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Hoya de las Guaguas

Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole, Mexico
Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole / Sergio Alexandro, / CC BY 2.0

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 21.5309 N -99.0339 W
No:126        (list of all attractions)
Values:Geology, Visual, Biology
Address:North America, Mexico, San Luis Potosí, 17 km north from Xilitla, 2 km north-east from Tampaxal
Alternate names:Sotano de las Guaguas, Sótano de las Huahuas, Xoc-Guaguas (in Huasteca language)
Depth:478 m, entrance shaft - 202 m
Volume:16 million m³

The ancient land of Huastecs in Sierra Madre Oriental mountains is extremely rich with amazing natural attractions. One of them is the enormous sinkhole - Hoya de las Guaguas.

Giant hole in tropical forest

Hoya de las Guaguas is the largest sinkhole by volume in San Luis Potosí, beating in this respect even the famous Sótano de las Golondrinas.

Entrance into this sinkhole is located in beautiful tropical forest covering the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains. Sinkhole has been shaped by water in lower Cretaceous limestone.

Entrance shaft is impressive hole, 70 by 45 m large. Maximum depth of this hole is 202 m, but ascent can be made at 143 m depth as well. It looks like incredible abyss amidst the lush wilderness of tropical forest. Walls of abyss are covered with thick blanket of lichen and moss. Sunlight reaches the bottom of the first chamber for few hours per day and here grow large ferns - up to 1.5 m tall. Air in the sinkhole is moist and chilly.

Cross section of Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole
Cross section of Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole, compared with Boeing 747-400 / Gatis Pāvils, basing on Ralph, 1979, "Stranded on the bottom of Hoya de las Guaguas", CC-BY-SA-3.0

Length of the first chamber is approximately 224 m, width at the widest part - 159 m.

Soon after the first abyss there comes next - it is 153 m deep. Entrance in this next part is 90 m tall and 80 m wide. Here the cave becomes even larger and this chamber belongs to largest cave chambers of the world. It is 184 m long, 158 m wide and up to 290 m tall.

Floor of this deeper chamber is uneven, with lots of blocks collapsed from the roof. Here comes very little natural light. Here among the enormous blocks of rock was found a crevice which brings the total depth of sinkhole to 478 m. The floor of sinkhole most certainly is further below.

Cave was researched by Mexican cavers in 1967 - 1968.


Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole, Mexico
Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole. Notice the people in the opposite site / Sergio Alexandro, / CC BY 2.0

Similar to Sótano de las Golondrinas here live thousands of white-collared swifts (Streptoprocne zonaris Shaw, 1796) in the holes of walls. Birds use this natural wonder as an opportunity to protect their nests. But this ends up with numerous predators waiting at the entrance of sinkhole - thus swifts have to fly possibly fast past the entrance. In evenings the birds gather in large swarms and then all simultaneously fall into it with whistling sound.

In the morning, as their day starts, swifts ascend the giant cave - they fly in circles, gradually rising up to the entrance. This is very impressive sight luring many tourists to this sinkhole.

Cave has been named aftter parrots who also live here. Parrot in Huasteca language is "guagua".


See Hoya de las Guaguas on the map of Mexico!


  1. Hoya de las Guaguas by G.M.Alta Accessed on July 10, 2010
  2. Hoya de las Guaguas by Accessed on July 10, 2010

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