Hierve el Agua

Useful Information

Location: Hierve el Agua, Parador Turístico, 70477 Oaxaca.
70 km east of Oaxaca City.
(16.865653, -96.276007)
Open: All year daily.
Fee: Adults MXP 60.
Classification: KarstSinter Terraces
Light: n/a
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Bibliography: William P. Hewitt, Marcus C. Winter, David A. Peterson (1987): Salt Production at Hierve El Agua, Oaxaca, American Antiquity, Volume 52, Issue 4, October 1987 , pp. 799 - 816. Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2017. online DOI pdf
James A. Neely (1970): Terrace and Water Control Systems in the Valley of Oaxaca Region : A Preliminary Report In Preliminary Archaeological Investigations in the Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, 1966-1969. Report to the National Science Foundation and the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, edited by Flannery, K. V., pp. 83–85.
James A. Neely (1967): Organization hidraulica y sistemas de irrigation prehistoricos en el Valle de Oaxaca Boletin INAH 27 : 15-17. Mexico.
Address: Hierve el Agua, Parador Turístico, 70477 Oaxaca, Tel: +52-951-502-1200.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1990s Turis Yu’u with pools built.
2005 site closed after dispotes about income sharing.
2007 lower pool built.


Hierve el Agua (the water boils) are sinter terraces which are formed by the deposition of calcite or sinter from thermal spring water. As the hillside below the spring is very steep there are actually two massive steps, which are also called Cascadas Petrificadas (Petrified Waterfalls). They are 50 to 90 m high and look like flowstone, like a frozen waterfall. On top ot the waterfall there are small basins or gours, with white colour and reddish colours. There are also theories, that they are a result of human intervention, as there is water control system, which is an early example of crop irrigation. Other theories state that the water was directed to terraces by the canals for salt production through solar evaporation.

The water rises from four springs on a platform. The water from three springs is captured by a number of small natural pools and two large artificial pools in which visitors can swim. Two of them emerge with some pressure, so the water in the spring looks like it would boil, hence the name of the place. With some depth the water has a turquoise green colour, a result of the high limestone content. The fourth spring is located close to the edge and when it flows over the rim it deposits most of the travertine which makes up the rock formation of the Cascada Chica. This formation is about 50 m high. All the springs deposit rock, and the rather new pools are already covered by a layer of travertine.

A trail leads to the second rock formation nearby, which is called Cascada Grande. This formation is almost vertical with a 90 m high wall and a 50 m wide platform on top.

Below the site there are numerous limestone covered channels, which were used for irrigation or probably salt production. They resemble naturally occuring Karsttufa runnels. Actually they are such structures, they just originate from human intervention, but their formation follows the same principles.

The site is located in a very isolated region with rough terrain between the two small villages San Lorenzo Albarradas and San Isidro Roaguia. The area is semi-arid, with holm oak forest, cactus and other semidesert vegetation. The springs are one of the few water sources in the area. The villages are very poor, and the residents of the Roeguia community built the Turis Yu’u site with cabins to change clothes, shower, an open-air restaurant, and the pool, to generate some income for the locals. It seems the entrance fees are taken by the state of Oaxaca, and while they promised to invest the money to raise living standards in the area, this never happened. There are frequent road blockades where locals set up their own roadside checkpoints to levy a small fee. At the beginning of the pandemic road blockades happened over concerns that uncontrolled tourism would infect the locals. And while those stories sound weird to foreigners they seem to be quite common in Mexico, specifically in Oaxaca. As far as we understand they are not dangerous, it's just about a little money for the locals and a sort of protest against the government, which refuses to stop it.