Last Updated on December 15, 2022 by Janine
Wondering about how to visit the stunning Hidalgo, Mexico hot springs, Las Grutas de Tolantongo? Read on to learn how to get from Mexico City to Grutas Tolantongo and how to make the most of your visit!
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Zsuzsi and Dante of DeerTraveler. All photos are courtesy of DeerTraveler unless otherwise noted.
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Mexico is a country full of wonders; here you will find destinations for all tastes. Whether you prefer beautiful tropical beaches, lush jungles, peaceful forests, or expansive deserts, Mexico has everything.
Unfortunately, many tourists opt only to visit the most popular and “Instagrammable” places like Cancun or Tulum, overlooking that there is a whole country with waterfalls, jungles, and incredible natural attractions waiting for them.
In this article, we want to tell you about one of the greatest hidden gems in central Mexico: Las Grutas de Tolantongo, or, the Tolantongo Caves as they are often called in English. Gruta means “cave” in Spanish. This place got this name because here clear, hot water flows through caves to form hot springs.
Curious travelers will have to endure an adventurous journey to reach this place, but it’s totally worth it.
What is Grutas de Tolantongo?
This place is a little paradise located at the base of a canyon in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. Hidalgo is known for the natural thermal springs that emerge all around the state. Grutas de Tolantongo is one of the birthplaces of these water springs.
The water emerges from a cave creating an amazing interior pool crowned by a waterfall. Beyond this, a great river flows from the cave creating little hot spring pools on its route down the canyon.
If this doesn’t sound incredible enough, you need to know that the water is actually warm! You can spend a long time in las grutas without getting cold. This makes Tolantongo the perfect place to visit all year round.
Where is Grutas de Tolantongo located?
Grutas de Tolantongo is located very close to the town of Ixmiquilpan in Hidalgo State. It’s very close to Mexico City, so if you are staying there, it makes a great weekend trip from the city to enjoy with your friends or family.
During your trip, you should also visit the town of Ixmiquilpan to try the local food and pick up some beautiful souvenirs made by local artisans.
How to Get to Grutas de Tolantongo?
It’s easy to get to Grutas Tolantongo from Mexico City. You have two options to get there:
Getting from Mexico City to Grutas de Tolantongo by car:
If you have a car or you have rented one, you need to drive following these instructions:
- Drive north to take the México-Pachuca highway.
- Before arriving at Pachuca, you will see an exit to Actopan, Hidalgo.
- Following this direction, you will take the Pachuca-Ixmiquilpan highway and drive until reaching the town.
- Once there, on the main avenue, you will see the big supermarket Bodega Soriana, then take the exit to the right, located after two traffic lights passing the supermarket. You can take the OXXO store as a reference.
- The right exit will direct you to the “Libramiento a Cardonal.” On that route, follow the signs until you reach Las Grutas de Tolantongo.
This route will take approximately 3.5 hours.
Planning to rent a car in Mexico? Use Discover Cars to find the best rates!
IMPORTANT: Always drive in good weather conditions and never when you’re tired. The highways in Mexico can be dangerous at some points, and the route down to Grutas de Tolantongo is very steep. Always pay attention to the signals and drive carefully during rain or storms.
How to get to Grutas Tolantongo by bus from Mexico City
If you don’t have a car, you need to follow these steps to arrive at the Tolantongo Caves using Mexico’s bus system:
- Arrive at the North Bus Station in Mexico City (Central del Norte). You can arrive using the 5th Line of the subway Politécnico-Pantitlan, it is located in the station “Autobuses del Norte.”
- Go to platform number 7. At this one and the number 8, you will find the Ovnibus and Flecha Roja buses that go directly to Ixmiquilpan.
- Once arriving at Ixmiquilpan, take one of the little buses with the name “Mercado Morelos.” This little bus goes to the main market of the town.
- In the market, ask someone where the “San Antonio” parking lot is. Here you will find the buses that go to Grutas Tolantongo.
This trip will take you approximately 4 hours.
The Landmarks at Las Grutas de Tolantongo
The Grutas de Tolantongo are divided into four parts: the main cave, the tunnel, the pools, and the river. All of them with naturally hot water!
This place is the main source of warm water in Tolantongo. The fact that you enter the cave through a beautiful waterfall just makes the experience more memorable.
Even if the water inside is very warm, the waterfall is very cold, so just be ready for the cold entrance before enjoying the pool. Inside you will be able to see some of the traces that the water has been carving for thousands of years.
The exit of the cave has a security net to avoid accidents, don’t cross it!
The tunnel is next to the cave, a 40 meters long tube inside the rock. It’s also a water source. so it’s very warm, but you need to take care because it’s totally dark.
Bring a lamp so you can watch the path and move around without falling off or hitting a rock. The darkness and the warm water create a magical atmosphere inside the cave.
The tunnel entrance is located next to the main cave. It is a 40-meter-long tube inside of the rock. Water is also coming out of here so it’s very warm!
Even though the tunnel has some security guys with lamps inside, we recommend you bring a waterproof lamp with you. Take small steps and don’t go too fast inside to avoid injuries.
The Tolantongo River
You can swim in a lot of rivers in the world, but in how many places can you find a river with warm water? The river has a stunning blue color and it‘s divided into little quadrants where you can swim and relax.
The current of the river gets a bit stronger at the lower edge of each quadrant, so take care when you swim next to them, but if you swim in the middle of them you won’t have any problem.
The bottom of the river is short so you can just walk or chill in place if you don’t want to swim.
The Tolantongo pools
This section of Grutas is in an elevated zone of the canyon, where you can watch the amazing sight of the river and the mountains that surround the pools.
These little pools are also supplied by a spring located at the top of the mountain. The pools are handmade, but that doesn’t take away from the magic. You can get incredible shots from here!
The route between the pools and the base of the river is long and steep. You can take a little bus for 10 pesos to take you to the top and back.
Tours to the Tolantongo Caves
While nothing beats spending the night sleeping near the hot springs, a tour is a convenient and efficient way to visit this stunning destination.
You can visit Las Grutas de Tolantongo on a day trip from Mexico City. Don’t be fooled, it will be a long day, but it’s definitely worth the effort!
If you’re traveling solo, group tours make it easy to share experiences and make friends with fellow travelers.
Plus, having a guide offers tremendous peace of mind, so you aren’t left second-guessing whether you got on the right bus or got off at the wrong stop, especially if you don’t speak Spanish very well.
- Tolantongo Caves Tour with Swim in Hot Springs and Waterfalls: This full-day tour leaves Mexico City first thing in the morning and includes round-trip transportation. Once you reach Tolantongo, you’ll have the chance to explore the “Hidden Paradise” section of the hot springs, which is home to over 40 thermal pools, caves, a suspension bridge, a zipline, and more. It’s sure to be an unforgettable experience. Click here to book your spot!
Where to stay at Grutas de Tolantongo
There is a hotel there that has rooms with AC and other amenities, although it is a little bit expensive and it is usually full.
The best part of visiting the Grutas is that it is very safe for camping, so we recommend you give it a try. You can bring your own equipment or rent a tent when you arrive.
If you’d rather not rough it, check for nearby stays on Expedia!
You can also use the map below to locate hotels and vacation rentals near the Tolantongo Caves.
Grutas Tolantongo is full of restaurants where you can eat some delicious food for very good prices. Don’t miss the chance to try some quesadillas, tacos, or tortas! And of course, some cocktails made with good quality tequila.
Continue Planning Your Trip!
Mexico Guide Books
This Mexico phrasebook will help you communicate, even if your Spanish skills are lacking.
This Mexico travel guide is packed with all the info you could ever need.
I use a combination of Booking, Airbnb, and VRBO to find accommodation throughout Mexico.
Booking.com is awesome for booking hotels and resorts, while Airbnb and VRBO specialize in apartments and villa rentals, making it a great place to find long-term stays.
Some cities in Mexico have more listings on VRBO than Airbnb (or vice versa), so it’s best to check both to find the perfect place!
Rental cars add tons of flexibility to your travel plans. If you opt to rent one, I recommend using Discover Cars to find the best rates!
Skyscanner is my favorite tool for finding the best deals on airfare.
Never leave home without travel insurance.
SafetyWing offers super-affordable policies that cover things like medical expenses, trip interruption, and lost luggage. They even offer coverage for some expenses related to COVID-19. Their policies are particularly great for long-term travelers, making them a great option for Mexico.
There’s no question that knowing basic Spanish is wildly beneficial in Mexico. It helps you stay aware of your surroundings, solve problems, and make friends!
RocketSpanish has a well-structured program that will take you from bumbling to conversational in just a few modules. Start your free trial today!
Still have questions?
Join my Female Travelers in Mexico Facebook group, a supportive community of fellow Mexico travel enthusiasts, where you can find answers to all your travel questions!
DeerTraveler was founded by Zsuzsi (Hungary) and Dante (Mexico), an international travel couple. The deer for us is the symbol of adventures and closeness to nature, and it represents someone who can also be brave, but humble at the same time. We created DeerTraveler to inspire everyone to travel, and to help backpackers on their trips with our travel guides and tips. DeerTraveler is a travel blog for eco-conscious backpackers.