Día de los Muertos – Oaxaca, Mexico

(October 29 - November 3, 2020)

Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos - Stock

A national holiday in Mexico, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is considered one of the most important cultural celebrations in Latin America. With ancient roots in Mesoamerica, the celebration as we know it today is largely a combination of indigenous and European cultural practices that demonstrates the culture’s strong sense of love and respect for one’s ancestors, while celebrating the continuance of life. On this day in Mexico, the streets near the cemeteries are filled with papel picado (tissue paper decorations), flowers, candy calaveras (skeletons and skulls), and parades. It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit their families on October 31 and leave on November 2.

Oaxaca’s artistic and culinary heartland offers visitors a unique opportunity to explore the rich history and long-standing traditions of this beautiful celebration. We’ve combined an exploration of the city and its surrounding pueblos with demonstrations by artists working in traditional methods and even a special cooking class to create an engaging tour that is sure to get you into the spirit of Día de los Muertos. Join Marcela de la Mar from Denver’s Mexican Cultural Center for this unforgettable experience that acquaints people with the culture, art, and food of Oaxaca, and what makes this region so unique.


Day 1 (Thurs, Oct 29): Arrival/ Oaxaca ~ Arrival to Oaxaca Xoxocotlan International Airport (OAX) and transfer to hotel.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: None

Estimated Drive Time Today: OAX Airport is about 30 mins from the city center.

City Centro Hotel: Located two miles from Downtown Oaxaca de Juarez, Hotel City Centro is a 4-star hotel conveniently located to area landmarks including colonial buildings, the Cathedral and Temple of Santo Domingo. All guest rooms are equipped with modern amenities in addition to a fitness center and 24-hour Front Desk service.

Day 2 (Fri, Oct 30): Monte Albán/ Santo Domingo Church & Cultural Center/ Welcome Dinner ~ After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we will travel to the archaeological site of Monte Albán, the ancient center of Zapotec and Mixtec culture dating back to the 8th Century. Monte Albán, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is considered one of Mexico’s most culturally rich archaeological sites that towers 400 meters above the valley floor from a hilltop a few kilometers west of Oaxaca. Through exploring numerous pyramids, temples, and altars, visitors will be treated with gorgeous 360-degree views of the city and surrounding valleys.

After lunch, we’ll visit Santo Domingo Church and Cultural Center. Considered by many as one of the finest examples of Dominican architecture in Mexico, Santo Domingo was built on a grand scale.  The church’s interior features 17th Century Baroque architecture.  The museum in the adjacent Cultural Center houses 23 permanent exhibition rooms that showcase Oaxaca’s history from pre-Hispanic times to the colonial period and independence.

Our first full day in Oaxaca ends with a mezcal tasting at sunset followed by a delicious Welcome Dinner.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: Monte Albán is approximately 30 mins from the city.

Day 3 (Sat, Oct 31): Ejutla/ Zaachila Village ~ People from all over the world travel to Oaxaca to learn about local ingredients, traditional cooking techniques, and tools used to create regional culinary specialties. You’ll learn how to make a variety of local dishes during your hands-on, immersive cooking class this morning.

This afternoon, we’ll visit Zaachila Village. To welcome their loved ones, families gather to make tapetes de arena (sand tapestries), beautiful “murals” made of sand and flowers. Each is unique, acting as a showcase for that artist’s character – containing political themes, images of saints or other deities, even depictions of everyday life. Called tapete, the Spanish word for carpet, this artwork is a Día de los Muertos tradition because it is temporary, like life. The art lasts only for a few days and then is gone.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated Drive Time Today: Zaachila Village is approximately 45 mins from the city.

Day 4 (Sun, Nov 1): Oaxaca City/ Tlacolula ~ Tlacolula Market is one of the most popular markets in Oaxaca and for good reason.  This traditional open-air market, tianguis, has been taking place since Zapotec and Mixtec times.  Sunday is market day at Tlacolula.  Streets close and are lined with hundreds of colorful stalls.  People from surrounding villages come to buy and sell, and many wear traditional dress.  Today’s visit to Tlacolula is sure to leave lasting memories.

Afternoon at leisure.  

Mexico’s Day of the Dead Festival (November 1 and 2) has garnered worldwide attention and is celebrated with more passion in Oaxaca than anywhere else. At nightfall, local cemeteries festively decorated with marigolds, candles, and papel picado become a meeting point for families and friends. This is a colorful, candlelit celebration, and a feast for the senses. Families and friends will sit around graves, talking, sharing food and drinking mezcal to stave off the cold. Their vigil will go on all night and into the following day when the souls once again depart from the world for another year.


Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch

Estimated Drive Time Today:  Tlacolula is approximately 45 mins from the city.

Day 5 (Mon, Nov 2): San Martin Tilcajete/ Farewell Dinner ~ Oaxaca is famous for alebrijes (brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures).  In San Martin Tilcajete, we’ll see local families carving and painting alebrijes for sale. Then, we’ll visit the studio of Jacobo and Maria Angeles in San Martin Tilcajete. Jacobo is a master carver and his wife, Maria, paints trademark stylized Zapotec designs. Their popular alebrijes are shipped all over the world. 

Share highlights from your time in Oaxaca with fellow travelers during tonight’s Farewell Dinner.

Accommodations: City Centro Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Estimated Drive Time Today: San Martin Tilcajete is approximately 45 mins from the city.

Day 6 (Tues, Nov 3): Departure ~ Transfer back to OAX Airport in time for our flight home.

Meals: Breakfast


Price: $3355* per person sharing double occupancy accommodations. Supplement for private, single occupancy accommodations: $665*

Includes: Accommodations, private full-time bilingual trip leader, full-time trip host from Mexican Cultural Center Denver, private transportation, meals as listed, activities as listed, entrance fees, gratuities at restaurants for included meals, and sales taxes. A portion of the proceeds from this trip will support Mexican Cultural Center Denver.

Exclusions: International airfare, passport/visa fees, optional gratuities, optional activities, taxis, and personal expenses.

*Pricing is subject to change until deposit received and confirmed in writing. A 3% discount will be applied for payment by check.

Group Size: 6-10 Participants + MCC Trip Host + Trip Leader

Important Information: Itinerary has been built to allow flexibility to accommodate activities and sightseeing.  Lunches and dinners will be at local markets or restaurants in the areas we explore. Every effort will be made to carry out all activities as planned and advertised, however, trip leaders reserve the right to make alterations, deletions, or modifications to the itinerary deemed necessary due to circumstances beyond their control.

For more trip information, contact Reefs to Rockies (303.860.6045; admin@reefstorockies.com).