Adventure

Mexico’s Petrified ‘Waterfall’ Makes For A Mind-Bending Optical Illusion

Look closely.

Deep in the Mexican countryside, just outside the ancient site of Mitla in Oaxaca, locals flock to a picturesque waterfall on their days off. Only, it’s not a waterfall. In fact, it’s not even water.

Located in San Lorenzo Albarradas, Hierve El Agua is an optical illusion created by mineral runoff from springs saturated with calcium carbonate and magnesium. At the top, 90m above the valley floor in places, two freshwater pools attract people from all over for their medicinal properties (and their unqiue, Instagram-worthy appearance).

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Hierve El Agua literally translates to “the water boils”, and is reportedly inspired by the way water flows through the springs. The site was especially significant for the Zapotec people, who occupied the area over 2000 years ago.

To get there, book one of the many day tours available from Oaxaca (they start from around $45), or try your luck with a collectivo (a kind of shared cab) from Mitla. They cost around $5.50 (75MXN) per person each way, and you will be required to pay tolls to the tune of around $2 (30MXN) per person.

On site, there are small change-room facilities and food stalls selling local eats like quesadillas and memelas.

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Opening hours are managed by locals and are famously unpredictable, so it pays to double-check they’ll be open before you set out. There are two entry fees costing $0.75 (10MXN) and $1.80 (25MXN) respectively. The pools can be crowded during the high season, so get there early if you can.

(Lead photo: @paus1106 / Instagram)

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