We had a few friends come to visit us here from Guanajuato City. So naturally, tour guide mode kicks in and we wanted to show them everything. Two of the things we decided on checking out was Mitla, a near by textile town which is also close to Hierve El Agua.
With them both being amazing photographers, we knew they would love the landscapes of the trip and Hierve El Agua itself.
About Hierve El Agua
Hieve El Agua are natural rock formations created by fresh water springs. The water is full of calcium carbonate and other minerals. As the water runs down the cliffs, the calcium carbonate and minerals have been deposited over thousands of years to create two rock formations that used to be flowing waterfalls, now they are stunning natural sculptures. The smaller cascade "Cascada Chica" has two man made natural spring infinity like pools on top of it where tourists can swim and sun bake as well as smaller natural springs around them. The larger cascade "Cascada Grande" has a hiking track to the top of it and down into the valley below.
The best view of Cascada Grande is from he ledge of Cascada Chica in my opinion, but the hike is worth it too, as you will get another perspective of the valley and some great photo opportunities. Hierve El Agua is located 70km out of Oaxaca Centro, near a little town called Mitla. The municipality it falls within is called San Lorenzo Albarradas.
Hierve El Agua translates to "The water boils" but this is not the actual case. The water temperature is tepid and really nice on a hot day, but the pools are not hot springs. You can visually see water bubbling through the solidified rock and it looks like the water is boiling, hence the name.
This landmark is said to have been a scared sight for the native Zapotecan people back in the day, the water that used to flow through these waterfalls ran through a complex irrigation system never seen before in other mesoamerican sights in Mexico. It is also believed that the water within the pools has great health benefits due to the high level of concentrated minerals in the water.
When I visited Hierve El Agua, we made a day of it and hired a car from Oaxaca Centro. We visited Mitla, checked out the Mercado de Artesanías and the Zona Arqueológica de Mitla (Quite small in comparison to Monte Albán) and then we headed to the petrified falls after we had lunch at a comedor just before the entrance to Hierve El Agua.
How to Get To Hierve El Agua
Getting there: You have a few options that may take your fancy.
Tours - There are many tour operators in Oaxaca City that will take you to Hierve El Agua, many also offer a Mezcal tour of the region combined with this trip as the area has many Agave farms and distilleries. I have not used a tour guide for this trip so I can only provide links to tour operators and not personal experience. This guy has great reviews on TripAdvisor.
Public transport - You can take a bus for $15 pesos or collectivo (taxis, minibuses or little trucks that are fitted out to carry people) to Mitla from the Estadio de Beisbol just outside of Oaxaca Centro for $20 pesos per person, this is about a 20 minute trip. Once you arrive at Mitla you can take a collectivo or man with a truck, they are normally holding "Hierve El Agua" signs for $50-60 pesos per person up the hill to Hierve El Agua and back to Mitla. This may take about 30-40 mins due to the road being unpaved and pretty steep. Upon return to Mitla, you catch a direct bus back to Oaxaca that will drop you at the Estadio de Beisbol for $15-20 pesos per person. This may not be the most comfortable ride but it's the cheapest option by far!
Car Borrowing / Sharing - I have a great contact in Centro who loans his car out for visitors. It is so much cheaper than hiring and no deposits. If you would like more information on car sharing in Oaxaca, send me an email and I will be happy to pass on the details.
Hire Car - Silvers Car Rental in Oaxaca Centro have the cheapest prices I have found in town. For about $500 pesos for a day you can hire a small Golf, Volkswagen. You will need to give your credit card details for a $10,000 peso deposit (the deposit price is negotiable too) I received my deposit back in a few days after retuning the car. I highly recommend asking for a quote in person as you will be able to negotiate the price. *Update: I still recommend this company, but check out my travel fail with my last car hire experience for more in depth information.
Here are other car rental services based in Oaxaca Centro:
There are many family run eateries at the entrance to the site. Grab a jugo de naranja, cerveza, fresh fruit or some tacos before your big hike or after you have finished swimming (no one wants to get a cramp!). I am told there are little cabins or rooms available to stay in too, but have not explored the option.
At the pools there are free to use change rooms and public toilets you can use for like $5 pesos I think.
When to go to Hierve El Agua
We arrived about 1-2pm and the pools were not crowded at all. This may have just been luck as many people say to go early to avoid crowds, we also went on a Wednesday, so that may of had something to do with it not being a weekend.
I enjoyed the pools better after the hike as it was a great way to cool down. The mornings would be too cold to swim here I feel.
What to bring:
Bring your swim suit, towel, water, sunscreen, hat, CAMERA, and money for tasty snacks, drinks and the entrance fee.
The sight is open from 9am - 6pm and entrance fee is $20 pesos per person.
*The photos that feature in this blog post were taking by the amazingly talented Alex Marc of The999Project, check out his amazing work*