How to Get to Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, Without a Tour
The name ‘Hierve el Agua’ literally means ‘where the water boils’. But don’t let the name fool you. The bubbling water at Hierve el Agua is actually super cold! However, in my opinion, it’s definitely worth a visit. You can go for a hike on the many trails around the pools and then cool off in the refreshing pools, all while enjoying incredible mountain views. Here’s how you can get to Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca without a tour!
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Where Exactly is Hierve El Agua?
Hierve El Agua is located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. It is located about an hour and a half away from Oaxaca de Juarez if you’re traveling by car. If you choose to travel there by bus, it will take quite a bit longer. When my friend and I visited we traveled by bus and ‘camioneta’ (truck). I’ll explain how we got there below.
Why You Should Consider Going to Hierve El Agua Without a Tour
So, before I get into how to get to Hierve El Agua without a tour, or a car, let me explain why you should go to Hierve El Agua without a tour. While I don’t like telling anyone how to travel (if you prefer taking tours, by all means, go for it), I have two main reasons why we personally decided to go without a tour this time.
One of the big reasons why we chose not to go on a tour this time was because of money. Many of the tours that we saw available were between $40 and $50CAD. We decided we could probably figure out to get ourselves there using public transportation for much less money (spoiler, we did!)
The other reason we chose to skip the tour was because we were mainly seeing tour options that would take us to a whole bunch of places. For example, we saw a tour option that would have taken us to Hierve El Agua as well as a few archaeological sites, the famous Tule tree, and some other places. We only really wanted to see Hierve el Agua because we had limited time in Oaxaca. We also realized that if Hierve el Agua wasn’t at the beginning of the tour, we likely would get there when it was super crowded. Plus, since the tours we were looking at took their visitors to so many locations, it was likely that we wouldn’t have much time to spend at Hierve el Agua either.
How to Get to Hierve El Agua Without a Tour
One option of getting to Hierve El Agua without a tour is by renting a car. However, renting cars can be expensive and we wanted to do everything on the cheap. So, to get to Hierve El Agua without a tour, you need to go down to the Chedraui (grocery store) on the street called Periferico. Outside of the Chedraui, you need to catch a bus to Mitla. Just look for a bus or taxi van passing by that says ‘Mitla’ on the front.
Once you get to Mitla, you will be dropped off right outside a small building that has a waiting area inside and some bathrooms. You can use the bathrooms for $5 or $10 pesos (I don’t remember exactly how much they cost). Outside the building, you will see some pick-up trucks that have bench seats in the back as well as roofs stretching over the seats. As far as I know, the only place the trucks go is to Hierve el Agua. You will need to ask one of the drivers to take you up to Hierve el Agua. The drivers want to make a decent amount of money going up the road so they will likely get you to wait until other people come by so they can fill up the truck with paying customers.
The cost of the bus from Oaxaca to Mitla is around $18 pesos. To take the trucks from Mitla to Hierve el Agua, it costs about $50-$100 pesos. This price depends on how many people are there to get into the truck. You will also need to pay a $10 peso fee to access the road to Hierve El Agua, plus a $25 peso admission fee once you get there. Make sure you have enough cash on you to make the trip there and back because you can’t use a credit or debit card. All in all, this adds up to roughly $153 pesos which is around $8-$9 USD. That’s a lot less than spending $60USD on a tour.
I would highly suggest leaving from Oaxaca to Hierve el Agua early if you can. That way you can get to the beautiful pools and petrified waterfall early when there aren’t as many visitors there. When you are ready to head back, go back to where the trucks dropped you off outside the pools and catch one back down to Mitla. You can then catch a bus from Mitla back to Oaxaca.
Geology of Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca: Why it’s Worth Visiting
I mentioned above that Hierve el Agua means ‘where the water boils’. It does indeed bubble in some areas of the pools, but this is actually because of the earth’s interior pressure and doesn’t mean that the water is heated. The pools are full of calcium carbonate, magnesium, and other natural minerals. Swimming in the pools is truly magical as they are kind of like natural infinity pools. Sitting on the edges of the pools, you can enjoy stunning vistas of the surrounding mountain landscapes.
Be sure to also hike down to get a good look at the petrified waterfalls. Did you know there are only two petrified waterfall sites in the world? The other one is located in Turkey. There are two petrified waterfalls at Hierve el Agua. One is very large and the other one is a bit smaller but still very impressive. The petrified waterfalls at Hierve el Agua were created slowly as mineral water from natural pools started dripping and running down the cliffside. The mineral deposits that were left behind created large stalactite-like structures. These structures make it look like a petrified or frozen waterfall.
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