Tag Archives: day tour

Papallacta pools

Yet another day trip from Quito organised by the fabulous Ruben from Southern Paradise Tours, and on this occasion Ruben was free himself to take us out to Papallacta Thermal Pools.

The tour on this occasion cost $45 per person for five people, excluding lunch and the pools entry fee of $8.50.

Papallacta Thermal PoolsThe drive from Quito to Papallacta took around two hours, with the highest point a pass at 4100 metres. The variation in landscape at the changing altitudes was gorgeous! Also we all had our eyes glued to the road and roadside bushes in the hope of seeing a spectacled bear, but we were sadly disappointed.

The thermal hot springs are at an altitude of 3250 metres, they are set in the mountains with a river running by.  The pools water is said to be good for: “respiratory, digestive, renal and skin conditions; bones and articulation pain;  improves circulation blood and removing toxins; stress, insomnia and anxiety; and relax muscles and relieve tensions.”

The day we visited was ridiculously cold, so we headed straight for the hottest pool and didn’t move for at least an hour, when we were well cooked.

It was so calming to sit in the pools, soak up all the natural minerals into our tired and sore bodies, watch the steam rise from the pools and look into the skies at the mountain pics searching for condors.

After the exhaustion of continuous travel, the time out in the hot pool was just what I needed!


Day Tripping to Otavalo ..without the nasty dogs

Once again Ruben from Southern Paradise Tours came through for my family and friends by lining up a day trip to Otavalo. Jose Luis was once again our guide for the day. Setting off at 8am, we headed north.

For a group of five we paid $50 each, not including lunch or entrance to the Condor Park.

Viewpoint of San Pablo Lake

Cute puppy at the San Pablo MiradorOur first stop as we neared Otavalo was a viewpoint over the San Pablo lake, one of the more well known lakes in the area. The view was lovely, but honestly I was mostly distracted by the super cute puppy dog.

We enjoyed a cup of coffee, some Biscocho with dulce de leche and some Queso de Hoja. The Biscocho and Queso de Hoja are traditional treats in the area.

Condor Park

Cost: $4.75

Andean Condors at the Condor ParkFor the birds lovers in our group we visited to Condor Park on the hill overlooking Otavalo. The park was established and is still run by a Dutch owner, but the majority of staff are local Otavaleñans.

Walking around the park we got to see all sorts of varieties of owls, eagles, hawks and of course the Andean Condor.

Conquering fears by holding an American KestrelThe park has a show which runs daily at 11:30am and 3:30pm, but the shows are in Spanish. Without understanding what was said, it was great to see the birds freed from their cages and confinements to get a chance to fly free for a few moments.

For a bet, I took the opportunity during the show to hold an American Kestrel. Despite it only being a small bird, I was still incredibly apprehensive, but I have photographic evidence that I did it!

El Lechero

Healing Dog Bite WoundSince we were already in the neighbourhood and in a car, I asked Jose Luis if we could stop by El Lechero, so I could finally see the Sacred Tree that TripAdvisor lists as one of the things to do in the area.

As you may recall, my last attempt to visit El Lechero ended badly with a hospital visit following a dog attack. The wound is healing very well in case you were wondering.

El LecheroSo we arrived at El Lechero and the first thing I saw was dogs. Nervously I picked up a rock to put in my pocket, just in case threats would be required. I walked nervously and close to my friend Andrea as I walked up to the tree. The dogs turned out to be super relaxed and didn’t even glance in my direction, and the sacred tree ended up being quite beautiful.

The tree stands as a solitary tree atop a hill overlooking Otavalo and surrounds. It probably wouldn’t rank as a ‘must see’ for Otavalo, but it was beautiful and I am glad to have finally seen it.

Otavalo Indigenous Market

Alpaca Wool BlanketThe Otavalo Indigenous market was, as per usual, the highlight of a trip to Otavalo. The locals are so friendly, though they do harass you a little bit to buy their products. The colours and textures are absolutely fabulous.

Even though I am a budget traveller, I caved and bought the most wonderfully soft, beautifully coloured alpaca wool blanket. It will cover a queen size bed, and I managed to negotiate the price down to $21. Also a huge thank you to my mum, for taking it back to Australia for me in her luggage! (I don’t want to carry it around for the next however many months I keep travelling)

Cuichocha Lake

Lago Cuicocha, Cotocachi Nacional ParqueBy the time we traveled from Otavalo, through Cotocachi up to Lake Cuicocha it was quite late in the day and very cold. This resulted in a very brief visit.

Cuicocha is a 3000 year old caldera of a volcano, the neighbouring
hills were created by the ash of a volcanic eruption 1500 years ago. The caldera is approximately 1.5 kilometres in diameter and the water in the caldera is 140 metres deep.

One day if I return to Cuicocha, I would like to hike around the lake. I have been advised it takes around 5 hours and is beautiful.


Hummingbirds in the Mindo Loma Cloud Forest

While Quito is a beautiful city with much to offer, it’s also fantastic to go beyond walking distance and see the surrounding areas. When riding the TeleferiQo I met a lovely guide called Ruben who has his own tour company, Southern Paradise Tours. After some messaging via Whatsapp Ruben organised a private tour for my friends and family to visit the Mindo Cloud Forest, with his colleague Jose Luis.

For a group of seven people we paid $40 per person, excluding lunch and entrance fees to Nathaly and El Quetzal.

Mindo Loma

HummingbirdThe Mindo Cloud Forest is at an altitude of around 1800 metres and has lush rainforest (or rather cloud forest) vegetation, which is a haven for birds of many varieties including the Hummingbird.

The variation of environment in Ecuador is home to approximately 1700 species of birds. In the world there are 320 species of Hummingbird, 138 of which can be found in Ecuador. The Hummingbird is one of the worlds smallest birds, the smallest of which is 5cm, weighing just 2.5grams. The Hummingbird has fewer than 100 feathers, and their wings flap approximately 80 times per second. As they fly, their wings flap so quickly you can see the body of the bird but not the wings.

Hummingbird Feeding at Mindo Loma Cloud ForestWe spent several hours at the Mindo Loma Bird Lodge to quietly watch the hummingbirds feeding. We saw various species of Hummingbirds, as well as some Tanagers.

While people can tell you the hummingbird moves quickly, it’s still surprising to see it (or most of the time miss it) with your own eyes.

Nathaly Butterfly & Orchid House

Mum amongst the orchids at NathalyOur second stop of the tour was to visit a butterfly and orchid house in the town of Mindo, called Nathaly.

Nathaly houses several varieties of Orchids. Like with birds, Ecuadors climate is conducive to the growth of many varieties of orchids. There are approximately 15,000 identified varieties of orchids in the world, of which Ecuador grows 5,000.

A butterfly at NathalyAmongst the orchids Nathaly offers the opportunity to learn about and see the various stages in the life cycle of a butterfly, including the eggs, larva, chrysalis and adult. In the butterfly house were several species of butterfly, though I can’t recall any of the names.

El Quetzal Chocolate Factory

Chocolate tasting at El QuetzalThe last stop of the day was the El Quetzal Chocolate Factory. The cacao beans are not grown in Mindo as the climate is too cold, however the remainder of the chocolate making process is done on site. All the ingredients are organic and grown on a family farm.

At the chocolate factory the chocolate making process is all hand done and using purpose built machines. It is interesting to see the processes undergone by the cacao bean through to chocolate bars and the home made machines to assist in this process.

All chocolates made contain only cacao, varying amounts of sugar and occasionally organic flavourings such as chilli or ginger. The chocolate tasting reinforced my love of the sweeter chocolates as opposed to the chocolate with a high percentage of cacao. The 100% chocolate resulted in a screwed up nose, while the 67% had me coming back for more!