October 16, 2009
Ecuador is truly privileged in many ways. Its monumental diversity includes geographic, climatic, ecological, scenic, human and cultural elements, a real mosaic of attractions all packed on a small country, the size of the State of Colorado, located in the Middle of the World.
Among such varied elements, the fact of being situated along the “Rim of Fire” of the Pacific, and with more than 50 volcanoes, many of them still active, Ecuador has numerous locations with natural thermal springs. These are being increasingly used, developed and currently promoted as an important feature, within the brand-new Tourism Marketing Plan “Ecuador 2014”.
The popular and picturesque resort town of Baños (meaning precisely “Baths”), located in the central Andes, on a deep valley at the foothills of the Tungurahua Volcano, an active giant towering over five thousand meters above sea level, is one most renowned thermal sites in Ecuador and one of the easiest and best known land entrances to the Amazonian rainforests. It has been, for decades, one of the most visited enclaves for those who want to add to the fabulous scenery, varied ecosystems, fauna and flora and many sports and adventure travel opportunities, the pleasure of relaxing and healing body and mind at the thermal pools which abound in the area. Today, it teems with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, adventure sports outlets and, of course, Spas, which include a luxurious one atop one of the hills which surround the town, providing guests with dramatic views of the village and the surrounding mountain scenery, dominated by Mount Tungurahua, which may even provide, occasionally, some spectacular “natural firework shows” on clear nights.
Metropolitan Touring features on its portfolio of new tours a visit to the area of Papallacta, located just one and a half hours northeast of Quito, on the Eastern Andean Range, where the cordillera reaches one of its highest summits, the awesome Mt. Antisana, a massive volcano, 5400 meters high, covered with perpetual snows and glaciers. From there, it is downhill and, a few hours away from another outpost of the Amazonian region.
Last week, we left Quito by paved road heading east, down the “Route of the Conquistadors”, the actual path which was taken by Francisco de Orellana with dozens of Spaniards and more than two hundred Indians, who set off for an epic expedition, in search of the “Land of Cinamomn” and ended discovering the mighty Amazon River. As we drove with an easternly direction, the vast valleys of Cumbayá and Tumbaco appeared. We went past picturesque countryside, quaint Andean villages, terrace-cultivated fields and patches of primary Andean forest with scores of the almost disappeared “Polylepis” endemic trees and many other native plants. Soon we were to reach the wind-laden high moorlands, above 3000 meters above sea level to discover, in front of our eyes, the amgnificent Antisana Volcano in full splendor, its white dome shining intensely under the equatorial sun, against a brilliant blue sky, void of any clouds.
A short descent brought us past the main lagoon of the Papallacta Lakes complex. Leaving the main road, we turned north and within a few minutes we reached Termas de Papallacta, a resort, hotel and Spa, located on a privileged venue, slightly above the small namesake town and with a privileged view, right in front, of colossal Antisana. Here we were to enjoy a maze of winding pools and grottos, with hot sulfurous waters, cascades and all kinds of ways to enjoy a hot bath or a specialized spa treatment, for the face, body, muscles or just for plain relaxation and feeling well. There was time to undertake one of the various nature trails which bring you into direct contact with some unique fauna and flora, always framed by marvelous scenery. With the help of Willy, our guide, we spotted some colorful birds like tanagers and trogons and some brightly colored butterflies as we learned about the native plants of this magic habitat at 3000 meters above sea level, yet so close to the Amazon rainforest.
Lunch included the area’s specialty: fresh trout from the lakes and trout farms found in and around the area, together with “palmito” (heart of palm) ceviche with its garnish of hard corn and, for dessert, a local fruit, delightfully juicy and sweet, the babaco. A cool beer was the perfect complement for the meal. Options of this tour include an afternoon leisurely ride back to Quito after some more time at the thermal baths or an overnite stay at the hotel, which offers a semi-private, winding pool in front of each comfortable and well appointed and equipped room. In such case, it is a “must” to sink into the warm pools under the equatorial sky, dotted with millions of stars and let the mind dream while the spirit and body relaxes on a perfect getaway from stress…
Like the two mentioned locations, all over Ecuador, thermal springs, baths and spas are blooming, increasing the vast inventory of tourist attractions which the country offers. All is so close that you can do it in one day. Want to choose your best option? Just call us…. We will make your dream come totally real….