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Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua

These are two impressive petrified waterfalls (calcium carbonate), formed, since thousands of years ago, by the runoff of carbonated water. From the springs, the water descends by rugged cliffs of more than 50 meters of height.

The spring area that origins it was used to create a large pool that currently has become in a natural spa, with temperate water.

Hierve el Agua has been recognized as a probable sacred place of the ancient Zapotecs, which was located here due, perhaps, to its great natural contrasts, because it is in the heart of an abrupt mountain range that during the dry season is characterized by its extreme aridity.

Numerous archaeologists, biologists and geologists have gathered in Hierve el Agua because it is a site where more than 2,500 years ago a complex irrigation system was built, which still has important vestiges.

Thanks to these investigations it has been possible to understand the form of construction and the operation of the terraces and canals that cover a wide extension around the area of the amphitheater, that is the one that receives visitors, also has been determined that it is a very old irrigation system, unique in its type in Mexico, where the old inhabitants developed an intensive agriculture oriented to the maximum use of the water of the springs, in a land with steep slopes.

The water temperature is slightly higher than the ambient temperature fluctuating between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius and therefore well below the boiling point. However, natural beauty is not the only attraction of Hierve el Agua, which is, above all, an important archaeological site whose long history has allowed studying various aspects of the culture and way of life of the ancient inhabitants of the region. Currently there are bathrooms, dressing rooms, palapas and small “fondas” (restaurants) to eat. There are also huts perfectly equipped to spend the night.


Hierve el Agua has been recognized as a probable sacred place of the ancient Zapotecs. Although the beauty conferred to the site by its enormous natural contrasts is exceptional, because it is in the heart of an abrupt mountain range which during the dry season is characterized by its extreme aridity, the main attractive is constituted by the spectacle offered by two impressive petrified waterfalls, the first of 30 meters of height and the second of approximately 12 meters.

Formed by the runoff of carbonated water from the springs located at the top of the rocks. From these springs the water is projected above the formations, giving rise to new rocky layers that are projected towards a ravine of more than 200 meters of depth.

On the site there are a series of small natural pools excarvated in an esplanade called “El Anfiteatro” (the amphitheather), from where you can perfectly admire the petrified waterfalls. The place comprises two clearly differentiated platforms, at the lower level of which are the springs and the irrigation system.

Take the opportunity to know, through a walking tour or by bicycle, the entire area of the prehispanic irrigation system, watching the beauty spectacle of the waterfalls in the middle of the mountains of the Sierra.

Touring Hierve el Agua

The walk begins by leaving the city of Oaxaca, making a visit to the millennium Tule Tree; later it continues with direction to the population of San Lorenzo Albarradas. In the deviation of the road that goes to the Mixes and the population of Albarradas begins the route in mountain bike until arriving at the town of Roaguía. There pause to observe the process of elaboration and distillation of the mezcal, continuing then to Hierve el Agua. During the crossing it is possible to observe the vegetation, predominantly of low forest perennifolia. In the surrounding hills, conifers and broadleaf dominate.

Arriving at the site it is possible to admire the waterfalls and to make a walk by a footpath of approximately 2 kilometers, having a different perspective of the place when passing to the foot of the waterfalls.

Another option is to go to the natural pools, from where you can admire part of the Tlacolula Valley and the imposing Sierra Mixe. There will also be time to swim in the pool and relax with some refreshment.

Afterwards, we return to the city of Oaxaca, not before visiting the archaeological site of Mitla or, where appropriate, the traditional Sunday market and temple of Tlacolula.

Travel services

To make the visitor's stay more pleasant, Hierve el Agua currently has bathrooms, dressing rooms, palapas, swimming pools and small fondas (restaurants) to eat.

Likewise, there are huts perfectly equipped to spend the night, as well as a “Tourist Yuu” with the indispensable services.