One of world’s largest systems of limestone terraces is Agua Azul Waterfalls in Chiapas, Mexico. Here Xanil River descends from a steep hill, over the disctance of some six kilometres forming some 500 cascades.

Limestone terraces

The total height of all the cascades is around 200 meters. Nevertheless, this can not be counted as one waterfall as the distance between separate steps sometimes is quite large.

The steps of Agua Azul Waterfalls – gours – have been formed by the river itself because the river water is rich with lime and deposits this substance on its way. Fallen trees and even living trees on the way of the stream are encased in lime. Lime has colored the water in a beautiful turquoise and green color. This color contrasts with the brown and white lime as well as lush rainforest on both sides of the river. Few places in the world have such a special, unusual beauty.

Agua Azul waterfalls, Mexico
Agua Azul waterfalls, Mexico / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0

During the dry period of the year in December – July visitors can enjoy the beautiful blue and green color of the water in falls. When the rainy period comes, there is more water in falls making them more impressive. At high water the color of stream though becomes less attractive – it is muddy and brown.

Agua Azul, Chiapas
Agua Azul waterfalls, Chiapas. / Richard Weil, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tourism industry

This miracle of nature is a protected area since 1980. The tourism industry has evolved here – visitors come to walk along the stream, many take a bath in selected, safe basins. Many places though are dangerous for swimming because one can get washed over the cliffs or dragged under sharp cliffs. Rather few visitors walk uphill, to the upper part of falls. Then they are rewarded with gorgeous views and, often, solitude away from the countless tourist traps in the village.

Upper part of Agua Azul waterfalls
Upper part of Agua Azul waterfalls. / Graeme Churchard, / CC BY 2.0

After the Chiapas earthquake on September 8, 2017, the rocks cracked and most of the water bypassed the tufa formations. It seems, some blame lies also with local companies taking away the water. In order to keep the tourism industry running, local people partly restored Agua Azul Waterfalls in a few months time.

Not too far is Misol-Ha waterfall and many more beautiful waterfalls.

Agua Azul Waterfalls on the map
Travelers' Map is loading...
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Location, GPS coordinates: 17.2567 N 92.1153 W
Categories: Waterfalls, Spring tufa, travertine and other formations
Values: Geology, Visual
Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
Where is located? North America, Mexico, Chiapas, Tumbalá and Chilón Municipalities, on Xanil River until its fall in Tulija River
Name in Spanish: Cascadas de Agua Azul (“Blue Water Cascades”)
Total height: ?
Drops: many snaller drops up to 6 m high
Width: ?
Average annual flow: ? m3/s
Stream: Xanil River

Landmarks of Mexico

El Castillo pyramid, Chichen Itza
El Castillo pyramid, Chichen Itza / , Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Few countries of the world can offer such array of unique and astounding attractions as Mexico.

Area of this country was a cradle of several highly developed indigenous civilizations and some regions in the country are dotted with remnants of ancient cities with temples, palaces, and pyramids.

Waterfalls and rapids

Virginia Falls, Canada
Virginia Falls / Paul Gierszewski, / public domain
Some of the most fascinating and awe inspiring natural monuments are waterfalls, or locations where a river abruptly changes its elevation.

Recommended books

Ruins, Caves, Gods, and Incense Burners: Northern Lacandon Maya Myths and Rituals

The Lacandon Maya are a small-scale forest society currently on the brink of extinction. Small groups of Northern Lacandon escaped evangelization by dispersing into the jungle, moving from the Guatemalan Petén to Chiapas in southern Mexico during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Several groups maintained their traditional religion until the late twentieth century.

Travellers’ Wildlife Guides Southern Mexico: The Cancun Region, Yucatan Peninsula, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco

For travelers interested in wildlife, Beletsky, a wildlife biologist and zoology instructor, provides descriptions of the ecology, behavior, and conservation of about 400 species of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds in southern Mexico, focusing on the Yucatán Peninsula, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. Aiming to present information in one compact volume, he focuses on animals that travelers are most likely to see.

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