Thermal pools at Balneario
At Termas de Papallacta you can choose to go to the more expensive Spa or to the pools at Balneario. I went to Balneario and the admission there was $7.50 (August 2013). To get a locker cost $0.50 extra, and you need to leave a $5 deposit for the key.
I put a few things in a locker but other things I put in a basket which was provided, a basket you then carry around with you. Bring plenty of water to drink, because after some time in the hot pools you will really need it. It is also good to bring a pair of flip-flops or sandals to use when you walk between the pools, especially on cold days (as it was when I visited).
There is a kiosk where you can buy drinks and snacks, but it closes already at 17.00. There is also a café/restaurant where you can it, but there you can’t go wearing your swimwear.
At Balneario there are nine hot thermal pools and three cold water pools. There are no jets in the pools at Balneario as there are at the Spa, but it is nice anyway to sit in the warm water looking at the green mountains in the background. All around the area there are showers. It was very cold in the air when I visited so when it was time to take a shower before changing to clothes I looked for a shower with hot water. However I could only find one with lukewarm water.
The Balneario is open 6 – 23.
A short hike
When I came to Termas de Papallacta I noticed there was a short trail starting from there, so I decided to walk it before visiting the baths. The path is called Sendero de La Isla and it will take you for a walk along the small Río Papallacta. It is a nice walk with views of the surrounding mountains. It took 45 minutes to walk around the whole trail, including many photo stops.
- Hiking and Walking
Have a dip in the hot pools
There are three areas of hot pools at the resort, not to mention those to be found elsewhere in the village. Firstly there are the small pools dotted around the grounds in front of the cabins that form the accommodation here. These are naturally for the exclusive use of hotel guests. Secondly there is a group of public pools, which guests can use free of charge and others visit for a small fee. And thirdly there are pools in the spa complex on site, which there is a fee to use whether resident or not, although residents get a discount. Because it was the weekend when we visited we were advised that the public pools might be busy and that we might want to consider paying to go in the spa. Certainly there seemed to be quite a lot of people queuing at the ticket booth for the former, so we decided that we would take the advice, especially as the spa pools were said to also have better changing facilities. The fee was just $12 per person for day use, and we also paid an extra $2.50 each to hire a warm towelling robe, which we felt was a must in these cool temperatures. Caps (which must be worn) and towels are provided. The changing area has individual cubicles and lockers for your possessions, as well as showers.
There are five hot pools here and a cold plunge pool. They are all slightly different – some have jets and bubbles, others are more gentle, and the temperature seemed to us to be slightly variable too. At first we went in the pool nearest the changing room, as it was pretty cold that day and we couldn’t wait to get in the water! This one had Jacuzzi-style jets and, probably because of its location, was fairly busy (maybe 15 people or so). So after a while we decided to brave the chill and got out, wrapping ourselves in the cosy robes, to explore further afield. We found a pool near the edge of the complex that seemed even hotter, was surrounded by greenery and had a pretty waterfall, so we settled there for the rest of our time here, alternating soaks in the water and some leisurely swimming with a period relaxing on the swing seat in the hazy sun that eventually appeared. We really enjoyed our relaxing time here.
From what I can see on the resort’s website the public pools are not that different, but I’m not sure that they have the water jets and bubbles to give you a massage while you soak as some of the spa pools do.
Next tip: the spa
- Spa and Resort
Visit the spa
Residents at the hotel get a 15% discount on all treatments at the spa, which in any case is much less expensive than similar facilities at home in England – what more excuse did I need to treat myself?! There is a long list of possible treatments, and I decided to go for something that it seemed I would find it hard to get elsewhere – the Andean mud-wrap. Other options include massages, facials and a session in a Turkish steam room.
The spa has its own more stylish changing rooms set a little apart from the general one used by those using the hot pools. The treatment room was pleasant, and the beautician friendly though she spoke little English. I was bit disconcerted to be plunged into total darkness at one point during my time in the wrap – it was only when I returned to our cabin that Chris told me that there had been a brief power cut! After the treatment I was given a herbal tea and had time to relax in a large room set aside for that purpose. The whole experience was agreeable enough, without quite making me feel as pampered as I have done elsewhere – perhaps because of the language barrier or perhaps my choice of treatment. In any case, if you enjoy spa visits you will want to check this out and take advantage of the discount.
Next tip: a walk in the ecological reserve
- Spa and Resort
Go for a walk
As well as the hot pools and spa, the resort owns and maintains a tract of land dedicated to conservation of the local environment called the Rancho del Cañón. This is crisscrossed by a number of footpaths and walking trails of varying lengths, from about two kilometres to about seven. For all but the shortest, the Island Path, you are required to hire a guide, and according to the website a minimum of three people is needed (although I’m sure that if you paid the extra for a non-existent third person, two could hike with a guide).
We had limited time and in any case with a troublesome knee I was in no shape to walk the longer paths. But we did explore just a little of the Island Path, although weren’t able to do the full length for the same reasons. Walking even the short part that we did though was a pleasure, as it opened up views of the surrounding countryside that couldn’t be seen from the resort.
The approach to this path leads past the resort’s vegetable garden, and a field where a couple of alpacas and a llama were grazing. We then climbed a little towards a white cross on the hillside, the Cruz Gloriosa. From here the views were lovely, even on this cool drizzly morning. Oddly, the scenery reminded me a little of mid-Wales – odd, because you wouldn’t expect to find such similarities with a very temperate zone right on the equator. But of course we were at 3,225 metres above sea level whereas Wales’s typical central peaks don’t rise even to 1,000 metres, thus equalising the climate to some extent I assume. The wildlife here is rather different however – we saw several bird species, including a pretty bright green hummingbird, and also a variety of flowers that we would never see at home.
Soon after we reached and passed the cross the weather started to close in, and as we were due to return to Quito in an hour or so we decided to abandon the walk (which we would not have had time to complete, and whose views were fast disappearing behind the mist and rain!) and retreat to the cosy lobby with its fire and free wifi to await our driver. But I had seen enough to be sure that on a longer visit it would be worth fitting in at least this shortest of the reserve’s five walks.
Next tip: Lago Papallacta
- Hiking and Walking
Horseback riding and hiking
There are horses right outside that are available to take you around the nearby area. You can go for about one hour. There are also many hiking trails and you can go with a guide or with out. I think with a guide would be better because thers so much to learn and better appreciate with a guide. He/she can also explain the many medicinal plants that grow in this area and that make Papallacta a very special place.
Relax in the pools
There are 8 thermal pools. The water varies from warm to very hot. There are three cold water pools and one river water pools.