Hierve el Agua, a short ride from Oaxaca City, has to be one of the best natural beauties that we experienced in Mexico. Due to its relative remoteness, this site is a bit of a hidden gem and overlooked by most visitors to Oaxaca. In my opinion it’s one of the things that you have to do if you’re visiting the region.
Hierve el Agua (or “The water boils” in Spanish) is a set of natural rock formations towering 90 metres over the valley below. Here the natural springs have calcified while trickling over the cliff edge giving the impression of a frozen white waterfall cascading in to the valley below. Although the water bubbling from the springs gives the impression of water boiling, don’t let the name fool you, the pools formed by the springs are pretty cold but they form one of the most stunning natural infinity pools you will ever see.
There are a few options for reaching the site but we decided to stump up the 200 pesos (around £8) each in order to do a tour that took in El Árbol del Tule (The tree of Tule), Mitla – one of Oaxaca’s most important archeological sites, a mescal distillery and a local weaving cooperative (as always!). Although Hierve el Agua was the only one we really wanted to see, the price seemed too good to miss just for the ease of taking a tour.
Our first stop was El Árbol del Tule, reported to be the tree with the stoutest trunk in the world (whatever that means) and is on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Legend has it that this tree is 1400 years old. Really, it’s just a big tree. Next up, Mitla.
The name Mitla is derived from the Nahuatl name Mictlán, which was the place of the dead or underworld. It’s important mostly due to its well preserved mosaics that cover its tombs and walls which are not found in any other Mexican mesoamerican sites. It was an interesting half an hour but I wouldn’t recommend a trip just to see Mitla unless you really are a history freak.
The Mescal distillery was a little more my style if just for all the free samples. We were under no obligation to buy so I took my time trying as many flavours of mescal as possible. The flavours ranged from coffee to piña colada with everything in between and the buffet lunch was surprisingly tasty, giving us chance to sample a few of Oaxaca’s 7 famous moles. Feeling slightly tipsy and a little sick from all those shots we made our way to the main attraction.
Arriving at Hierve el Agua we took a short hike over the ridge where the breathtaking valley came in to view. The sun was shining and the bright blue sky was reflecting off the incredible natural infinity pools formed by the bubbling springs. It’s one of the most beautiful sights you will see in Mexico.
The mineral rich water is perfect for a swim while you soak up the sun and look over the edge of the cliff top. We had around an hour to spend splashing around and sun bathing on the surrounding limestone.
The site was fairly quiet, with only around 20 people were there – mostly Oaxacans – and as the day wore on they trickled away leaving us space to enjoy the scenery with just the small band of backpackers on our tour.
Is It Worth A Visit?
Absolutely. I wasn’t sure how good this trip would be as I’m usually wary of organised tours but I have to say that this day trip surpassed my expectations – I even enjoyed the tacked on attractions. For £8 I thought it was a bargain and well worth the money. If you’re in Oaxaca, then Hierve el Agua is a must.
How To Get There
This is by far the easiest way to travel. For 200 pesos you will get a full day trip taking in Mitla, a mescal distillery, El Árbol del Tule and Hierve el Agua arriving back in town early evening. We booked through our Hostel, Azul Cielo.
You can reach the waterfalls by driving around an hour and a half/ 2 hours from Oaxaca City although this is not recommended. Oaxaca is known for its student protests and the main road between Oaxaca and Mitla is often blocked so the only option is the back roads.
If you just want to see Hierve el Agua and none of the surrounding attractions, this is by far the best option. Catch a colectiva taxi going to Mitla (these are pretty easy to find in Oaxaca) for 25 pesos and then get in a camioneta to the Hierve el agua for 40 pesos each way. Note that colectivos and taxis will not wait around for you while you visit the pools so ensure you arrange a time to come home or check when the next colectivo will arrive.
Oaxaca is known for it’s student protests and due to this the road between Oaxaca and Mitla can often be blocked. If this is the case then you will have to get a taxi to the blockade, walk a section of the highway and then catch a cab at the other side.In recent times the Mexican government has realised the potential of this site and built a new road connecting Mitla to Hierve el Agua. However, the two nearest indigenous villages are at loggerheads to decide who will profit from the newly found tourist money causing the site to close between 2005 and 2008. Because of this you will have to pay an entrance fee at both villages as well as the official fee on arrival.
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