Baños, Ecuador Travel Guide
Simply put, Baños, Ecuador is a nature and adventure sports lover paradise. It is approximately four hours by bus from capital city Quito.
Lots of adrenaline junkies come to Baños to get their adventure sports fix, but on the other side of the spectrum, many people come here to enjoy the tranquil natural setting and relax in the area’s spas.
With Volcán Tungurahua – largest volcano in Ecuador – at their disposal, these rejuvenating centers take advantage of the healing and exfoliating properties of volcanic ash and stones and tend to incorporate them into their therapeutic treatments.
Many spas are scattered throughout town, which offer reasonably priced massages, facials, waxing, mud baths, detoxifying cleanses and manicures, as well as combination packages. Several others are located a few kilometers outside of the center, two recommended ones being El Refugio and Luna Runtun. At both, you can spend the night and turn your trip into a romantic weekend.
Note: Prices are current as of May, 2012. Ecuador uses the U.S dollar as its currency: Money & Currency in Ecuador
Things to Do in Baños
- You’ve ziplined but have you ever ‘canyoned’? Canyoning is a popular activity for those looking to sample the area’s extreme sports; sign-up and get ready to go. You will put on a wet suit and harness and start rappelling down several different-sized waterfalls. The final moments are the scariest, when you lean back off the edge of the cliff and jump, swinging from a rope until the guide slowly releases you to the bottom! Most of the town’s tour operators offer canyoning for half ($30 USD) or full days; trips include transport, equipment and guide.
- Go river rafting. During rainy season, Baños has some of the country’s best rafting, with level 2, 3 or 4 rapids. Many tour operators offer rafting excursions, costing around $30 for a half-day trip, which includes guides, transport, equipment and a simple late lunch.
- Bungee jump. Jumping off bridges is a favorite for thrill-seekers here, and tour operators on almost every corner can lead you on your adventure. Choose from bungee jumping (free falling) or pendulum jumping (swinging jump) forwards or backwards for the bargain price of $10 USD and let all inhibitions fly.
- Have a hot soak. Baños literally means “baths,” and is known for its thermal baths, or hot springs, that run off the towering Volcán Tungurahua. The public baños termales (hot baths in English) consist of several indoor and outdoor pools of varying temperatures, but get extremely crowded during the weekends and at night (and weekend nights). Admission costs $6 USD.
- Ride the party bus! One of the more touristy things to do is to buy a ticket on a nighttime ‘chiva’ – an open-aired party bus – to a viewpoint where you can see lava erupting from Volcán Tungurahua. Even if not spurting lava, passengers can glimpse the volcano or appreciate beautiful vistas of the city of Baños below on a clear night. The tour leaves from 16 de Deciembre and Luis Martinez at 9 p.m. each night and costs $4-5 USD. Includes a free canelazo drink (warm beverage made with sugar cane alcohol, cinnamon and fruits).
One of the most popular activities in Baños is renting a bike or 4×4 to explore the gorgeous green outskirts of the city. Tour operators all throughout town rent bikes for the day and you simply follow the road from Baños to Puyo (it is possible to bike all the way to Puyo) and stop at the many waterfalls along the way.
The route takes 4-5 hours, passing Agoyan, Manto de la Novia, E Pailón del Diablo and Machay waterfalls. At each of the waterfalls, it is possible to pay a small fee to cross the Pastaza River by cable car in order to see them closer up. This is especially recommended at El Pailón del Diablo, where you can cross a suspension bridge on the other side (see photo page) and pay 50 cents more to walk up to the waterfall and get drenched in its rushing water, making for some awesome photos.
Machay is the last waterfall and most impressive; here you need to park your bike and hike down about a kilometer and then you can take a dip in its frigid waters! It is possible to hitch a ride in a camioneta (pick-up truck in English) on the way back if you are too tired to make the return trip.
Name: Luna Runtun
Address: Caserio Runtun Km 6
Website: www.lunaruntun.com Adventures galore (they can arrange trips for you) plus a high-end ‘volcanic spa’ with 11 rooms and over 25 treatments on offer. Rustic, elegantly-styled rooms and restuarant. Located a little ways out of town on 300 acres within Sangay National Park.
Name: La Posada del Arte
Address: Calle Velasco Ibarro & Avenida Montalvo
Website: www.posadadelarte.com This small, artsy guesthouse showcases over 50 paintings by Ecuadorians, most of which are for sale. The comfortable private rooms with private bathrooms range from simple singles to family suites with Jacuzzi and waterfall views. It also has an on-site restaurant that brews its own beer, a panoramic rooftop terrace, and a cozy sitting area with couches and a fireplace.
Note about Hostals: Hostal Chimenea is a great choice also, down the hill from the public hot springs with pool and rooftop terrace.
Name: Hostal Erupción Book Now
Address: Ambato & Thomas Halflants streets
Website: www.hostalerupcion.com/ Excellent central location right in the main plaza with Palomino Flores Park and the Basilica at your doorstep. Mountain views, kitchen use available and karaoke party action in the evenings for you to ‘get your song on’!
Name: Runtun Restaurant
Address: Caserio Runtun Km. 6
Website: http://www.lunaruntun.com/english/cafe_bar_resta.html Cozy restaurant complete with comfy couches, a fireplace and pool tables. Has an unbeatable view to complement its delicious Ecuadorian and European-influenced cuisine.
Name: Café Mariane
Address: Halflants & Rocafuerte
Website: None. Owned by a French expat, Café Mariane is a sophisticated restaurant specializing in French and Mediterranean food. With both indoor tables and outdoor garden seating, this place has excellent meat and chicken dishes, fondues and wines, and the service is top-notch.
Name: Café Blah Blah
Address: Corner of Halfants & Martínez
Website: None. This cute corner café serves up tasty breakfasts, sandwiches and fresh fruit juices at reasonable prices. Is a great place to relax and enjoy a quality cup of coffee and has quite a few vegetarian options.
Photograph by Jena Davison, all rights reserved.