Papallacta: A luxury destination to discover in Ecuador
If you’re looking for a luxury getaway this winter that combines stunning nature scenes, wildlife, mouth-watering food and vibrant culture, then look no further than South America. This buzzing continent is alive with energy and offers a huge breadth of incredible things to see and do, whatever your taste in holidays.
One country that has been somewhat under-rated over the years and is often absent from mainstream travel brochures, is Ecuador. Of course, if you’re a nature lover then you’ve most likely spotted some incredible trips to the Galapagos Islands on offer, and maybe you’ve even been – but have you ever thought about visiting the mainland?
If you’re looking for luxury, then you should – and our advice is to head straight to beautiful Papallacta. A name that loosely translated, means “potato town” in Kichwa, it’s perhaps not the most appealing in that respect, but as they say, you should never judge a book by its cover, and Papallacta is a prime example of that.
If you enjoy lounging in natural thermal baths, followed by a delectable deep tissue massage, all set against the backdrop of some picturesque scenes of nature, then this is a place that won’t disappoint. This luxurious Ecuadorian destination can be visited as a day trip or overnight trip from elsewhere in the country, still leaving time for you to explore other destinations on your Ecuador bucket list. Depending on your preference, you can either plan your trip yourself, or go through a reputable company specializing in Ecuador tours. The latter often takes the stress out of planning, leaving you free to relax and enjoy.
Where is Papallacta?
The high-altitude town of Papallacta is a 45-minute drive from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. It’s 67 kilometers east of the city, and sits at 3,300 meters above sea level (10,827 feet).
To get to Papallacta, you head East from Quito following la Ruta Viva towards the Amazonian city of Tena. As you pass the town of Pifo, you’ll start to climb in altitude and, within 20 minutes, you’ll feel a noticeable change in temperature, as well as increased pressure due to the altitude. The vegetation changes gradually and, by the time you reach Papallacta, you’ll find yourself in a lush, humid, foggy and VERY cold environment.
Once in Papallacta, most people head to las Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta thermal baths), which is the most reputable place in town to experience the volcanic, thermal waters. Entry to the Spa section (not the Balneario, or public pools) costs $23 per person, without counting additional spa treatments. Check out their luxury day spa package, which includes lunch and a relaxing massage.
Though you can expect to be nice and toasty at the spa, once you leave the building you’ll likely be shocked by the chilly outside air, especially if you’re visiting at night. Make sure to come prepared! Take warm layers, a fleece or down jacket and a warm pair of socks. If you’re visiting during the day, make sure to bring sun protection, such as a hat and sunscreen. Even though the air might feel cool, the Ecuadorian sun is a powerful force to be reckoned with!
Other places to visit near Papallacta
From Papallacta, there are a number of destinations you can visit as you continue along your journey towards the Amazon rainforest.
Cosanga is a small town that most people barely notice as they make their way towards Tena and the Amazon. It’s located along the River Cosanga and displays lush, cloud forest vegetation, home to many tropical bird species. One of its best-kept secrets is the hotel called San Isidro, offering guests lovely rooms, views and outdoor activities, such as birdwatching, for nature lovers.
Continue along the road from Papallacta towards the Amazon until you reach Tena, a laidback Amazonian city, often described as one of the “gateways” into the Amazon, along with the city of Puyo.
Tena is a wonderful spot to visit if you enjoy nature, river rafting, and a warmer climate. Nearby, you’ll find Puerto Misahuallí and the AmaZOOnico Animal Rescue Center, where you can observe and interact with rescued rainforest animals. A number of luxury lodges are located in this region of the Amazon, including the Hamadryade Lodge.
Nope, not referring to any must-see toilets! Baños, short for Baños de Agua Santa, is a city about 2 hours from Papallacta by car or bus. Known as the adventure capital of Ecuador, you’ll find innumerable outdoor adventure activities to do there, as well as its own luxury spa destination, Luna Volcán.
Baños is a popular stop for travelers because of all its hotel and restaurant options; you’re bound to find something for everyone in your group. After exploring the area, get on the Wanderbus, a hop-on, hop-off bus alternative, from Baños to Quito to visit other top destinations across Ecuador.
Interested in more luxury tours around Ecuador?
There’s nothing like visiting incredible natural wonders in the lap of luxury. Though there are a number of fine options near Papallacta and in the Amazon region, among the most unforgettable experiences you’ll find in Ecuador is luxury travel to the Galapagos. Make sure to check this out as you plan your trip.
So, what do you say? Are you ready to lounge in Papallacta’s luxurious hot springs? If you’re planning to stay in Quito for a day or two, be sure to add it to your itinerary.