Hierve el Agua: Petrified Waterfalls

Sometimes nature will play tricks on your eyes. You think you see something from far away, but then you get up close and see that it is something else entirely. In the case of Hierve el Agua, when you first see it from a distance, it looks like huge, beautiful waterfalls. Then, you get closer and discover that it is actually not water at all, but calcified rock formations, and still beautiful to behold.

“When you arrive at Hierve el Agua you’ll see what appear to be a massive waterfalls frozen to the side of the mountain. These are actually natural mineral formations that have built up over thousands of years as a result of the mineral-laden water spilling over the edge of the cliff and trickling down the rocky mountain side.”

The Mexican state of Oaxaca is the home of the famous petrified waterfalls. From Oaxaca de Juárez (Oaxaca City) it is about a 1 hour 40 minute drive to Hierve el Agua. Adventure travelers who have been there before advise using shared taxis or taking advantage of tour companies. If you drive your own car, it is possible you’ll run into hazards that might add some frustration and wasted time to your trip.

Waterfalls Made of Rock

When you get there, you’ll find a natural wonder that doesn’t appear just anywhere. The more common form of these rock formations is what happens inside a limestone cave. Stalactites form underground as water seeps through the rock and drips, leaving a calcium carbonate deposit.

The petrified waterfalls of Hierve el Agua formed as water exited the cliff and deposited calcium carbonate on the side of the mountain. Over thousands of years the “waterfalls” grew in length and breadth, leaving an incredible sight to see for locals and travelers alike.

Hierve el Agua is Spanish for “the water boils.” This is misleading because there is no hot water boiling involved in the making of these “waterfalls.”

“Presently there are two falls to visit, a larger (called cascada grande) and a small one (called, you know it, cascada chica).”

Just above the two waterfalls are two mineral pools, a popular swimming hole for hot visitors. One travel blogger recommended arriving early because it is so popular and there are more crowds in the afternoon. Arriving early also might lead to a sighting of “the mighty Zopilotes, a Mexican condor-like creature.”

“Sometimes nature creates counterfeits: a fish that looks like a plant, a fruit that looks like a vegetable, or in the case of Mexico’s Hierve El Agua, a rock formation that looks like a waterfall.”

Come see one of nature’s illusions in Mesoamerica. Put this amazing destination on the list as a Must Do when you’re in Oaxaca.

Where to Stay

Casa Divina Oaxaca is a charming and intimate resort located four blocks from the many fascinating historic sites and wonderful restaurants of downtown Oaxaca. The resort, located within a lovingly restored 19th-century Oaxacan home, reflects the culture of this fascinating city. Authentic Oaxacan art hangs from sun-dried clay walls, making Casa Divina Oaxaca truly feel like a home away from home. Oaxaca is a historic and cultural marvel famous for its spectacular architecture and delicious food. Immerse yourself in this magical place at Casa Divina Oaxaca.


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