Day of the Dead Oaxaca


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16 people
9 days
Code: GSFO
Activity and Adventure, Tours
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Overview of Day of the Dead Oaxaca

Mexico’s throwing a party and everyone’s invited – even the dead! Travel from Oaxaca to San Cristobal del las Casas and pumping Playa del Carmen, taking in the after-dark antics of the famous Day of the Dead celebrations. Commune with spirits at a Oaxacan graveyard, wander through markets jangling with skeletons, and discover the ancient Aztec customs behind Mexico’s most iconic (and awesome) festival. After farewelling the dearly departed, explore mountains, check out some hidden Caribbean caves and then carve up the d-floor in Playa.

Trip Summary for Day of the Dead Oaxaca

Start Location: Oaxaca,   End Location: Playa del Carmen

Countries Visited: Mexico, 
Meals Included: Breakfast: 0   Lunches: 0   Dinners: 0

    • Party it up with the locals and discover why the dead are the life of the party.
    • The Mayan people and their culture are far from extinct! Visit the San Juan Chamula church and see it for yourself.
    • Relax in the brilliant azure waters of the Caribbean, swimming with sea turtles and exploring underground caves.


Day 1 - Oaxaca
Bienvenido! Welcome to Oaxaca! The first day kicks off with a Welcome Meeting at 3pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to help you book additional accommodation if needed. Please let us know in advance If you're going to be late to the meeting. At the meeting we'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information, so please have all these details for your leader.

Afterwards, join your leader on an orientation walk around Oaxaca's main sites. The city is full of colonial arcades, leafy tree-shaded streets and colourful markets. At the markets you’ll find descendants of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians selling their colourful woven blankets and shawls, making them a great place to shop for textiles as well as street food (tacos, anyone?) Fuel up on your walk with some tasty regional specialties – from cactus fruit to baked chili and lime grasshoppers and heavenly Oaxacan cheese. In the evening, perhaps get to know your fellow travellers while sipping mezcal in the city square before diving into Oaxaca’s thriving nightlife. Your hotel is within easy walking distance of Oaxaca's after-dark hot spots.

Day 2 - Oaxaca
Today you’ll see all the different sides of Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival. Although Die de los Muertos is celebrated all over Mexico, Oaxaca is known for its particularly ornate celebrations, with festivities taking place up to a week before November 1st and 2nd. Your tour leader will take you shopping for an outrageously loud costume to wear at tonight’s festivities, get your face painted, or visit the giant sand tapestries at the Museo del Palacio (which are made just for Dia de los Muertos).

Day 3 - Oaxaca
November 1st is the most traditional and culturally fascinating day of the Day of the Dead celebrations. On this day families prepare altars for their deceased loved ones, which they display at homes and over graves at cemeteries. Start things off with a reflective visit to a local cemetery and see the many shrines created by the local families. It’s not unusual to see shrines decorated with the deceased’s favourite items (such as toys and trinkets), as well as alcohol, food and candles. Afterwards, soak up the unique festival vibes on a guided walk through town with your local leader, visiting local houses, markets and plazas to see all the different and colourful celebrations.

Day 4 - Oaxaca/overnight bus
Today is free to explore Oaxaca at your own pace. Perhaps head to the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban just outside the city. Monte Alban was inhabited for 1,500 years by the Olmec, Zapotec and Mixtec peoples, and is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. Alternatively, take a day tour to the nearby Mitla Ruins, an important Zapotec archaeological site that was the main religious centre for the Zapotec people. As part of this optional tour you’ll visit the mineral springs of Hierve el Agua and stop into a mezcaleria (mezcal distillery). If you don’t feel like an excursion, you can also stay in town and take part in a cooking class.

In the evening, catch an overnight bus to San Cristobal del las Casas (approximately 13 hours). Overnight buses in Mexico are quite comfortable. They are equipped with toilets and reclining seats with plenty of leg room. They are always air-conditioned, so make sure you take a warm layer with you as it may get cold on board. Please note that the road from Oaxaca to San Cristobal is very winding at times. If you suffer from motion sickness it is a good idea to have your medication ready.

Day 5 - San Cristobal de las Casas
Roll into San Cristobal del las Casas in the early morning and be greeted by the town’s pastel-coloured architecture. This highland town will be your home for the next two days. Hotel check-in isn’t until midday, but you’ll be able to store your luggage at the hotel and start exploring the city with your leader on an orientation walk. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the small town of San Juan Chamula and its church. Don’t come expecting your standard church, though. The floor is covered with pine needles and the air is thick with the smell of incense. Shamans regularly come here to conduct cleansing ceremonies using firewater, ancient prayers and chickens. Photography is strictly prohibited as a sign of respect for traditional customs. Return to San Cristobal del las Casas in the evening. Perhaps experience a taste of authentic regional cuisine at one of the many local restaurants.

Day 6 - San Cristobal de las Casas
Today is another free day and your group leader will be on hand to help you arrange some optional activities. The villages surrounding San Cristobal del las Casas are home to Tzotzil and Tzeltal groups, who maintain their tribal origins through their traditional costumes and customs. You can explore these villages and learn more about their way of life on an adrenaline-fueled mountain bike ride. Another option is a canyoning trip to ‘El Chorreadero’. This six-hour excursion ventures a kilometre inside a (dry) cave and follows a river through a number of cascades, pools and rappels. This is a memorable experience but not recommended if you’re claustrophobic or have a fear of heights. You can also choose to stay in town and check out the local museums, such as at the award-winning Museo de la Medicina Maya showcasing the history of indigenous healing techniques.

Day 7 - Playa del Carmen
Early afternoon take a transfer from San Cristobal de las Casas to Tuxla Gutierrez (approximately 1.5hrs). From here you will board a flight to Mexico City (approximately 2hrs) before connecting with another flight to Cancun airport (approximately 2.5 hrs, arriving late evening). After one final transfer by minivan you’ll land in Playa del Carmen!

Day 8 - Playa del Carmen
Pop on some swimming gear and get ready for a day of snorkelling. First up is Akumal, located a short drive south of Playa del Carmen. Every day dozens of sea turtles come here to munch on seaweed, which is prolific in the area. Spend up to an hour snorkelling with these amazing creatures before moving on to a nearby cenote (sinkhole) to swim in hidden water caves. Finish the day back in Playa del Carmen, sipping an ice cold margarita by the beach.

Day 9 - Playa del Carmen
This Mexican adventure comes to an end today. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are free to depart the accommodation at any time. If you’d like to spend some extra nights here, let us know at the time of booking and we’ll be happy to organise the accommodation for you. If you want to experience Playa del Carmen like a local, why not join one of our dedicated Urban Adventure one-day tours. Find out more at

Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Meals Included: Breakfast: 0 Lunches: 0 Dinners: 0

Party it up with the locals and discover why the dead are the life of the party.
The Mayan people and their culture are far from extinct! Visit the San Juan Chamula church and see it for yourself.
Relax in the brilliant azure waters of the Caribbean, swimming with sea turtles and exploring underground caves.

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