Grutas de Tolantongo, Hidalgo, Mexico
A unique spot at the bottom of a canyon in Mexico’s central semi-arid region, in a volcanic zone, just north of Mexico City (four-hour drive). Aquifers emerge from caves (“grutas”) in a mountain, turning up loads of water at 40 degrees centigrade, feeding multiple pools (see picture). Tolantongo is referred to as the “Grand Canyon” of Mexico, as many locals have been migrant workers in Arizona. This enterprise is an Ejido cooperative whose goal is social and environmental sustainability. Governance is centred on the general assembly as the main decision maker. In contrast to other communities in the state of Hidalgo, which continue to push many youth into migration to the North, Tolantongo, is now experiencing return migration, as the cooperative has generated strong “multiplier effects” in the region.
Vegetation ranges from a variety of beautiful cacti to tropical papaya. Activities include trekking by stunning horticultural plots, swimming or lying in sulphuric water in the multiple pools, a very deep tunnel that feels like a sauna with hot water, and the caves that feature a natural downpour of hot water about a metre wide. There’s also a “tirolesa” (translated as flying fox, zip wire, aerial runway, death slide, and tyrolean crossing): two kilometres long with four sections, so you can choose to do the first section only, with the option to go ahead to the rest or stop there. By international standards, this is a very inexpensive place to visit. It has several stores for groceries, souvenirs, camping, swimming, and hiking gear, and two restaurants with acceptable food (not great) and drinks.
Three options for staying there are: bringing your own tent, renting one, or staying in the hotel. There are only 160 rooms, very modest and basic, and no reservations are possible. If you really want to stay in a room, make sure to go from Monday to Wednesday or early Thursday, as it is next to impossible to get one on weekends or most Summer days starting in early July, when it goes into full to capacity. Room #35 has the best view, but it is also the smallest, with only one full size bed that barely fits. My picture was taken from this room’s terrace, which has two chairs to enjoy the evening (it can get hot in the afternoon, as it faces West).
Getting to Grutas de Tolantongo is a bit of a challenge. DO NOT drive a big camper: you may well make it down, but it will be very difficult to come back up. The last eight kilometres of the road are unpaved with very sharp curves—the worst I’ve seen in my life. Driving an automatic Honda Accord, I had to lower the shift to first in at least five of those curves. There is also public transportation several days per week, with service every hour on weekends from Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo. It takes three hours to go from Mexico City to Ixmiquilpan, via Pachuca, the capital of the state of Hidalgo, and another hour to Tolantongo.
The official web site is: http://grutastolantongo.com.mx/ but notice that no reservations are possible, as there are no land phone lines there, so no credit cards are accepted either; only cash.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.