A Walk Among the Roses

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and in my part of the world, roses and chocolates are common gifts on that day. If you’re buying or receiving long stemmed roses in Canada and the United States, chances are the roses come from Cotopaxi in Ecuador.

An Ecuadorian red rose
An Ecuadorian red rose

Where is Cotopaxi?

Cotopaxi is one of South America’s most famous volcanoes and one of its most active ones. It’s located 60 km south of Quito and is within the famous “Avenue of Volcanoes” in Ecuador, a long stretch of 320 km (200 miles) comprised of tall peaks and volcanoes.

At the base of Cotopaxi volcano, there are many rose plantations or rose farms (seen as white buildings in the photo below). My sister and I took a walking tour in one of the plantations and learned how Ecuadorian roses are cultivated and exported to other countries around the world.

Snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano and rose plantations near its base
Snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano and rose plantations near its base

Why Roses Thrive in Cotopaxi?

  • Climate: Ecuador has the perfect conditions for growing roses. Ecuador is right on the Equator which means constant temperatures year round. During the day, it is around 20C (68F) and during the night, it cools down to 4C (39F).
  • Altitude: The roses grow in Cotopaxi at about 3000 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level. The intensity, luminosity, and the 12 hours of sunlight ensure the roses grow beautifully.
  • Volcanic soil: The soil in Cotopaxi is rich in minerals, allowing the roses to grow very tall with thick, strong stems, the largest blooms, and in the most vibrant colours.

What Does a Rose Plantation Look Like?

A rose plantation has many rows of white plastic-covered houses. Inside each house, many rows of Ecuadorian rose varieties grow more than 2 meters (6.5 feet) tall.

Rose plantation

Automated irrigation and heating systems control the temperature and relative humidity to ensure the optimal conditions for the plants. The rose buds are kept in perfect shape with nets.

Ecuadorian rose buds in green nets
Ecuadorian red rose buds in green nets

There are about 500 rose varieties in Ecuador. The rose plantation that we visited offers about 40 varieties. I attach a sample of six different roses here.

Once the roses are ready for harvest, they’re cut and placed in a pre-cool area where the outdoor heat is removed from the flowers as they arrive from the field, swiftly halting the opening of the flowers.

Next, the roses are placed in containers in a large hydration and packing cold room where temperature is kept between 0.5°C and 2°C guaranteeing quality prior to shipping. Rose production and international shipments are planned in time for special holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

Roses to go
Roses to go

How Are Roses Used Locally?

Roses are sold in local markets or flower stands along the roads for a very inexpensive price. They are also given as complimentary gifts to visitors at the plantation. The local haciendas have rose arrangements in their reception areas and some give a long-stemmed rose to welcome their guests upon arrival.

Roses at Hacienda La Cienega
Roses at Hacienda La Cienega reception desk

Some hotels have more formal flower arrangements and gorgeous fresh roses on display, like this hotel in Quito.

Roses at a hotel in Quito
Roses at a hotel in Quito

Where To Buy Ecuadorian Rose Souvenirs?

The souvenir shop on the plantation site sells all kinds of rose products. For example, dyed roses, dry rose petals, rose-scented lotion, rose-flavoured tea, and since Ecuador also produces cacao, rose-infused chocolates as well.

A popular store chain named República del Cacao has locations in Quito, at Quito international airport and in major cities where you can buy Ecuador chocolates, cacao products, Panama hats, rose-related souvenirs, etc.

Blue roses

It was a real treat to walk among the beautiful Ecuadorian roses and receive them so freely during our stay in this area of Ecuador. I’m closing this post with a photo of a cute pair of llamas that we saw upon leaving the rose plantation.

Happy Valentine’s Week!

Two llamas

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

Papallacta Hot Springs: A Delightful Stay

During my travels, sometimes I discover places that exceed my expectations. The Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta Hot Springs) resort in Ecuador was one of them. Our stay there turned out to be one of my 10 favourite experiences in Ecuador. Let me share some of my photos and brief descriptions with you.

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Where is Papallacta?

Papallacta is a small town about 70 km (43 miles) east of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Papallacta is located at an altitude of 3,250 metres (10,600 feet) in the Andes, at the edge of the Cloud forest.

Cloud forest

Where are the Papallacta hot springs?

Papallacta hot springs are located on the banks of the Papallacta river in between Antisana and Cayambe-Coca Nature Reserves. Two nearby volcanoes, Cotopaxi and Antisana, create thermal baths which vary between 30°C and 70°C (86°F and 158°F).

Active Antisana volcano

How to get there?

By car it’s about an hour drive from Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International airport (UIO), and about 1.5 hours from Quito’s city centre. Visitors can also book day tours or take local buses to Papallacta.

Where to stay?

I recommend the Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta Hot Springs) resort for its location and amenities. The resort has a large public bathing complex, a hotel, and a separate spa complex. The natural hot springs in Papallacta feed the thermal pools in the hotel.

Termas de Papallacta Resort

What to enjoy at Termas de Papallacta resort?

Thermal pools: Termas de Papallacta resort offers three different sets of pools:

  1. Private pools right outside the hotel cabins and rooms: These shallow pools, surrounded by rocks and pretty flowers, are free and exclusive for guests of the resort.
Papallacta private pools
  1. Public thermal bath complex (the Balneario): This complex has at least ten different pools with varying temperatures. These pools are open daily to the public with admission fees. For hotel guests, entrance is free.
  1. The Spa complex: This complex has five thermal pools equipped with various water jets, bubbles, water spouts and one polar pool. The pool area has garden-like setting of flagstones and flowers, with plenty of lounge chairs. These pools are open to the public at higher admission fees than the public baths. For hotel guests, the spa pool entrance fees are discounted.
Papallacta spa pools

The entrance fee for the Spa complex includes a locker, bathing cap, and towel. The change rooms in the Spa area are more luxe than the public bath complex, with heated floors, complimentary shampoo, conditioner and blow dryers. Bathrobe rental is extra.

If you’re spending just one day at Termas de Papallacta, I’d suggest to pay for entrance to the public pools at the Balneario or for the pools at the Spa complex. At the pools the temperature ranges from 36°C to 38°C (97°F to 100.4°F).

Hiking trails: Termas de Papallacta owns a protected area of approximately 200 hectares, called Canyon Ranch, located at the entrance of Cayambe-Coca Nature Reserve. Visitors can explore the hiking trails on their own or for a few US dollars, book a guided hike at the Exploratorium in the resort.

The Exploratorium is a research centre that provides information on the different species of flora and fauna found around Papallacta, some unique to the area. Up in the highlands, the cool air is great for hiking and makes lying in the hot pools that much better.

Hotel rooms: The hotel rooms are made of preserved wood with private bathroom and heated flooring. The rooms are situated around the thermal water pools for exclusive guest use. There are also bungalows for families and cottages separate from the hotel area.

Papallacta hotel room

Spa services: My sister and I booked a spa package which includes 30 minutes in the Spa thermal pools, a 20-minute steam bath in a thermal grotto, and a 30-minute back and neck massage. The steam bath grotto has hot water trickles over rocks and eucalyptus leaves while guests relax on deck chairs. There is an area for guests to rest before the massage.

On-site bar and restaurant: The hotel restaurant offers Ecuadorian and international fare using ingredients from the organic kitchen garden. I enjoyed the quinoa soup and local fresh trout, the restaurant’s specialty dish, for dinner.

My Conclusion

Termas de Papallacta resort offers the perfect pairing of recreation and relaxation. I can hike then rest or rest then hike in a magical setting. This is a stunning area for nature walks, mountain views, and hot springs. If you’re in Quito, consider a visit to the Papallacta Hot Springs. I highly recommend it!

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

Last month my sister and I made a trip to Ecuador, a country on the Pacific side of South America. Our itinerary included visits to Quito, Otavalo, Papallacta, the Amazon, Banōs, and Patate. We had a wonderful time with numerous memorable moments.

I love so many things about Ecuador and it’s tough to name my ten favourite experiences. Nevertheless, I’m listing ten for now and plan to write more details in the next few posts.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

1. Visit Quito and its historic centre: Quito, founded in 1534, is the capital city of Ecuador. The historic centre of Quito was one of the first centers of its kind to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. A good place to see the panoramic view of Quito is at Itchimbia Park.

Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park

We walk the cobblestone streets in Quito’s historic centre and visit some of the beautifully restored colonial-era churches, palaces, and public plazas, such as the Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace, La Compañia de Jesus Church with its beautiful gilded interior, and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco with its impressive facade and atrium.

Independence Plaza in Quito
Independence Plaza in Quito

2. Straddle the Equator at the Middle of the World Monument: The country is called Ecuador as the Equator passes right through it. We visit the Middle of the World Monument which commemorates the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences. This is where Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer, and Charles Marie de La Condamine first determined the equatorial line in 1736.

Even though GPS measures later proved that their magnetic measurements were flawed, and the actual equator is located 250 meters from the monument, it’s still a nice place to visit and to stand at a latitude of 0º0’0” with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.

Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0'0''
Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0’0”

3. Hike and hike some more: We hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo, and the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall near Baños. The landscape that we see along the Pan-American Highway is breathtaking. The most strenuous hike for us, however, is in the Amazon rainforest.

Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Peguche waterfall
Peguche waterfall

4. Shop at the Otavalo market: The Otavalo market is one of the largest in South America run by the local Otavaleños. Here, we enjoy the lively market atmosphere and browse the various stalls for traditional goods such as handwoven cloth and rugs, Panama hats, art work, jewelry, and more.

Otavalo main square
Otavalo main square

The Panama hats, by the way, are made in Ecuador, and not Panama. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. From Panama the hat was internationally known and people began to call it “Panama Hat” even though the place of origin is Ecuador.

Art for sale at Otavalo market
Art for sale at Otavalo market

5. Relax at the Papallacta hot springs: Ecuador has many volcanoes hence hot springs are plentiful. We enjoy the thermal hot pools and our overnight stay at Termas Papallacta hotel and spa. It’s a beautiful place to relax and recharge before we go to the Amazon rainforest.

Papallacta hot springs
Papallacta hot springs

6. Explore the Amazon rainforest: We stay at a lodge in a lush tropical and tranquil setting on the banks of the Napo river in the Amazon Basin. Birds, flowers, and sounds of nature and nocturnal animals fill our senses. We go on a guided and challenging hike for approximately two hours while viewing many species of tropical plants and insects up close.

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle

7. Visit beautiful colonial-Spanish haciendas: We stay at Hacienda Leito which provides a fabulous mix of old and new. The original ranch building, with its original cobblestone driveway, central fountain, and antique artworks and furnishings, is a classic example of a colonial-Spanish hacienda. The up-to-date rooms and free Wi-Fi let you know you’re in the 21st century.

Hacienda Leito entrance
Hacienda Leito entrance

On another day, we lunch at Hacienda La Cienega, one of the oldest and most historical haciendas in Ecuador, dating back to the 17th century, with a view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, in the background.

The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega
The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega

8. Try Ecuadorian food: We try various dishes in Ecuador and like most of them such as ceviche, quinoa soup, potato soup, shrimps and grilled fish. We did not try cuy (guinea pig). There are also lots of fresh and inexpensive fruit such as bananas, plantains, papayas, and chirimoyas. Ecuador cacao and chocolate taste divine in their desserts and hot chocolate drinks.

Cacao-based desserts
Cacoa-based desserts

9. Tour a beautiful rose plantation: Although roses are not native to Ecuador, the country has a perfect environment for rose cultivation and is presently one of the world’s major producers. On the plantation tour, we learn about the farming process, from planting to exporting, and admire numerous rose varieties.

Rose plantation
Rose plantation

10. Watch nature, local fauna and flora: While in Ecuador, we are surrounded by nature and innumerable varieties of fauna and flora. I take in the lush vegetation, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest, and cloud forests as much as I can. Below is a sample. I hope you see the hummingbird on the right of the red flower.

Hummingbird by a red flower
Hummingbird by a red flower
Tungurahua volcano at dusk
Tungurahua volcano at dusk

Many tourists come to Ecuador and jump from Quito or Guyaquil to the Galapagos Islands. There is much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. I’m happy with what I’ve experienced on my first visit to beautiful Ecuador: culture, history, nature, food and its people. I hope you enjoy seeing Ecuador through my lens.

Have you been to Ecuador? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

7 Tidbits about Chrysanthemums

As soon as November starts, the temperatures dip where I live. This means part of my regular walks is done indoor and I intentionally look for colours, the brighter the better.

One recent walk is to see the indoor Chrysanthemum Show at Toronto’s Allan Gardens. The gardeners do a fantastic job of putting on wonderful displays of a wide variety of chrysanthemums. I love the beautiful flowers and learn several fun tidbits about them.

7 Fun Tidbits about Chrysanthemums

1) Popularity: Chrysanthemum flower is one of the most popular flower in the world, 2nd place to be exact, next only to Rose.

Red chrysanthemums

2) Special Status: Chrysanthemums are the November birth flower, the 13th wedding anniversary flower, and the official flower of the city of Chicago. Japan also has a National Chrysanthemum Day, which is called the Festival of Happiness.

Pink and yellow chrysanthemums

3) Name and Location Origins: The name “chrysanthemum” is derived from the Greek words chrysos (gold) and anthemon (flower). Chrysanthemums are tropical flowers. They are native to Asia and northeastern Europe.

Basket display of chrysanthemums

4) Sizes, Shapes, Colours, and Varieties: Chrysanthemum stem can reach 5 to 15 centimeters (2 to 6 inches) in height. Flower can have 1 to 25 centimeters (0.4 to 10 inches) in diameter. Other than its traditional yellow colour, there are also other colours such as purple, lavender, pink, burgundy, bronze, white and red. There are 40 wild species of chrysanthemum and thousands of varieties created via selective breeding.

Gold and yellow chrysanthemums

5) Cultural Meanings: Chrysanthemum flowers have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, in Asia, Chrysanthemum is a symbol of friendship, luck, joy, optimism, and happiness. While in Europe, white Chrysanthemum is associated with funerals.

White chrysanthemums

6) A Good Indoor Houseplant: Chrysanthemum flowers contain a chemical called pyrethrum which is a natural bug repellent. These blooms also remove toxins from the air and are thus considered a good indoor houseplant as well.

Mums at Lena and the Swan pond

7) A Great Landscaping Plant: As a landscaping plant, the chrysanthemum makes a beautiful Fall display for the home garden. Chrysanthemums can dominate a growing area with the many varied shapes, sizes, and colors. I’m totally convinced when I see the display below.

Peacock-shaped display of chrysanthemums

I think chrysanthemums provide an outstanding climax to the season before the colds of winter arrive. I enjoy a wonderful walk to Allan Gardens. The greenery and flowers in the garden pavilions brighten my day.

How well do you know about chrysanthemums? Is any of the above tidbits new to you?

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.