Oaxaca • Mexico’s Petrified Waterfalls

Hierve el Agua, the calcified waterfalls southwest of Oaxaca City and southeast of Mitla are not only a gorgeous sight but also make for an engrossing geology lesson.

Mineral water dribbling over the cliff edge for thousands of years has created mineral formations that look like huge frozen waterfalls. There are currently two that you can view by hiking around the area, cascada grande and cascada chica. While the waterfalls are a white color, two mineral pools sit at the edge of the cliff, full of calcium carbonate, magnesium, and just enough sulphur to give them a yellow hue.

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Photo Credit: Daniel Tapia

The name is slightly misleading. Hierve means “to boil” in Spanish, but the springs aren’t actually boiling. They are heavily carbonated instead, with temperatures varying between 22° – 26°C (71° – 79°F). Luckily for us, these non-thermal temperatures mean that swimming is possible! There are even changing rooms nearby if you want to bring your bathing suit along with you.

There are many suggestions on how to get to the falls. Tourists tend to take the group tour route, meaning they are shuffled along through multiple attractions, giving them minimal time to truly enjoy everything. The cheapest option is to take a shared taxi (or collectivo) from Oaxaca City to Mitla, and then a shared van to Hierva el Agua. Our top pick though is to drive yourself or hire a driver to take you. There is a fairly new highway leading from Oaxaca to Hierve el Agua, and there is a toll of 49 pesos ($2.65 USD) to take that road. There is also an additional maintenance toll which is 10 pesos ($0.54 USD) per person. Entrance to the springs are paid separately, at 20 pesos (just over $1 USD) per person. And finally, parking is 50 pesos ($2.70 USD) per car. We say drive, but we’re used to $12 tolls here in the States!

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Photo Credit: Eduardo Robles Pacheco

Explorer Tip: Camp here! Differing reports put the cost at 40 or 50 pesos ($2-3 USD!) It’s cheap, you usually have the place to yourself and the sunrise can’t be beat.

Featured Photo Credit: Katie Schumm

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