Sometimes Earth’s beauty is so stunning it hurts. That’s what it’s like at Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, Mexico.
The valley views are invigorating, the mineral pools are revitalizing, the nature trails are inspiring.
There are lots of pictures below, along with useful tips for your visit — whenever that may be in this pandemic-stricken world.
Please note: Hierve el Agua has been intermittently closed during the pandemic. In late March 2021, the indigenous tribe that claims ownership announced the site is closed indefinitely.
A main reason is the tribe says tour groups kept most of the profits. In our tips below, we outline how to get there without a tour group.
1. Go in the morning – or at least before noon
There are a lot of tourists that show up in the afternoons on group tours. A lot. And, they all wear sunscreen. The water might get a little… slimy. And you won’t have an easy time relaxing like my special little overachiever pictured below.
2. Go when it’s sunny
We played waiting games with the clouds to get the colors to pop in our photos. But this wasn’t such a bad thing because we went early enough in the day that the hordes of tourists weren’t a factor as we waited.
Pictures are proof it’s best on a sunny day.
3. Skip the tours – go with locals in a colectivo
If you take a colectivo (shared taxi) instead of an organized tour, you’ll save a lot of money and your money will go right into the pockets of the locals.
Also, on an organized tour, the Hierve el Agua site is only one stop on a day-long itinerary with a bunch of stops. Translation: you will be rushed. You won’t get to relax and really explore this special place.
You will run around all day, and then end up at the natural mineral pools and rock formations at Hierve el Agua for 45 minutes in the late afternoon – with every other tourist in town. We know this because we stayed long enough to witness it.
How to get to Hierve el Agua with a colectivo
Get started out of Oaxaca City before 9 a.m., because it can take nearly three hours to get to Hierve el Agua.
The first colectivo goes from Oaxaca City to the village of Mitla. It cost us 50 pesos for two people for about a 45 minute ride (less than $3 USD).
Colectivos in Oaxaca City are maroon and white cabs – they look different from the pick-up trucks and vans in other parts of Mexico.
From Mitla, we transferred to another colectivo for the rest of the trip. These colectivos are pick-up trucks. They are white.
The ride from Mitla in the coletivo truck took about another 45 minutes or so. It normally costs 50 pesos per person to get to Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, but the driver will wait for at least six passengers. (You could pay more than one fare to get the show on the road.)
Extra tip: try to get a seat in the cab of the pick-up, or you will be bouncing along a dirt road – over a mountain – in the back.
We lucked out and both times we got seats in the cab.
4. Wear sport sandals, not flip flops
I’m notorious for wearing flip flops everywhere. In this case, there is a trail you can walk down to rock formations that look like a waterfall. You can easily see the “waterfall” from the mineral pools. It’s helpful to have something more than flip flops in this area.
There are no railings, and the ledges are cliffs with gentle running water over the sides that make them slippery. Also, the trail itself has rocky steps, so it just makes sense to wear sensible shoes.
Skip the sunscreen!
Please don’t wear sunblock. Bring extra clothing to cover up and a hat, instead.
Speaking of slippery… the water in the pools is oily. It’s almost gross. I am guessing it’s from everyone’s skin and the lotion they use. You’ll just contribute to the problem if you slather it on before you get in.
How did this odd place form, anyway? See Wikipedia for some geological info.
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