Most people make the day trip from Quito to Papallacta to enjoy the hot springs alone. Then there are those of us who go for the birds! With that in mind, here are a few locations in and around Papallacta, Ecuador that make for great birdwatching!
Birdwatching The Papallacta Hotsprings
Birds dot the grounds of Las Termas de Papallacta! You don’t even need to hike one of the trails. We’ve observed Green Trainbearers and Shining Sunbeam hummingbirds in bushes right next to the parking lot!
So imagine what the birds that await if you walk a short distance along the river or up into the mountains towards Cayambe Coca National Park. You might spot other hummingbirds like the Tyrian Metal-tail and the Buff-winged Starfrontlet. Additionally, shy birds like the Pale-naped Brushfinch and colorful birds like the Scarlet-bellied Mountain Tanager, call these cloud forests home.
For the most recent sightings, check out the birdwatching list for the Papallacta Hot Springs on E-bird.
Read more about the Papallacta Hotsprings
Visit the Nearby Cayambe-Coca National Park
A little further up the road from Las Termas de Papallacta is the stunning Cayambe-Coca National Park. Shrouded in clouds for most of the year, this mysterious landscape is home to the Tawny Breasted Antpitta, the Blue-backed Conebill, the Glowing Puffleg (still on my must-see list!), and the iconic Sword-billed Hummingbird.
While there are birds to be seen along the entire road leading up to the park, some of the most iconic are best seen near the ranger station and along the trails inside the park grounds. My favorite bird from this region so far is the Masked Mountain-Tanager seen in the picture below!
Make sure to read our article on Cayambe-Coca National Park to know what to expect!
For an up-to-date birdwatching list for the Cayambe-Coca Access Road in Papallacta, check out this E-bird list.
Since Guango Lodge is only about 10 kilometers from the town of Papallacta, it is possible to arrive from Quito in the early morning, bird to your heart’s content and then head to the hot springs for an afternoon of soaking. Lunch can be at Guango or in Papallacta! Just make sure to make your lunch arrangments with Guango BEFORE you arrive.
Make sure to plan plenty of time for sitting in the hummingbird garden. There, you will have the opportunity to see about a dozen different species, many of them visiting native flowering plants as well as the sugar feeders.
Guango is also a great place to use as a homebase for exploring the area around Papallacta. It is close enough for a taxi ride to the famous hotsprings but small enough to feel like an escape from large crowds.
In fact, I can almost guarantee that your small group would be the only ones using the hiking trails for the vast majority of the year. If you’re lucky, you might arrive on a day when the forested trail near the river is full of Masked Trogons in full mating furor. They take over the trees on both sides of the river! If not, there are still another 277 species to see!
Learn More About Day-tripping to Guango Lodge