Visit the hot springs of Papallacta? Yes,… or better No?

After your decision to Travel to Ecuador (see Intro), one of the first questions you could ask yourself is: Visit Papallacta, Yes or No?

A question a lot of visitors ask us, when visiting our Hotel/Restaurant in the northern Andean market town of Otavalo. To answer that question, first you have to know where I’m talking about.

  • Throughout most posts on this travel blog you’ll find affiliated links provided by TravelPayOuts. Links & Ads that may help you plan your next trip to Ecuador. If you click on them & buy a ticket for a museum, book a tour, a hotel or flight a small commission of your purchase will go to me (paid by TravelPayOuts, and – most importantly – not by you).

A visit to …. Papallacta?

Papallacta (altitud 3300m/ 10.827ft) is a small village, not far from Quito (67km, about 1 hour drive). On the way from the capital to the Amazon-jungle.

  • Note: Although still located at high altitude, Papallacta formally is part of the first Amazon-province you encounter leaving the capital. The Napo-province, named after the river that’s one of the main suppliers of water for the Amazon River.
Overview of the village of Papallacta.
The village of Papallacta.

Papallacta’s main attractions

Papallacta is (historically) known, mainly for its thermal baths. Natural hot springs that are fed by the nearby volcano Antisana (5758m/18.891ft), the 4th highest of Ecuador. After the Chimborazo, Cotopaxi & Cayambe.

Mt. Antisana, Ecuador 4th highest mountain.
Mt. Antisana, Ecuador 4th highest mountain.
The thermal baths of Papallacta
The thermal baths of Papallacta.

Besides the springs though, Papallacta features beautiful natural surroundings. Ideal for hiking, biking, horse riding, just to hang around or a relaxing picnic. A healthy, inspiring natural outdoor region really.

Is Papallacta worth a visit? Yes or No.

My first response would always be: “Yes…! Absolutely, Yes.” But of course it depends on your wishes & budget.

Reasons to visit Papallacta

The most important reason to visit Papallacta is to relax.

The hot springs are just there to bathe in them. Why? I would say: “Because they’re there” (quoting George Mallory (1886-1924), “Because it’s there!” after he was asked why he wanted to conquer Mt. Everest in the early 20th century.

“Because they’re there”. Nothing else. You don’t have to do anything. Just enjoy the warm water and look out over the beautiful natural surroundings. The only choice is when to enter the baths & when to leave. And maybe…if you dare switch from time to time to an icy cold bath??? But only if you want, like, can….

A more relaxing place you won’t find in Ecuador. It’s a real paradise. A paradisiacal place for Body & Soul.

Public Pool Papallacta
Impression of public baths Papallacta.

Reasons not to visit Papallacta

  • If you don’t like bathing, or putting on swimwear …. forget it.
  • Another reason not to go, can be the altitude & the cold climate.

True, the baths are located round & about 3300m/10827ft). In the evenings it gets chilly. However, when you’re sitting in a warm bath and don’t do too much, you don’t feel the cold, nor the altitude. TIP: Important though, take it easy! For example, when you get up to leave the bath.

  • A further reason to skip Papallacta can be the fact that it’s not included in the route you planned through Ecuador. Or simply doesn’t fit in the overall plan.

If you pass through Papallacta though – instead of staying the night there – consider a brief stop. 1,5 to 2 hours will do (see below, How to get there).

  • A last reason to NOT visit Papallacta is your budget. The main hotel & baths – that’s where most visitors stay & go – are rather expensive.

True, but there are some alternatives.

Where to stay in Papallacta

Because of the thermal baths, you’ll find several hotels & restaurants in Papallacta (for every budget). In the village itself, or around the main sources of the Hot Springs.

Termas de Papallacta

The Termas de Papallacta resort is a luxurious place where most visitors stay the night. National & International. Individually or in groups. They also occupy the best location and feature dozens of baths (some smoking hot, mostly warm, others luke-warm or ice-cold). Many of the thermal pools are only available for hotel-guests, but others sections are public . All rather pricey. More so, if you travel on a tight budget. Still, a paradise to stay for a night or two.

Other hotels nearby

Alternatively, there’s the option to stay & eat in a cheaper hotel and/or restaurant nearby. You’ll find several places , just outside the gate of the Termas or else, in the village of Papallacta itself (a short taxi/pick-up ride away).

Some of these hotels have their own thermal pools, but – of course – it’s also possible to visit the public pools (Balneario) or more luxurious Spa of the Termas itself (Open daily from 6:00am – 10:30pm, entrance fee is $9 or $23 respectively. That is the price for adults. Half the price for children & people over 65.)

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Entrance to the public pools of the Termas de Papallacta
Entrance to the Balneario of the Termas de Papallacta.
  • Note: The main difference between the Balneario & the Spa – besides its price – is the fact that the pools of the Spa feature different types of hydromassages. Also, at the Spa it’s possible to arrange a massage (preferably, beforehand, not included in the entrance fee).

To learn more & see if a room in one of the hotels (5 total) is still available, click on:

Day trip from Quito

If you can’t stay in or near Papallacta but have time to spare while staying in Quito, it’s possible to make a day trip from the capital (an hour’s distance). Highly recommended if you need a day to relax flying on or out of the country.

To learn more, click on: Day-trip to Papallacta (several options).

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Other activities around Papallacta

The area around Papallacta is ideal for hiking. There are several options along the road from Quito. For example, near the highest point (around 4000m/ 13.123ft), marked by a little chapel. Another option is a hike to the antennas, just across from the chapel where you’ll find several smaller lakes. When lucky, you can get magnificent views of the Antisana volcano at this spot.

To the right of the entrance of the Balneario is the starting point of a short, but beautiful hiking trail. It belongs to the Termas de Papallacta resort ($2, about an hour hike). The trail leads to a river, the same that borders the Public bath area.

The river that passes along the public pools of Papallacta.
The river that passes along the public pools of Papallacta.
  • Note: Actually this area is the “front porch” of the Reserva Ecológica Cayambe-Coca. To enter that unique natural park, you need your own transport & a permission to traverse it. A permission you have to arrange beforehand to be able to pass the entrance gate 4 km/ 2,5 miles from the Termas.
Entrance sign to National Park Cayambe-Coca.
  • After two hours, you’ll find another entrance gate, near Oyacachi. Here’s where you leave the park. With options to continue on to Cayambe & Otavalo (where our Beautiful hotel is located). Or (turning right) to visit the Hidden village of Oyacachi. All destinations described in earlier posts on this blog.
Visit Oyacachi Ecuador
Oyacachi, Napo, Ecuador.

How to get to Papallacta?

By Bus:

As there are no special buses with Papallacta as the final destination, you’ll have to hop on a bus that passes through.

Suppose you start from Quito, head to the Southern bus terminal Turubamba in Quito. Find a bus that goes to the Amazonía or Oriente, with final destinations like Lago Agrio, Coca or Tena.

Ask the bus driver or his assistant to let you out at the bus stop on the eastern side of Papallacta. From there, it’s a 3 km hike or pickup-ride up to the baths ($2).

  • Note: Alternatively, if you want to skip Quito, you can try to get on a passing bus in Pifo. Pifo is a small village just outside of the Quito District & near Quito Airport. It’s the last place before you drive up to pass Antisana and further on to Papallacta.

If you – after your visit to Papallacta – plan to continue to the Amazon-jungle, you’ll have to wait for a bus at the same bus stop at the Entrada or Salida de Papallacta.

If you start early from Quito, it’s even possible to have a break at the hot springs of Papallacta and continue your journey the same day. Not the most relaxing way of course, but still an experience you won’t forget.

By Rented Car:

You can rent a car from Quito or Quito Airport:

By Taxi:

If you don’t like to travel by bus, don’t have your own or a rented car/motorbike, you can arrange a taxi. From Quito of course, but also from Otavalo.

Something we can arrange for you at the Hotel Doña Esther/Restaurante Árbol de Montalvo. That is, providing a taxi with a friendly, professional driver/guide at a good price.

  • In a normal car there’s room for max 4 pax (or 3 pax with luggage). If you travel with more people (and/or extra luggage) we can arrange for bigger transport – a mini-van or bus – provided by a local company.
  • The journey takes around 2,5 hours. Along the Airport (avoiding Quito). Up in the mountains (on a clear day you can spot Mt. Cayambe, Mt. Cotopaxi & Mt. Antisana (close by) before you arrive at the thermal springs.
  • IMPORTANT: We can only provide this service to our hotel guests.
Inner Courtyard of the Hotel Doña Esther & Restaurante Árbol de Montalvo, Otavalo, Ecuador.
Inner Courtyard Hotel Doña Esther.
  • There’s even the possibility to get to Papallacta from Otavalo over a beautiful scenic road through the Coca-Cayambe National Park. An alternative road (4-5 hours) along the Hidden Village of Oyacachi & through pure nature, ending up exactly at the Termas de Papallacta hotel & spa.
  • Choosing this adventurous off-the-road option, it’s possible to insert an extra stop at the alternative Mitad del Mundo monument in Cayambe. A monument you’ll pass on the way to Oyacachi.
  • Furthermore, as the journey is long & you won’t pass a real place to eat/drink something -we can prepare a take-away box lunch ($6.00 each) for you at our Hotel.

Contact us:

Just write to us with your questions & wishes, and we will help you out:

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So…. to Answer the Question:

It’s a Yes…

Yes, … include a visit to Papallacta when touring the beautiful country of Ecuador.

Actually, it’s highly recommended.

On the road to Papallacta.
Sign post indicating the possibilities of the Andean Bear crossing the road to Papallacta.
The region around Papallacta is habitat of the Andean or Spectacled Bear. So, don’t be surprised to see one or two crossing the road. It happened before.

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For an overview of all travel posts of my blog, go to: the Home Page.

  • Final message, for fellow travel writers & bloggers: TravelPayOuts is a global integrated affiliate program focused exclusively on travel offers. If it works for me, it will probably work for you too: TravelPayOuts.
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