It was difficult to give up my layers at first. The chill in the air and the mist sticking to my goosebumps made me reconsider, that is until I put my first toe into the water. I registered the sting only for a second before throwing everything below my shoulders under the surface. My muscles relaxed as I swirled around, taking in my surroundings.
I watched as the clouds drifted around, giving the mountains halos. The bubbling of the water was only interrupted every once in a while by the chirp of a solitary bird. It was much quieter at 10, 600 feet. From my seat in the pool closest to the door I could see the path to the next of the six pools winding through a variety of trees and plants colored with every shade of green and vibrant flowers in every other hue imaginable. Heated by the area’s natural volcanic activity, each pool at Papallacta varied in temperature, getting progressively warmer (except for one special pool in the middle kept freezing cold), to meet the tolerance and taste of every visitor. Except for one special pool in the middle kept freezing cold. For the brave, this pool is meant to shock the nervous system and improve circulation.
Eventually, I made my way to the next pool with submerged beds complete with jets and stone pillows. The bubbles kneaded the knots out of my back and I moved on to the next pool, once again plunging everything shoulders and below into the now freezing water. Brave enough only to commit for a second (which I hoped was long enough to reap the fabled health benefit of a shock to the system and improved circulation), I was quick to scamper to the next pool where I let the giant faucets melt the tension from my shoulders. I could feel the volcanic minerals seeping in, improving and softening my skin in the few short hours I was there on my first day in Ecuador.
If you happen to find yourself in Ecuador…
Spend a day at the spa or make it a longer getaway by staying in the hotel, a family bungalow, or cabin. Relax in the pools, treat yourself to a variety of massages and wraps (including a chocolate body wrap!), or explore the Andes on one of the many hiking trails and tours. When it is time to refuel, visit the excellent restaurant that serves Ecuadorian classics, as well as other international dishes made with ingredients grown on the premises. The award-winning facility caters to travelers and can often be combined with other Ecuadorian tours.
For more information, including how to book online, visit Papallacta Volcanic Pools’s website.
Pro Tip: When breaking for lunch make sure to order guanabamora a blend of guanabana y mora fruits.