Standing at the mouth of a pounding waterfall after climbing through a 3-foot rock ‘tunnel’ may not be your idea of fun, but there’s lots more to capture your heart in Baños!
Ecuador has beauty that is unsurpassed. Those of us who live here sometimes forget to step outside and explore. Recently my family and I went on a 3-day getaway. Whether you’re on a budget or looking for some pampering and luxury, Baños has just what you need. Here are 8 awesome things to do when you go:
Swing Over The Edge Of The World At La Casa del Arbol (the Treehouse)
At 2600 meters above sea level, it’s THE best place from which to observe Tungurahua volcano. But the main tourist attraction isn’t the tree house perched on the edge of nothingness, nor even the breathtaking view of the Tungarahua volcano from the edge of a canyon—it’s a swing hanging on the tree at the edge of a cliff.
Just a simple swing–like the one you had tied to a tree in the backyard as a kid. With only a strap on the swing separating you from the bottom of the valley thousands of feet below, you soar beyond the edge of the cliff into nothingness.
Check Out The Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall And Suspension Bridge
There are endless waterfalls on the way to Puyo (Ruta de la Cascadas). Our favorite was Pailon del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron). You’ll want to be in decent shape to experience this, as the decent into the canyon is about a 15-minute walk, somewhat steep and downhill. Not so bad going down, but there’s a reason they have a little restaurant situated about halfway up the return journey because it can tax your lungs and legs going back up.
Once you get to the bottom, you can either relax in the snack bar, cross the suspension bridge or make the climb to the waterfall. We opted for the waterfall first. There are a series of lookout points along the ascent so you can choose how high you go. In order to get to the top, you’ll have to scramble on your hands and knees in a little ‘tunnel’ between the rock and the falls for about 50 meters. But once you’re at the top, the power of the falls is breathtaking!
For those less adventurous, just take the easy climb to the first level to see the falls and then check out the suspension bridge –it gives a great view of the falls.
Shop And Cruise The Town
Baños is small and it’s a feast for the eyes. Take some time to cruise the streets, do some window shopping and check out the locals handicrafts. You’ll find a wide variety of leather goods. We stopped in a little store to pick up these boots, $75 for both pairs!
Be sure to pick up some melcocha, a sugar cane taffy — you’ll see many confectionary shops working the taffy by hand. $1 gets you a bag with 8 or so flavors.
Explore In A Buggy
This was my 8-year-old daughter’s highlight of the trip! For $15 an hour, MTS tours will rent you a little ‘dune buggy’ you can explore with. We were meant to do the waterfall route but instead took a wrong turn and wound up at the Treehouse.A little slow going up but a lot of fun coming down the mountain! The buggy’s top speed is around 30km/h but it’s a nice speed in order to take in the scenery you’ll pass inyour travels.
Climb A Volcano
Tungurahua or “The Black Giant” is Ecuador’s largest active volcano at 5023 meters. It’s the most easily climbed, since Baños is already set on its hillside. The journey is normally done over the course of two days, spending a night at the Refuge (Base Camp) at 3,400 meters. For the less extreme, you can take a self-guided trip and just hike as far as the Refuge.
Eat Your Way Around Town!
For those of us living in Ecuador, finding GOOD exotic ethnic food can be a challenge. Baños offers a fair variety of yummy treats like Café Hood’s Pad Thai or pretty much anything their varied menu, $2-9. We also enjoyed sushi and an amazing ‘Shrimp on a Volcano Stone’ ($10 for 14 shrimp) one day for lunch.
Pamper Yourself In Hot Springs Or The Spa
There are 2 public thermal baths in Baños and more than one private spa, thermals included. The water is colored by the high mineral content, (making it look dirty), and there are pools of various temperatures. Popular with the locals, the Thermal Springs in town at Baños de la Virgen, costs $2-3 depending on if you go in the day or evening. There are also springs by the waterfall, near Hotel Sangay, and also the Santa Clara baths with sauna and a gym.
For those who would like to check out the private thermals and a spa experience in one, try El Refugio, close to La Casa Verde Eco Hostel, on the edge of town. We booked the massage therapist at La Casa Verde and for $25, received an excellent full body massage, rivaling any therapist in North America.
Zipline Over A Canyon
Another highlight on my daughter Avallina’s list! For $10 you can ride the trolley in one direction and zipline in the other, or zipline in both directions for $15. I recommend Eco Tourismo “Agoyan,” the first zipline stop when you leave Baños on your way to Puyo. The equipment is top quality, which is important when you’re soaring 1600 meters above the canyon floor. Owner Manuel told us in peak season he has 400-500 zipliners daily, so for them, safety is key.
Take In Nature
There are many ways to take in nature in Baños:
- Hiking, either a guided tour or on your own
- The waterfall route. You can do this with bikes, on a bus, driving, with a dune buggy –the possibilities are endless!
- Outdoor adventure activities. With over 20 tour companies in Baños, you can find your perfect adventure! A few of the most popular are whitewater rafting, paragliding, bungee jumping, canyoning, horseback riding and the list goes on.
[color-box color=”gray”]BONUS TIP
Stay In A Charming Accommodation
We had the good fortune to stay at La Casa Verde Eco Hostel. The hostel was built by hand during the past 8 years by owners Rebecca and Doug. Their warm, welcoming attitude, hot showers and healthy breakfast set the stage for a relaxing stay.
There are so many accommodations to choose from, Trip Advisor only shows a few. If you’re not going on a holiday weekend or festival, you should be able to walk around and select the accommodation that looks best to you.
For a splurge: Check out Samari Spa Resort and Luna Runtun, two excellent places to stay just outside of Baños. Luxury abounds in the Samari, an old Jesuit monastery, and you can enjoy unparalleled views of Tungurahua from the Luna[/color-box]
How To Get To Baños:
The small bus terminal is on the north edge of town, within walking distance to the center of town (el centro) and most accommodations. However, if you need to catch a taxi, it should cost you $1.
Buses run frequent connections to Baños from Quito (3.5 hours, $3.50), Riobamba (2 hours, $2) and Guayaquil (5.5 hours, $7.00). Most buses out of Quito will leave from Terrestre Quitumbe, also referred to as Tumbe (located in the far south of the city). The closest bigger town is Ambato (1 hour, $1) on the Panamerican and there are very frequent buses between the two towns.
To get to Baños from Cuenca takes between 5-6 hours, depending on type of transportation , but be prepared for some beautiful scenery to make the time go faster.
Additional Links And Resources
Ecuador Travel’s Banos information page
Official Banos Tourism website