Ecuador: Day 3 – Amazon to Otavalo
After hours of traveling, driving, and days of waking up early, we decided to take it easy on day 3. On the schedule: spa and street markets.
Table of Contents
1. Termas de Papallacta
Termas de Papallacta is the famous thermal spa in Ecuador. The spa is tucked away within the Andes mountains and a must visit for all.
It was a 2.5 hour drive from Tena to Papallacta. We arrived at Termas de Papallacta around 11:30am and proceeded to the check in desk. Entrance to the thermal pools were $22 per person. We looked through the package and added a 60 minute relaxation massage for $50 each. The next available appointment was at 1:45pm which was perfect for us. It gives us time to enjoy the pools and maybe even grab a bite. (In other words, no advance reservation is needed.)
Once we have finalized our package, we have the option to pay upfront or pay at the end. We opt to pay at the end in case we incurred any additional expenses from drinks and food. The agent than gave us a key with our locker number (which is also used to identify which guest we are), towels, and swim caps (which are mandatory in the pools).
From there, we went to the lockers to change into our bathing suits and lock away our belongings. The lockers were co-ed with co-ed showers and changing rooms. If you are uncomfortable with that, there are separate bathroom facilities, that includes showers.
I took a quick shower before going into the pools. It’s a habit I picked up from when I was in Iceland. The showers were nice and warm and came equipped with shampoo and body wash. After my quick rinse, I was ready to dive in.
When we first stepped outside, we can feel the cold air hit against our bodies. We’re in the mountains with barely any clothes on so we tried to jump in the pools quickly. The pools closest to the door were more shallow and tailored to families. We walked towards the back pools that were slightly deeper, 4.5 feet to be exact. The pools were installed with turbo jets and fast flowing showers. It was relaxing, warm, and you couldn’t beat the view.
Around 12:30, my belly was calling for food so we went to the restaurant for some appetizers and drinks. We ordered the potato empañadas, some chips, beer, and wine. It was enough to hold us over until lunch time. The food was mediocre. I wouldn’t recommend spending your top dollars here. Before leaving, the waiter asked for our locker number and our registered name to add onto our bill.
We went back to the pools for another 20 minutes before we showered, changed, and headed back to the lobby for our 1:45 appointment. We were required to be at the lobby 5 minutes prior to our appointment. Once we arrived at the front desk, we handed our towels, keys, than we were escorted to the massage lobby. We were given shoe covers before we were taken into our massage rooms.
Our masseuses were women, shorter than me (I’m 5’2″) with tiny hands. I couldn’t feel my massage but I did fall asleep. Next time, I would get the deep tissue massage. After the massage, we headed to the resting area where tea and water were offered. My friend and I tipped our masseuse $10 each. We than walked to the front lobby to close our bill.
We looked through the bill and noticed that the masseuse gave us the hotel guests rate. We paid $45 for that. In total, we spent about $175.
Time Spent: 3.5+ hours | Parking: Free
2. Quitsato Sundial
After Lunch, we drove up north to the Quitsato Sundial, or in other words, the “real” middle of the world. Most tourists visit the La Mitad Del Mundo because it is much flashier and more things to see and do. Quitsato Sundial is located in a small city called Cayambe and it is located on the actual Equator. La Mitad Del Mundo is slightly right of the equator…..and now you’re wondering what I mean by right if I’m straddling the North and South Hemisphere.
While in Quitsato Sundial, I had a private guide who educated me about the Equator. They believe that the North Hemisphere should be on the left (because it translate to left) and that the Equator should be vertical instead of horizontal. Still confused, look at the photo below.
The Quitsato Sundial is a neat tool for archeologist. The sundial is use to discover artifacts. I wish I could go more into details about what I learned but Science isn’t my strongest suit. The most fascinating thing I took from my tour is that when standing by the equator, you can see all the constellations. Constellations that are located on the North Hemisphere will not show in the South Hemisphere and vise versa. The only place to see all the constellations is on the Equator line.
Time Spent: 0.5 – 1 hour | Parking; Free
We ended our night in Otavalo, a town known for their street markets. It was around 730pm when we arrived and the city is alive. We checked into our hotel room and headed out to check out the nightlife. The shop vendors were closed but there were food vendors that stretched out a full block. Patrons were lined up for food and the entertainment for the night were 3 TV screens playing different shows. I’ve never seen so many people gathered around small “bulky” TVs. I thought there were street performance.
The lines for the food were long so we decided to check out the supermarket right behind the food carts. We bought a bottle of whiskey and some snacks. After that, we decided to walk around the city. We came across a Mexican restaurant called El Jalapeño. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel.
Where to Eat:
- Lunch by Papallacta Spa
We were starving during lunch time. Luis took us to one of the restaurants by the resort that resembles a ski cabin. When we stepped in, there were about 10 picnic style tables. We chose a table away from the door. The menu had everything you could ask for in Ecuador but everything sounded similar for us non-local folks. I pulled out my Google Translator. I wanted pollo (chicken). They had seasoned chicken, grilled chicken, chicken with mushrooms. My friend and I decided to get the breaded chicken. The chicken was the size of two of my hands! I was so hungry that I ate every bit of it. It was delicious!!
- Snack in Cayambe: Bizcochos
We were in Cayambe and there were so many bizcochos shops. Luis said Cayambe is known for bizcochos, a shortbread biscuit and that we should try it. Luis took us to a bakery that advertised bizcochos with a drink. When we entered, a woman was behind the counter pulling fresh bizcochos out of the oven. She said that we can order a bizcochos with a coffee or chocolate. We first ordered coffee but instantly changed it to chocolate. The woman handed us a bizcochos and we grabbed a seat in the shop.
There were 2 containers on the table. I asked Luis what they were. He said that one is coffee and the other is chocolate. In Ecuador, when you order coffee, you’re given just hot water and you put how many scoops of coffee or chocolate you want. AKA instant coffee/chocolate. Of course this method isn’t carried out everywhere. In areas that attract a lot of tourism, coffee and cocoa is made for you. After this lesson, I was surprised when the owner made our hot chocolate for us. I looked over at the table next to us and saw that they were given just plain hot water. I realized that they hold tourist on a different caliber because we want “customer service”.
We enjoyed our bizcochos that were accompanied by cheese. I added a few more scoops of chocolate to add a fuller flavor.
- Dinner in Otavalo: El Jalapeño
I was still full from our late lunch. My friend and I came across El Jalapeño and we had to try it. There was a lady just outside her shop grilling away assorted meats. We ordered the chicken with mushrooms. The taco isn’t your typical street taco but like an American style taco with pico, cheese, and lettuce. I think each taco was $3, pretty expensive taco if you ask me. Our taco plate does come with chips and a drink. I’m not 100% what the drink is but I think it was sugar cane juice.
Where to Stay in Otavalo: Hotel El Indio Inn
I enjoyed my stay at Hotel El Indio because it was close to everything in Otavalo. When we step outside, we are welcomed by the outdoor market. We paid $58 including the 4% visa charge.
This hotel isn’t like most in Ecuador. When we leave our room, we are technically outside. We were able to open our windows and let fresh air in. We had to be careful of insect intruders like mosquitoes.