Hotsprings and birdwatching in Papallacta, Ecuador? Yes, it is possible to do both!

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 in Papallacta: The Hot Springs

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!

Tyrian Metaltail, Papallacta Hot Springs, Ecuador

So imagine what birds await you a short distance away. Consider hiking the trails right along the river where you can spot birds and flowering orchids in equal measure.

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 You might spot other hummingbirds like the Tyrian Metal-tail, the Shining Sunbeam, 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.

Read more about the Papallacta Hotsprings

For the most recent sightings, check out the birdwatching list for the Papallacta Hot Springs on E-bird.

Pichincha Province, Yanacocha Reserve
Napo Province, Shining Sunbeam

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.

A waterfall gushes from the high mountains in Cayambe Coca National Park, a great place for birdwatching in Papallacta

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!

Tawny Antpitta, Cayambe-Coca National Park, Papallacta Entrance, Ecuador
A rare Masked-Mountain Tanager; Coca Cayambe National Park, Papallacta Entrance, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

For an up-to-date birdwatching list for the Cayambe-Coca Access Road in Papallacta, check out this E-bird list

Birdwatching the Papallacta Antennas

Another spot for birdwatching in Papallacta is a place I have yet to visit but have on my list for our next trip, the Papallacta Antennas, another access point to the Cayambe-Coca National Park. You’ll note in the picture below that the antennas are located on slope with a gorgeous view of Antisana (on a clear day!) so the hike alone is worth a visit.

Antisana and foothills

The access point to reach the Papallacta Antennas is near Papallacta Lake just off the main highway. To make sure you reach the right spot, check out this trail map or contact us about going with a guide.

This place is popular with birdwatchers because it is home to several different high altitude hummingbirds like the Ecuadorian Hillstar, the Rainbow Thornbill, and the Blue-manteled Thornbill. Other great birds to spot include the Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, the Red-crested Cotinga, and the Black-backed Bush Tanager. For a more complete list, check out eBird.

Two Rufuous-bellied Seedsnipes, a ground

Birdwatching at Guango Lodge

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 arrangements with Guango BEFORE you arrive.

Also, 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.

Chestnut-breasted Coronet Hummingbird; Guango Lodge, Papallacta, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake

Guango is also a great place to use as a home-base for exploring the area around Papallacta. It is close enough for a taxi ride to the famous hot springs 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 

Masked Trogon perched near the river at Guango Lodge  | ©Angela Drake

If you would like us to add a place for birdwatching in Papallacta, please feel free to reach out! We are always looking for new places to visit on our next trip and love learning about opportunities that our clients would love.