Piedra de Agua:Finding health from within the earth

03/Diciembre/2012 | 15:41

By Lance Brashear

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It takes an engineer to effectively unite mud, water, rock, wood and glass in a way that is attractive to others.  In Baños de Cuenca, just 15 minutes from Ecuador´s southern UNESCO heritage city, not only has Engineer Pablo Duran Andrade done just that, but he´s made it good for your health.

In creatively combining all of these elements Duran has built an unparalleled and high-end spa destination in the Andes Mountains:  Piedra de Agua.

He is also one of the reasons Cuenca has been recognized nationally and internationally as a “Health City,” where people come for treatments and recovery.

Translated literally as “stone from water,” Piedra de Agua is an exclusive spa in which its greatest resources is the Earth and what it contains just below the surface.

Piedra de Agua is a geothermal complex built from volcanic rock, mined onsite, that channels natural, thermal waters loaded with minerals to more than half a dozen pools, caves, and therapeutic stations where visitors come daily to relax and rejuvenate.

“The subterranean caves are where the rock comes from.  All of the stone is formed by water, which is why we call it Piedra de Agua,” says Duran.  “The water is what gives form to the rock.”  If you look closely you see the channels, the fingerprints, formed over millennium, and now used to showcase one of the region´s foremost destinations for relaxation and health.

Baños de Cuenca takes its name from the naturally occurring thermal hot springs in the area.  Several spas and thermal facilities can be found in this small town.  But Duran created Piedra de Agua with the idea of going beyond what any other spa had done previously, not just in Baños, or Ecuador, but worldwide.   

“For many years I have been visiting the thermal resorts in all parts of the world – Europe, North American, Latin America,” explains Duran. “Until now, not one that I have seen has everything concentrated [in one place].  Some have water but not mud.  Some have mud but not water or vapor.  Some have vapor but not the steam boxes. So, what I have done, due to all of my travels, is put together all of these services.”

The complete circuit

Piedra de Agua now has a six-stage circuit for visitors, who pay just one price ($30) to enjoy it all.  Guests are guided by staff members who explain the benefits and recommended time to spend at each station.

The circuit begins with a Turkish Bath – vapor baths ideal for strengthening respiratory system and purifying and relaxing the body and mind.

Next, visitors move on to the volcanic mud baths.  The traditional mud bath utilizes a red mud the color of the surrounding volcanic rock, with high concentrations of iron and calcium, ideal for therapeutic treatments for the skin and muscles.

A recent discovery deep below the property yielded a second kind of mud – a blue mud, whose color is the result of unique elements including gold, silver, copper, and quartz.   Both mud pools sit side by side.  Visitors begin with red mud treatments and then move to the blue. 

Manager Isabel Lopez says, “Each mud has an additional benefit for each type of skin.  Red is good for mixed skin while the blue is better for dry skin.”  But she says both should be used during the circuit as complementary treatments.

Following the mud baths, guests proceed to underground thermal pools, complete with candles, essences, and music.  Here guests enjoy what they refer to as a cutaneous gymnasium, alternating from a hot pool, approximately 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) to a cool one, approximately 8 degrees Celcius (46 Fahrenheit).  The drastic temperature changes offer benefits for the skin, nervous system, and muscles.

The circuit then takes guests to the steam boxes that offer a steam bath for the body, without the hot vapor on the face.  This treatment is recommended for exfoliation, skin cleansing, removing toxins, and even weight loss.

The circuit ends with a spa treatment and enjoyment in the thermal pools, including the new Japanese, which, through its design, pays homage to Japan, a place where more thermal pools exist than anywhere else on the planet. 

Each thermal pool has an accompanying cold water pool to offer the therapeutic contrast necessary to optimize health benefits.

Once completed, guests can repeat the circuit or add complementary services, such as massages and facial treatments.

Beyond Baños

Piedra de Agua represents a radical change in the way the region has traditionally thought about tourism.  Duran had a vision that, like Cuenca itself, the springs of Baños could be converted into an international destination, something he helped bring to fruition.

The Cuenca region has recently positioned itself as a destination for health tourism, in part because of the geo-thermal springs of Baños and how they are utilized in a way that is attracting international attention.

Last year Piedra de Agua was a finalist in the Innovators of America competition sponsored by the Latin American Development Bank.  

Recently, Duran and his staff returned from “Termatalia,” the world´s leading convention for health spas, which was held for the first time ever in Latin America, a sign that Ecuador, and Piedra de Agua, have garnered attention far beyond Baños.

Piedra de Agua is open 365 days a year, Monday-Saturday, 6am-10pm and Sunday, 6am-7pm.  Day visits range from $10 to $30 depending on the thermal treatments desired.  Massages are separate, $20 for 30 minutes or $40 for an hour.  Meals in the Libelulul Restaurant average $10.  For more information contact them by calling 07-289-2496 or 07-409-2413 and visit the website at www.piedradeagua.com.ec.



Ciudad Cuenca

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