Grutas de Tolantongo is one of the most beautiful natural water parks in México and maybe in the world, that consists of a large canyon with a river with thermal waters, beautiful waterfalls, a tunnel, a cave and natural thermal hot tubs in a lush green mountain area in the State of Hidalgo.
The natural park of Tolantongo is built along a box canyon, open on one end and closed on the other. The mountains around the canyon are volcanic, heating the water to steamy temperatures and infusing it all with minerals, forming some of the world’s loveliest hot springs.
From Mexico City you can reach this natural wonderland in about 3.5 to 4 hour driving.
Enjoy the journey, not just the destination
On the trip you enjoy beautiful views, depending which of the 3 routes you take from Mexico City. But especially 40 minutes before arriving, you can enjoy astonishing views, especially early in the morning when the mist might roll from the canyon and surrounding mountains.
Plan well your logistics
On arriving, you pay the entrance money (see the current rate on the official website of Tolantongo) and enter the Grutas de Tolantongo. It´s a really big park, so think well about where to park and plan well your logistics, if you want to see as much as posible of this amazing place. See the maps at the end of this blog.
Where to start?
We recommend to park first as close as posible to the Reception of Hotel Gruta (nummer 16 on the map; see the high quality map at the end of this blog), to explore first it´s waterfalls, tunnel and it´s cave upon early arrival, before the crowds, since it is the most popular part of Grutas de Tolantongo. From there you can make a beautiful hike of about 30 to 40 minutes to the waterfalls, tunnel and cave. The last 5 minutes of the walk, they don´t allow you to bring backpacks and bottles; you can only bring your towel and camara / cell phone (that might get wet upon entering the tunnel or cave). So make sure to leave non-valuables in the car and / or put your things in a locker, or leave someboy at that point to guard all the things of the group. If you want to enter the tunnel or cave, just wear your swimming suite, for a nice dip in the thermal waters.
Along the beautiful river towards the waterfalls, tunnel and cave
This is an astounishing hike of about 30 to 40 minutes, along the river on a easy walking trail, slowly going up. You will see the river and several small waterfalls on your right sight, but at this part of the trail you are not able to enter the river, since you are walking a bit up the mountain side and since the current of the river is stronger at this part. Remember: the last 5 minutes of the walk, they don´t allow you to bring backpacks and bottles; you can only bring your towel and camara / cell phone.
Enjoy the views of the waterfalls, exploring the tunnel and having a swim in the cave
At the canyon’s closed end, this part of the canyon has walls as much as 500 meters high. Its main attraction are the warm waterfalls flowing down the steep canyon walls and two grottos out of which flows a small volcanically-heated river, which follows the canyon floor.
The Tunnel and Cave
The large grotto chamber is about half the size of a tennis court with a ceiling of up to ten metres. Above the grotto is a “tunnel”, a small cavern 15 metres deep in which warm water showers those who venture inside. The tunnel might not be for everyone, since it´s a bit narrow and sometimes very crowed (come early!!). But if it´s not too crowded, it´s really worth to have a dip in the large grotto chamber, with lovely warm water and stalactites hanging from the ceiling. This grotto features a warm, spring-fed pool and river, and also has warm, mineral-rich water misting in from the walls and ceiling. It’s basically like an all-natural sauna, with a pool for swimming. The water’s color comes from salts and minerals dissolved in it: perfect for soaking in!
Exploring the Tunnel – Grutas de Tolantongo
Exploring the Cave – Grutas de Tolantongo
Walk back along the river side and time to eat something !!
To see the rest of Grutas de Tolantongo, you have to walk back as you came, enjoying the beatiful views again, but now from a different angle.
At this time you will probably hungry AND thirsty! There are 3 formal restaurants and at least 9 less formal restaurants in the park. One of our favorites is Restaurante Huamuchil, close to the reception of Hotel Gruta, with both international and regional food of the State of Hidalgo. Don´t miss out on their great Micheladas; beer with lemon and salt and opcionally hot sauces and tomato juice with oister sause (clamato).
Towards the natural hot tubs on the left side of Grutas de Tolantongo
This second hike is more uphill and a bit rougher, so ideally bring / wear comfortable shoes for walking / hiking for about 40 minutes.
We suggest to first walk up to the river and first have a beautiful walk along the river side. Swimming is allowed on this part, but we suggest to do that at the end, to plan better the rest of your time; after the hike and after exploring and relaxing at the hot tubs.
Badly indicated and a bit rough trail
After an easy walk along the river, you can then walk upwards to the natural hot tubs. The badly indicated and a bit tougher trail (nummer 12 on the map at the end of this blog), starts near the Hotel Sección La Huerta (nummer 18 on the map); upwards towards the natural hot tubs (Pozas). The views along the canyon on your left side are amazing, so don´t miss out this part! You don´t feel like another hike? Take a Inner Shuttle Service for about 60 MXN from Base La Gruta to Base Paraíso Escondido. Or take your car / transport to Base Paraíso Escondido.
Explore and relax at the natural hot tubs (Pozas)
The natural hot tubs (Pozas Termales, nummer 8 on the map) are natural springs that have been dammed up to create over 40 cliffside travertine terraces, each with natural spring water for more bathing and relaxing and incredible views over the beautiful canyon. There is also another tunnel to explore (Túnel Paraiso) and a hanging bridge (Puente Colgante).
Relax a bit more at the swimming pools and / or river or get your adrenaline shot using the zip lines
Depending on the rest of your day / weekend / plan / preferences, you can now relax a bit more at the different swiming pools (nummer 6 close the Pozas or nummer 5 and 7 near the Reception of Hotel Gruto), or at the riverside with more thermal waters. Or you can add a bit more adventure, by using 2 or all 4 of the ziplines (1890 meter total!), price between 100 to 200 MXN; the nummer 13 on the map (Tirolesa). Yes, interesting that that choosed nummer 13 for this activity… :-).
Back to the starting point
From the Pozas, you can either walk back on the main road to the reception of Hotel Gruta, about 20 minutes, or take a Inner Shuttle Service from Paraíso Escondido Base to La Gruta Base (around 60 MXN). Or ask your transport to pick you up at for example nummer 41 (Estacionamiento Microbuses) or nummer 14 (Main entrance).
Maybe the most important: remember where you parked!! And communicate well with your friends about when and where to meet. It´s a HUGE place !!! And there is no to little cell phone, data or wifi connection; so plan / agree well ahead and inform your friends and family that you will be out of touch for a while (they only have cellphone signal from Telcel, but please even don´t depend on that). And bring CASH money; the next ATM is in Ixmiquilpan (1 hour from de park).
When to go?
All year it´s great to visit Grutas de Tolantongo, only in the cold season (December – March) it might be cold at night and during the rain season (May to August) the river might get a bit muddy if it has been raining for let´s say 3 days in a row. But since the water is still warm and clean, even this is not a real problem. Try to avoid the national holidays to escape the crowds a bit. In general, there are less people during the week than in the weekend, but if you plan well (see trips above) you can enjoy this amazing place also during the weekend.
Day trip or Staying the night??
With the right logistics Grutas de Tolantongo can be easily visited on a day tour;
see tips above.
Staying in the Hotels
If you want to stay the night, please be aware that is not posible to make a hotel reservation. The reason is that they don´t have the usual managerial structure; the place belongs to the “Socieded Cooperative Ejidal – Grutas Tolantongo”. This association was formed 30 years ago by the 112 families that own the ejido (a type of communal property). So try to arrive very early (approximately between 7 and 9 am) and try to arrange your hotel a arrival; either at the reception of Hotel Gruta (nummer 16 on the map) or Hotel Paraiso Escondido (nummer 17 on the map). Prices vary from 600 to 1200 MXN per room, but availability is not garanteed, so MAKE A BACKUP PLAN (converting your trip in a day trip, staying in a hotel in the nearby villages or to go camping).
Recently there have been cases of fraud, so be very carefull making any booking up front; see the current warning at the official website of Grutas de Tolantongo: ¨we have noticed that there are external websites that offer information, online reservations and other additional services, however Grutas Tolantongo does not have any agreement with these companies and disclaims any acquired service or unofficial information received¨.
Staying at the campsite
Camping is a great alternative and a safe option in Grutas de Tolantongo if you want to stay the night; you can camp all along the central part of the river. But always double check the weather forecast; especially in cold season (December – March) and rain season (May to August).
In case you don´t have any equipment, you can rent tents for 4 to 10 people, between 120 and 250 MXN. Normally their staff will set up your tent. You can arrange your tent normally at nummer 49 on the map, but also the tents depend on availability, so arrange your tents and aditionally items upon arrival (can also not be reserved..) and make a back up plan in case there are no tents available (you can buy inflatable mattresses, blankets, firewood etc. at accesible prices; around 350 MXN for an inflatable mattress and 110 MXN for blankets).
How to get there
There are 3 main routes to get there; generally the route over Actopan is the quickest. But over Tula is also an aceptable alternative, especially if you want to combine your trip with a visit to the archeological site of Tula. There are buses (we have not tried them yet, so no practical information about that), but it might take more time; so make sure to plan well your arrival + especially your return trip.
Exploring Grutas de Tolantongo with Aztec Explorers
Aztec Explorers is the traveller´s club of Azteca Travel Tours Art, a small registred travel agency in Mexico City. We travel in small groups, use certified guides, in Spanish and English. We prefer to go either on a day trip or we go camping. Private trips are also possible.
Next (small) group trips with Aztec Explorers (normally we go once a month, depending on weather): Www.AztecaTTA.com
Let´s explore this amazing place together, enjoying nature at it´s best!
Below a map of Grutas de Tolantongo:
Or download a high quality map HERE.
LET´S EXPLORE MÉXICO TOGETHER IN A FUN A SAFE WAY !!
Below the team of Aztec Explorers; about us.
Note: all pictures by Peter Winckers, all videos by Grutas de Tolantongo (Youtube).
Please respect our copyright on text and pictures.