Join Us On:

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca: October 27 - November 5, 2018


Experience the most Mexican of holidays in beautiful Oaxaca in warm southern Mexico. Photographic opportunities and excitement abound as we take in parties held for the dead in cemeteries; elaborate altars, costume parades, colorful markets, splendid colonial churches, the locals and their daily life in Oaxaca. During the tour, we will also explore villages in the surrounding area, busy marketplaces and the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban.

In the days leading up to the Day of the Dead, many picturesque symbols begin to appear in homes, shops, markets, and throughout the city. Such as: imaginative wooden figures of skeletons and grand altars dedicated to the dead that are decorated with marigolds and other flowers, candles, and the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks. Also imagine photographing unique skulls made of sugar or chocolate, called calaveras, and other foods decorated with skeletons and skulls. Large tapetas de arena or sand carpets, designed in tribute to the dead, also make for an intriguing photo.

The Day of the Dead or ‘Dia de los Muertos’ has been a tradition since ancient times. Indigenous Mexicans observed a day each year wherein they believe the spirits of the dead come back to visit the living on earth. When the Spaniards arrived in the 1500′s they attempted to eradicate most of the beliefs and customs of the Indians, but The Day of the Dead traditions remained, though somewhat fused with Catholicism and All Saints Day.

On November 2nd, and other nights in some villages, the cemeteries are full of people celebrating the dead. The gravesites are covered with flowers and thousands of candles placed on the graves light the whole graveyard. Many generations within a family sit around the gravesite and have a party for dead family members. They eat their favorite foods, drink their favorite beverages, including mescal, a liquor made from the agave cactus, and they all join in singing while the mariachis play the deceased’s favorite songs. These parties go on until late at night, then when most of the people depart, only the most traditional older women remain to sit in silent vigil at the gravesites until dawn.

We will photograph all of these traditions, and meet many of the local people along the way. You will not only come away with photos, but hopefully with new friends and memories, and a better understanding of the ancient cultures and traditions of Mexico. Join in for the festivities and photography like none other.


This trip is not yet released and cost is not available at this time. Click “Interest” tab above to add your name to the list and you will receive email notification.

Itinerary Day of the Dead in Oaxaca
Day 1:
(Oct 27)

Upon arrival at Oaxaca airport, each participant is transported to the hotel in town. In the evening, we will have an orientation meeting and go to dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Day 2:

We'll visit several villages in the surrounding valleys. First we'll visit El Tule with its famous 2000 year old tree. We'll then continue to the village of Teotitlan de Valle, where the finest rugs in all of Mexico are made. We’ll have lunch at a nearby restaurant, then go on to the village of Tlacolula with its 16th century church. We'll then visit Yagul, with its ancient ruins perched high on a hill. Finally we'll go to Mitla, where we'll capture the last light of the day on the church and the nearby Zapotec ruins.

Day 3:

In the morning we'll visit a traditional village on market day, and photograph the local people buying and selling an amazing array of products. After lunch we'll visit the Iglesia Santo Domingo, one of the most beautiful churches in all of Mexico, and the adjoining former Convento Santo Domingo, a beautifully restored monastery that houses the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, which holds many of the treasures discovered in the ruins of Monte Alban and other archeological sites. 

Day 4:

Today, we'll have a city orientation, visiting the central park, beautiful colonial churches and market places. We'll see some of the wonderful arts and crafts that make Oaxaca famous, and you will be introduced to some of the traditions of the Day of the Dead, such as the elaborate sugar skulls and other foods. We'll have dinner at a restaurant with a view overlooking the plaza and the Cathedral where we can shoot twilight scenes. In the evening after dinner, those who want to will attend the Ballet Folklorico, an exhibition of traditional regional dancing. There we can photograph the dancers in their colorful costumes as they dance.

Day 5:

In the morning we'll see the children's parades in and around the plaza. Then we'll shoot more altars and special foods prepared for The Day of the Dead, as well as the bustling flower market. On this night The Day of the Dead tradition is observed at a cemetery in a nearby village. Families visit loved ones' grave sites and bring food and drink as Mariachis stroll, playing the favorite songs of the deceased. We'll stay there until late at night when some of the more traditional people sit in silent vigil at the grave sites.

Day 6:

Free time in the morning for photographing the beautiful altars and more kid's parades. That afternoon we'll visit local villages to observe and photograph some traditional village comparsas. We'll go to a local home for a traditional dinner of home-made tamales, hot chocolate, and try some local mezcal, a libation similar to tequila. After dinner we'll observe and photograph more comparsas. 

Day 7:

El Dia de los Muertos: During the day we'll venture out to the General Cemetery, which is full of people all day paying tribute to the dead. The music of mariachis is in the air, as people have parties at the graves of dead family members. In the evening we'll go to a small town cemetery for more festivities.

Day 8:

In the morning we will visit local crafts villages, where we will see artisans in their homes demonstrating their traditional techniques. After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we'll venture out to a little-known village where the Day of the Dead celebrations take place on this day.

Day 9:

In the morning, we will photograph a local Oaxacan woman dressed in traditional clothing against a variety of back drops including massive wooden church doors, walking down the corridors of beautiful former monastery and whatever else we see that might be interesting. In the afternoon, we’ll go to the ancient Zapotec ruins at Monte Alban, and capture the last light at sunset there. In the evening, we'll have our celebration dinner. 

Day 10:

We'll catch our flights for home (some loaded down with souvenirs).


Jim Cline

Jim Cline

Jim Cline, (founder and trip leader), is an award-winning cultural documentary and travel photographer based in San Diego, California. Jim is known for his willingness to shoot all around the edges of light, creating images with tremendous impact that capture the essence of a place or culture. He always strives to transcend ordinary travel pictures, and to convey a strong sense of place, and the spirit of the people in his photographs.

Jim’s wanderlust and search for compelling images has brought him to many less-traveled areas around the world. He takes particular interest in the indigenous peoples and traditional and tribal cultures of developing nations, and in documenting these disappearing cultures. Through his images he strives to portray the dignity and timeless beauty of these people living in harmony with nature.

As well as winning numerous awards, Jim’s work has been displayed in the San Diego Natural History Museum and the Museum of Photographic Arts, and in many galleries, both in the U.S. and abroad. He gives frequent slide presentation lectures of his travels throughout the world. Jim and his photographs have been featured in several books. His images have also been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, annual reports, tourist brochures, calendars, websites, and CD covers. Jim founded Jim Cline Photo Tours in 2002 and he currently leads small-group photo tours to various locations around Latin America.  

When not busy running his Photo tours business and leading trips to the best photographic locations in Latin America, Jim works on assignment as a photographer for humanitarian organizations. His images have graced the covers of annual reports  for groups such as Freedom From Hunger, and have appeared on websites, brochures, postcards and other mediums promoting their efforts around the globe.

Phone: 858-350-1314
Mob. phone: 858-692-2045

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Cost Includes: Airport transfers, all 9 nights hotel accommodations, all ground transport, all breakfasts and dinners, entrance-fees at tourist sites, model fees, local English-speaking guide, and drinking water.  

Cost does not include: International flights, passport & visas fees, travel insurance, vaccinations and medical cover/treatment, meals not specified, tips to guides, drivers and bellboys, and personal expenses such as alcoholic beverages/snacks, internet access fees, laundry fees, etc.

Deposit and Final Payment

A deposit of $800 per person is required at time of booking. Full payment is due 90 days prior to departure.


  • On cancellations more than 120 days prior to departure, all monies are refunded less a $275 administrative fee.
  • Less than 120 but at least 90 days prior, total deposit amount is forfeited.
  • Less than 90 but at least 75 days prior, 50% of trip price is forfeited.
  • Less than 75 days prior to departure, 100% is forfeited.

Notification by phone or email is acceptable, but please follow with written notice. In the unlikely event we have to cancel a tour, a full refund will be given.


Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC and their agents act only in the capacity as agents in all matters pertaining to hotel accommodations, sightseeing tours, and transportation, and are not responsible for any loss, damage, theft, or injury to person or property resulting from a defect in any vehicle, or the actions of any persons who provide services for this tour or for the action or inaction of any third party. Baggage is at the owner’s risk entirely. The tour operator reserves the right to withdraw the tour at any time, to decline any person as a member of the tour for any cause at any time. All prices are based on current rates of exchange and, while every effort will be made to hold them firm, they are subject to change. All participants are required to submit a signed Assumption of Risk and Release of Liability form prior to the tour’s departure.


It is the responsibility of each tour member to inform the tour operator of any possible health problems or handicaps upon registration. By forwarding a signed reservation form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements.

Trip Insurance

To allow for any unexpected contingencies, all participants are strongly urged to purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance.


While Jim Cline Photo Tours LLC endeavors to make the itinerary as accurate as possible, it should be considered as an approximate schedule of activities rather than a rigid schedule of events. Trip itineraries are subject to revision due to weather, ocean or trail conditions, government restrictions, and other reasons beyond our control. The tour leader has the right to make changes in the published itinerary whenever in his sole judgment conditions warrant, or if he deems it necessary for the comfort or safety of the tour.

Country Info



Health Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.  To see whether this country is currently affected by Malaria click here.  The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Money:  Mexican currency is called peso.  Currency exchange rates

Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards can be used to obtain cash easily from ATMs in Mexico, and are accepted for payment by some restaurants and stores. In addition to major credit cards, bank cards, such as those on the Cirrus and Plus systems, can be used to withdraw pesos from ATMs. The exchange rate that banks use for ATM withdrawals is generally better than the ‘tourist rate’ for currency exchange, though you may be subject to extra handling fees, interest charges and other banks fees.

Internet Access: WiFi hotspots are widely available across Mexico, and even in some of the more rural areas. Many of the hotels we'll be staying at offer WiFi access to guests.  

Electricity in Mexico: Converters & Adapters Required

Visa ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All U.S. citizens including children are required to present a valid passport or passport card for travel into Mexico.  All U.S. citizens aged 16 or older must present a valid U.S. passport book to return to the United States via an international flight. All U.S. citizens aged 16 or older traveling outside of the United States by air, land or sea (except closed-loop cruises) are required to present a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport book or a passport card to return to the United States. Travelers with passports that are found to be washed, mutilated or damaged may be turned away at the time of departure, by an airline staff (it happened to an acquaintance) or refused entry to Mexico or return to the United States.   All U.S. citizen travelers should apply for a U.S. passport well in advance of anticipated travel.  For the latest entry requirements, contact the Embassy of Mexico, Washington, DC 20006, telephone (202) 736-1600.


Concerning photo equipment to maximize the photo opps on this tour, what is suggested? A digital SLR (or Micro 4/3) camera with lenses offering a focal length from wide (24mm or wider) to telephoto (100mm or longer), a circular polarizing filter for scenic shots, and a laptop or notebook computer running image viewing software. Additionally we strongly recommend a back-up device such as a portable external hard drive.
Packing Ideas

We take pride in our trip testimonials. We hope you’ll take a moment to read those below written by previous participants of this tour. 

"On many levels the tour surpassed my expectations and I enjoyed many parts of the trip, such as the cemeteries offered an amazing learning experience.    On the whole the locations our group visited were great and I definitely got some great pictures.   Jim makes for a very good, attentive and kind leader and all around good person.  For the local guides- I loved them both, one was a fountain of knowledge and I don't think there was a fact he didn't know.   Good job and thank you for a great experience of Oaxaca and Dios de Los Muertos."  -Nancy N. 2014


"The photo opportunities were good and I got some good photos.  Jim and the local guides were great, and I really enjoyed going to markets, our mariachi bands, the sights of lovely Oaxaca, and much more!"  -Anonymous participant 2014


"The Oaxaca trip was incredible.  I absolutely loved it and want to do it again in a couple of years." -Becky W. 2013


“I had yet another great time on the tour in Oaxaca - after a day or two, it seemed like I was just hanging out with a bunch of friends taking in all the fabulous colorful sights of the city.  I never felt rushed, but never felt like we missed anything.  We certainly couldn't have missed many compasas.”  -Dan N. 2013


"Thanks for a great tour.  I really enjoyed the Day of the Dead & having you as our leader." -Maureen M. 2013

“The trip was great including my extension to Mexico City. As I look at [my photos] I am very pleased with how many turned out well.  Thanks for all of your help and friendship.”  -Lowell D. 2012

“I can’t get Day of the Dead out of my blood and often think of the trip.  I remember what a wonderful experience it was and how you made that possible. Thank you!”  -Colleen N. 2012


"On the trip, I took 1,100 images, learned a lot, and enjoyed a needed soul revival.  Jim was great to travel with.  I am always amazed at the quality of enriched and intelligent folks I meet on these trips.”  –Julia 2011


“I thought the trip was fantastic and I'm so glad I was worth every penny.  My favorite part of the trip was witnessing the Mexican people. It was wonderful to see them celebrate the Day of the Dead and thanks to Jim, I was able to see them celebrate on many different days.  I felt like a VIP during many times on the trip.  One dinner (cooked by a someone named Jesus) was very special since it was at someone's home, always fun when traveling to other countries.   Thanks to Jim and others I learned a lot [about photography] and plan to use what I learned in the future. There were some many wonderful photo opportunities everywhere so I was never lacking for subjects. I took some good photos which I'm pleased with.   I enjoyed the photo discussions and lectures and it was great being prepped before the actual shoot. I think they are an important part of any photo workshop.  I wished there was more time for each location since they were all so interesting!  The pre-trip preparation was extremely helpful.  I also enjoyed the hotel in Oaxaca and would stay there again; it was very clean, the staff was friendly and the restaurant was wonderful.  I would recommend every trip that Jim leads, he is truly a professional and a great leader who went above and beyond what is expected.  Jim was highly attentive to my needs, I can't think of anything more he could have done.  I knew he was special just from the many emails he sent before the trip.  Because of his connections in Mexico, I probably got to see more than most people do when they visit for the Day of the Dead.   Thanks for an outstanding trip! I enjoyed it so much that I am planning to return in 2015.”   -Phyllis H. 2011  


“Jim was great as usual, and the trip was quite near fantastic!  I thought this tour was a good pace.  The hotel was great - staff was very helpful and friendly, and it was located in a great location.  The photo discussions were useful for me in terms of examples and what to expect and the actual photo opportunities were very good.  I enjoyed the candid shots of the high school kids preparing for the camparsa, the folklorico dancers and the model shoot with Olga. But overall (that my images don't convey) just the sense of community and celebration that this tradition has.  Attending a photo tour with Jim Cline one can expect 1) excellent organization to get you to great locations in the best light, 2) Jim's easy-going and casual manner and 3) his willingness to help you with anything he can - be it a photography question or just being short a few pesos. The best recommendation I can give is this is my third trip with Jim Cline Photo Tours and I’m considering a fourth.  I would absolutely recommend this trip to a friend!”  -Robert D. 2011


“What a fabulous, fabulous trip that was!  It was a new ballgame for me and I loved it!  Your demeanor, networking, photo knowledge, etc. boded quiet well with me.”  -Ann T. 2010 


“Everything from pre-trip preparation to  dinner each night was very satisfactory.  I absolutely received good value for the cost of the trip and [there was] just the right number of people, good accommodations, food, etc.  I’ve wanted to see the Day of the Dead festival for a long time, and am glad I did it.   It was a great trip – and I’ll definitely see you again.   I think the photo discussions prior to photo shoots  were useful and Jim did a great job – very responsive and helpful.  Thanks for creating a great opportunity.”  -Sharon G. 2010 


“Day of the Dead festival was truly amazing. It was action packed! There was always something going on. It was visually stimulating! I am definitely traveling with you again!”   The restaurants, the flow of our itinerary, and pre-trip preparation were top notch (very satisfactory).  The tour was perfect and Jim was great:  really easy going, organized, attentive, generous.  I enjoyed everything being centered around photography, and traveling with other photographers.  There was just the right amount of photo instruction by Jim and I appreciated that in the field, Jim would let us be if we wanted and  if we wanted more instructions or to learn something in particular, he was there to help. I do think I learned a lot (technique and equipment wise) and I got shots that I was really happy with.   I had a great time...and would definitely recommend this trip to my friends.”  -Chantal L. 2010 


“Thanks for putting together such a fantastic, well-organized trip.  The variety of activities - and the super location of the hotel right in the middle of those activities was great - good choice.  Some of the photo "assignments" were challenging - night shots and the movement within the parades - but, hey, that's what we came for.  We appreciate all your efforts that made things go so smoothly - and we look forward to joining another of your tours.  Thanks!”  -Bernadette S. 2009

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