm hospitality and genuine interest in sharing their stories. Engage in conversation and capture their genuine smiles and expressions.


Participate in the local traditions and customs, such as attending the local festivals or joining in on traditional dances. The locals will appreciate your interest and enthusiasm, and you’ll have the opportunity to capture the joy and camaraderie that these events bring to the community.


Embrace the local gastronomy by dining at traditional restaurants or street food stalls. Strike up conversations with the chefs and the local food vendors and learn about the stories behind the dishes. Capture the passion and dedication they put into their culinary creations, and document the mouth-watering delicacies that are a source of pride for the locals.


Take the time to learn some basic Spanish phrases and expressions. Even a simple “Hola” and “Gracias” can go a long way in building connections and bridging the language barrier. The locals will appreciate your effort to communicate in their native language, and it will create a more meaningful interaction.


Consider spending a day with a local guide who can show you the hidden gems and share their deep knowledge of the city. They can provide unique insights into the culture, history, and traditions of Oaxaca, and you’ll have the opportunity to capture the city from a more personal and local perspective.


Remember to always ask for permission before taking someone’s photograph, as respect for their privacy and cultural sensitivities is important. Many locals are happy to have their pictures taken, but it’s essential to establish a connection and ensure they are comfortable with being photographed.


Interacting with the warm-hearted locals of Oaxaca City will not only enhance your photography, but also allow you to create lasting memories and connections. Through your photographs, you can capture the genuine spirit and warmth of the local community, preserving their stories and experiences for years to come.



Oaxaca City is a true paradise for photographers, offering a myriad of opportunities to capture the essence of Mexico. From the historic center with its colonial architecture to the vibrant street life and colorful festivals, there is no shortage of captivating subjects to photograph.


Exploring the historic center allows you to witness the grandeur of the architectural landmarks and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the city. Whether you’re capturing the intricate details of the churches or the bustling markets, the historic center provides a window into the city’s past and present.


The vibrant street life of Oaxaca City offers endless photo opportunities. From the vibrant markets and street art to the lively street musicians and performers, the energy and spirit of the city come alive through your lens. Every corner presents a new snapshot of daily life and cultural vibrancy.


Delving into the local cuisine is a treat for both the taste buds and the camera. From capturing the colorful layers of mole to the artistry of traditional food markets, photographing the local cuisine brings the flavors and traditions to life in stunning detail.


Oaxaca’s natural beauty serves as a backdrop for captivating landscape photography. From the majestic mountains and cascading waterfalls to the pristine beaches, the region’s natural wonders offer breathtaking scenes to capture and cherish.


The colorful festivals that define Oaxacan culture are a visual feast for photographers. From the iconic Day of the Dead celebrations to the lively Guelaguetza festival, these events allow you to document the rich traditions and vibrant costumes that define the region’s cultural identity.


Visiting the artistic landmarks of Oaxaca City provides insight into the city’s thriving art scene. From exploring the museums and galleries to capturing the vibrant street art and traditional crafts, the artistic landmarks showcase the creativity and talent of local and international artists.


But perhaps the most memorable aspect of Oaxaca City is the warm-hearted locals who create a welcoming and hospitable environment. Engaging with the locals, learning their stories, and capturing their genuine smiles and expressions add depth and authenticity to your photographic journey.


As you reflect on your time in Oaxaca City, your photographs will serve as a testament to the city’s beauty, culture, and the incredible moments you experienced. They will be a visual diary of the rich tapestry of life, colors, and traditions that make Oaxaca City such a captivating destination for photographers.


So, grab your camera, immerse yourself in the magic of Oaxaca City, and let your photographs tell the story of this vibrant and culturally rich corner of Mexico.