When visiting Oaxaca, a trip to Hierve el Agua is a must. This mineral formation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and is also surrounded by an incredible landscape and mineral pools where you can refresh yourself.
I was so snap happy here, so this post is pretty photo heavy. I couldn’t get enough of the landscape, of the crystallized waterfalls, and the way the sun was hitting everything during that lovely evening golden hour. The tour I was on got us to Hierve el Agua around 5:30. It was just starting to cool down after being a crazy hot day.
I went on this trip at the end of July – which is supposed to be the wet season in this region of Mexico, but it wasn’t rainy at all. June was a rainy month, but during that last week of July, it was hot and dry. Be prepared for any weather if you do come at this time of year. I packed a rain jacket for the day just in case.
What is Hierve el Agua?
Hierve el Agua literally means boil the water. At certain places around the site, you can see where the water looks to be “bubbling” out of the ground. In actual fact, the water isn’t hot at all.
As the water bubbles out of the ground, it begins to fall over the edge of the cliffs that surround the area. The water is then evaporated by the sun and leaves behind these beautiful white and gold crystals just like stalactites.
The thing that makes them so extraordinary to look at is that, from a distance, they look like waterfalls.
What to See at Hierve el Agua
There are two “waterfalls” at the site. One is quite easy to walk to and the other is a bit of a sweaty hike, but still worth a trip.
If you walk down to the mineral pools, you’ll be able to see one of the waterfalls, enjoy the healing properties of the waters by sitting in one of the pools, and take in the absurdly beautiful views over the valley.
Be sure to pack a swimsuit and a towel if you want to take a dip in the pools. You don’t have to wear it, simply bring it in your bag. There are plenty of changing rooms that you can use once you get into the swimming area.
If you want to take a walk along the trail that leads to the other site, you can join it from the swimming area (just look for the steps) or from the parking lot area. There are a fair few steps both up and down which makes it a challenging walk in both directions, but it should only take about 10 or 15 minutes to get to the end. Once you do, you’ll be glad you did. The view back over the valley and at the second waterfall is absolutely breathtaking. This second one is much larger than the other.
How to Get to Hierve el Agua
I highly recommend going with a tour. It’s a real pain in the butt to get to on your own. Once you see the road you need to take to get there, you’ll be glad to have opted for a tour instead. Pretty much every tour company around Oaxaca goes to Hierve el Agua. I went with Bamba Experience and really enjoyed it. They mix the Spanish and English tour together, but the guides are all bilingual and happily explain everything in both Spanish and English (even if you happen to be the only English speaker in the group).
Like most tours, you’ll stop at a myriad of other places. This particular tour also included a stop at an amazing ruins site called Mitla (post to come soon about this spot), a wool rug shop (which was actually far more interesting than it sounds), a mezcal factory where you can freely sample every type of mezcal to your heart’s content, and a stop at the widest tree in the world – El Tule. We also stopped for lunch at a buffet place where they had all types of Oaxacan classics. The mole was really tasty.
If you do want to go it alone, you’ll have to rent a car from Oaxaca and bring plenty of cash for the tolls. You can easily rent a car from the airport in Oaxaca where you’ll find all the major hitters or in the zocalo at one of the travel agencies. If I pre-book rental cars in Mexico, I always use Expedia. I’ve found that they consistently have the best price.