While looking for cool things to do on our way to Teotihuacan, we somehow stumbled upon the majestic Tolantongo, a mountain oasis offering both commercially-enhanced hot spring pools, and La Gloria, a natural springs, a thermal waterfall, a steam cave and a unique tunnel. This place was amazing. Nothing at all like what we were picturing in our heads, having found reviews using iOverlander (a wireless phone app for overland travel) but no pictures. We imagined a modest hike-in, hike-out hot spring on mostly undeveloped land (we happen to love little places like that) and when we arrived, we realized that it was actually more like a full-scale adventure resort. And one of really fantastic design, I have to admit. It even had a zipline overhead that looked like a lot of fun!
Our journey through the incredibly steep and rugged Sierra Gorda mountains led us to this jaw-dropping canyon. As we descended down the switchbacks, we began to make out what was Tolantongo: the entire side of one jagged rocky cliff planted firmly at the base of a magnificent river valley of warm, minty water.
When we arrived at the gate, we still didn't quite know what to expect. We were allowed to camp overnight in a designated parking area. The reviews for this place were all really good, so we decided to buy a two-day pass, figuring we would enjoy a couple of relaxing days unwinding after such a long day in the truck. We were given a map of the premises and directions to two different areas: the upper thermal pools, and the lower river that led to a natural cascade, grotto, and a tunnel. Since it was after sunset, we opted for the thermal pools, looking forward to soaking our tight muscles. Plus, the temperature at this high elevation was pretty chilly. Nothing sounded better than a hot tub and a cold beer!
We spent that night and the following morning hopping from pool to pool in this cliff-side paradise. There were over 30 individual mineral pools, all of different sizes and temperatures, fed from several sources of volcanically-heated hot mineral springs, all cascading down the edge of this wonderous mountain.
Next, we descended below the pools to what was a massive rope bridge connecting one end of the land to the other, and more thermal pools on the adjacent side. Indiana Jones style. It was a long way down! But what stunning panoramic views! The tops of the mountains were enveloped in mist, and below, various cacti and wild pointsettas were alive with color.
Or... if the bridge is too scary, there is another way to reach the other side: check out this killer tunnel of lava-hot mineral water. Joey has been seriously obsessed with bridges and tunnels ever since our stay here.
The park was quickly flling up with friendly campers and after we arrived, we learned that it was a holiday weekend in Mexico, accounting for a lot more people than usual. Tents were popping up in unlikely corners as families set up for some serious festivities: bbq, coolers, frisbees, soccer balls, acoustic instruments. We decided to go over to the other end of the park to check out the grotto and the steam tunnel before it was too crowded.
The river was a delightfully warm and clear, getting its color from the mineral salts in the limestone. Near the deepest part of this box canyon, you will find the grotto- a huge cave with warm water to about waist high. Already about 100 people were gathered inside and both the echoes of the voices and the sound of the cascade waters tumbling down the porous stone created quite an orchestra of music. Unfortunately, we didn't get any photos of the inside of the grotto. Next time, we will bring a ziplock bag for our camera!
In the picture below, you can make out the entrance to the steam tunnel; a 45 ft deep, narrow opening in the rock. And directly behind us, the opening to the cave. Our three-day stay here at Tolantongo was incredibly rejuvenating. We were so wrinkly after marinating in these powerfully purifying waters. It was like a baptism in nature. Such a special, special place on this planet, and yet again, a place we hope to return to one day.