Ecuador / Ecuador Lifestyle / Living in Ecuador

Termas Papallacta, June 09

When I see that date, 1 1/2 years ago, I can’t believe it’s been so long since I made my way to Termas Papallacta.  It’s about 40 miles east of Quito and worth every minute of the time it takes to get there.  Riding a bus can be arduous and full of delays.  A cab in a better mode of transportation.

I wrote this blog way back then and never published it.  Reading it makes me yearn for another trip and I can practically feel my skin wrinkling as I recall how many hours I soaked my cares away in steamy oblivion.

Termas Papallacta, June 09

Workaholism does have its rewards. Gary finally wore himself out enough to declare that it was time for a mini-vacation, an extended soak somewhere, anywhere, to ease the tired old bones worn out from “computer hunch”  and brain cell overload.  Naturally I wasted no time in suggesting Papallacta.

I’d been there once before with my book club femininas and I love it.


The 2-hour trip from Quito’s Terminal Terrestre (now defunct) to the thermal baths was long but we were pleasantly entertained by two Canadian biologists, who’d been traveling in South America for many months.  Their trip will extend to 13 months before they head for the cold north again.

The bus stopped at a hole-in-the-wall grocery and we took a cab past the town of Papallacta to Papallacta Thermales.  There are other hot springs in the area—one on Lake Papallacta.

After passing the lake, we took a turnoff to the left.  Then it was about 4 kilometers down winding roads to Termas Papallacta, which is 3300 meters high.

We checked in and settled into our room.

It was in the section with thatched one-story rooms joined around a series of interconnected hot pools.  The whole area is filled with interesting trees and plants, many that seem too fragile to exist in the high altitude and cold temperatures of Papallacta.  Nevertheless, they thrive on the steamy air that pours off the pools.

Friday, 6:45 p.m.

Wasting no time, we headed for the spa area.  We were handed snowy white towels and bath robes, sterilized plastic slippers in a sealed plastic bag, a storage bin key and paper bathing suits.  I changed and had a great mud wrap.

First I was slathered by the attendant with hot, black mud, then wrapped in plastic and covered with hot towels.  Another hot towel was placed over my eyes and I was left alone in drowsy bliss until the mud had cooled off.

The shower was nice and hot and strong enough to jet off all the mud.  I waited for Gary in the lounge, sipping hot tea.  We had the place to ourselves after another couple left.

The room is furnished with handsome wooden lounge chairs covered with orange towels.  A very ornate carved chest is at the entry of the room, probably Indian, and there is a wonderful hand painted screen with birds all over it.

The ceiling is partly encased in glass with sliding shades to keep out the sun.

There’s a wooden bookcase containing board games and books.  It’s in the room with a television and fireplace down the hallway from the reception area and to the right of the double doors leading outside to the rooms.

An attendant unlocked it for us and we sparred with a 12 year old Ecuadorian boy over who’d gain control of the chess and checker box. When we opened it to check it out, there were few pieces, so we let him have it.  We chose another game and a few books in English to read.

Gluttons for the sybaritic life, we sank into the hottest pool outside our room and luxuriated in another lonnnggg soak.  I must have stayed too long because I staggered dizzily back to our room.

After a bit of reading I had a great night’s sleep.  No tv, radio or internet in the rooms, only the hum of the electric heater to mar the silence.

Saturday, 9 a.m.

We’d signed up for massages the night before.  Gary changed his mind and decided to have a deep massage, shiatsu, instead of the relaxation massage and Jacuzzi soak.  He headed off with his attendant and I changed into my paper bikini, looking forward to being pleasantly pummeled and pampered.

I was not disappointed.  Liliana was very present with me.

Often massages in Ecuador are superficial with the masseuse going through the motions but having their attention elsewhere.  You can tell when their thoughts are not on you.  Are they thinking about a boyfriend, kids, friends, or what to have for lunch?

Liliana’s massage was sensuous and fairly deep. I felt both relaxed and invigorated at the same time.  She instinctively knew where the sore spots on my body were hiding out and worked them out nicely.  She used a scent-less massage oil, the lights were dim and the music was soft and appropriate.

My only complaint was that the room was cooler than I liked, but she placed a very hot towel over the parts of me she wasn’t working on, so I didn’t mind the cold that much.  By the time the towel had cooled and she had finished the massage, all of me was toasty warm.
She massaged my toes, fingers, head, and best of all, my ears. Ahhh.

After a short respite on a lounge chair, sipping a glass of naranjilla juice to refresh myself, I was led to a private room and a 20-minute hydro-massage in a Jacuzzi with eight jets and my choice of eucalyptus or lavender bath salts.  I chose lavender.

We were too late for breakfast at Papallacta, so later on we walked down the road a short distance and had grilled fish and papas al vapor (steamed new potatoes) with salad at small hotel restaurant recommended by friends who’d eaten there a few days ago.

The owner/cook’s delightful five-year-old daughter served us happily and professionally.

She showed us around the pool area and after lunch we walked upstairs to check out the rooms.  They were too basic for me, and cold, although the owner assured us she had plenty of blankets.  I would prefer a heater since last night was quite chilly.

More soaking, breakfast in the dining room, a hike around the spa and exploration of the different options a guest has when visiting Papallacta took up our morning.

Across the road from the main building is a covered bridge over a river.  Following the paths takes you eventually to a gate and out into the countryside where there are hiking trails.

Also in this area are two enclaves of buildings.  One group consists of duplexes clustered around a hot pool.

I suppose these are rentals, too, tucked away by themselves and encased in trees and lots of flowers and shrubs.  Very private despite the close proximity to one another.

Papallacta is one of those places I will visit again and again.  So far, it’s my favorite spa and hot springs in Ecuador.

Although the rooms are $125 it’s worth the splurge for a couple of nights because the rewards are many.  I could feel the stress pouring out of me as I relaxed thoroughly under the experienced hands of the masseuse and the enveloping heat of the pools.

I could float there for hours watching the tiny yellow flowers that grow on the thatched roofs as they nod gently in the breeze or staring at the cloud formations overhead as the hot steam rises around my head.  No time like the present to treat yourself to a total healing experience–body, mind and soul.