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Experiencing a Temazcal Ceremony in Oaxaca City, Mexico

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One of the most unforgettable things to do in Oaxaca City is to experience a traditional sweat lodge or temazcal ceremony. This bath ritual is intended to purify your mind, body and spirit.

If you’re looking for best temazcals in Oaxaca, Mexico, you’ve come to the right place! This guide includes information on temazcal ceremonies in Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido, San José del Pacifico, Santa María Coyotepec and the Bahias de Huatulco.

What is a Temazcal Ceremony?

Wondering what a temazcal is and whether it’s for you? Read on for my first hand account of a temazcal ceremony in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

Seated inside a baking hot beehive-shaped spa with the heat building, I finally understood how the wicked witch must have felt after she was tossed in the brick oven by Hansel and Gretel.

At least I wasn’t alone. With me inside the brick chamber was Patricia Mendoza Cruz, a third generation temazcalera or shaman.

We were in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Oaxaca City in south-western Mexico and I was about to begin a temazcal treatment, an herbal steam bath ritual that dates back 1,500 years.  

Visiting a temazcal is one of the top things to do in Oaxaca City. It’s definitely a quintessential Oaxacan experience.

Temazcal Ritual in Oaxaca City 

Female shaman standing in front of a temazcal in Oaxaca City, Mexico.

The ancient ceremony, said to hold curative powers, was taking place at the boutique hotel Casa Catrina, an elegant six-room converted family home of internationally-renowned painter Rolando Rojas.

At the heart of the hotel is the temazcal (also spelled “temascal”).

Tucked off the central courtyard, the spacious room is flooded with natural light. It holds an open air shower, vaulted ceilings and the temazcal, an igloo-shaped brick chamber slightly larger than a garden shed.

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Chairs and pillars of interior courtyard at Casa Catrina hotel in Oaxaca City Mexico.
Courtyard at Casa Catrina, Oaxaca City.

Temazcal Health Benefits

To begin, I walked barefoot down the camino, a path edged with rose petals that led to the chamber’s heavy wooden door.

Stepping inside the dark interior, I shuffled across the stone floor to take a seat on a small wooden bench facing a platform of hot volcanic rocks where Cruz was preparing an herbal tea.

It was comprised of six medicinal herbs intended to rid me of a lingering head cold.

Some, such as basil, rosemary, eucalyptus and rue (a stinky herb often used to ward off the evil eye), I was familiar with.

Others, such as piru (pepper tree leaves) and poleo (known as the hangover herb) were new.

She placed a corona or crown of flowers on my head and laid additional boughs of herbs across the hot rocks. As she doused them with the hot herbal tea, a richly scented steam rose and filled the room.

“By sweating, the body releases toxins and becomes purified physically and spiritually.” she explained in Spanish.

Difference Between a Steam Bath and a Temazcal 

Unlike regular steam baths, a temazcal involves a series of steaming sessions, accompanied by purification rituals intended to assist the cleansing process.

“We call upon the four elements – earth, water, air and fire – to aid us” she said. 

Motioning me to stand, she took what appeared to a broom-sized bouquet of wet herbs. She then began brushing my body as though basting a gigantic roast chicken.

Gracias por todo– the good and the bad,” Cruz chanted with a swooshing sound that encouraged the expulsion of toxins.

Then, she slowly poured fragrant herbal tea over my head until it cascaded down my body to disappear into the stone floor.

Female shaman holding a corona of flowers outside a temascal in Oaxaca Mexico.
Patricia holds a corona of flowers for me to wear on my head inside the oven– I mean spa. 

Following several more dousings with herbal water, I was left alone to meditate. I took a look around. Although small in circumference, the chamber felt spacious.

Skylights made from glass bottles pierced the domed roof like a constellation of stars. The fragrant humid air wasn’t cloying but fresh as rainfall.

Then, the heat began to build and walls seemed to draw closer. I mopped my face with more herbal water.

Temperature of a Temazcal

Cruz peeked inside the temazcal like a baker checking a batch of cookies.

“Not too hot?” she asked.

Note: Temperatures inside a temazcal can reach 100°C (210°F) which can be uncomfortable for those not accustomed to high temperatures. It’s estimated that a person’s body temperature can reach 40C or higher. Dehydration can result from fluid loss while sweating so people with kidney disease, high blood pressure or other conditions should consult a medical professional prior to participating in a temazcal treatment or any other sauna. High temperatures can also lead to dizziness and nausea.

After hearing it had been only 10 minutes out of the recommended 25, I decide to tough it out a little longer.

Rooted in pre-Hispanic traditions, the sacred baths have been used by the Aztecs, Zapotecs, Mixtecs and Nahuatl Mayans since pre-Hispanic times.

Although their popularity is diminishing along with other ancient customs, communal purification ceremonies remain popular in remote valley towns. Here, specially-constructed large adobe chambers can hold up to 30 people.

 Traditional Mixteco-Zapotec Massage

A shaman prepares for a rebozo or shawl massage treatment in Oaxaca Mexico.
A traditional rebozo (shawl) massage treatment

After several more steaming and cleansing sessions, the first stage of my treatment was complete.

It was then time for my terapia de rebosa or massage. A Mixteco -Zapoteco massage is a little like doing yoga while wrapped in a tablecloth.

After a rigorous body massage with oil infused with aromatic fragrances such as camomile, eucalyptus, mint, I was wrapped naked in a tablecloth and slung over Cruz’s shoulders.

She pulled and pushed the fabric as though working a loom. It seemed the perfect activity for lazy athletes as I emerged feeling supple without having done any work.

“You should have a shot of mescal to complete the experience,” advised Cruz, as I showered.

Already feeling energized, I decided to pass on the potent agave-based liquor and instead stepped out onto the cobblestone streets. I immediately felt transported to another era.

Street scene with church and palm trees in Oaxaca City, Mexico.
Beautiful Oaxaca City offers history and culture.

The 16th century Santo Domingo and other architectural gems seemed to glow with a golden hue in the late afternoon sun. Even my head cold was miraculously gone.

Although it rebounded with a vengeance the next day, I had learned an ancient lesson. Next time, have a shot of mezcal.

Where to Experience the Best Temazcal in Oaxaca 

Temazcal spa at Vivo Resorts Puerto Escondido
Enjoy a purification ritual in the temazcal spa at Vivo Resorts in Puerto Escondido.

Casa Catrina in Oaxaca City

This boutique hotel is located in the heart of Oaxaca City. It’s close to several restaurants serving traditional Oaxacan cuisine and is ideally located if you’re visiting Oaxaca City during Day of the Dead.

It also features an onsite temazcal, which is available to book for an authentic Temazcal Ceremony. It’s also possible to book a Mixteco-Zapoteco massage at an extra cost. Be sure to book well in advance. 

Cost for the temazcal is 1100 MXN pesos for one person for 45 minutes.

Address: Garcia Vigil #703, Col. Centro (Google Map), Oaxaca City, Mexico

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Oaxaca Temazcal

This traditional temazcal is located in the village of Santa María Coyotepec, a 30 minute drive from Oaxaca City. You’ll need to rent a car in Oaxaca City to get there or book a spa treatment that includes transportation. 

Cost for transportation and temazcal: 1000 MXN Pesos ($50 USD) 

Cost for transportation, temazcal and massage: 1300 MXN Pesos ($70 USD)  

Email: info @

Temazcalli in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca  

Participating in a temazcal ceremony is also one of the top things to do in Puerto Escondido, a beach town on the coast of Oaxaca. The best place to have a temazcal steam bath in Puerto Escondido is at Temazcalli Spa. 

In addition to offering therapeutic and hot stone massages, reiki and facials their spa facility also features an authentic temazcal, where you can experience a ceremonial spa ritual (minimum two people). 

To get to Puerto Escondido you’ll need to rent a car or arrange for a private transfer from Oaxaca City with a driver or in a collectivo (shared shuttle van). It’s a 7-hour drive through the mountains.

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San José del Pacifico 

It’s also possible to take a day trip from Huatulco into the Sierra Madre Sur Mountains and spend the day at San José del Pacifico.

This misty mountain town is famous for its proximity to the birthplace of Maria Sabina, an indigenous woman from Huautla de Jiménez. She became well known for performing ceremonies involving sacred mushrooms important to the Mazatec people. 

It’s located 2 hours north of Pluma Hidalgo, a hub for coffee production in Oaxaca. You’ll need to rent a car or take an organized tour to get there.

The best organized excursions to San José del Pacifico include a 2-hour temazcal experience.    

Check prices and availability of a Day Trip to San Jose del Pacifico (with Temazcal Experience) on 

Temazcal in Huatulco

It’s also possible to experience a temazcal ceremony in the resort destination in Huatulco on Mexico’s Oaxacan coast south of Puerto Escondido.

This steam bath takes place at Na – Ha Maya Spa in La Crucecita (Google Map). It’s

Cost is 600 MXN Pesos for a 30 minute temazcal. Or, 900 MXN pesos for a 30 minute temazcal PLUS a 30 minute massage.

This is the most expensive temzcals on this list and least authentic (in my opinion) but if you’re in a hurry it’s a good introduction.

If you’re looking for a wellness boost you can combine this temazcal with a Zapotec mud bath at La Bocana Beach. It’s one of the most unique things to do in Huatulco.

You’d need to take a taxi or rent a car to do both experiences as they’re not walking distance from each other.

Check for the best car rental rates at

Purification ritual by the shaman
Purification ritual by a shaman in Rivera Maya.
Where can I do temazcal in Mexico?

It’s possible to experience a temazcal ceremony (sweat lodge and sacred ritual) of the indigenous people in Mexico in many locations. It’s available in Chiapas, Oaxaca and throughout the Yucatan. Riviera Maya and Oaxaca are the most popular places for temazcal.

Is a temazcal ceremony safe?

Yes, a temazcal ceremony is safe if conducted by a qualified shaman. However, temazcal steam lodges can get very hot. So it may not be safe for pregnant people, children or those with high blood pressure, kidney disease or other medical conditions. Check with a doctor if you’re unsure whether you should take a temazcal.

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