A DAY’S EXPLORATION OF ECUADOR’S COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK, PART ONE

We leave Quito early in the morning, following the city’s Eastern Ring Road, the modern Simon Bolivar Avenue.  As we move on, new and amazing angles appear to our right (the west), of Ecuador’s capital city, its unique topography clinging along the foothills of the legendary Pichincha Volcano.  We are surprised to see how much the city has expanded towards the south, reaching the actual foothills of the Atacazo Volcano.  We are headed southbound, and in a few minutes we find ourselves already on the eight-lane Pan American Highway, the country’s main road backbone. What comes next is a mind-boggling explosion of greenery: the lush and fertile valleys and hills which form the Inter-Andean strip of Ecuador….

I play the teacher and my friends the students.  The quiz of this morning is to identify the correct names of the volcanoes which form the Eastern and Western Ranges of the Andes as they cross though Ecuador from north to south. The Western Range has already shown us the beauty of the giant Pichincha Volcano, its two main summits, perfectly clear today and slightly sprinkled with snow.  Next to be seen is the Atacazo and a few miles to the south an old Volcano, Corazon, with its heart-shaped rugged summit, which is exactly what “Corazon” means: “heart”. Right after Corazon we can already see the two sharp peaks, fully snow-covered, of the Ilinizas Volcanoes, most likely one old volcano broken by time and weather into two separate peaks. Looking towards the east, the Volcanoes’ lane is equally impressive: the magnificent Cayambe and Antisana Volcanoes, both well above 19.000 feet above sea level show us their snow and glacier’s covered summits.  Then we identify the Pasochoa, Rumiñahui and Sincholagua. When we are reminded about the name given to this stretch of the Andes by Alexander von Humboldt more than 200 years ago, there is little wonder: “The Avenue of the Volcanoes”… Indeed it is an awesome Avenue or Boulevard of volcanoes, beautifully framing the Inter-Andean valleys and the Pan-American Highway in the center of Ecuador.

Just a little over an hour and a half since we left Quito, we now enter the realms of His Majesty, the Cotopaxi Volcano, one of the most beautiful mountains in the world and one of the highest active volcanoes in the planet.  The day has become a bit cloudy and we cannot see yet the summit but we now we will see it later.  We stop at El Boliche’s Recreation Area for a short visit to its small train station and to the equally small Interpretation Center which explains in wooden panels the geological story of the great volcano.  We continue into the Main Entrance of the Cotopaxi National Park for the obligatory registration (presently there is no entrance fee charged to the visitors), but we do receive instructions from the Park’s wardens and staff about the do’s and don’ts while in the huge protected area which surrounds the volcano.  We make a short visit to the pretty Handicrafts’ Shop adjoining the Park’s entrance, ran by one of the indigenous communities of the area.

While our driver Jose conducts the van, Isabel, Fernando, Victor and I begin a new quiz session, this time to identify some of the highland plants and to determine the vegetation zones which rapidly change as we climb higher. The old agave or century-plants and grasslands soon give pass to the pampas and moorland vegetation as we are steadily climbing in elevation. Suddenly the clouds begin to dissipate and for our excitement and happiness, the perfect-cone shape of the volcano begins to appear… We admire the reddish rock walls which reveal the existence of abundant iron in the rock structure of the volcano.  In a few minutes the summit becomes totally uncovered and we can admire the magnificence of the colossus, its summit and crater, over 20.000 feet of altitude above sea level, displaying an incomparable sight of white glaciers and snow against a deep blue Equatorial sky, a view that leaves us without words.

We ask Jose to stop and rush for our cameras, to capture the glorious scenes (and some pictures of ourselves) for posterity.  The wind moves the pampas grasses and we eagerly seek for a lucky vision of an Andean condor, but that part does not materialize… It is chilly at almost 15.000 feet and the giant volcano seems so close…. Yet, we do know that to reach the summit would require not only special training, acclimatization and equipment, but many hours and even days to reach the top.  However, just that vision makes our day and, since our intention is not to climb the volcano but to explore its surrounding National Park, we continue with our day’s visit, about which we will tell you more on the next issue, not to be missed.

EXPLORING SOME OF THE “UNKWNOWN CORNERS” OF QUITO, PART THREE

Continuing with our exploration of some of those “little known corners” of Quito, particularly at the south end of the Historic Center, not far from the legendary Train Station of Chimbacalle, now beautifully restored and back to work as one of the two main terminals of Ecuador’s historic Trans-Andean Railway; we find another city jewel, semi-hidden on a popular neighborhood, surrounded by multi-colored houses: The Mexico Theater (locally, “Teatro Mexico”).  This is another icon of Southern Quito, built in 1945 as the first cinema of those neighborhoods that were starting to expand towards the south of the city, in the days when there was only some incipient black and white TV and no digital technology such as cell phones or even Internet.  Thus, the theater, with its neo-colonial architecture, dark red curtains and those grandiose Hollywood movie productions of the “Glory Days” of cinema provided the best entertainment for entire families, young couples and groups of friends.

With the fading of the railway and the disappearance of the activity at the Train Station, plus the advent of color-TV and other electronic entertainment alternatives, Teatro Mexico also closed its doors and fell into dust and oblivion, just a memory of “good old times” for the elder population. However, in 2008, as part of a massive restoration of the city’s patrimonial spaces, the Municipality of Quito decided to intervene and rescue this city heritage space.  Now we enter the theater, with a special permit to visit off-hours, to find with pleasant surprise that it has been turned around and converted into a totally modern Theater and Cultural Center, equipped with the most advanced audiovisual technology, laser illumination and frequent venue to some important city events, concerts, Miss Ecuador pageants and other special occasions. My friends and I comment how positive it is to have rehabilitated and modernized one such space for theater and culture, in an area without those elements.  With the Train Station back to work, the entire neighborhood and the city’s southern districts have woken up to a new reality and become integrated within the city’s patrimonial circuits.

A few blocks away we arrive at the MIC (Spanish initials for Interactive Museum of Sciences of Quito), a new and interesting proposal with a focus on education, where we find the largest scale-model of the city with its unique topography clinging around the foothills of the Pichincha Volcano to the west, and “crawling” over the eastern hills of Monjas, Itchimbia and Bellavista. The Museum offers students and visitors in general a fascinating encounter with the basics of Science, in an entertaining and practical way.  Being an Interactive space, also equipped with up-to-date technology, it allows the guests to conduct simple yet admirable experiments and to recreate the privileged position that Ecuador (and Quito, its capital) have by being at the Earth’s “waist”, the Equator.  Different and fun, the Interactive Museum of Sciences also proves to be well worth a visit, which we share with several groups of secondary students, some on organized classroom outings, others checking on their own, the basic facts of Science.

As the afternoon is coming to an end, we make our way back to “modern Quito” and its northern districts, not without making a brief passage by the charming colonial neighborhood of San Marcos, quietly tucked to the east of the Historic Center, yet just a few blocks away from its very heart, the Independence Square. The fascinating Junin Street is lined with neatly restored colonial and post-colonial houses, their balconies and flower-pots being a city trademark. The small square and adjoining pretty Church of San Marcos are real beauties, which call for post-card pictures, even in the later afternoon’s dimming light.  Small artists and artisans ateliers offer additional spaces of interest to explore and look for something new.  A lovely 8-room boutique hotel provides unexpected luxury to the area and, while chatting with the owner, we finalize our journey of exploration of some more of Quito’s “unknown” (or at least little known) corners, sipping a warm cup of coffee, a delicious brew, accompanied by a decades old “tea-time Quito sytle” delicacy: the “humitas”, soft and buttery, cheese-filled corn patties wrapped on the actual corn leaf. Just a few more “magic touches” of a magical city: Quito, the historic capital of Ecuador……

Categories: Ecuador Tags: ,

EXPLORING SOME OF THE “UNKWNOWN CORNERS OF QUITO”, THE CAPITAL OF ECUADOR, PART TWO

Quito’s Historic Center, recognized as Latin America’s largest and best preserved and the world’s first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site is the centerpiece of interest for most national and foreign visitors.  However, there are numerous little known or “unknown” corners of the fascinating city, well worth checking up.  Continuing with our exploration of some of these unique places and particularly focused on the south of the Historic Center, my small group of friends and I leave La Ronda Street and district and make a brief visit to the imposing 16th Century Church, Convent and Square of Santo Domingo, another of the capital city relics. The church is another sampler of the unique “Quito School of Art”, with its impressive walls and ceiling paintings, its heavily decorated altars, boasting impressive sculptures of indigenous authors and a feeling of strong religious bonds of the local population of today. The Convent has a magnificent Museum of Religious Art, quaint courtyards with stone fountains and a superb Library, all ran by the Dominican Friars.

Leaving the religious complex we focus on the Square of the same name, whose main icon is the full-sized statue of Marshall Antonio Jose de Sucre; Simon Bolivar`s most loyal and famous main General, a talented battle strategist, who conducted the Battle of Pichincha, which sealed the Independence of Ecuador, at the very foothills of the legendary Pichincha Volcano.  Sucre’s right hand and fingers point to the west, precisely in the direction of the hilly battlegrounds, where 200 years ago, Ecuador became an independent nation.  The area is now filled with multi-colored homes of the constantly expanding city. Towards the opposite side, the colonial Arch of Santo Domingo is another icon, leading to the very old colonial neighborhood of “La Loma Grande” with its pretty balconies and restored homes, keeping the original architectonic style intact. Unlike La Ronda, this neighborhood and its main street, Calle Rocafuerte, is still residential and houses families still living amongst stone courtyards and square-shaped two-story complexes which also host small workshops and businesses.

Now we descend south of the Historic Center’s borders, down Pedro Vicente Maldonado Avenue and pass by the impressive complex of La Recoleta, the seat, since the mid 1950’s, of Ecuador’s Ministry of Defense.  The front building is of classic mid XX Century architecture. It leads the way to the large compound which includes new and modern buildings, where the Ecuadorian Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as other Military entities like the Joint Command have their headquarters. Just a block further down is the old bridge over the Machangara River, a city neighbor that meanders through the southern part of the city and then heads on towards the east. The Municipality has built a “Linear Park” following the winding course of the river’s shores and providing green spaces, sports courts, biking and jogging lanes as well as children playgrounds for the citizens of the area to enjoy.  The city’s southern districts have grown and expanded enormously, accounting today for almost one half of the entire city’s population, and is made predominantly of “working class” neighborhoods, not exempt of signs of prosperity like ample avenues, small and mid-sized businesses, a complete network of public transportation and modern shopping malls.

Now Maldonado Avenue climbs again and leads us to the one century old and recently restored Train Station of Chimbacalle, a landmark of the country’s history, site of many important events and the historic venue which in 1908 sealed the union, through the train tracks, between the Pacific Coast of Ecuador and its bustling commercial port of Guayaquil, the main gateway to the external world, with the capital city, surmounting the gigantic barrier of the Andes mountains. Today, the Station, fully rehabilitated, is not only the starting point for unique train adventures for the national and international tourists, but also a superb Railway Museum, while it houses comfortable waiting rooms for train voyagers; a Train Café and Thematic Souvenirs Train Shop. The legendary steam locomotive number 17, fully painted in red as well as its two or three attached carriages stands in the center of the main patio as a “living museum” invaluable masterpieces of rail engineering and history.

As there are still more jewels to “rediscover” in the area, we rather leave those for our next issue, which we invite you not to miss….

Categories: Ecuador

Exploring unkwnown corners of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, Part one

Quito, the historic capital of Ecuador has been for centuries the center of power of the legendary Kingdom of Quitu; later as the Northern Capital of the Inca Empire and during the Spanish colony, the flourishing hub of art in the Americas, as capital of the Royal Audience of Quito and, since 1830, after the Independence Wars, the official capital of the Independent and Democratic Republic of Ecuador. The ancient metropolis, cradled at the foothills of the mighty Pichincha volcano and surrounded by stunning views of snow-covered giant volcanoes and Andean mountains has always been a city of extraordinary beauty and a rich cultural heritage.  So much so that, in 1978, UNESCO chose Quito as the first city in the world to be declared a World Heritage Site. Quito’s Historic Center is recognized as Latin America’s largest and best preserved and its many historic, architectonic and artistic treasures are actual “musts” on the list of national and particularly foreign visitors.  However, there are also some “unknown” corners well worth checking up.  With this in mind, today, a small group of friends and I decided to explore some of the “rarely seen” city attractions.

We start up near the southern “border” of the city’s Historic Center.  As we pass underneath the “Arch of the Queen”, a 17th century monument, we make a short visit to the City’s Museum, a restored three hundred year old hospital, converted now into a fascinating theme-museum which tells the city’s rich and millenary history in panels, photos and exhibits.  Right across the street is the 350-year old Convent and Cloister of El Carmen Alto, with its beautiful colonial church and their own collection of religious art.  A curiosity of this convent is the selling of delicious local sweets, honey and medicinal herbs which the nuns do through a wooden spinning-wheel, so you never get to see their faces, just hear their voices while you exchange money for the goods you purchase.

Now we head on south and the El Panecillo Hill looks like a giant mountain, strangely “stuck” in the center of a flat valley and crowned by the immense metallic statue of the Winged Virgin of Quito, all framed by Quito’s famous blue Equatorial sky, shining brilliantly on this sunny morning. As we emerge into the 24 de Mayo Boulevard (the date commemorates Ecuador’s final Independence battle against Spain in 1822), we can see to our west the southern silhouette of the grand Pichincha Volcano, its foothills painted in green and also contrasting against that unique Quiteño-blue sky….

A couple of blocks down the Boulevard we find one of the entrances to La Ronda Street, claimed to be the heart of Quito’s oldest neighborhood. La Ronda is a single-lane very narrow and slightly winding cobblestone street framed by typically colonial Spanish-style houses, all painted in white, with their traditional balconies filled with flower pots and red geraniums. Most of the centuries’ old houses are now restored and converted either into small cafes and restaurants, specialized in traditional Ecuadorian and particularly “Quiteño” food, beverages and music or into workshops and ateliers where local artists and craftsmen and women keep up with some ancestral handicrafts of enormous skill, color and value.  The charming indoor courtyards and stone fountains add a magic aura to the area.  Some days of the week there is a demonstration of ancestral games and we are lucky to see and to participate on some of the amusing and rather unique games and contests, a great deal of fun.  Being close to the noon hour, we step inside one of the charming little restaurants to try the delicious cheese-filled and sugar-sprinkled flour empanadas; a typical “locro”, a potato soup with small and soft chunks of cooked pork-skins and an equally typical dessert of figs and fresh cheese.

After lunch we take a last glance at La Ronda and stop briefly at a workshop where three artisans, including a young woman, create real pieces of art in wax, to produce the amazing and very colorful wax-candles, some of them of considerable size, used for religious processions, altars’ decoration and special religious occasions.  But there is still more to see and do, so we move on. The rest of the story will continue on our next issue.

EXPLORING SOME OF ECUADOR’S THERMAL RESORTS, PART THREE (FINAL)

We have arrived into Papallacta and, after a long yet exciting day, a dip in the warm pools of our fine Hotel and Spa’s thermal complex is the ideal thing to do.  We rapidly check-in into our comfortable rooms and, donned in swimming trunks and open-toed sandals we head for the pool complex, where you can shift from the steaming hot sulfurous waters to other pools with cold water and repeat the exercise a number of times. The Spa and pool staff is ready to advice you about the safety regulations and tips to enjoy to the fullest the soothing effects of the thermal waters.  We spend some twenty minutes there, just before dusk, and then we make our way to the fantastic and even gardened indoor Spa complex, where in great comfort and in an ambiance of peace, relaxation and elegance, we take a session of Spa treatments.  I choose a body and facial exfoliation treatment with oils and flower-baths, just perfect not only for the skin but for the mind and spirit.  My companions opt for different kinds of massages or a “reflexology” treatment based on ancestral techniques working with your feet.

Feeling just gloriously relaxed, we get back to our rooms to change into “smart casual” outfits and head on to the cozy bar by a fireplace, to enjoy a cocktail before dinner.  Again that unbeatable feeling of peace and tranquility elevated to its highest peaks…. Then it is dinner time and, feeling so good, we decide to pamper ourselves with a delicate corn soup, superbly grilled salmon steak with a garnish of Ecuadorian asparagus and baby tomatoes and a delicious strawberry mousse for desert.  Of course the little “banquet” deserved a nice bottle of red wine which we sipped slowly, just enjoying the unique pleasure of ending one same day spent between two of Ecuador’s most outstanding thermal springs resorts.

The following morning, totally relaxed and well-rested, another sunny day welcomes us and, once again, the stunning views of the giant Antisana Volcano totally uncovered and showing all of its white beauty escort us across the scenic gardens into the dining-room for a bountiful buffet breakfast. Willy, our local guide is ready now to take us on a short tour of the area, which includes visiting the numerous smaller public and private pools and spas at the nearby town of Papallacta, located at close to 11.000 feet above sea level.  Then we go bird-watching for a while at the eastern shores of the fairly large and scenically pretty Lake of Papallacta (the word translates from the indigenous Kichwa language into “land of potatoes”).  We manage to spot some wading birds like stilts, ducks and some kind of heron, scouting the lake’s shores.  Also a pretty Andean kite flies overhead, high above, with its white wings fully extended.

Then we take a nature trail leading us into a wilder area of the high moorlands that surround the Papallacta area.  The vegetation is typical Andean moorlands and Willy shows us some pretty high-mountain flowers like the “chuquirahua”.  More encounters with birds allow us, with the aid and trained eyes of our guide, to spot several colorful tanagers, dazzling hummingbirds and other raptors like one type of falcon, scouting the area from high above.  Willy tells us that it is not unlikely to occasionally see some wild deer, wild rabbits and foxes in the area.  The area is just in the borderline of one of Ecuador’s Protected Areas, the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve and it exudes peace and tranquility, only broken by the whistling sound of the Andean wind that starts to pick-up force as it gets close to midday.

Fully happy with the short but fascinating nature exploration, we get back to our Hotel and Spa for one last visit to the thermal baths, arranged along a nicely designed maze of winding pools, cascades and grottos, which make the experience even more enjoyable.  A cold shower and getting back to our outdoor clothes, set us ready for a light lunch of “palmito” (hearts of palm) salad; braised trout, a specialty of the area, accompanied by small potatoes and organic lettuces.  A cold Ecuadorian beer is the perfect company for the meal, as we get ready for the one and a half hour ride over the modern and well-paved Inter-Oceanic road back to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, after two days filled with relaxing experiences visiting two of the country’s most important and touristic thermal resorts…. One more fantastic adventure and a new experience comes to an end but we will certainly return for more….

EXPLORING SOME OF ECUADOR’S THERMAL RESORTS, PART TWO

Arriving into Baños (“Baths”), Ecuador’s most notorious and antique thermal springs resort, now converted also into one of the country’s busiest hubs for adventure sports buffs and nature lovers; we check in at our exclusive Hotel and Spa, which not only provides top-notch accommodations, great food and fine service; but also offers a complete array of Spa options, treatments, whether for ailments, beauty, anti-stress or plain relaxation.

After a gourmet dinner, we go out for a short night tour of the small yet bustling and always very picturesque city, vibrating at night with the sound of music, young people in the streets, late-night eateries and of course many discos and music places. The town teems with hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, souvenir shops, adventure sports outlets and handicraft shops and ateliers.

After a good night’s sleep, the next morning we start up early with a great buffet breakfast and dedicate one hour to try, each one of us, a different Spa option.  Being there, totally relaxed, with soothing background music and the feeling of a little kid being pampered, we get our body and soul fully renovated and positively energized to continue with our journey. One last tour of the town of Baños takes us to the popular Municipal hot-water pools where, since the early hours, hundreds of visitors from all over Ecuador and also some foreign tourists congregate to enjoy the pleasant effects of the warn sulfurous waters.

Before leaving Baños, we take a brief tour of another Hotel-Spa and Resort, this one a luxury property located atop a hill on the very slopes of the Tungurahua Volcano, providing spectacular views of the city of Baños cradled down below, on a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by simply dramatic mountainous landscapes. We continue our descent towards the actual entrance or gateway to the Amazon Region.  The ride is amazing, as we follow the northern banks of the long and winding gorge of the Pastaza River, with its endless cascades and lush vegetation. This is another route for photographers and we have to count on Miguel, our driver’s patience, to make frequent stops, whether to photo or film stunning scenery or colorful flowers, awesome trees and the explosion of pure nature that surrounds us.

An hour later we reach El Puyo, one of the most attractive Amazonian cities of Ecuador.  However, as our trip is focused on the thermal resorts, we just give a quick glance at the city, promise to come back for a full exploration of its many attractions in and around, and we continue now with a northern course, along the main Amazonian backbone road that unites the northern with the southern extremes of this, the largest region in surface of Ecuador.  En route, we make a stop at one of the Jungle Lodges of the area, perched at a slightly elevated plateau, overlooking magnificent jungle sights and tucked at the heart of the Cordillera de los Guacamayos (the Cordillera of the Macaws); a bird-watching paradise.  We stop for lunch, featuring Amazonian specialties and we run into two groups of dedicated “birders” who compete in thrill to tell us their exciting experiences, having seen amazing species of birds in the area.  Their accompanying guides give us several tips which only trigger our desire to be back in the area for a new and different nature tourism experience.

We continue our northbound journey to reach, in a little over one and a half hours of good paved road, the resort town of Papallacta, another center of thermal springs and resorts, located on the north-eastern Andes, just a little more than one hour east of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city.  It is a sunny afternoon and the blue sky, just dotted with a few clouds is the perfect frame for the imposing Antisana Volcano, its massive edifice towering to over 19.000 feet of elevation and fully covered with giant layers of snow and glaciers, creating an almost surrealistic vision. It is precisely the vicinity of the volcano and the gigantic magma-chambers that spread for miles underneath the colossus, which also create here another perfect location for thermal springs, baths, relaxing resorts and Spa’s.  As we pull into our Hotel-Spa and Resort in Papallacta, almost at sundown, we feel once again that heavenly feeling of relaxation and peace, as many hotel guests still enjoy the winding hot-water snake-shaped pool which passes in front of every room in the complex….. And the story continues with its last part on the next issue…….

Categories: Uncategorized

EXPLORING SOME OF ECUADOR’S MOST IMPORTANTE THERMAL RESORTS, PART ONE

After a little over two hours of riding the modern and fully paved Pan-American Highway, south of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, we find ourselves approaching Ambato, one of the larger cities of the country’s central Andes and a major hub of commerce as well as a strategic crossroads between the Pacific Coast and the Andean Region.  From a distance we can see Ambato’s New Cathedral, its white structure standing out among the rest of buildings.  But what captures our attention is certainly the view to the east of the road: as the last few clouds drift away, the perfect-shaped cone of the imposing Tungurahua Volcano shows up to delight us with its awesome and slightly intimidating structure; its summit, towering at close to 19.000 feet of elevation, covered by a thin layer of snow and glaciers and a small plume of smoke rising to the blue skies, as a clear signal of the giant’s constant activity.

As our target is Ecuador’s most popular thermal resort town, we by-pass Ambato city and we turn straight to the east, towards Baños (its name literally translates into “Baths”).  The good road, a branch of the Pan American Highway’s lateral network, is terrifically scenic, with the Tungurahua Volcano steadily in front of us and getting closer and more spectacular by the minute.  We make frequent stops to take pictures and while Miguel, the driver, patiently accommodates for our frequent requests to stop, Maria, Cristina and I busily compete in catching new and different angles of the mighty volcano.  The road gradually descends from the Andean heights down the eastern flanks of the gigantic cordillera. We drive past colorful rural landscapes which include the always amazing terraces, cultivated with maize, wheat, vegetables, grain, potatoes and dozens of Andean and subtropical produce.

Soon we are riding alongside the southern side of a deep gorge and the picturesque valley and plateau which is crossed by the Patate River. The valley itself, with its pleasant and mild, year-round subtropical climate, is a haven for the production of fruits such as pears, apples, plums, cherries, oranges, tangerines, figs, raisins and several exotic fruits, native to Ecuador. The views are an endless parade of color and visual beauty, as everywhere we go in Ecuador.  We reach a long metallic bridge and the location calls for a stop.  Right under the bridge, two rivers meet: the Patate coming from the northwest and the Chambo coming from the southwest.  This is the birthplace of the majestic Pastaza River, one of Ecuador’s most important Amazonian Rivers and a large tributary of the Amazon River. I am particularly fascinated by the rock formations, shaped in vertical blocks of granitic rocks, creating a unique view and raising many questions as to the geological structure of the area.  We are at Tungurahua Volcano’s very northern foothills.

In less than one hour since we left Ambato, we enter Baños, a picturesque resort town, also known as the “Gateway to the Amazon Region”; nestled in a bowl-shaped valley, totally surrounded by stunning mountains, awesome cliffs and the vicinity of an active volcano: the Tungurahua. It is precisely the volcanic nature of the area, with the earth’s womb underneath, boiling at unimaginable temperatures, which has provided the perfect conditions to create a thermal springs’ paradise in the area. Baños has been for decades the favorite resort for Ecuadorians looking for the healing effects of the warm sulfurous waters or just as an ideal place for soothing relaxation.  Nowadays it is also one of Ecuador’s most visited places for international travelers, who, in addition to enjoying the thermal springs, have also found a well-developed hub for adventure sports and activities such as river rafting, rock climbing, trekking, horseback riding or mountain biking, all favored by the dramatically irregular topography or the zone.

The thermal springs have also generated an expansion of the services, which now combine from the popular municipal pools, located right beneath one of the area’s beautiful cascades in the heart of the small city; to several sophisticated Spas, offering world-class services and facilities for those looking for relaxation in the best conditions of comfort. As the afternoon ends, we check in at our Hotel-Spa and ready ourselves for a first exploration of the village of Baños, as lively at night as it is during the day.  We will tell you more about it on the next issue.

Categories: Uncategorized
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