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Hoya de las Guaguas

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

WorldBlue  In short

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.

4.7 out of 10 stars 47.3%

GPS coordinates
21.5309 N 99.0339 W
Location, 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)
478 m, entrance shaft – 202 m
16 million m³

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

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 the beautiful tropical forest covering the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains. The sinkhole has been shaped by water in lower Cretaceous limestone.

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

Cross section of Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole in Mexico, compared with Boeing 747-400
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. The entrance in this next part is 90 m tall and 80 m wide. Here the cave becomes even larger and this chamber belongs to the largest cave chambers in 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 the sinkhole to 478 m. The floor of the 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 / 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".


  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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Great Blue Hole / Eric Pheterson, Flickr / CC BY 2.0


This category includes outstanding sinkholes – large natural depressions or holes, which for most the part represent collapsed caves.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Hypogene Karst Regions and Caves of the World

This book illustrates the diversity of hypogene speleogenetic processes and void-conduit patterns depending on variations of the geological environments by presenting regional and cave-specific case studies. The cases include both well-known and newly recognized hypogene karst regions and caves of the world. They all focus on geological, hydrogeological, geodynamical, and evolutionary contexts of hypogene speleogenesis.

Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science

The Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science contains 350 alphabetically arranged entries. The topics include cave and karst geoscience, cave archaeology and human use of caves, art in caves, hydrology and groundwater, cave and karst history, and conservation and management. The Encyclopedia is extensively illustrated with photographs, maps, diagrams, and tables, and has thematic content lists and a comprehensive index to facilitate searching and browsing.

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