Agua Azul Waterfalls

Agua Azul, lime formations
Agua Azul, lime formations. / Kaleenxian, Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

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.

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GPS coordinates
17.2567 N 92.1153 W
Location, address
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
many snaller drops up to 6 m high
Xanil River

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

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.

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

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 the lush rainforest on both sides of the river. Few places in the world have such a special, unusual beauty.

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 the stream though becomes less attractive – it is muddy and brown.

Agua Azul, Chiapas
Agua Azul, Chiapas. / Richard Weil, Flickr / 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
Upper part of Agua Azul. / Graeme Churchard, Flickr / 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.

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