This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Paipa - Not Just Hot Springs

We came to Paipa to find some hot springs. It is a locals tourist town and was recommended to us by several people. There are many hotels but no backpacker hostels. We actually do not see any other noticeably recognizable foreigners during our three days in Paipa though we do meet several Colombian tourists.

The city itself is quite small, but they do have a tourist office which gives a snazzy 60 page book in English and Spanish about Paipa's offerings. The hot springs are one of the main attractions of the region and the reason most people head to Paipa. The pools are 4 Km from the main plaza and a bus there costs 1000 pesos (US $0.52). These hot springs have been used for hundreds of years by the indigenous and then the Spanish. They count twenty different minerals as the water's medicinal components. Plus they reap benefits (health and financial) from the algae and thermal mud. 
The source water is always between 118 - 224 degrees F
Outside of the pools is the hot springs source in all its bubbling glory. From here the water is siphoned in two directions. The first is to a spa that charges 36,000 Colombian Pesos (US $18.95) for a six activity, two hour circuit. The second is a water park that consists of three pools some restaurants and a water slide. We pay 12,000 pesos per person (US $6.32) plus 6,000 more each for mud therapy treatments and 1,200 for the obligatory bathing cap.

The hot spring pools here are not very aesthetic. They are just cement swimming pools. We usually prefer soaking in a somewhat natural setting. The source water is too diluted and not so warm. It also has a strange shade of green from the algae. There are some restaurants and a bar. The water slide lands into a cold pool. Too cold actually because today is not warm at all while the sun has been hiding behind heavy clouds. After a deep green swim/soak we go get our thermal mud treatment. There is still no sun so we stand by the bubbling cauldron hoping that the steam will warm us up. It doesn't. We do however get a great hot spring shower in order to rinse off the mud.

Back in Paipa central, we are enjoying being in a small town where people just seem to be going about their business. There does not seem to be much nightlife, but we are here during a winter festival. We do a Christmas light tour in neighboring villages and catch a dance performance that spans history from a pre-Colombian interpretive dance that is more like a Vegas show at a casino that is about to be bulldozed to several wonderful traditional folkloric dances and then they finish with embarrassingly bad tango and hip-hop performances. Maybe just to prove to everyone that you should stick with what you know (ie. folkloric dancing). 
The next day we walk four kilometers to Hotel Hacienda del Salitre a former hacienda for some Spanish bigwigs. The grounds changed hands several times and in 1819 the hacienda hosted Simon Bolivar and his army for two nights during their campaign against the Spanish. Almost two hundred years later it is a working and expensive hotel. You can even stay in the same room as General Bolivar himself. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour of the historic hacienda. The building is beautiful and the old interiors feel like you are sitting in history.

Our exquisite Paipa guidebook also has a short list of Paipa delicacies and we make an effort to try every one of them by stopping in lots of small shops and bakeries around town.
Almojabana (baked ball with cheese inside) with a sour rice drink
 (I lost the scrap paper with the name on it)
If you aren't one for traditional snacks you can stop by for some Simpsons ice cream. They did such a good job with their copyright infringement that one could almost believe that Paipa is a test market for a soon to be ice cream chain featuring the iconic cartoon family.

Greetings from Paipa

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