When I was making an itinerary for Mexico, I found one place that surprised me. I didn’t know that Mexico has also a place with geothermal energy with hot springs, similar to Iceland. Grutas Tolantongo is one of the best hot springs that I have ever been to. The surrounding is just magical. The hot springs are about 200 kilometers from Mexico City, which translates about 4 hours of transport. The hot springs are located inside of Mexican highlands in state Hildago. There they are inside of the beautiful canyon. The location also means that there is a lot of things to do. So let’s start!
Best things to do in Grutas Tolantongo hot springs
As I mentioned before, the hot springs are located in the canyon in the middle of Mexico. This means that there is not only the geothermal river but also some caves and many more things to do. I would recommend getting a map at the beginning of your stay, so you can get an overview of what to do and where.
Explore and bathe in a cave
Perhaps one of the biggest attractions in the Grutas Tolantongo is to bathe in a cave. The cave has two entrances. The bigger one is open to anyone. Some ropes are helping both to go in and out of water. This is where the water is warmest, with about 35 degrees Celsius. It is mainly because the springs are starting somewhere in the cave and the water in the open cave is not mixing with the waterfall that is coming from up the hill and is relatively cold.
The other entrance of the cave is a little bit up the hill. It is not so open and there is a lot of dark places and you will need to get some sort of light. Before you just go there with the phone – you should know that even in the second entrance of the cave is a lot of water falling from different places on the walls. That means that you need to get some waterproof cover on your phone or a headlamp. There are a couple of really dark areas in the second entrance, but there is also a staff of the hot spring to help you around in these difficult areas.
The important thing to know here is the fact, that the cave is open every day from 8 am until 5 pm. After that, the area is closed so you cannot go there. Another thing to know is that you can only take a towel and phone to the caves themselves. It is probably for safety reasons. But right under the caves are lockers. The rent price is 50 MXN + you will need to pay another 50 MXN as a deposit.
Bathe in a geothermal river
There is a river that flows through the whole canyon from the caves and continues down to the valley. It has a bright blue color and it is gorgeous. You can bathe in the river, it is quite warm, generally, it has about 30 degrees celsius, so it is very pleasantly warm. The river isn’t too deep, it is about 160 centimeters the deepest. But most of the time it is just about 130 cm. It is not too wild, some cascades are slowing the steam down. At every cascade, you have an entrance in the form of sandbags that are helping out to get to the water easier.
Because the river isn’t too deep, I wouldn’t recommend jumping in it. There are some stones in the bottom, so in general, it is not the best option.
The great thing about this river is the fact, that because it is going through the whole canyon, even if other people are bathing too, you can almost always find your cascade, where you can be alone. It certainly doesn’t feel crowded.
Swimming in the geothermal pools
Because cave and geothermal river weren’t enough, there is another option for bathing. And that is bathing in the pools that are located on a cliff and filled with the geothermal water. You can get here pretty good infinity pools. And generally, even though the pools are man-made, they are very nice and relaxing. It is also free to come there and swim in them. However, the work on the pools is still in progress and we had to go through the reconstruction part when we were looking for the pools.
If you want to get from the river to the pools, it will take you about a 40-minute walk. The canyon is pretty big and the hike to the pools is badly marked, so you might get lost a little bit. But in another way, it is easy to hike to take. The hills aren’t too steep and in a lot of places, you have stairs. You can swim in the thermal pools from 8 am till 9 pm.
And finally, some other things than just bathing. There is a possibility to try ziplining in this canyon. The line isn’t too long, but it has all the safety requirements. Besides from the height, you will get to see the canyon from the whole different ankle. This zipline has 4 main stops and is 1890 meters long. The whole zipline experience costs 280 MXN and it is possible to do it from 8 am until 5 am. After that, they are closed.
For ziplining, it is probably best to wear dry clothes. They won’t allow you to have any backpacks there, but you can carry a phone or perhaps some other camera that is made for extreme sports.
One of my most favorite activities! The canyon is beautiful and full of trekking paths that you can explore by yourself. There are both paths along the river but also some that are steeper from where you can see the whole canyon. There are a lot of treks that are made for beginners and have stairs or ropes that you can hold on to. So you don’t have to worry too much about the difficulty of the hike.
Things you need to know about Grutas Tolantongo hot springs
Before I start to talk about accommodation and how to get there, there are a couple of things you should know about the place.
- There is no wifi. The place is very remote and it is hard to catch here any signal. That means not only the fact, that all the hotels are without wifi, but also that you cannot book the hotels in advance. They also don’t reply to any messages. It is not to be rude, more like they just don’t have a signal for these kinds of things.
- You need to pay for coming here. The entrance fee is 150 MXN per day, so if you are staying 2 nights, you still need to pay for three days. Kids under age 5 don’t have to pay any fee.
- Grutas Tolantongo hot springs have all the necessities. There are some shops, where you can buy a waterproof cover for your phone, you can also buy here sunscreens or water shoes. Note that if you are going to the caves, it is recommended to use biodegradable sunscreen, which you can buy just in the area. The reason for it is the fact, that caves have a relatively delicate ecosystem that shouldn’t be ruined by some other bacteria.
- There is also a grocery store, that is open every day from 8 am until 9 pm.
- The opening times and stores differ a lot. We went there to one restaurant that was supposed to be open every day but ended up being open only one of the days that we were there.
- They don’t accept cards, so cash is the king here. And when you are planning to pay cash, you need to have Mexican pesos. They don’t take dollars here.
- Almost no one speaks English here. Most of the time it is fine just to speak with your hands though if you cannot speak Spanish.
Accommodation in Grutas Tolantongo hot springs
There are several hotels in the area. Two of them are open all the time. They are called La Gruta hotel and Paradíso Escondido. Altogether they have a place for about 260 people, so even if you cannot boot the accommodation ahead, the chances of getting a room are still pretty decent. All the other hotels are open only during weekends and holidays.
The fanciest hotel that you can find here would be Molanguito. There you can even find wifi. But it isn’t running very fast. You can also find here tv and water can with hot water. All the other hotels just have rooms with necessities like wardrobe, shower – but don’t expect hot water – and bed.
Prices in the hotels are something about 600 MXN per night for two people. But it differs a lot through the different hotels. But the price overview is here.
Camping around Geothermal river
Except for fancy hotels, you can also choose to camp. The camping places are all around the river. Don’t worry if you don’t want to pack the whole tent just because of the trip. You can rent quite a big and comfortable tent for only 120 MXN per night. If you are planning to camp, there are only certain areas where it is allowed to make fire and it must be watched at all times.
Where to eat
Grutas Tolantongo hot springs have several options where you can find a place to eat. Generally, all the restaurants are open from 8 am – for breakfasts. They close at 10 pm when they are done with dinners. There are three restaurants, that have a slightly different schedule – some are open every day, some are closed on some days. It was very mysterious for me until I saw that there are opening times on the website.
Another budget option is something called Cocina Economica. Which is more like a fast-food kind of restaurant. There are a couple of them all around the area. They offer almost the same food as the restaurants, but often they have different opening times. They are also a little bit cheaper than the restaurants but not by far.
There is a lot of local food that is delicious. They have the best tacos I have ever eaten during my trip. There are also various Mexican plates with meat, cheese, and vegetables. I found some vegetarian and vegan options as well. In general, it feels like everyone can eat here as long as you expect something more local and not necessarily a hamburger.
Getting from Mexico city to Grutas Tolantongo hot springs
As I mentioned before, the Grutas Tolantongo hot springs are a relatively remote area. They are in state Hildago about 17 km from the town called Ixmiquilpan and about 200 km from Mexico City. Which means that it is simply too long for a day trip. There are several options to get here comfortably.
It is a lot about hopping from one bus to another, but it is still a comfortable thing to do. To come to Tolantongo by public transport you will first need to catch a bus that is going to Ixmiquilpan. It is called the Ovni bus and you can probably book the tickets ahead. Expect a price of about 200 MXN for one seat. But the Ovni bus is pretty nice, there is AC, TV and you can recline your seat so it is very comfortable.
Next thing. After about 2,5 hours on the Ovni bus, you will get to Ixmiquilpan. There you need to catch Colectivo transport that goes to the bus stations. It is fine to tell them just that you want to go to Tolantongo and they will know where to go. They will also point to the last shuttle. This little ride to another bus station will cost just about 10 MXN. It is also possible to walk there, but it is not the most straight-ahead road, so it is easy to get lost in the city.
The last shuttle goes directly to Tolantongo. It is just a small bus and it takes about an hour to get through these last 17 km. Mainly because it is a relatively rough terrain. The last shuttle cost only 50 MXN. So this way we spend only 260 MXN per person and about 4,5 hours in the transport.
Rent a car
I’m not that brave to rent a car in Mexico City, that is filled with cars. But that is my preference, you might see it differently. You can rent a car directly at the airport in Mexico City. It cost usually around 100 dollars per day, so if you are planning to spend one or two days in Tolantongo or just make some other trips, this could be a good option.
Make sure that you are driving during the day, there are some very nasty turns in the Tolantongo canyon.
This is probably the most expensive way, but it is possible. We arrived at the airport quite late so we didn’t have too much time for catching a bus. We decided to take a taxi. There are a couple of companies who offer that service from the airport. We decided to go with the company Secure Taxi, who gave us the best prices. It cost 250 dollars for two people. This might not seem too much but comparing the other options, it is still a lot.
Best time to visit Grutas Tolantongo hot springs
There are two aspects that you should think of when visiting Tolantongo. One of them is when the week is a good time. The reason for that is because it is a popular area for locals as well and when they have free time, it can get very crowded and hotels are relatively limited. So you should think about going on the working days from Monday to Thursday. Those days it is not going to be crowded.
Another thing is which time of year should you go. When we asked about which season is the best, the locals said that they have seasons all around the year. The only difference is that in October and November it is the rainy season, so the weather is not good. But all the other times it should be nice. Even though there might be some clouds or light rain.
If you are thinking about going to Tolantongo, I would recommend one, max two days to stay there. The area is relatively big but it is easy to go around and after the first day, we had an issue to find something entertaining for the other day.
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