Hot Springs
Papallacta hot springs signpost in front of one of the many Papallacta hotels
Papallacta hot pools
Private hot pool at hotel in Papallacta
Papallacta village in Ecuador
Papallacta shop with swimming costumes
Orchid in Papallacta, Ecuador

Papallacta is renowned for hot springs and thermal pools, with several hotels & hostels.

Papallacta Hot Springs -  Ecuador Destinations

Papallacta is famous for its hot springs and thermal pools and its beautiful setting high in the hills.  It's an easy day trip from Quito, though you might want to book a hotel for a couple of nights and go hiking in the area as well as enjoying the thermal springs.
Papallacta is at an altitude of over 3000m, so it can be very cold and is often rainy or misty.  Papallacta hotels make an excellent base for hiking or trekking (though the altitude may slow you up a bit), with the bonus of a soak in the hot pools after a long day of walking in the páramo (high grasslands).  The weather can be severe up on the páramo and mist can descend very rapidly, so be sure to take suitable clothing, maps and a compass, or better still, a local guide.
The Papallacta páramo is home to some fragments of Polylepis forest - "paper trees", a fairly rare endemic species growing far higher up the mountains than almost any other kind of tree.  The Papallacta Pass, at over 4000m in altitude, is a good area to try to spot the huge, endangered Andean condor.  Spectacled bears and tapirs also inhabit this ecosystem, though you are unlikely to see either - they are both in danger of extinction and cautious of humans.
Papallacta's public baths, run by the parish council, are right in the middle of the village.  There are two large, hot pools and a tiny pool which is even hotter.  Entrance costs $2.  Further on from the village is the Termas Papallacta complex, which is privately run, more luxurious and costs $7 to enter the basic pools or $18 for the spa pools.
Papallacta hotels: There's a range of accommodation on offer in the village and surrounding area, from basic hostels at around $7 a night, hostels and hotels with private bathrooms from around $15 or $20 (Hostal Coturpa right next to the public baths is bright and clean with friendly service), and up to luxury rooms at the Termas Papallacta for over $100.  Even the most basic of hostels with shared bathrooms benefits from the naturally-heated water, which is piped through the whole village to businesses and private homes alike.  So, all Papallacta hotels have hot spring water in some form or other.
Other than hot pools and places to stay, Papallacta has a few basic restaurants and a few little corner shops, some of which sell swimming costumes (though only in Ecuadorian sizes, i.e. not very large).  There's a little travel agency which can help arrange tours and treks, and a project next to it is planting orchids for an educational environmental exhibit.
Getting to Papallacta on public transport: Buses from Quito towards Baeza or Tena travel through Cumbayá, Tumbaco and Pife along the Vía Interoceánica and over the Papallacta Pass before gradually descending to pass the turn off to Papallacta.  The journey will take a couple of hours from Quito. From the junction, it is about a 3 minute walk to the village, with the public baths and various hostels and restaurants.  The only reason you might need to take a taxi would be to go on to Termas Papallacta, a privately-owned hot springs complex beyond the village.
Useful Spanish & other Vocabulary for visiting Papallacta Hot Springs, Ecuador:
Terno de baño: swimming costume
Piscina: pool
Terma: thermal pool or hot spring
Aguas termales: thermal waters
Páramo: high grassland
Oso Andino or "Oso de anteojos": Andean bear or spectacled bear (the same species)
Danta: local name for the tapir
Ecuador Destinations: Papallacta Hot Springs
The tiny village of Papallacta, high in the páramo, is famous for its thermal springs, and some Papallacta hotels have hot pools.
The Papallacta area is home to spectacled bears and mountain tapirs, as well as the rare Polylepis forests.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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