Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca Without a Tour
While walking through the charming streets of the city of Oaxaca all I kept hearing about was ‘Hierve El Agua’, the majority of the time it was through a tour agent asking me if I’d like a tour there. After a quick look into Hierve El Agua, the natural swimmable springs and the rock formations resembling waterfalls had me intrigued. As you may well know, I consistently avoid organised tours if possible. Luckily, it is possible to visit Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca without a tour and I will tell you how.
La Paz has delivered Mexico’s best beach, Guanajuato served up a city with lashings of colour, Mexico City treated the taste buds with all kinds of delicious food, but what would Oaxaca and the surrounding area serve up? Fortunately, Mexico is an incredibly diverse country. You will visit place after place and at no time will the boredom set in. After all, have you ever visited a destination with rocks which cascade down the side of a cliff to give the idea of water pouring down to the ground below? Not only does Hierve El Agua boast the unique waterfall rocks, there are also natural springs which dominate the cliff top, perfect for a quick dip to get away from the hot and humid weather.
How to Get to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca Without a Tour
There’s always the option to take an organised tour from Oaxaca to Hierve El Agua. However, as me and you know, organised tours charge way over the odds. You can get yourself to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca and back, without a tour. I’ll guarantee you that you will not find a tour for a cheaper price than making your own way to Hierve. Skip the organised tour and head to Hierve El Agua via much cheaper local transport.
OK, so now that’s sorted, how exactly do you get to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca without a tour? It’s easy and I’ll tell you exactly how you can do it.
First of all, get yourself to the baseball stadium in Oaxaca. From in front of the Mcdonalds which neighbours the stadium, you can catch a Colectivo (shared taxi) to Mitla. The Colectivo will cost you 25 MXN ($1.40).
The colectivo will drop you off at the point where you get the pick-up truck to Hierve El Agua from Mitla. The pick-up truck to Hierve El Agua costs 40 MXN ($2.20). Sometimes you can be waiting around for the pick-up trucks to leave as the driver will not go until he feels he has enough people. ‘Enough people’ is down to his discretion, there’s no magic number. A word of warning, the drive up to Hierve El Agua is bumpy as hell and takes around 40 minutes, so just prepare yourself for that.
What to Do and See in Hierve El Agua
There is an entrance fee of 25 MXN ($1.40) to enter Hierve El Agua.
Hierve el Agua translates in English to ‘the water boils’. Don’t let this translation fool you into thinking you are visiting hot springs. One thing I can tell you, there’s no way Hierve el Agua is a hot spring, the water is freezing. However, the water does in fact ‘boil’ up from the ground, due to forceful pressure from beneath the ground. Hence the name Hierve El Agua.
Hierve El Agua Springs
The springs – some natural, some not – are the top attraction at Hierve el Agua for most people. Arrive at the site early, or you’ll find crowds of people splashing around in the natural springs. In all honesty, the springs didn’t do it for me. I opted against a swim in the stagnant, murky waters. From a distance, the water looks an inviting distinctive emerald colour. However, when you get up close and personal with the water (more specifically the natural infinity pool spring) you will see stagnant looking water with the odd dead bug floating around. Sounds appealing for a swim doesn’t it?
To be fair, the man-made spring, full with locals and tourists splashing around, does not look so stagnant and is more inviting. The sheer number of people in there can be slightly off-putting. However, don’t worry, even if you do not end up going for a swim, you can still enjoy Hierve el Agua.
Rock Formations at Hierve El Agua
The most impressive part of Hierve el Agua is the rock formations which give the impression of huge waterfalls. The rock formations are created from the fresh spring water which pours off the edge of the cliff. The high mineral content in the water is deposited to create the waterfall like rock formations. Much like the formation of stalactites. It’s not every day you see rocks that look like a waterfall is it? Pretty amazing you ask me.
As well as getting an unbeatable view of the rock formations from the site of the springs, I would also recommend a small hike around the edge of the cliff. Don’t worry, there’s a trail there, you’re not setting off on a treacherous rock climb. You will come out on the top of one of the waterfall-like rock formations. From here you will have a view of the imposing rock formation which leads down from the springs cliff top.
Enjoy Some Local Food and a Michelada
Has all that relaxing and taking pictures got you feeling hungry and thirsty? Well, you’re in luck. There are plenty of wooden shack restaurants serving up some local delights and quenching thirsts with cold and spicy micheladas. You’ll find the stalls between the car park and the springs. Grab yourself some elote (corn on the cob with mayonnaise, spices, lime and cheese), then wash it down with a michelada (beer, spices, lime and salt) made with your favourite beer. What could be better than that?
Top Tip – Arrive early at Hierve el Agua. We got there around midday and the pools were full of people splashing around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a scrooge against people having fun. However, I would have been more inclined to take a dip in the main pool with fewer people there. Plus, it’s tough to get that perfect snap when there are tonnes of people dashing about everywhere.
Getting Back to Oaxaca from Hierve El Agua
Getting back to Oaxaca is similar to reaching Hierve el Agua. You will see a wooden stand with benches between the food stalls and the car park. Wait here for a pickup truck to take you back down to Mitla. Once enough people are waiting the pickup truck will leave and make the bumpy journey back.
Once you reach Mitla, there are a couple of options for getting back to Oaxaca. You can get one of the colectivos which head back to Oaxaca. Alternatively, you can jump on a bus which heads in the same direction. The bus is 20 MXN ($1.10), so 5 MXN ($0.25) cheaper than the colectivo and more comfortable, so catch that if you see it coming.
If you’re not in a rush, stop off at one of the local mezcalerias in Mitla for a shot of Mezcal or two. Why not, you’re in Mezcal country after all.
See how easy it is to visit Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca without a tour. Tour agencies in Oaxaca overcharge for something where you can do everything that they do for much cheaper. Also, tours to Hierve El Agua often only let you stay for around 30 minutes until moving on to the next location. If you go by yourself you can relax and take your time. Who wants to be rushing around from place to place all day?
Hierve El Agua is definitely worth the day trip from Oaxaca. The springs weren’t too appealing to swim in when I was there. Who knows, if it’s a clear sunny day, the springs may look more appealing to take a dip. Having said that, the rock formations alone are worth the trip. Rocks that look like cascading water down a cliff is impressive in my eyes.
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If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section.
Have you been to Hierve El Agua before? Did you find the water enticing or not? Will you go to Hierve El Agua from Oaxaca without a tour, or would you be tempted to pay more for a tour?
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