The Best Time to Visit Oaxaca

Temple of Santo Domingo, Oaxaca, Mexico
Carlos Sanchez Pereyra / Getty Images

Oaxaca is situated in southern Mexico in a valley surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountain range at about 5,000 feet above sea level. The city is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and many visitors time their trip to coincide with some special holiday celebrations. The best time to visit Oaxaca is during October and November, or during February and March. During these months, you’ll find moderate temperatures, and, except for a few particular holidays, crowds are not excessive. Whenever you decide to travel to Oaxaca, this guide will help you plan your trip to this fascinating city known for its fantastic mezcal and food scenes, exquisite handicrafts, and rich cultural traditions.

The Weather in Oaxaca

Oaxaca’s elevation gives it a reasonably pleasant climate year-round. You can expect warm and sunny weather during the day throughout the year, but the hottest months are April and May, and the coldest are November and December. Even more than temperature, though, the most apparent seasonal difference in Oaxaca is between the dry and rainy seasons. The rainy season usually lasts from May through September, and the rest of the year is quite dry. During the summer, you can expect rain in the afternoons and evenings, sometimes with intense storms that come on fairly suddenly. The best weather is in the late fall and early spring when it’s mainly dry and neither too hot nor too cold.

Popular Events and Festivals in Oaxaca

There’s almost always some kind of celebration taking place in Oaxaca. No matter when you visit, you’ll likely come across some type of cultural celebration or religious processions in the street. There are a few major holidays that bring in a considerable influx of tourists, that you should be aware of when planning your trip. Day of the Dead celebrations span about a week from the end of October to the beginning of November and are very lively. There are several celebrations during December, including the feast days of Our Lady of Solitude and Our Lady of Guadalupe as well as the Night of the Radishes, and of course, Christmas. Easter is a popular travel time for Mexicans, so it can also be very crowded. And the Guelaguetza Festival takes place in the last half of July. If you plan on visiting Oaxaca during these times, be sure to book your accommodation several months in advance.

Besides these major celebrations, Mexico also has several national public holidays throughout the year, some of which are observed on a Monday to make a long weekend. Check the calendar of Mexican national holidays so you can be aware, and if you’re traveling during one of these occasions, expect more crowds at tourist attractions, particularly on Sundays, as Mexican nationals and residents have free admission to museums and archaeological sites on Sundays.

Spring in Oaxaca

The weather in the springtime in Oaxaca can be quite hot, especially in April and May, which are the hottest months with highs in the high 80s (around 31 degrees Celsius). This season is generally dry, but there may be some rain starting in May and becoming more frequent toward the end of the month. 

Events to check out:

  • Holy Week: The dates vary, but the holiday lasts two weeks in March or April. You can witness some special religious observances if you visit during this period. 
  • The beginning of spring coincides with the birthday of revered former president Benito Juarez and events surround both.
  • The anniversary of the founding of Oaxaca city is celebrated on April 25 (the city was founded in 1532). There is usually a traditional parade and other events that take place to mark the occasion.

Summer in Oaxaca

Summertime in Oaxaca is the rainy season, and temperatures tend to be a bit lower than in the spring. You can expect sunny days with highs in the low 80s (high 20s Celsius). It’s usually sunny early in the day with rain in the late afternoons or evenings, unless there’s a tropical storm along the coast, which can bring full days of overcast skies and all-day rain, Increased rainfall makes the vegetation grow lush and green, so the landscapes are stunning, and rivers and waterfalls in the area around the city are more enjoyable.

Events to check out:

  • The Guelaguetza Festival is a celebration of Oaxaca culture held on the last two Mondays of July. Besides the main celebration, here’s a lot more going on at the same time, including a mezcal fair.
  • Summer rains mean that it’s mushroom season in the mountains around the city, and a couple of communities celebrate mushroom fairs, usually in July. 

Fall in Oaxaca

The rain continues through September, but tapers off, with October seeing very little rain (about one and a half inches total for the month). Temperatures get cooler, although the days are still warm, nights are getting colder. In October, you can expect highs around 80 degrees F and lows around 55 F. 

Events to check out:

  • The Oaxaca Flavors food festival is held over a few days in September in a celebration of contemporary Mexican gastronomy. In addition to visiting chefs from across Mexico, the festival welcomes chefs from one particular Mexican guest city and one guest country. 
  • Oaxaca is one of the places in Mexico in which Day of the Dead is celebrated most exuberantly: From the last day of October through the first few days of November, there are multiple festivities in the city, and in the surrounding towns and villages to mark the occasion. There are processions and street parties, contests to see who can make the best altar, as well as more somber observances in the cemeteries.

Winter in Oaxaca

During the wintertime in Oaxaca, you can expect days to be warm, sunny, and dry, and evenings to be cool. In December and January, there may be an occasional cold front with temperatures dipping down close to freezing at night, but the days will still be warm and pleasant. December through February is high season in Oaxaca, and there’s a profusion of international visitors around town enjoying the pleasant weather and festivities.

Events to check out:

  • There are special religious and popular celebrations around the feast days of three manifestations of the Virgin Mary in December. Our Lady of Juquila is celebrated on Dec. 8, Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, and Our Lady of Solitude (Oaxaca’s patroness) on Dec. 18.
  • The Night of the Radishes is a special celebration that takes place on Dec. 23. Crowds gather in the Zocalo to see the creations or local artisans who craft scenes out of radishes in a unique contest
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