Papallacta, what to do?
You may have heard about a small village with more than a dozen thermal baths just outside Quito… Well, my dear wanderer, let me introduce you to one of Ecuador’s most relaxing chapters: Papallacta, what to do!
Papallacta is set in an Andean valley at a chilly 3,225 meters (10,580 ft) elevation. Located only two hours from Quito, you can enjoy some of the best views of the Ecuadorian highlands while soaking yourself in therapeutic waters.
Doesn’t this sound delightful?
Top 5 things to do at Papallacta
There is more to enjoy than thermal baths, so here are the top 5 Papallacta, what to do!
The biggest, most upscale and popular baths are the Termas de Papallacta, a complex with several thermal pools, a well-equipped spa, a restaurant, a medical center for emergencies, and accommodation in luxurious cabanas. This impressive place may seem pricey but worth every penny.
Yeah, but even if you aren’t looking for accommodation and still want to experience the thermal pools there is an affordable option to visit the premises and enjoy the pools for $9,00. Also, visiting during the week is the best idea if you’re looking for some peace and quiet.
But, of course, this isn’t the only option!
Santa Catalina This community-owned complex is less expensive and still very enjoyable, with a variety of pools including one for kids and an Olympic-sized pool for practicing your swimming skills.
Six km. (3.7 mi) before Papallacta is Jamanco Communal Pools, with hot and cold pools, a Jacuzzi, steam room, accommodations, and restaurant. The nearby Termas El Pantanal offers accommodations, a restaurant, and a hiking trail for a reasonable price.
HIKING AND BIRDWATCHING
Papallacta is located between the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and the Antisana Ecological Reserve, which makes it the ideal place for hiking and birdwatching.
Visit Papallacta Lagoon, located in the buffer zone of Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. The dark and deep tone of its waters, surrounded by fantastic Andean vegetation, makes this lake worth photographing. Ask the locals about the story of the “protector father” of the lagoon.
Canyon Ranch (owned by Termas de Papallacta), located at the entrance of Cayambe-Coca National Park, provides five walking trails, some to waterfalls, others with views of the Antisana and Cayambe volcanoes. All of them offer excellent hiking among glacial lakes and crumbling hills, where it’s possible to see wolves and deer.
The statue of the Virgin on the south side of the road marks the trailhead for a couple of four- to six-hour hikes: the Sendero de Agua y Vida and Sendero del Oso.
Are you blessed with a good sense of orientation? Excellent! But I still recommend you to hire a local guide since it’s easy to get lost in this area.
Rising from cloud forest at 1,400 meters (4,600 ft), the Antisana Ecological Reserve – with its snow-covered Volcán Antisana (5,704 m/18,714 ft) at its heart – offers you the best views of the Ecuadorian páramo. One of the best places in the country to see the magnificent condor, it’s home to over 400 bird species, spectacled bears, pumas, wolves, and mountain tapir. So don’t forget to bring your camera and binoculars!
Papallacta and its surroundings also offer some excellent biking. From the town up to Banos Lagoon is a route of 7,7 km. (4,76 miles) that takes you past rivers and waterfalls before arriving at the lagoon.
If you are a tough biker you may prefer something more challenging, like the route Papallacta – Baeza. This tour of 34,18 km. (21,24 miles) will leave you awestruck with the amazing highlands landscape!
Since you are in paradise, why not give yourself a treat?
Most of the accommodations in Papallacta have a spa that can provide massages and other wellness packages. Termas de Papallacta is the swankiest option!
Don’t miss the chance to try local cuisine in Papallacta. The specialty is trucha (trout), normally accompanied with rice – of course – and some fresh salad and potatoes or cassava.
Also try a glass of freshly squeezed jugo de caña (sugarcane juice).
The small restaurants nearby the hot springs offer these hearty meals and other dishes for a very reasonable price.
Do you fancy a day trip in Papallacta?
Maybe you don’t have enough time to spend a night in Papallacta?
No worries! Papallacta also makes a good day trip. How cool!
The journey from Quito to Papallacta usually takes around two hours, so depart the capital early in the morning so you can start your day with a hike on one of the trails – the camera, don’t forget the camera! Enjoy a fresh trout for lunch before heading to the thermal baths, where you can spend a couple of hours and relax your muscles. At the end of the afternoon, you can enjoy a fantastic massage or a facial – or maybe both! – and then watch the sunset from the hot springs before traveling back to the city.
This day trip is “a thing” for Quiteños at weekends, so make sure to book your accommodation in advance or you might miss out!
What to do next?
After some well-deserved self-indulgence in Papallacta, I especially recommend the following options for continuing with your Ecuadorian journey:
- To the north: Quito, the capital. Get ready for the metropolis! Take a wander around the Old Town and its magnificent architecture, the city parks, then on to La Ronda for “vino hervido” (hot wine) to stay warm on the chilly nights! And don’t forget that the Middle of the World is nearby!
- To the south: Just 40 kilometers (25 mi) southeast of Papallacta you will find Baeza, an attractive and well-kept town founded in the 16th century, with a few streets of colonial houses, gardens full of flowers and lots of birdsong in a tropical climate. There is excellent hiking, rafting, kayaking, and bird-watching nearby. Almost 110 km. (68 miles) from Baeza you will find the Amazonian town Misahuallí – welcome to the land of the monkeys!
We know you have the desire to explore, and we have the right pass for your adventure!
- Wander Pass Express: This roundtrip tour includes some of the best sites in the highlands and the jungle: Quito, Cotopaxi, Quilotoa, Baños, Puyo, Puerto Misahuallí, Paikawe Lagoon, Tena, Santa Rita community, and finally, Papallacta thermal springs.
- Cotinga Pass: Are you in Baños and heading to the Ecuadorian capital? This is your pass! Stops include Puyo, Puerto Misahuallí, Piakawe Lagoon, Tena, Santa Rita community, and Papallacta thermal springs.
Good news! The Papallacta hot springs spa -at Termas de Papallacta complex- entrance fee of $23 is included in your ticket!
Happy hot springs!!!