There’s nothing quite like an early morning soak in a hot spring followed by a cold shower to set you up for the day. Wallowing in a hot tub, or being pummeled by jets of water, has to be one of the most relaxing pastimes known to Man. Volcanic Ecuador overflows with hot springs, natural pools and spouting waterfalls. There is no better way to soothe aching muscles after a trek, horseback ride or rafting trip than to sit sublimely in a pool for an hour or two, or three. While researching this guide, I have to admit I found it hard to wrench myself from their pampering embraces.
The best hot springs within reach of Quito
are the Banos de Papallacta
, two hours by bus or car from the city, just off the road which descends over the rim of the Amazon basin to Baeza
. The river here feeds five clean pools ranging from very hot to refreshingly cold.
The small town of Banos
is another popular hot spring destination a few hour's ride by bus from Quito
. Nestled in a valley surrounded by steep, verdant mountains, this attractive resort has become a favored stopover on the gringo trail in recent years. The town is now returning to normal following volcano alerts. The main baths are the Banos de la Virgen
by the waterfall near the Palace Hotel at the southeast end of town. More pleasant are the baths at El Salado
, about a mile out of town off the Ambato
road, which have more pools and are less crowded. Banos
boasts plenty of great places to stay, as well as numerous opportunities for horseback rides, treks and rafting trips.
If you’re planning to spend a few days in the Imbabura
region [Otavalo and Ibarra
], then consider a soak in the appealing baths of Chachimbiro
, northwest of Ibarra
. The complex includes medicinal mineral baths, hydromassages, saunas and pools, as well as trails off into the surrounding hills and a decent restaurant. Accommodation inside the springs is basic but good value. Also in this area, 40 km [25 miles
] west of Lago Cuicocha
is the remote village of Apuela
, set in the deep Andean cloud forest
. Nearby, the Nangulvi Thermal Bathsmake
for a welcome soak. Basic accommodation is available there. Further north, close to the Tulcan
and the Colombian border, you’ll find some lovely springs by the town of Tufino
in El Oriente
, 50 km [31 miles
] southeast of Macas
over the Cutucu Mountain Range, a hot spring bubbles from the earth and flows from a rock in a naturally hot waterfall. Next to it, a cold waterfall of pure mountain water plunges down. Although remote and inaccessible, where else can you find natural hot and cold waterfalls side by side in the middle of a tropical rainforest?
||Article contributed by Dominic Hamilton|||