After the amazon, we wanted to go to Otavalo. It was however too far to reach in one day and spending the night in Quito did not please us. We hence stopped in a town called Papallacta, a couple of hours before Quito, where we enjoyed the best thermal baths of Ecuador at around 3300 m above sea level. A nice and relaxing experience after the heat of the jungle.
How to get there
From Cuyabeno, we took the boat then shuttle back to Lago Agrio and got there at 3 pm. We took a bus from there headed to Quito and asked to be dropped at Papallacta that we reached at around 10 pm. The bus was 10 dollars and will drop you on the highway so you have to walk a kilometer into town. Papallacta is usually done as a day trip from Quito.
Hostal coturpa: as we got to Papallacta very late and the village looked like a ghost town, we could not go through all the lodging options. Hostal coturpa is the only one that we saw and it was open. The room was very basic and costs 34 dollars a night with breakfast which we thought was way overpriced. It turned out there are other options near the thermal baths but that's 5 km from town.
Our rating for this hostel is 2.5/5.
Termas de Papallacta: there are many hot pools in papallacta but the hot springs everybody comes for are situated in a luxury hotel 5 km from town. A taxi will bring you there for 2 dollars. The entrance is 8 dollars and you can rent a towel for a dollar if you forgot yours. The pools are situated at an elevation of 3300 meters surrounded by mountains so the surroundings are gorgeous but expect it to be cold. It however only makes being in the hot pools more enjoyable. There are several pools of different temperatures but we mainly stayed in the really hot ones. We were there early on a weekday and they were less than 10 people overall. Everybody however tends to take a dip in the same pool.
Papallacta was a nice stop on the way to Otavalo. The hot springs were very relaxing for the price (not as nice as the ones we did in Costa Rica but over half the price). The sleeping options are not great but decent if you want to avoid sleeping in Quito.
I would say that Papallacta is not a must do in Ecuador but still nice if you are passing by.