Close to Oaxaca, Mexico is a landscape that looks like it could be another planet – and there’s a turquoise natural swimming pool featuring one of the best views in the world. This otherworldly location is Hierve el Agua.
Hierve el Agua is one of the strangest natural phenomena you’re likely to encounter on your travels. There are two parts to the site. There’s a pool of mineral water at the top of a cliff, overlooking a waterfall, though no water actually flows over the cliff side.
The waterfall is actually petrified minerals, which over time, leached through the limestone and created rock deposits that resemble the flow of water down a mountainside. These travertine rock formations are similar to what you’ll find at the Pamukalle hot springs in Turkey.
At the top of the cliff there is what looks like an infinity pool which overlooks the mountains and jungles surrounding the waterfall. The mineral rich water is a mix of turquoise, deep green, and yellow. Though hierve means spoil in Spanish, the water is quite cool. It gets that name because water bubbles up from vents at the bottom of the pool.
How to Hierve el Agua
To get to Hierve el Agua, start your journey in Oaxaca. From there, head to the town of Mitla, which is already famous for its archaeological site. To get to Mitla from Oaxaca, you can take a bus, which stops near Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos. The other option in terms of public transportation is a colectivo, a type of taxi that actually fits seven people. You’ll look for a colectivo that says “Mitla” in the window, and if you don’t have seven people in your party, you’ll have to wait to leave until the car is full to capacity. The total trip is about two hours.
Once you get to Hierve el Agua, you’re going to have to embark on another type of transportation called a camioneta. These trucks fit up to 12 people, and once again, you’ll have to wait until it’s at capacity before the driver will embark. Otherwise, you can take a taxi up to the waterfall but that’s the most expensive option.
Once you get there, there is an entrance fee and a ten minute walk to the pools. There are also vendors selling mezcal and micheladas at the entrance to Hierve el Agua.
Can you swim at Hierve el Agua
Although Hierve el Agua has closed in the past due to over tourism, it is currently open and there are no signs explicitly forbidding people from swimming in the pools at the top of the waterfall. There are even changing rooms in the parking lot. The water is cool and refreshing (not warm like a hot spring) and the views from the edge of the cliff are breathtaking. It’s better to get there early in the day, before crowds of tourists take over the pools and block the view.
Once you’re done swimming, there is a hiking trail to the left of the pools. This trail takes about 20 minutes to traverse, and will take you to the bottom of the fall. Here you can get a different – but equally as interesting – view of the petrified waterfall from below. This is where you’ll want to make sure to snap a few photos as well.