Hoya de las Guaguas

Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole, Mexico
Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole / Sergio Alexandro, / CC BY 2.0
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 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 incredible abyss amidst the lush wilderness of the tropical forest. 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 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 in Mexico. Notice the people in the opposite site
Hoya de las Guaguas sinkhole. Notice the people in the opposite site / Sergio Alexandro, Flickr / 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 Ruta.com. Accessed on July 10, 2010
  2. Hoya de las Guaguas by PromoTurQueretaro.com. Accessed on July 10, 2010

Hoya de las Guaguas on the map

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Location, GPS coordinates: 21.5309 N 99.0339 W
Categories: Sinkholes
Values: Geology, Visual, Biology
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
Where is located? 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

Video of Hoya de las Guaguas

Robert Lannon, January 2013

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 the 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.


World's deepest sinkhole - Xiaozhai tiankeng, with tourist route visible
World’s deepest sinkhole – Xiaozhai tiankeng, with tourist route visible / Brookqi, Wikimedia Commons, public domain
Category includes outstanding sinkholes – large natural depressions or holes, which for most part represent collapsed caves.

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