Ecuador Spas With a Shaman by Nancy S. Tardy

My naked body glowed as I stood before a roaring fireplace waiting to be purified by an Ecuadorian shaman. Though not a spa devotee, I search for new and unique experiences when I travel; hoping to learn more about this world and its people.

Esthela is the shaman, or medicine woman, at the charming La Mirage Garden Hotel and Spa in Cotacachi, Ecuador. I rushed to book an appointment after reading the spa brochure, which described this treatment as a lengthy ritual using fire, water, and earth to call the spirits for assistance in cleansing and healing; followed by relaxation therapy in the warm float tank covered by a blanket of rose petals; and, finally, a soothing aromatherapy spiritual massage.

Her father, a well-known shaman of this region north of Quito, taught Esthela the purification; which is the visual and sensory highlight of this particular spa experience. After she donned her white robe and secured her necklace of natural beads and bones, the adventure began. She applied warm stones and cold liquids; massaged my body with copious amounts of oil; surrounded me with smoke and the scents of incense; and gently stroked me with crystals, egg-shaped objects and a bundle of herbs. All this took place in a two-level room crafted to resemble a cave or indigenous holy place lit by countless candles, creating a warm, womb-like place filled with intoxicating aromas.

Esthela kneels beside the float tank covered with rose petals. (Photo compliments of La Mirage)
I felt a sense of peace; appreciating the timeless tradition of the shaman and the rejuvenation of the spa treatment-thanks to the touch and gestures of a charming woman who spoke no English.
La Mirage Garden Hotel and Spa Cotacachi, Ecuador