South and east of Quito

Río Pita

To the southeast of Quito in the Valle de los Chillos is the Río Pita. Its ice-cold water, fed by the snow melt from Cotopaxi, runs through a scenic rocky canyon surrounded by remnants of Andean forest. There are eighteen waterfalls along its course.
Chorrera de Molinuco
is a small waterfall, 20 minutes' walk from the road. Upstream (south) is the larger
Chorrera del Pita
one hour's walk from the road. Further upstream along the banks of the river is a
municipal park
with a swimming hole and trails leading south to
Cóndor Machay
, the most impressive of the waterfalls, and north to
, a lookout above the Chorrera del Pita. The latter trail crosses the river seven times, there are cables to assist you wading across and climbing rock faces.

The area is reached from
. The access to the falls is from the neighbourhood of
, for the first two falls and the village of
for the latter, all south of Sangolquí. There are a couple of lodges in the area and
Hacienda Santa Rita
which offers canopy rides through its forest reserve. Continuing beyond Rumipamba you can approach
volcanoes; be prepared for cold and wet conditions. For more information, see

Reserva Ecológica Antisana

The magnificent
Volcán Antisana
(5758 m) tempts visitors when its veil of mist dissipates and it can be seen in the distance from Quito. It is part of the Reserva Ecológica Antisana which spans the Cordillera Oriental from the highlands east to the jungle. It is a magnificent area for hiking and camping, where condors may be seen. There are no services and the area is quite rugged, so visitors must be self-sufficient.

Access to the reserve is through
, 22 km southeast of Sangolquí. In 7 km you reach a checkpoint where you have to show Sr Delgado's permit. A further 17 km ahead, the road turns to gravel and divides, the right fork goes to the base of Sincholagua (4898 m), the left fork goes to Laguna La Mica and the base of Antisana. The reserve can also be accessed from Papallacta and from below Baeza. The
Trek of the Condor
, a three- to four-day strenuous walk through
starts in El Tambo , west of Papallacta, goes through Reserva Antisana and on to Parque Nacional Cotopaxi.

In the reserve's buffer zone is
Laguna Muertepungo
a lake formed by a lava flow of Volcán Antisanilla, surrounded by nice
and native vegetation. There are walking trails, horse riding, fishing and camping possibilities.

Refugio de Vida Silvestre

This reserve is 45 minutes southeast of Quito by car towards the south end of Valle de los Chillos. The reserve is situated between 2700 m and 4200 m and preserves a remnant of humid Andean forest. It has more than 120 species of birds (unfortunately some of the fauna has been frightened away by the noise of visitors) and 50 species of trees. This is a good place for a family picnic or an acclimatization hike close to Quito. There are good trails of various lengths, between 30 minutes and eight hours.


Papallacta is a village 64 km east of Quito, along the Vía Interoceánica, the road between Quito and Oriente. Perched on a hillside on the eastern slopes of the range, it is an attractive area where you leave the
for more humid cloud forests. The region has wonderful thermal baths and offers good walking within the
Reserva Ecológica Cayambe-Coca
which spans the Cordillera Oriental from the high
to the Amazon lowlands. One access point to the reserve is from
La Virgen
, at the pass before descending to the eastern slopes, there is a ranger's station on the side road headed north to the antennas. This is an area of strikingly beautiful
dotted with lakes and popular among fishermen, it has several walking trails.
Fundación Ecológica
works on conservation with communities around the reserve and offers guiding services. A two-day walk traverses the reserve from Papallacta to Oyacachi.

Past La Virgen is the hamlet of
El Tambo
, the start of
Trek of the Condor
, through Reserva Antisana, native guides and pack animals are available for hire. Further along is
Laguna Papallacta
, formed by an old lava flow. Around the lake are a couple of community-run thermal springs, including
with four pools; they adjust the water temperature on request. Past the lake, the paved road passes high above the town of Papallacta, then zigzags down, reaching the valley to the east of town, bypassing the village. The old unpaved road descends from the lake directly to the village, then rejoins the paved road 1 km to the east.

Termas de Papallacta
,, are the most attractively developed hot springs in Ecuador. The hot water is channelled into several pools, some large enough for swimming. There is also a steam room, hot showers and cold plunge pools, as well as access to the river. The baths are crowded at weekends but usually quiet during the week. The view, on a clear day, of Antisana from the Papallacta road or while enjoying the thermal waters is superb. In addition to the pools there is a spa with a therapeutic pool, jacuzzi and massage; very clean and relaxing. Access to the complex is along a secondary road branching north off the unpaved road, 1 km west of Papallacta village. From here it is 1 km uphill to the baths.

There are additional pools at the
Hotel Termas de Papallacta
and in the other hotels on the road to the Termas, all for exclusive use of their guests. More springs in this area provide the village of Papallacta with abundant hot water and fill three simple, clean pools at the
Balneario Municipal
. The water is not as hot as at the Termas.

Tourist train to Latacunga

A tourist train runs south of Quito to Latacunga, through a lush agricultural area surrounded by magnificent volcanoes, including Cotopaxi. The tour starts at the lovely refurbished
Chimbacalle Station
with a visit to a railway museum. A breakfast stop to the sounds of Ecuadorean folk music at either
follows. Next stop is
El Boliche
, where you can admire Cotopaxi and Los Ilinizas close up. If you wish to spend a few hours until the train returns, here is
Area Nacional de Recreación El Boliche
a protected area abutting on Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. The train continues to the city of
, where you can go for lunch or visit its busy Saturday market before the return trip at 1400.


The first town south of Quito along the Panamericana is Tambillo. Three kilometres to the west is the
Santa Marta Animal Rescue Centre
which takes in abandoned and confiscated animals and rehabilitates them before returning them to their native habitat.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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