Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, is one of the least visited tourist sights in Oaxaca, yet provides a fascinating experience for nature lovers, hikers and photographers. Hierve el Agua is one of the least visited attractions along the State of Oaxaca’s central valley routes. Yet for naturalists, photographers, hikers and those with interest in ecotourism, it holds much more allure than the traditional sights. With each passing year, getting to the sight becomes easier and quicker, and the restaurant and overnight facilities improve.
What is Hierve el Agua
Translated “the water boils,” Hierve el Agua is actually a misnomer. At two locations about 40 meters apart, water does indeed “boil” up from the ground, not hot, but rather forced to the surface by the earth’s interior pressure, arriving at roughly atmospheric temperature.
It rises to the surface, then channels into two man-made poolings of fresh, mineral-rich water, suitable for swimming since the pools gradually reach depths of upwards of seven feet. Taste the water before it reaches the lower pool, as it flows along a narrow canal from the puncture in the earth, since it’s crystal clear and pure, of course aside from natural mineral compounds
The Effect of Minerals at Hierve el Agua
The bubbling water is rich in mainly calcium carbonate and magnesium. The minerals have built up over thousands of years, giving the effect of petrified waterfalls. As one walks down towards the actual site to swim or view the falls, one is walking over mineral deposits, smoothed over in 2008 with the use of cement and lime to make walking easier. Thousands of years ago the surface was lower. It gradually raised up, as a result of mineral deposits, to present level.
Standing on the main precipice near the lower pool, one sees the postcard perfect petrified waterfalls, a photograph most often reproduced for promoting tourism. However, there is a different falls, accessed by a short hike.
Hiking and Walking Paths at Hierve el Agua
There are numerous trails and pathways at Hierve el Agua, suitable for taking short hikes. Each route is less than an hour in duration, return, including stopping to take pictures and marvel.
Depending on the time of year, some paths may be somewhat overgrown, but certainly not to the extent that there is any undue danger or risk of getting lost. The most well-traveled leads up and around to the top of the principle falls. One often sees people who have already made it there, sitting and gazing back towards the pools, having a vantage-point for viewing the second impressive petrified falls.
Another pathway, requiring more navigational agility, leads down into the valley along a series of ridges and paths. One arrives at the base of the principal falls, from where one can do a bit of climbing. But pause and look back every once in a while, and see the effect caused by the falling water over the course of thousands of years, in this case from much closer up.
Tourist Facilities at Hierve el Agua
In 2008, government completed construction of new lodging and dining facilities at Hierve el Agua, including a large, traditional swimming pool. However it is not known when any of it will open. It appears that there will be about a dozen small restaurants and an equal number of row-house hotel suites.
In the interim, there are several palapa-style simple eateries lining the access route to the sight, alongside the parking area. Souvenirs and mezcal are also sold in the same area. There are basic washroom facilities closeby, and more down at the site itself adjoining rudimentary change rooms.
A larger restaurant, Alice’s, is located on the left side of the road, before reaching the gate where the entrance fee is paid. Arrangements can be made there for staying at one of the Tourist Yuú overnight lodgings. There are four cabins which provide rustic yet adequate accommodations for an overnight stay. Inquire at Alice’s for details. One can book by calling a cellular phone, either 045951106356 or 044951106356. The village where Hierve el Agua is located, San Isidro Roaguía, has a few small stores and a restaurant.
Access to Hierve el Agua
As of late 2009, the new highway which will ultimately cut driving time from Oaxaca to Huatulco, opened from just beyond Mitla, to San Lorenzo Albarradas, about 4 kilometers from Hierve el Agua. But the more scenic route is along Highway 190, passing by a couple of quaint roadside mezcal palenques, including El Tigre, a quaint combined comedor and mezcal factory about a half kilometer before the San Lorenzo turnoff, from where Hierve el Agua is accessed.
Since about 2004 there has been conflict between the residents of San Lorenzo and San Isidro, and as a result at times in San Lorenzo a toll is exacted so as to enable tourists to continue on to Hierve el Agua. It can be avoided by taking a less traveled, more circuitous mountain route to Hierve el Agua, through Xaagá. At Mitla there is a taxi service to Hierve el Agua.