Papallacta, Ecuador – a town synonymous for relaxation, hot springs and pampering.
Even the backpacker, especially the backpacker, needs the occasional day of rejuvenation and where better to do that than high up in the Andes, where recent volcanic activity heats underground springs to high temperatures?
When in Rome…
Nothing more than a few restaraunts and a panadería, Papallacta is a town built solely around the thermal waters that bubble and seep to the surface, if you walk or ride along the road past the Y (where the road splits and goes to Quito) you will pass resort after resort, hostel after hostel, each offering something a little different.
Of course the road ends in the famous five star resort, Termas Papallacta, that all the guide books rave about – it’s a little pricey but all reviews are positive. However for this review we decided to go off the beaten path a bit, to an atmosphere that was not quite so foreign to us broke backpackers, and where pampering came just as easily.
Climbing the road we passed Pampallactes Termales on the right. This little hospedaje was tucked into a corner on the hill. The stone walls and rooms were inviting, but we were solely here to soak. There were three main pools at this springs, which for the afternoon and evening provided more than enough space and variety of temperature. The Dueña also boasted an affordable and complete menu as well as spa treatments. Dirt bagging it as we are, we opted solely for the soak, but I do regret not giving her ¨magic hands massages¨ a shot.
The first pool is hot with a small, cold wading pool beside it. There is also a sauna and steam room adjacent with the second and third pools were warm but not quite so hot as the first. You could comfortably soak in these for an indefinite amount of time.
But the biggest sat outside, in the courtyard of the hostel. The second is partially underground, beneath some rooms and walled in with stones and a few windows.
We ran into three other guests the entire time and otherwise had the place to ourselves. The hostería had a rugged cabin feel and peeking into the rooms it appeared each one had a fire place and a cozy tub to soak in at night.
My overall review of the hostería is good, and I regretted being restricted by both budget and time though.
For a quick afternoon stop I say it is a must do. The aguas termales may be smaller and have less variety than the heavily advertised resort, they are an excellent budget option that does not disappoint. The springs are also far less crowded, which for me is more important than the number of hot springs available.
The dueña is kind and motherly, speaks excellent english and is honest and up front about everything. If you want full disclosure on the prices of all the places around you, she will show you where it is cheaper and even show you up to the resort if you desire.
Soaking in hot springs is not an ordinary activity for the average backpacker, but you cannot pass up the opportunity if you find yourself near these volcanic heated waters. All along the Andes you can find baños and aguas termales, however here in Papallacta were the nicest I had seen all three months I´ve been exploring the area.
This is a guest post by Kiki Wystra – one of my travel buddies form Montanita – she blogs over at http://belayingtheinevitable.weebly.com and is currently back in the USA working as a rafting guide in the Grand Canyon! Epic!