Once upon a time, a long long time ago, we visited Oaxaca and took a half-day trip to Hierve el Agua. When I saw the rock formations in this video I knew I wanted to see them in person. What I didn’t know was the adventure we would have getting there. Don’t we look so happy and relaxed here?
We rented a car in Oaxaca City, which was a comedy of errors in its own right, and headed out of town in our only partially functioning vehicle in the direction of Mitla. Now, we knew mas o menos where we were headed, but we definitely didn’t have solid directions. So, when we saw the first sign off the highway that said “Hierve el Agua” with an arrow pointing to a dirt road we followed it. This dirt road wound through a tiny pueblo with a couple of last chance taco and beer stands and some cows. We waved to a couple of farmers on the side of the road who were probably thinking, “stupid gringos,” and kept on our way. Pretty soon we were climbing the side of a mountain with harrowing switchback turns in our partially functioning vehicle, pulling over every couple of minutes to let some burros or a truck full of locals pass us.
You can sort of get the idea starting at about 1:28 on this video of our trip. I don’t know how long it took us to get to the top, maybe an hour, maybe less, but it felt like years that I was holding onto my seat belt for dear life and trying not to look out the window at the sheer drop.
Finally, we reach the end of our harrowing journey and pull into the very large very paved parking lot at Hierve el Agua. We look around and see dozens of cars, taxis, even giant buses. We certainly didn’t see any of these people on our dirt road, and their cars are way too clean and too big to have come the same way we did. My husband wandered over to a taxi driver to get the story, and he informed us that there is a very nice paved two lane highway that goes all the way up the mountain - you just have to pay 40 pesos [less than 4 dollars].
After we visited the bathroom and our legs stopped shaking from our drive up the mountain, this all seemed very funny. And we happily paid the 40 pesos to take the paved road back down.
And the point of the whole adventure - we enjoyed the views from Hierve el Agua and stood right on the edge of the rock formations just like everyone else. Lots of families had packed food and swim suits and were spending the day enjoying the fresh water springs at the top.
We climbed around taking [not so graceful] pictures and bought some nieve before we piled back in the car and headed back to town.
My advice? Hierve el Agua is an easy drive outside of Oaxaca City and is definitely worth the trip - especially if you stop at Mitla or a mezcal distillery on the way. Just be sure not to pay attention to the first hand-painted sign you see on the highway, wait for the real sign to the real highway.
see the rest of our photos from hierve el agua here