17th March – If it hadn’t been for another fellow traveller telling us about Hierve El Agua, we may not have discovered this unique and amazing place hidden in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca.
Our journey there takes us through the Zapotec town of Mitla, approximately 45km southeast of Oaxaca and then on to tiny Xaaga where a dirt road winds and climbs another 10 or 12km to 1800m through a scenic and mountainous landscape.
The mineral springs and bathing pools at Hierve El Agua have a cliff top location and the panoramic views of the mountains and the valleys below, must surely be some of the most spectacular in Oaxaca.
The name Hierve El Agua means ‘the water boils’ and the springs here take their name from the bubbling of the water as it flows from the earth. It is a popular destination for the local people but by late afternoon and early morning, we have this beautiful place to ourselves.
Massive waterfalls hang over the edge of the cliff face, appearing to be frozen to the side of the mountain. These incredible formations have been built up over thousands of years from the mineral laden water spilling over the edge of the cliff and down the mountainside………similar in a way I would think, as to how stalactites are formed.
Admission here is $15 and we are given permission to camp on the cliff top in the parking area above the pools, at no extra charge. If you have a tent you can walk down to the pools and spend the night there. A bathroom remains open in the large, half-completed development that has been built inside the entrance gate and during the day, there are hot food stands and stalls selling local crafts.
As we walk down to the pools early the next morning, the landscape before us is slowly revealing the layers of mountains as they unfold from their covering of mist. The sky becomes bluer and colours become sharper as the first rays of sun filter through a cloudless sky. It is a completely silent and magical place to share, as this panorama gradually reveals itself to another day.
And then there is ‘the tree’…….casting its lonely shadow across a turquoise mirror…….
….and deep green pools with fascinating mineral formations, as if they are set under glass.
Later in the day we hike the trails that lead down into the valley. From here it is possible to look up from the base of the ‘waterfalls’ for a different view and to have a closer look at the mineral formations and their colours. This semi desert region provides plenty of interesting plant life and so many breathtaking views in every direction.
Hierve El Agua is definitely one of Mexico’s best kept secrets, in an isolated area and well off the beaten track. Although tours can be arranged to make a visit here, if possible it is best visited with your own vehicle so that you have plenty of time to explore this spectacular place!