At the end of January, I was super fortunate to be able to return to one of my favourite places in the whole world, Oaxaca, after first visiting in 2010. Oaxaca is a magnificent place. The streets are full of magic – you can smell Mexican hot chocolate on the street corners, see Zapotec women selling empanadas, and hear Mariachi bands in the Zocalo. On my visit in 2010, somehow Hierve El Agua passed me by. On my return visit, it was my priority to visit this natural wonder, which somehow doesn’t have the iconic status that I think it should.
Hierve El Agua is essentially a natural rock formation that looks just like a waterfall. And on the site of this rock formation is a pool that is fed by a natural spring. I’m not sure what is so attractive about a natural pool or a waterfall, especially when I don’t really care for swimming, but when I find one I turn into a child and want to jump in immediately. The pool at Hierve El Agua is particularly special because of the incredible view that you have of the Oaxacan valleys and mountains all around you. And it’s cold. Really cold. At least it was in January.
What nobody mentioned to me was how amazing the drive there would be. Hierve El Agua is at a great altitude and that means slowly chugging up winding mountain roads. On the journey, I passed through tiny Oaxacan mountain villages and got to view a lifestyle that is so far removed from anything that I know. You can drive there yourself but the roads are precarious and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a very confident driver. Most people get there by taking a bus or collective taxi to Mitla, which takes one hour, and then taking a shared pick-up truck to Hierve El Agua, which is another hour on the road.
If only I had known how magnificent this place was going to be, I would have arrived much earlier, brought a picnic with me, and stayed all day. I spotted one group of friends who had their cool box full of beers nestling against the side of the pool, and they definitely had the right idea. Hierve El Agua is the kind of place that makes me question my long held belief that I am a city boy at heart. I can think of very few things that would be more appealing to me than spending the day at Hierve El Agua, dipping in and out of the natural pool, enjoying beers in the sun, taking in the Mexican landscape around me, and forgetting everything in life that doesn’t really matter and simply enjoying being in a beautiful place.