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You are here:4.2.3 Papallacta Lake and Termas de Papallacta

4.2.3 Papallacta Lake and Termas de Papallacta

The Papallacta lake area and the Termas de Papallacta Forest are located in Napo province.  Both sites are buffer zones for the 12,190 hectare Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve.  The elevation for the birding sites ranges from 3150 m to 3550 m.   The Termas de Papallacta occupies an area of 250 hectare adjacent to the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve.  The temperate forest in the Papallacta Lake area and the Termas de Papallacta holds some 160+ bird species.



Temperate Forest.



Papallacta Lake and Termas de Papallacta.

You can visit the Papallacta Lake forest and the Termas de Papallacta after visiting Papallacta Pass.  There is plenty of bus transportation running along the E28 or Interoceánica Highway.   You can catch bus transport from Quito at the Quitumbe Bus Terminal.  Ask for bus lines heading to Lago Agrio or Coca and Baeza.   You can also jump on one of these buses after your visit to the PapallactaPass.  Birding the forests around the PapallactaLake and Termas de Papallacta Private Reserve can be done by foot, but having a vehicle will broaden your range of action.  It is possible for you to hire a pickup truck from the town of Papallacta, but having your own transportation is invariably the best.

To visit the Papallacta Lake forest belonging to the Jamanco Community, you will need to ask for permission personally at the Jamamco Hot Springs, which is the entry place to the site.  The people from the Jamamco community are very welcoming, and as of April 2009 no entrance fee was required to visit their forest.  The lake itself can be birded from the highway.   To visit the Termas de Papallacta private preserve you have to be a guest to the Termas de Papallacta Hotel.  Further information regarding the Termas de Papallacta Hotel can be obtained visiting, or by calling the Termas de Papallacta office in Quito.   The office telephone number is (2) 2504 787, (2) 2230 156 or the Resort number in Papallacta (6) 2320 620/21/22.



Papallacta Lake and Termas de Papallacta.

If you are continuing from your visit to Papallacta Pass, refer to instructions on the Papallacta chapter on how to get there.  The Papallacta Pass chapter birding instruction ends at the entrance road to the Jamanco Hot Springs along the E28 highway or 5.8 km east of the continental divide.  We will use the entrance to Jamanco as a new point of reference, and here you should reset your odometer to 0.0 km.

(Click here to download Map. Papallacta Lake).

When coming from Quito and descending to the east along the E28 highway, the entrance road to Jamamco Hot Springs will be on your left.  Drive down along the open terrain, and head toward the Hot Springs facilities that include a waterslide toboggan and pools across a short bridge for 0.4 km.   At this point, turn to the right and stop at the Jamanco Hot Springs complex to ask for permission to drive on.  You will pass a gate at 0.8 km, or 1.2 km from the highway and then come to a fork.  At the fork reset your odometer to 0.0 km once again.  By taking the right hand road only 0.9 km, you will see the lake below very close the road on your right hand side.  This is a good spot to scope for Andean Gull, Yellow-billed Pintail and Andean Teal.   At times some waders will be present. After another 0.9 km you will be at the end of the lake and facing a locked gate.  Turn around and return to the last fork, drive up the hill and bird along the road stretches with good forest in both sides of the road. 

Look in this area for Andean Guan, Andean Pygmy-Owl, Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, Great Sapphirewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Glowing Puffleg, Purple-backed Thornbill, Viridian Metaltail, Bar-bellied Woodpecker, Rufous Antpitta, Blackish Tapaculo, White-banded Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Mountain Wren, Black-crested Warbler, Blue-backed Conebill, Golden-crowned Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager,  Superciliaried Hemispingus, Southern Yellow-Grosbeak, Pale-naped Brush-Finch and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch.

The road has some good forest patches until about 2.0 km where you reach to a fork.  The only birding site beyond this fork is at 2.6 km, on the right hand road going up the hill.  You might need to open some of the gates but eventually at end of this dead end road you reach a forest.  Here, at the cliff faces above the forest and tunnel, the Andean Condor had a successful nest several years ago but I don’t think that this nesting site has been used since the opening of the tunnel.

Return to the Jamanco entrance road along the E28 highway, 0.0 km.  Drive down the hill for 1.5 km.  Here you will see a side road on your right.   This side road eventually switches back to the highway after a short distance, but by walking it you might be able to see some of the species mentioned from the forest just past the Jamanco Hot Springs.  Continue for 1.3 km or 2.8 km from the Jamanco entrance road along the E28 highway.   At this point the highway continues to the right along a new section avoiding the town of Papallacata.  Take the left dirt road.  This is the old road heading to the town of Papallacta.  Drive for 2.3 km or 5.1 km from the Jamanco entrance road along the E28 highway.  Here after driving over a narrow bridge and going below a huge water pipe you will get to fork.  Here the road goes up the hill to the left and takes you to Termas de Papallacta Hotel.  The road down the hill goes to Papallacta town and beyond.  Reset your odometer again to 0.0 km for the entrance road to Termas de Pappalacta.

Take the entrance road to Termas de Papallacta Hotel 0.0 km, and drive up the hill for 1.6 km and you will reach the Termas de Papallacta Hotel.  On the way to the hotel the open grassy grounds provide home for the abundant Plain-colored Seedeater.

In order to enter the Termas de Papallacta private preserve you have to ask for permission at the Hotel’s reception. If you are not a guest in the hotel you will be ask to pay an entrance fee of $2 US per person.

The birding in this temperate forest is always best in the early morning or late afternoon.  It is best to plan to check in the Hotel near midday and organize your visits for the afternoon of the same day and the morning of the next day.

(Click here to download Map. Termas de Papallacta  English).

The gate to enter the preserve is near the hotel.  The preserve is also known as Rancho del Cañon, or Canyon Ranch in English.  Reset your odometer at the gate to 0.0 km one more time.  Once past the gate, drive up the road toward the Cayambe-Coca Reserve for 1.5 km.  The bridge before you get to this reserve is a worthwhile stop to look for the White-capped Dipper.  Immediately after this bridge at 1.5km you will come to a fork where you take the right hand road.  The forest on both sides of the road after this fork is good to explore for birds until the road begins to climb steeply.  After dark this steep area is good to look for the Band-winged Nightjar.

This area is good for Shining Sunbeam, Mountain Velvetbreast, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Sword-billed Hummingbird, Purple-backed Thornbill, White-browed Spinetail, Pearled Treerunner, Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet, White-throated Tyrannulet, White-banded Tyrannulet, Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant, Crowned Chat-Tyrant, Red-crested Cotinga, Rufous Wren, Spectacled Whitestart, Black-crested Warbler, Citrine Warbler, Blue-backed Conebill, Glossy Flowerpiercer, Blue-and-black Tanager, Golden-crowned Tanager, Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager, Hooded Mountain-Tanager, Black-chested Mountain-Tanager, Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager, Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager, Black-capped Hemispingus, Superciliaried Hemispingus, Plushcap, Paramo Seedeater, Slaty Finch and Stripe-headed Brush-Finch.

From this point and beyond in case of doubt, you should stay on the main road always to the left.

Further along the road for1.2 km or 2.7 km from the entrance gate to the Termas de Papallacta Hotel, there will a side road to your right.  This side road enters for only 50 m and ends with a series of trails through bunch grass and scrubby vegetation.  Look here for the White-chinned Thistletail.  Follow the trail to your right and head into the forest in front.   A bridge over the stream will let you access a couple of nice inside forest trails where you can look for some of the secretive sculkers such as Undulated Antpitta, Rufous Antpitta, Ash-colored Tapaculo and Blackish Tapaculo.

Drive up the hill for 1.0 km more or 3.7 km from the entrance gate by the Termas de Papallacta Hotel and search this forest intermixed with dense Bamboo stands.  This area holds many of the species mentioned before with other specialties including White-chinned Thistletail, Agile Tit-Tyrant, Barred Fruiteater and Black-capped Hemispingus.  This mixed forest is also the home of the super-rare and localized Crescent-faced Antpitta.  Even though I have taken many trips to this site, I was not able to find this antpitta at this site.   However my friend Alejandro Solano reported it here in February of 2008.

At a point further 1.5 km or 5.2 km from the entrance gate by the Termas de Papallacta Hotel, you will reach a ranger station and the entrance of the Cayambe-Coca Reserve.

The stream which was in view just before the ranger station is another place to check for

White-capped Dipper.  From this stream you want to walk down the road at least as far the first very steep stretch and look for many of the species previously mentioned and Páramo Tapaculo.  The rare and local Masked Mountain-Tanager as well as Black-backed Bush-Tanager occur here.

To enter Cayambe-Coca Reserve you have to leave your vehicle behind and walk.   The trail toward the lakes is over to the left after entering the Reserve and will get you to scrubby habitat where Masked Mountain-Tanager can be seen.

To enter the Cayambe-Coca Reserves you have to pay an entrance fee which is $5US for Ecuadorian residents and $10US for foreigners.

Driving the road into the park is forbidden unless you have a special permit from the Ministerio del Medio Ambiente from the Cayambe office.  After some 46 km the main road takes you to another ranger station near the small town of Oyacachi, passing mainly through grassland Páramo, scrubby bushes and a few patches of Polylepis trees.


Birds to look for

Papallacta Lake and Termas de Papallacta.

Grasslands (G), Second   GrowthForest   (2GF), Stunted  Forest (SF), Forest (F), Rivers (R), Lakes (L).

Common: Yellow-billed   Pintail (L), Andean Teal   (L), Shining Sunbeam (SF,F), Tyrian Metaltail (2GF), Viridian   Metaltail (2GF,F), Blackish Tapaculo (F,SF,2GF), Pearled Treerunner (2GF,F),   White-banded Tyrannulet (2GF,G),   White-throated Tyrannulet (2GF,F), Black-crested Warbler (2GF), Spectacled   Whitestart (2GF,P), Glossy   Flowerpiercer (2GF,F,SF), Blue-backed   Conebill (2GF,F), Scarlet-bellied Mountain-Tanager (2GF,F),   Plain-colored Seedeater (2GF,G).

Uncommon: Andean   Gull (L), Andean Guan (F), Band-winged Nightjar (2GF,F), Buff-winged Starfrontlet (2GF,F),  Great Sapphirewing (2GF,F), Sword-billed   Hummingbird (2GF,F), Purple-backed Thornbill (2GF,F), Bar-bellied Woodpecker   (F), White-chinned Thistletail (2GF,G), White-browed Spinetail (F), Rufous Antpitta   (F), Tawny Antpitta (2GF,G), Ash-colored Tapaculo (2GF), Agile   Tit-Tyrant  (2GF), Tawny-rumped Tyrannulet (2GF,F),   Rufous-breasted Chat-Tyrant (2GF,F),   Crowned Chat-Tyrant (F),   Barred Fruiteater (F), Red-crested Cotinga (2GF,F), Mountain Wren (2GF,F),  White-capped Dipper (R), Citrine   Warbler (2GF,F),   Superciliaried Hemispingus   (F), Black-capped Hemispingus (2GF,F), Blue-backed Conebill (2GF,F),   Gray-hooded Bush-Tanager (2GF,F),   Black-backed Bush-Tanager (2GF,F),   Golden-crowned Tanager (SF,2GF), Blue-and-black Tanager (2GF,F),  Buff-breasted Mountain-Tanager (2GF, F), Hooded   Mountain-Tanager (2GF,F),   Black-chested Mountain-Tanager (2GF, F), Plushcap (2GF,F), Southern Yellow-Grosbeak (2GF), Pale-naped   Brush-Finch (2GF,F,SF),   Stripe-headed brush-Finch (2GF,F).   

Rare: Andean Pygmy-Owl (F), Mountain   Velvetbreast (F),   Rainbow-bearded Thornbill (2GF, F), Glowing Puffleg (2GF), Crescent-faced   Antpitta (2GF,F), Undulated   Antpitta (F), Masked Mountain-Tanager (SF), Paramo Seedeater (2GF,F), Slaty   Finch (2GF,F).

For further information on the Termas de Papallacta bird list visit Note: The Chestnut-bellied Cotinga record in this list is only a possibility. This species HAS NOT been recorded from this area.

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


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