Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) | Oaxaca & Mexico City

 

Hola amigos! If you're reading this and planning a trip to Mexico, let me start by stressing that going to Mexico during Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an absolute MUST! There is something incredibly culturally distinctive about being in in the country during this time. I feel that if you go once, you'll yearn to go back again during this quintessential Mexican holiday.

This six day itinerary will take you on a journey starting in Mexico City with pre Día De Los Muertos festivities, then onto Oaxaca for a more traditional experience. The itinerary below will give you all the deets on what to see and where to eat and drink even if you visit CDMX or Oaxaca at another time.

What you should know before visiting Mexico:

Is a visa required for U.S. Citizens when visiting Mexico? 

No Visa is needed for US citizens when entering Mexico

What is the recommended travel group when visiting Mexico City and Oaxaca?

Perfect for large friend groups, couples, and families

Recommended length of stay:

3 days per city

Local language: 

Mainly Spanish and some English. Most of the working class speaks only Spanish.

Vaccinations needed when visiting Mexico?

None required for US Citizens

Can I take an Uber in Mexico?

You can find Uber in Mexico City but you'll have to rely on local transportation in Oaxaca

Local currency and value: 

The currency is the Mexican Peso (MXN), and you'll find your dollar stretching relatively far in Mexico. To provide a few examples -

  • Rates fluctuate but in general $1 USD = 19 MXN
  • You’ll find yourself eating at fine dining establishments and paying~$15 USD for a cocktail, appetizer, and main course.
  • I usually don’t recommend exchanging currency at airports but the Mexico City Airport has a decent exchange rate: $1 USD ~ 18.5 MXN
  • Download the XECurrency app to see conversion rates. It's a great travel app that works offline
  • You will need cash on hand; not every establishment takes credit card

Can you drink the water in Mexico?

No, do not consume tap water in Mexico. Be clear that you want bottled mineral water at restaurants

What is the weather like in these cities during the festivities?

This trip itinerary is for the month of October. The days are warm and the nights are cool. Plan to bring jackets for the evening. Overall, the weather is fantastic.

What is culture around dining like in Mexico?

Do not expect US standards when it comes to restaurant service. If you need a refill/want to order/request the check, you will most likely need to call over the waiter. Tips are not included and not necessarily expected, but 10% is appreciated.

What do flights look like in Mexico?

Book tickets in advance. The prices are steep if you are comparing to flight costs Europe, especially during the holidays. Here is about what we paid:

Int'l Multi City Itinerary: ATL → Mexico City, GDL → ATL: ~$700

Domestic Multi-City Itinerary: Mexico City → Oaxaca → GDL: ~ $152

 

Día de los Muertos Itinerary: Mexico City and Oaxaca

 

Day 1: Arrive in Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX/Mexico City)

 

  • If you have the flexibility to book an Airbnb for Mexico City, I highly recommend it over a hotel. Reason being - Mexico City is known for its architecture. And with that, you'll find some amazing, unique Airbnbs at GREAT prices
  • You do want to be selective on where you stay in Mexico City. I recommend staying in Condesa or Roma​
    • Distance from Airport ~40 minutes
    • Uber x~ 200 pesos ~$10 USD
    • We stayed in Roma

3:00pm - 4:30pm: Lunch near the Airbnb in Roma Norte at Taqueria Alvaro Obregón

  • Al Pastor tacos and a michelada (Mexican Beer with lemon juice and assorted sauces with chile around the brim) are a must
  • Very cheap, no frills, and delicious
  • Take a seat on the outdoor patio and enjoy the commotion of the city while enjoying fresh flat pressed corn tortillas tacos

 

4:30pm - 5:00pm: Head to Frida Kahlo Museum

  • Address: Londres 247, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
  • Distance from Airbnb Neighborhood (Roma Norte) ~ 30mins
  • UberX Fare ~ 200 pesos ~$10USD

5:00pm - 6:15pm: Frida Kahlo Museum

  • This museum is Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s house and it's an absolute must see when visiting Mexico City
  • The website shares that the Museum closes at 5:30p.m., although we showed up slightly before that time and they allowed us to stay till past 6:00p.m. Make sure to get to the ticket booth before 5:30p.m
  • Keep in mind that you will more than likely have to wait in a line outside the museum - you can book tickets in advance here to avoid wait times

6:45pm - 8:00pm: Drinks at Sereno Moreno

  • Lively spot for happy hour or dinner that you find a lot of local professionals go to
  • When in Ciudad de Mexico, I recommend ordering a Paloma - a classic Mexican tequila beverage
  • If you are hungry, PLEASE DO YOURSELF JUSTICE and go next door to Taqueria Los Parados. The best Al Pastor tacos I had in ALL of my life. No frills, no seating, and no disappointment. I'm literally wishing I could be there right now as I write this because they are that damn good

8:30pm. - 12:00am: Head to a Lucha Libre Fight 

  • Definitely recommend doing this with a group of friends or family members
  • Not recommended for the faint-hearted

12:00am - 1:00am: Top off the night with street tacos from Taqueria Los Parados (again)

  • Yes, I realize this is the THIRD time I have recommended eating Tacos upon arriving in Mexico City--but you will soon realize there is a reason for that. Tacos in Mexico City are legendary!
  • Al Pastor or bust baby

Day 2: Mexico City

10:30am - 2:00pm: Brunch and explore the Historic Center

  • Take an Uber to the Metropolitan Cathedral
    • If you are doing this trip during Día De Los Muertos, expect many roads near the historic center to be closed. Uber will take you as far as the roadblocks, and then you can walk several blocks from there into the city center.
  • Have brunch at Fish and Grill -  note - this restaurant may be difficult to find but the view is worthwhile!
    • A street marketing woman working with the restaurant grabbed our attention and lured us in. She took us through a mall full of jewelry and up an elevator to this restaurant facing the downtown center. There is nothing fancy about the place but the views and energy are a must for the experience.

 

  • Spend the rest of the morning walking around the city center, enjoying the architecture and artwork set up especially for Día de los Muertos. This part of town is packed with people, many of whom are Mexican tourists from other regions of the country!

  • Quick Coffee/Postre break? Check out Toks Santo Domingo
    • Positioned right next to a lot of the art work, it's comfortable spot to get a quick dessert and cappuccino

 

2:00pm - 2:30pm: Head to walking tour

2:30pm - 4:30pm: Hidden History of Mexico City Free Walking Tour

  • This walking tour last twos hours
  • You must make reservations online
  • The meeting point of the tour is at the French entrance of "Bellas Artes" Subway
  • The entrance of the subway is next to the right side of the Palace of Beauty arts"Palacio de Bellas Artes". If you watch it from the front, just go straight and the entrance has a green Ornament with gothic letters.
  • Sites visited:
    • ​Cathedral of Mexico City
    • Alameda
    • Mexican Bank building
    • Latino Tower
    • Post Palace
    • War Museum
    • Government Palace
    • Diego Rivera Museum
    • MUNAL
    • Beauty Arts Palace
    • Antique Minery Palace
      • Note - may not be able to see all these sites due to the chaos of Día de Los Muertos and the aftermath of the earthquake
  • Our tour guide Dante was awesome! Please note that these guides volunteer to do this because of their passion for their city. Many make a living off their tips, please tip accordingly

4:30pm - 6:00pm: Afternoon meal at Argentalia

  • After a full day of walking around in CDMX, we were exhausted and wanted to chow down on some pizza. We stumbled upon this adorable Argentinian and Italian-fused restaurant called Argentalia
    • You'll notice that Mexico City is a melting pot of cuisines: whatever you're craving, you can find in this city

 

Day 3: Mexico City → Oaxaca

10:00am - 10:30am: Quick Breakfast at Churreria El Moro Rio Lerma

  • Watch as they make your churros fresh to table
  • If you are craving something savory - the Tostada Al Pastor is AMAZING
  • You can order all of this to-go

 

10:30am - 11:30am: Uber to the Pyramids of Teotihuacan

11:30am - 1:30pm: Pyramids sightseeing

  • Formally known as Teotihuacan, Pyramid of the Sun, and Pyramid of the moon
  • Sunscreen, a hat, and water are recommended
  • Lots of cute affordable hats for purchase available at the pyramids. Locals are selling water bottles as well -
  • If you are looking to bring gifts home, there's plenty to purchase here - great way to support the local economy

2:00pm - 5:00pm: Lunch at La Gruta

  • Insanely beautiful restaurant inside a cave, you do NOT want to miss out on eating here
  • We took a taxi here from the Pyramids entrance for ~70 pesos
  • It’s all about the ambiance here - the place is decked out for Día de Los Muertos and they offer entertainment in the form of traditional style of dancing
  • We had an 1 hour and 45 minute wait that ended up being about 45 minutes. See if you can make a reservation ahead of time.
  • Note - Given the significant distance between the pyramids and the city center, getting an Uber back to the city can be tricky--we were able to find one, but we got very lucky. Please plan for alternative transportation, such as a shared van or shuttle, in the event you are not able to request an Uber
    • ​In a worst case scenario, you can always try and see if someone at the restaurant can arrange transportation back

A look into La Gruta - restaurant inside of a cave

Fast forward to heading to the airport for a flight to Oaxaca -

9:45pm - 10:55pm: Fight from Mexico City to Oaxaca

11:00pm - 11:30pm: Check in @ Quinta Real Oaxaca

  • One of THE BEST hotels I have EVER stayed at. Photos do not do this place justice. There is something very magical about the Quinta Real
  • You must book your hotels in Oaxaca for the Día de los Muertos period well in advance--at least two to three months. Make sure you are staying in the main historic town center, a well preserved Spanish colonial era architectural delight.
  • The lodging at Quinta Real was expensive during our stay, somewhere around $400/night. Please book in advance to avoid inflated prices, but do keep in mind that demand for lodging is high during Día de los Muertos and prices will be steeper.
  • Breakfast here itself is like a fairy tale--lovely setting, amazing selection of food, and a band playing songs from the region.

   

Day 4: Oaxaca

 

Please note that during this portion of the trip - we decided to work remotely during the work week. Nonetheless, you are provided recommendations in the itinerary below.

Day time activity:  Monte Alban Tour

Evening: Dinner at Restaurante Catedral
  • One of the more famous restaurants in the Oaxacan center
  • Take this time after dinner to wander around the center. Several of the buildings will have their doors open for you to walk in and see the Día de los Muertos decor

Wandering into random buildings in Oaxaca City and finding exquisite Dia de los Muertos decorations

Wandering into random buildings in Oaxaca City and finding exquisite Dia de los Muertos decorations

Day 5: Oaxaca - Dia de Los Muertos

 

Morning: Brunch at Pan:am

This place doesn't look like much from the outside, but upon entering you'll find the courtyard and setting to be quite charming. It is one of those places that truly makes you feel relaxed and as if you're on vacation. Even though the hotel offers breakfast, I would not miss out on an opportunity to have brunch here.

Afternoon: Spend this day enjoying the Oaxaco Centro. So much activity going on! Live folk music, face painting, colorful clothing for the holiday, and tons of art--the energy is incredible!

 

Cocktail Hour: Zandunga Sabor istmeño

  • Known for their Mezcal cocktails and Oaxacan food

Evening: Dia de los Muertos Cemetery tours

Throughout the Oaxaco Centro, you'll find flyers on the cemetery tours. You can also book a tour with guest services at the hotel. These tours provide bread and a drink, an explanation and history of Dia de Los Muertos, and take you to 2-3 of the cemeteries in Oaxaca. This is the richest experience you will have on this trip. It is lovely to see how much beautiful work every family has done on the alters. Telling stories of their lost ones and sharing drinks and food with one another. Many of them will even invite you over to partake in their family stories!

Day 6: Oaxaca 

 

Daytime activity: Go For a Swim in a Petrified Waterfall: Hierve de Agua. Hierve de Agua is one of the most popular day trips from Oaxaca. A little more than an hour outside of Oaxaca city, you’ll find one of the only petrified waterfalls in the world.

Evening: Day of the Dead. There are plenty of options for how to spend the night! Consult a local tourism agency or your hotel to arrange transportation to one of the villages on the outskirts of Oaxaca City. Expect to spend all night hearing live music and visiting cemeteries while enjoying lavish art and costumes.

----End of Trip ----
Enjoy and leave comments below on suggestions!

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