We used our last week in Oaxaca to visit all of the local attractions we hadn’t yet made it to and Hierve el Agua was one of those places on our list. But we almost didn’t make it. The petrified waterfall, about 20 miles east of Oaxaca is one of the area’s top tourist sites and as such usually gets lumped into a daylong tour that includes many other places. By the time we had gotten around to going to Hierve El Agua we had already made it to the other sites that would have been included in a tour, so were on the fence about going. We decided making a trek out of the city on our own would be a good way to put our newly minted Spanish skills to the test, so we went for it.
After our Yosundua adventure, we knew the travel style of Mexico is essentially “where there’s a will there’s a way” so we were sure we could get there, it was just a matter of how. We asked around and discovered we could take a bus or a taxi collectivo (a taxi that will squeeze as many people in as possible, usually 4 in the back 3 in the front, and stop at various points along a set route) to Mitla and then taxi would take us the rest of the way. Taking local buses in other countries is one of my favorite ways to explore new places, so we opted for the bus on the first leg.
Right at the bus stop in Mitla there was a man standing in front of a truck calling “Hierve el Agua”. We followed him as he gestured around the back and found it was a pick-up with an cage installed around the bed that had bench seats on each side. I had read scary reviews about these online and I might have opted for a taxi if the option had been available but the truck seemed to be the only way, so we hopped in with the four other tourists (3 kiwis, 1 guy from Spain) that were already in the back and we took off. I am so glad we didn’t have any other option because riding in the back of that truck was one of the most fun things I have ever done. The ride was not exactly comfortable as we braced ourselves from being tossed around over each and every bump in the road, but the feeling of the air rushing past us as we climbed up a steep, fog covered mountain, was absolutely thrilling. When we got to the top my cheeks were tired from smiling for 30 minutes straight.
By then the rain had started coming down pretty hard and we weren’t sure what we were in for, so we decided to see if we could wait it out. There was a little village of structures in varying states of occupancy, so we took shelter under one that was selling fresh mango while we waited. After about 20 minutes of waiting without much change we decided to trudge on in spite of the weather and just a short walk away we were greeted with by a series of pools overlooking a deep canyon.
The slippery, uneven surfaces made walking around the pools difficult so it was hard to take pictures without worrying we would drop the camera or fall down. After wandering around a bit, we changed into our bathing suits and hopped into the lower pool with the breathtaking view.
Much to our surprise the water was not boiling as one would expect from the name, but was lukewarm. We didn’t care one bit. It was so peaceful sitting in the water as the rain fell, looking out over the misty mountains. We had read reviews that the pools were gross and too packed with tourists to be worth taking a dip but the rain helped disprove both points. We had the whole area to ourselves for a good 30 minutes before other trucks and vans started arriving.
By then we had had enough of the pools and went on a short, but steep hike to another lookout point where we had a different view of the pools and the surrounding valley. From this vantage the petrification that ran down the side of the very steep hill was clearly visible and absolutely stunning. We noted how surprising it was that there were no fences or protections of any sort, and that a place like this would have definitely been cordoned off in the US or Europe. I was happy to have seen the view after spending time in the pools, otherwise my fear of heights might have kicked into overdrive and the experience would have been significantly less relaxing.
After taking in the view for a few minutes the rain picked up again so we hiked back and caught another truck to start the trek back home.
For a place that we almost didn’t go to, Hierve el Agua exceeded all of my expectations. The truck ride there and back were one of the most fun modes of transport I’ve ever taken, so that itself would have made the excursion worth it, but the serenity of the rainy day and the breathtaking views made it a place I would recommend to anyone visiting Oaxaca.