Baños has taken the crown as my favorite spot thus far in Ecuador. I loved it there so much! I had heard that the town was touristy, but I really didn’t mind. I loved that it was such a small town you could walk from one end to another in 20 minutes. The roads were narrow and cars went slow so you could cross the street without facing near-death like you would in Quito. I mean, yeah, on every street there were about four tour agencies trying to grab your attention, but that meant there was plenty to do (and you could ask around to find the best bargains)!
Baños is a small town about 3 hours from Quito where the Andes meet the jungle. It’s surrounded by more than 60 waterfalls and is at the base of an active volcano, Tungurahua. There’s so much to do there… you can go hiking, relax at one of the many thermal baths, go biking, go canopying, go zip lining, go rafting, or even get an hour long massage for only $20! The possibilities are endless.
Emily, Mido, and I set right off on our first morning in Baños to Casa del Árbol, a treehouse up in the mountains. The treehouse is becoming well-known for its two swings that let you soar over the valley below and catch a glimpse of Tungurahua Volcano. You’re only held in the swing by two ropes, one in the front and one in back of you. But in Ecuador, todo es posible, nada seguro.
The swing was exhilarating and made for some great photos.
There was also a guestbook for visitors to sign, full of languages I couldn’t decipher. Mido translated one that was in Arabic for me though!
Our taxi driver was the nicest guy ever. He stopped on our way down the mountain to show us views of Baños and some waterfalls.
That afternoon we decided to check out the Ecozoologico, or the zoo. It was alright, nothing special in my eyes. There were a lot of stairs. And I got to see the elusive, exotic deer… not like I see any of those at home!
While waiting for the bus back to town from the zoo, we wandered around and found a zip lining place. For $5 a person, we decided to go for it and before we knew it we were on a cable car going across a river to where we’d be zip lining from. It was fun! And a lot cheaper than the other options we came across in town.
After breakfast a nice French toast breakfast we had to say goodbye to Mido as he returned to Quito 😦 One of my favorite things about this trip (and traveling in general) was meeting new friends from around the world. I loved learning about their cultures and just getting to know them. I now have friends from Egypt, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and of course, Ecuador. I can’t wait to make more connections on my future trips!
Anyway, Emily and I decided to bike the Ruta de Cascadas next, a 17km “downhill,” “easy” ride to see some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ecuador. Everyone we talked to and every blog I read told me this was a beginner’s level bike ride, all downhill. Yeah, right. As a lazy college student I don’t exercise, like, at all, so maybe this ride was harder for me than it was for others… but it was hard! It was definitely not all downhill. For the most part, yeah, but there were some points where I had to walk my bike up the hills. Also, the road we were biking on is the main road between Baños and Puyo. AKA, it was busy!!! Being the terrible biker I am, there were times when I thought I was about to get run over, panicked, and jumped off my bike to the side of the road. I honestly didn’t feel safe… the cars were driving way too close to us bikers, especially the big buses and trucks. No me gusta.
BUT! I’d actually recommend this experience to everyone. For only $6 to rent a bike for an entire day, it’s definitely worth the money. And the final waterfall is absolutely amazing. Seriously though, pictures and videos don’t do it justice.
El Pailon del Diablo is a 328 foot tall waterfall on the Pastaza River that impresses everyone who visits it. I’ve never seen so much water fall so hard from such a height… and be so close to it! There are two entrances to the different sides of the waterfall and I recommend trying out both. They both go right up to the falls and offer incredible views. Both sides cost about a dollar to get into, and they’re both insanely long (but worth it) trails. SO MANY STAIRS! You will sweat.
If you have to choose a side though, go with the one that leads to the Grieta del Cielo. This is at the end of the trail and to get to it you have to climb through a TINY uphill cave (awesome, scary, dangerous, worth it). Once you exit the crawlspace you’re RIGHT THERE at the waterfall. Like, you’re getting splashed. It’s awesome.
And if you’re not up for biking the treacherous 17km from Baños to see the waterfall, bus tours are making trips there constantly.
To catch a ride back to Baños (no way was I biking back!!) Emily and I paid 2 dollars to ride in the back of a camioneta, along 10 other people and their bikes. Didn’t seem like the safest option, but hey, this is Ecuador!
I don’t know how, but a few people fell asleep on the 30 minute bumpy ride. I was too busy watching the bikes to make sure they didn’t fly off the truck or into us.
Baños won me over big time. You never run out of things to do there… and every day’s an adventure. Bottom line: visit if you get the chance! You won’t regret it!