These petrified waterfalls are a unique natural phenomenon formed by natural springs – take a closer look and find out how to get to Hierve el Agua from Oaxaca City without a tour.
- How to get to Hierve el Agua
- The camioneta ride to Hierve el Agua
- What to see at Hierve el Agua
- Food & Drink at Hierve el Agua
- Things to do in Oaxaca City
You’ll find Hierve el Agua in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, around 70 km east of Oaxaca City. The site is pretty much in the middle of nowhere so most people make an easy day trip from Oaxaca City.
You can book a Hierve El Agua tour online but they’re easy to organise in person – and you’ll find the prices will be much cheaper. Many local operators organise trips to Hierve el Agua, often combined with visits to El Tule and the Mitla ruins.
It’s also very possible to visit Hierve el Agua without a tour, as we did on our first trip to Mexico. There’s no public transport direct to the site but you can take local transport from Oaxaca City to Mitla and then transfer to a camioneta (pick-up truck) from Mitla to Hierve el Agua.
Getting to Hierve el Agua is relatively easy, but quite time consuming so we recommend starting your trip early in the morning.
However we always enjoy doing things independently. And besides the cost savings, the bumpy camioneta journey was certainly an adventure!
So keep reading and decide for yourself if it’s worth your while…
How to Get to Hierve El Agua
- Take a public bus from Oaxaca City to Mitla
Catch the bus (18 pesos / $0.90, 1 hour) from the Oaxaca 2nd class bus terminal or along Boulevard Jose Vasconcelos (Highway 190) .
- Transfer to a camioneta in Mitla (40 pesos / $2.00) to Hierve el Agua
Camionetas depart from across the Mitla bus station, and require 7-8 passengers.
Time needed: at least 2 hours each way
Total cost: 80 pesos / $3.20 each way. These prices are current as of 2019-2020.
#1. Oaxaca City to Mitla
Getting to Hierve el Agua by local transport is a 2-step journey. First you need to travel from Oaxaca City to the town of Mitla.
Mitla is best reached via a bus from the Oaxaca City 2nd class bus terminal or along Boulevard Jose Vasconcelos (Highway 190). The journey takes around 1 hour and costs 20 pesos / $1.07.
The 2nd class bus terminal is known as Terminal de Autobuses de Segunda Clase or just as Central. It is about 1km west of the Zocalo and the closest option from Oaxaca City centre.
Highway 190 is further north of the Zocalo but all buses to Mitla pass through this road, approximately every 30 minutes. A good spot to wait for buses is at the Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos baseball stadium.
It is possible and preferable to combine Hierve el Agua with the Mitla Ruins and the world’s largest tree at El Tule since they are all located east of Oaxaca City.
Visit Mitla Ruins
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#2. Mitla to Hierve el Agua
Once you arrive by bus at Mitla, you’ll need to transfer to a camioneta (pick-up truck) to get to Hierve el Agua.
Camionetas from Mitla (50-60 pesos / $2.00, 1 hour) can be caught opposite the bus station, but require 7-8 passengers to depart. Some larger trucks need 9-10 people.
There are no fixed schedules here as the camionetas only leave when there are enough people. You could be waiting a very long time which is why we recommend you starting your trip from Oaxaca City as early as possible.
Alternatively between you and any other passengers that may be waiting, you may offer to pay the driver more money each to get the truck on the road.
The journey from Mitla to Hierve el Agua takes 1 hour and costs around 60 pesos / $3.20, depending on the number of passengers.
When travelling by local transport in Mexico remember to keep your cash, credit cards & other valuables in a secure money belt at all times.
The Camioneta Ride to Hierve el Agua
Once you eventually get on the road, the camioneta ride from Mitla to Hierve is pretty awesome.
If you’re lucky you may be able to sit in the extended cab at the front, but for the best views hop in the back.
It does get a quite bumpy so hold on!
The pick-up truck takes you through a small village, past cows being herded, and along desolate stretches.
All this occurs before even starting the climb up the mountain!
Along the way you realize how taxing the road is on poorly maintained trucks.
This truck was broken down, but disappeared before we returned.
Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before any trip to Mexico. We’ve been using World Nomads through 80+ countries over the past 12 years and have been really happy with their coverage and services.
For more details check out our World Nomads review here.
The views of the valley are marvelous as you ascend the mountain before going over the saddle.
These photos were taken with our Nikon D3300 DSLR.
From there it is all downhill until you reach your ultimate destination – and that’s exactly how you get to Hierve el Agua from Oaxaca City!
What to See at Hierve el Agua
Now that we’ve covered the local transport options for reaching Hierve el Agua, let’s take a look at what this exotically-named place actually is…
In Spanish it’s name literally means ‘the water boils.’ So naturally at Hierve el Agua you’ll find a series of bubbling mineral springs.
Through the years, they have deposited minerals along the cliff edge that now resemble cascading waterfalls.
Several pools were constructed at the top to ‘enhance’ the experience.
There are two main cascades at Hierve el Agua.
Although the cascade with the pools is larger, the more appealing mineral-laden precipice is 100 meters away.
It is best viewed from the bottom of the pools, but can also be hiked to in 10 minutes.
Simply follow the path behind the main pool on the left. Disregard the signs that state you need a guide to hike there.
Turn left along a ridge when you reach a T-intersection at the top. Follow the trail until you reach yellow caution tape.
This is your signal to head down a side path to the top of the petrified waterfall.
As you can see, it can be very hot & dry at Hierve el Agua so be sure to apply adequate sunscreen and keep hydrated with a LifeStraw Water Filter Bottle.
Along the way, you will see several plants with engravings.
I suppose if you don’t have a bridge to place locks and thick trees are scarce, then you need to showcase your love somewhere.
Instead of disappearing when healed, the carvings actually leave scars.
From the far petrified waterfall, you can look back to the main cascade or descend to the bottom of the cliffs to see both ‘frozen’ cascades at the same time.
Knocking on Hierve el Agua resounds with an echo as the minerals are loosely concentrated.
With many tiers to the cascade, it is possible to safely sit on the edge as you stare across the valley and contemplate life.
However, one false step and you could become food for the resident vultures.
After you have finished hiking, head to the changing rooms (free) or bathroom (3 pesos / $0.17) to get ready for a dip.
Taking a dip in Hierve el Agua confirms the water is not boiling, but rather refreshingly chilly.
The maximum depth is 2 meters, and mossy at the bottom.
Take advantage of the large infinity pool that overlooks the surrounding mountains.
There is also a smaller pool on the edge of the cliff that is shallower, and less frequented.
The spring that feeds the pool is surrounded by a fence, and you can see the water bubbling up before being naturally channeled down.
Having springs at 3,000 meters above sea level is rather impressive when you think about it.
Food and Drink
Food and drinks can be purchased around the parking lot.
There are several stalls to choose from, but don’t expect drastic price differences between them.
Keep an eye out for Pina Loco, a fruity drink served in a pineapple.
Almost all trips to Hierve el Agua start and finish at Oaxaca City – where you should try to spend a few days, soaking up the vibrant colonial atmosphere and mix of native Mixtex and Zapotec cultures.
Some of the best attractions in Oaxaca City are:
- Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
- Zocalo & Alameda
- Basilica de la Soledad
Oaxaca City is also an excellent base for day trips, near and far.
As already mentioned, we recommend visiting Hierve el Agua, Mitla and Arbol de Tule in 1 day.
Monte Alban is another must-see attraction that is nearby and easy to get to. Don’t miss out on visiting this incredible archaeological site, one of Mesoamerica’s largest megacities.
Things to do in Oaxaca City
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Know Before You Go
Hierve el Agua Entrance Fee: 25 pesos / $1.33
* Some travelers have reported also being charged a 10 peso / $0.53 ‘road access’ fee (but we weren’t stopped for this)
How to get there:
- Bus from Oaxaca City to Mitla (20 pesos / $1.07)
- Camioneta from Mitla to Hieve el Agua (60 pesos / $3.20)
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Visited in April 2016
Updated in January 2020