Without question, our favourite side-trip from Oaxaca, and probably the most unique spot in the entire area is Hierve el Agua. Taking the local bus from Oaxaca, we eventually arrive at the small town of Mitla, roughly 70km from the city. From here, we pay a driver 50 pesos each and hop in the back of a small pick-up. The next 40 minutes are spent bouncing around on a long, heavily rutted mountain road with harsh corners dropping down hundreds of feet. Kylee and I, along with two French travellers hold on to whatever we can; at one point the tailgate comes open and I lean out to pull it closed – probably not the smartest move at the time, but it worked out.
Eventually, we arrive and pay another 25 pesos each to enter the unofficial “park”. From here we hike down about ten minutes to the two beautiful pools perched on a cliffside overlooking an incredible green valley. Although the two main pools have been artificially created, the water feeding them is straight from an ancient underground spring, which can be seen bubbling out of the ground at several spots near the pools. Looking out from the lower pool, a massive “petrified waterfall” can be seen in the distance; which has formed over centuries from the mineral deposits of the spring.
There are also two main hiking trails reaching the waterfall itself. The first is between the market stalls and the pools, which winds down beneath the pools; the other begins at the pools themselves and heads up towards the top of the waterfall. Be sure to bring plenty of water, the hikes aren’t too technical, but it gets quite hot in the valley.
An absolutely beautiful place to spend a few hours, relaxing in the almost creamy, mineral-rich water, overlooking the sprawling green mountains. If I was to recommend visiting only one side trip from Oaxaca, this would be it. Just don’t forget the sunscreen. I should also add, that we didn’t bring any proper camera gear, as we couldn’t find any information regarding safety or theft while swimming; everything was very safe and relaxed, we definitely felt comfortable leaving our things out while we swam.
Many hotels and tour companies offer day trips that encompass several of the sights listed in these Oaxaca posts, which are convenient if you’re short on time; however be sure to ask if the admission prices are included in the ticket. One friend we met in Oaxaca thought he scored a nice deal, only to find out that the ticket price only included transportation. He ended up paying significantly more than Kylee and I, while we did everything ourselves.
Next time you’re headed away for a Mexican getaway and you’re looking to see a little more than just a resort town, Oaxaca is definitely the place to be. Come for the incredible architecture and colourful art, the mind-blowing street food, and sights surrounding the city; but stay for the incredibly friendly, always smiling faces.
Check out a short video here!
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.Loren Eiseley