The natural fresh-water springs at Hierve el Agua were incredible (and cold!). The water is very high in calcium carbonate, and the minerals have formed these natural pools and crazy waterfall-like rock formations. The dusty road was somewhat harrowing, we had to make way for quite a few donkeys packing some serious loads. (And the formerly white rental car came out of the experience with a light yellow coating.) But the view over the valley of Oaxaca was unbelievable, and the meal we had at one of the stands was delicious. We were there in December; it was clear and warm and perfect.
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This Is How You Buy Mezcal
A crucial item learned on this trip: if mezcal is smokey it means it's not well-made. At this palenque, on the road to Hierve del Agua outside Oaxaca City, we tried about 8 different mezcals. He had infused ones too, that tasted very much like grappa. We bought a liter of tobala and one of pechuga (which involves a chicken breast in the distillation process—somehow resulting in an incredibly smooth drink). Those plastic jugs couldn't come home on the plane with us, we had to buy glass bottles, corks, and sealing wax. They arrived home in our luggage, still sealed (surprisingly) and untouched by customs.