Mexico Trip Report Part 3: Mitla & Hierve el Agua

Mitla ruins. Oaxaca, Mexico.
Mitla rock city.

Another day, another day trip from Oaxaca City. This time we hopped into a taxi to check out the ruins of Mitla. When we arrived at the stop in San Pablo Villa de Mitla, we were dropped off and told to continue our journey to the ruins via tuk tuk for ten pesos. The taxi stop is at the bottom of a hill and Mitla is at the top. It’s a pretty big hill and the ride was worth it to help conserve our energy for an adventurous day!

Much like Monte Albán, this is another archeological site of Zapotec ruins. Unlike Monte Albán, this place is not huge and is surrounded by the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla, one of the magical villages (Pueblo Magico) of Mexico.

Church of San Pablo Villa de Mitla. Oaxaca, Mexico.
I spy with cacti in my eye. Church of San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Between exploring the ruins, the cactus gardens, amazing views, church bells and the surrounding town, there was a bit more stimulation involved to make me feel less contained to one thing all day.

Mitla ruins courtyard. Oaxaca, Mexico.
Mitla ruins courtyard.
Mitla zapotec ruins framework. Oaxaca, Mexico.
Two step, two step. Let her see that fancy framework.
Mitla cactus garden. Oaxaca, Mexico.
A row of cacti (although I do enjoy saying cactuses…)

While there, I was able to explore the inside of the burial tombs. Getting inside involves crawling through a tiny tunnel that only fits one person comfortably at a time. It was dark, hot, humid and my eyes would not adjust in the low light from being blasted with intense sun only moments ago.

Mitla burial room. Oaxaca, Mexico.
Either my eyes are having trouble adjusting to the darkness or spirits are draining my essence…

The sounds of church bells filled the air. It must have been noon.

After finishing our visit to Mitla, which probably took about an hour, we started our stroll down the hill through San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla streetview. Oaxaca, Mexico.
Walking down the hill.

The main reason for heading down by foot was to hunt down some of the great smells we caught in our noses on the way up. Rotisserie chicken seems to be the food of choice here. Almost all the windows had spinning carcasses. Unfortunately, we were still a bit too early in the day for most of them to be ready. However, we did eventually find a place ready to serve some bird to the early birds. It was the best!

San Pablo de Mitla flowers. Oaxaca, Mexico.
Stopping to smell the flowers.

When we arrived at the bottom, we hopped into the back of a colectivo truck and traveled to Hierve el Agua. True to the stereotypes, the colectivo was over capacity, with standing room only for the last few unlucky passengers and even one guy hanging off the back. However, everyone pays the same price regardless, so best be first to board.

The shaky truck took us all the way up a mountain to the site of Hierve el Agua. It was a bit of a rough ride along a winding, dirt road hugging the cliff side and by the end of the trip my bottom was sore, my foot fell asleep and basically I could not feel anything in my southern region…

Hierve el Agua cacti. Oaxaca, Mexico.
A hill full of cacti can be more interesting than a small bubbling spring.

The main attraction of Hierve el Agua is a petrified waterfall formed over a cliff from calcium buildup in the spring water. Although the literal translation of Hierve el Agua is “the water boils”, it is actually a cold water spring. Keeping that in mind, the other attraction there is the swimming area with a view of the valley below.

Sure it is neat and all, but at the end of the day, it was just a swimming pool, full of people taking selfies and drinking beer. Plus the water smelled a bit funny.

Hierve el Agua pool and valley. Oaxaca, Mexico.
Kinda smells funny up here.

As for the actual petrified waterfall- we tried to hike over to see it in person, but were stopped on the trail and told we needed a guide. This is understandable, as there have been problems with tourists damaging the habitats in the area. However, there were no guides working to take us. Feeling a bit underwhelmed, we took one last and very distant view of the waterfall to get our admission money’s worth. Then we decided it was time for us to leave.

Hierve el Agua petrified waterfall. Oaxaca, Mexico.
As close as we were allowed to get.

Although I would not go out of my way to go back to Hierve el Agua, I am glad we did go. Mainly just for the truck ride through dusty towns of Mexico though (and I probably would not need to do that again either…)

Now where is that mezcal? Maybe in the next post…

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2 thoughts on “Mexico Trip Report Part 3: Mitla & Hierve el Agua

  1. I have been to Hierve el Agua several times during the weekdays – there are few people and no required guides. The loop hike down to the bottom of the waterfall and up the other side is a good one that gives a different perspective.

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  2. We did go on a weekday. The hike was what I was most excited for and the reason for going. Oh well, Hierve el Agua just wasn’t for me.

    I did get some good hiking and waterfall time while in the mountains of San Jose del Pacifico later in the week though.

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