Hierve el Agua has become one of the most popular places in Oaxaca. Come take a look at this impressive natural feature.
After a long day, a ride along the valley felt like a treat. The mountains were bursting with a carpet of greens; the occasional patch of wildflowers added a pop of color to the landscape.
A sudden turn took us from the main highway to an unpaved road. The bus started to perform violent somersaults while avoiding ditches and big boulders blocking the way. My body wasn’t jumping out of control because my husband pinned me to the inside of the vehicle while taking a nap.
The road got narrower and closer to a sheer drop. Roads like have the ability to take me to a breaking point. For some reason, I felt at peace. I couldn’t stop smiling while contemplating the view.
It is like the perfectly carved mountains, the terraces at the valley floor, and the feathery carpet of clouds conspired to give me the best experience I could possibly have in the state of Oaxaca. The tall cactuses and the midget magueys were part of the plan too. And let not forget about the role of the sweet donkeys carrying wood while avoiding the cliff.
After 45 minutes on the winding road, we made it to Hierve el Agua, the place where “the water boils.” I am not sure how I learned about this place but the month I visited Oaxaca, a picture of the place was on the cover of the Mexico Desconocido magazine. I knew I had to go. At that moment, I was there with the two emerald pools in front of me and one of the “petrified waterfalls” to my right.
If we get technical about it, Hierve el Agua is a site containing a set of natural rock formations rising from the valley below. They consist mostly of white rock which gives them a waterfall appearance. These formations are created by freshwater springs, whose water is over-saturated with calcium carbonate and other minerals.
As the water scurries over the cliffs, the excess minerals are deposited and hardened. The spring water comes out of the ground bubbling or as the locals say “boiling” hence the name of the site.
When you arrive at the locality, the small waterfall (cascada chica) is visible. The pools are over the bigger waterfall (the Amphitheatre) and not visible from the initial viewpoint. A difficult path with uneven terrain and high steps, take visitors to the top of the small waterfall.
The path has different viewpoints to take a good look at the bigger waterfall. The first view of this natural spectacle leaves you speechless. I could have not imagined a view like that. The waterfall looked like a giant marshmallow with caramel sauce drizzling all over its surface.
The top of the waterfall is surreal too. You can actually see the water bubbling out from the rock. The entire surface is covered in orange, terracotta and red stains cause by the minerals in the water. The views of the mountains and sky from this high point were phenomenal.
It was time to take a look at the beautiful pools over the big waterfall before the sun disappeared. This time we were able to see the power of the water and more bright colors. We only had time to try the water on the pools with our feet. We started to chat with some ladies who assured us the water was delicious.
In a blink of an eye, it was time to go. A few rays of light helped me to take a last look at the mountains and the valley. I still can’t believe I visited this place. Every time I read about it, publications make it clear that it is located in a very remote place.
But you know what, I went to that remote place and was able to walk over the stone waterfalls. My theory is confirmed once again. Nothing compares to the beauty of the natural world. I wonder if another place will have the power to surprise me as Hierve el Agua did.
How to Visit
I visited Hierve el Agua as part of a full-day tour. The tour included this place, Mitla Archeological Site, Santa Maria del Tule, mezcal tasting, and lunch. I choose to do the tour because it was affordable and included a certified guide. Also, I was short on time and wanted to see as much of Oaxaca as possible.
The negative of the tour is that you have limited time on-site. You are not going to be able to enjoy the pools.
If you prefer not to join a tour, you will need to take a bus or colectivo from Oaxaca City to Mitla. Once in Mitla, you will need to take a taxi or camion (pick-up truck) to Hierve el Agua. Please notice there is no public transportation between Mitla and Hierve el Agua. The pick-up trucks are own by private parties as the taxis. It can take up to 2 hours (one-way) to reach the final destination.
What natural place has surprised you? What do you think about Hierve el Agua? Let me know in the comments section below.
Michele Peterson says
Looks beautiful there. Is it possible to swim in those pools or are they too shallow?
I didn’t get into the pools but I believe they are shallow. Maybe some swimming is possible is there is not a lot of people around. Visitors use the pool to relax and get a bathing at the edge of a cliff sensation.
Emily of Roads Less Traveled says
Isn’t that the coolest place? We loved it there! There were lots of people swimming in the pools, but we didn’t swim. We did our trip there as part of an all-day tour that took in the ruins at Mitla, the Teotitlan weavers, the Thule tree and a tequila distillery… what a beautiful and memorable day: http://roadslesstraveled.us/mitla-tour/