The Ultimate Guide to Papallacta's Hot Springs

The thermal spa of Papallactas is one of Ecuadors many natural wonders
The thermal spa of Papallactas is one of Ecuador's many natural wonders | © Image Professionals GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

At an altitude of 3,300m (10,800ft) in the Andes mountains, around 64km (40mi) east of Quito on the road to the Amazon rainforest, lies the town of Papallacta, renowned for its geothermal hot springs. Here’s everything you need to know before visiting the Papallacta hot springs.

Despite its compact size, Papallacta is a town with plenty to offer. A cluster of restaurants serve hearty, traditional Ecuadorian cuisine to a backdrop of excellent hiking trails and, of course, the hot springs. The drive to get there is a pleasure in itself, as you leave Quito and traverse rugged Andean landscapes.

Interested in visiting the Papallacta hot springs? You can do so with Culture Trip as part of our exclusive eight-day Ecuador adventure, which also includes Quito and the Amazon rainforest, among several other fantastic destinations.

The lagoons and wetlands of the Cayambe-Coca reserve stand ahead of the Antisana volcano

Located by the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, Papallacta and the surrounding area are home to an abundance of flora and fauna, and with the Antisana volcano nearby, it offers an array of hiking opportunities. If you want to explore by foot, it’s best to stay overnight.

The surrounding landscape is home to the so-called paper trees, the polylepis, which are endemic to the Andes region. The area is also good for spotting spectacled bears and the endangered Andean condor – Ecuador’s national animal.

Enjoy hydro massage at the hot springs of Papallacta

Whether you go hiking or not, the hot springs are a must. One of the most popular destinations is the Termas de Papallacta, where you can soak in one of eight pools of varying size and temperature, warmed by geothermal energy. If you’re feeling brave, you can even jump in one of the cold water pools or take a dip in the nearby river.

Showers and lockers are provided at the Termas, with entry costing $9 for the standard geothermal pools, or $23 for access to the spa facilities. The pools are open every day between 6am and 10:30pm (with last entry at 9pm), while the spa is open from 9am to 8pm (except Fridays and Saturdays, when it closes at 9pm).

Another option is to visit the public pools in the middle of the village, which are cheaper and more low-key than the spa. The public baths are centrally located, and have two large pools.

Multiple bus routes take you towards Papallacta from Quito

To get there from Quito by public transport, you’ll need to take a bus. Any of the ones heading to Baeza, Tena or Puyo will stop about five minutes away from the town, with the journey taking two hours and costing around $4. If you’re going on to the spa, it might be an idea to take a taxi, which shouldn’t cost more than $5 – unless you feel like going on a long walk up the mountain.

If you’re keen to explore even further, Oyacachi village, an hour from Papallacta, also has geothermal pools and is closer to the Amazon rainforest. It has ecotourism facilities and you can go horseback riding or walk on the surrounding trails.

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