Hot Springs in Peru

October 13, 2013

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As a hot springs connoisseur, I was surprised to find little-to-no information on those pools closest to Arequipa, in the town of Yura (pronounced “jura”). I had heard that these particular hot baths were subpar in both temperature and ambience, but since they were off the beaten path in a country where it’s difficult to do anything adventurous outside of a tour group, I had to check them out. It’s no secret I’ve become a little bitter over the circumstances of this trip – work, health, housing – but these factors have nothing to do with Peru itself; my only complaint is the rampant tourism that makes me struggle to remain an independent traveler. However, waking up to El Misti and Chachani, dining on rocoto relleno, and appreciating public displays of affection (after living in Asia) is still new and exciting for me. There’s a reason Peru became so touristy. The sights are amazing.

The hot springs are no different. From the “official” town of Aguas Calientes on the Inca Trail near Macchu Picchu to Chivay in the Colca Canyon, my neck of the woods has its fair share of places to soak. So, let me guide you where others have failed.

The road to Yura, from Arequipa

Combi

Catch a combi bus. I saw a few of these things before leaving Lima, but found them unnecessary with the large city buses around me. However, in Arequipa, they are the most common form of intracity transit, costing only 80 centimos for a one-way journey.

To get to Yura, you can cross the Puente Grau bridge (yes, Spanish speakers, I know that’s redundant) and flag one down on Avenida Ejercito heading west. Chances are, the bus will be marked with a sign on the windshield stating “YURA”, but if not, listen to the boy yelling the destinations.

This is a relatively smooth ride by Peruvian standards. I had originally thought Yura was slightly closer to the airport since there appear to be two of them on the map (see below), but the one farthest away to the northwest is the town with the hot pools. 2 soles and 45-60 minutes later, and you’ll find yourself at the Hotel de Yura.


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The five options for hot baths

I made the mistake of waiting until the last stop to get off the combi; I was keeping my eyes peeled for signs stating “aguas calientes” and spotted the municipal pool at the last second.

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S/. 1.50 and some friendly banter with the gate lady, and you’re in. This last pool is probably the coldest of the five, with more of a swimming pool vibe than a relaxing soak. Families come here to keep from melting in the Peruvian sun, and the water still maintains its opaqueness from being saturated with minerals. I’d recommend it on a hot day, but if you’re looking for something more mellow, stick with the other four baths:

Pozo el Tigre and the Piscina Termal Tadeo Haenke are just down the steps from the Tourist Hotel. Although I haven’t had the chance to explore them yet, I get the sense they’re more upscale, with swimsuits and hair covers required (and for rent, I believe).

Pozo Fierro Viejo has more of a neighborhood sento feel to it, as it’s a little off the tourist track (by 500 meters, anyway), and not as well maintained. Between the five baths, this one clocks in with the highest temperature, a pleasant 32 degree Celsius.

As of this writing, Pozo Camacola is closed. No idea if they’re doing renovations or it’s out of business.

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Getting back to Arequipa

The combi stop running around 5:00 PM, or so I’m told. I had one lady tell me you can catch one going in either direction and you will still end up in Arequipa. Just to be safe, I waited for one going in the opposite direction from that which I had arrived.

Other interesting things of note:

– Yura has restaurants for visitors, but prices are about twice what you’d expect
– Apparently some Peruvians make the sign of the cross every time they pass a crucifix on the road.

Although I’m still questioning whether I want to stay in Peru another month, getting outside of my bubble helps. Sometimes I forget just how amazing it is to be abroad; I get so caught up in the routine of eating meals, doing laundry, and teaching English it’s easy to lose sight of my surroundings.

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