Hierve el Agua translates into English as ‘boiling water’, however this is far from what you will find when reaching this wonderful place on a day trip from Oaxaca City. Hierve el Agua can easily be reached on your own from Oaxaca, giving you ample time to explore the site and have a swim in the refreshing water. Here is you go about it:
The first step of reaching Hierve el Agua is to get to Mitla. Mitla in itself holds great appeal in the ruins that can be viewed nearby, though having just been at Teotihuacan we thought we would skip this one to see something we’d never seen before – the petrified waterfalls.
To reach Mitla, you have two options. The first is to catch a bus from the 2nd class bus station (near Periférico where the bulk of the taxi’s leave town from) which will cost you 18 peso. This will take you directly to Mitla over the course of about 1 hour and 30 minutes give or take.
The second option is to take a taxi – this is really only economical if you can fill a taxi (a group of 4), and you should be able to bargain it down to 25 peso each. The taxi’s as mentioned leave from the Periférico; look for one that says “Mitla” in the window. The ride should take you no longer than 1 hour.
Once you arrive in Mitla, you can either bargain for another taxi (we got one for 40 peso each in a car of 4), or take the camioneta for 50 peso each. The taxi is by far the better option, taking a little over 30 minutes to reach Hierve el Agua. The camioneta on the other hand (a ute or truck that can hold about 9 people) takes a different route on a dirt road and will take 1 hour to reach the waterfalls.
In any case, you will most likely pass 2 checkpoints for payment, one for 10 peso, and the other for 25 peso. These are the local and government charges to access the site, agreed upon after protests from the locals closed the site for a number of years.
Upon reaching the site, you have food options available (all reasonable and serving similar fare), and a short walk down to the petrified waterfalls.
The setting is beautiful and serene, and as we arrived relatively early we had the site much to ourselves. You will find a few pools available to swim in (man-made to add to the site), and a great view of one of the 2 main ‘petrified’ waterfalls on site.
The waterfalls themselves have been created over many years where the high mineral content of the water has turned them into stone, so it looks like a thundering flow of water but is completely still.
To view the main waterfall (that you are technically on as you swim in the water), you will need to take a short hike up and around to the smaller waterfall (viewed above). This should take no longer than 10 minutes, giving you a great view of what you could not see before.
We would recommend doing the hike first and then rewarding yourself with a swim, as it is generally quite hot at the site. Also in doing this you can keep an eye on your belongings and won’t have to hike uphill when wet.
When you return for a swim, take advantage of the free change rooms and get ready to be refreshed by the natural mineral springs (definitely not boiling!). If it interests you, the source of the water can also be found in two locations with both surrounded by a small metal fence.
Finally, when you have completed your time here, make your way back up the hill to return via the same way you arrived. A handy tip here is that you will most likely have to take a camioneta to Mitla (for 50 peso), as taxi’s generally do not hang around after dropping people off. You might get lucky though!
Hierve el Agua is definitely not a place to be missed, it’s not everyday that you something as special as this and the effort to get there is well worth it!