Monday, June 5, 2017

Living History - Agua Blanca

Ecotourism: Tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife. 
-- Oxford Living Dictionaries

Agua Blanca is a friendly historic community five minutes northeast of Puerto Lopez. Some residents are direct descendants of the Manteño civilization, who lived here between 800 and 1532 A.D.

Community members keep their history alive with their lifestyle. They enjoy sharing their history with the public via tourism and a full time archaeology project in which anyone can participate. I wrote about my digging day here.

The small community has several hundred residents and several thousand goats. The goats wander around everywhere except crop fields, where they are fenced out, and inside buildings.

Goats can go anywhere except where crops are grown

Agua Blanca was one of the first Ecuadorian coastal communities to embrace ecotourism in the 1980's.

A $5 tourist entrance fee is the primary income source for the community. The fee includes entrance to a museum, a guided two hour tour, the sulfur laguna, and many areas you can explore on your own. Horseback rides, massages, archaeology dig participation, and other add-ons can be arranged as desired for additional fees.

The guided tour begins in the town center, featuring a church, museum, restaurant, and general store. The museum is full of historical artifacts and placards in English and Spanish. Portraits of living direct descendants are on the walls. When my mom and I toured, our guide was one of the descendants.

Museum is full of artifacts and informational placards
Photos of living descendants on top

Knives, hunting, fishing, and cooking tools are on display. Jars are filled with fermenting insects, lizards and snakes. Urns contain bones arranged as they were found after their second burial. Bodies were buried and ceremonially dug up later. The bones were placed into urns, often with other loved ones, and re-buried.
Remains of two adults in a broken burial urn
The tour then goes through the countryside, meandering alongside fields, pigs, chickens, goats, and archaeology sites. Guides stop to point out crops, homes, birds, nests, dens, and creatures as you go.

Hand farmed fields produce the community's vegetables and fruits. Bee keeping produces honey, sold on-site.

Home surrounded by fruit trees and vegetables

As the tour comes to a close, the volcanic spring-fed sulfur laguna comes into view. Cups of good-for-your-skin sulfuric mud await. Smear the mud on your body and face then hang out watching hummingbirds and butterflies while it dries.

A soak in the warm sulfur laguna pool to soak up more skin nutrients is next. Then an outdoor shower to rinse off any remaining mud and skin is left feeling baby soft and smooth for days.

Soaking in the sulfur laguna

Massages available with prior arrangement are enjoyed next to the laguna. Across the road from the laguna are restaurants featuring empanadas, corviches, juice and beer.

Restaurant by sulfur laguna

A short walk brings you back to the village center. If you did not eat at the laguna, the restaurant here serves highly recommended goat stew.

If you are not driving, I recommend taking a taxi to Agua Blanca, then have them pick you up several hours later. Otherwise a 5 minute bus ride from Puerto Lopez followed by a 5 km (3 mile) walk in the sun takes you from to the main road to the village center.

Would you smear sulfur rich mud on your body and soak in the laguna?


  1. Hi Emily - it sounds a fascinating place to visit - and place to learn about - someone where I'd love to visit more than once - so much to enjoy, history to appreciate, a different culture ... I'd like to try the mud bath ... but the sulphur smell might put me off! Cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary, It really is fascinating! I have been quite a few times and learn something new every time. Each guide highlights different details. The smell at the laguna can get fairly strong. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  2. I really enjoy visiting Agua Blanca. The goat stew is INCREDIBLE (from someone who never thought of eating goat)! And the archeological aspects, including the dig you mention in your post, is great fun and a true learning experience. Can't think of a better facial than the mud and pool waters. You're right. Your skin feels as smooth as a baby's butt for weeks! Great article for those planning a visit.

    1. Thanks for recommending the goat stew Alicia! I still need to try it. I really appreciate you stopping by and adding your comments since you have been there, too.

  3. Agua Blanca is indeed an astounding village experience. Very nice article Emily!

  4. I'd endure the mud for a massage afterwards!