The best things to do in the adventurous city of Baños, Ecuador.
A trip to Baños is necessary for anyone looking to dive headfirst into Ecuador’s lush natural scenery. Known as both “The Adventure Capital of Ecuador” and the “Gateway To The Amazon”, Baños allows travelers to immerse themselves in the mystical beauty of nature while warming up to the welcoming local culture.
Easily reachable by bus from the capital city of Quito, Baños represents a perfect destination for budget travelers who want to experience adventure, and here is how to make the most of this vibrant city in only a few days.
The bus from Quito to Baños costs only about five dollars and takes roughly four hours, so it’s best to have a relaxing afternoon when first arriving in Baños after traveling. Check into one of the many hostels scattered throughout the city, as they are all very cheap at under 10 dollars a night. I recommend Great Hostels Backpackers Los Pinos, as it’s a great place for socializing with fellow travelers.
The rest of the day can be spent meandering through the cozy, action-packed streets of the city center. Full of unique and mesmerizing souvenir shops, and street markets selling cheap and delicious food, the small downtown area of Baños can entertain anyone for hours. Check out the adorable green squares complete with fountains and park benches, and listen to the seductive music of the local street musicians.
One full day in Baños must consist of venturing into the forest to explore many amazing waterfalls. The best way to experience the jungle of Baños is renting a bike and traveling down “Ruta De Las Cascadas”. There are countless shops in town where you can rent a bike for the full day for only five dollars.
The challenging and thrilling ride down the road will allow you to marvel at numerous gigantic waterfalls along the way. There are two particular highlights that must be part of the journey. First is the famous Pailon Del Diablo, a massive, powerful waterfall hidden away in the forest. Ask locals for directions, because you must pull off the main road into a small park, lock up your bikes, then hike through a path to reach the waterfall. This detour is absolutely worth it, as the hike brings you right up close to the waterfall. Here, you can feel the thundering presence of this amazing natural phenomenon.
The next highlight on Ruta De Las Cascadas is the Machay Waterfall, which also requires a stop along the road and a short hike. This waterfall has two main sections, the first of which is one incredibly tall and powerful cascade. After taking in this stunning sight, hike down along a trail to reach the lower and calmer section of the waterfall. Here lies a refreshing pool where you can swim in the cold and clear water underneath the waterfall. After you can sunbathe on the nearby rocks. After the long bike ride, your body and spirit will thank you for this brief period of relaxation.
Biking all the way from the town center to Machay waterfall is about 30km, and takes most of the day. Buses or public vans can transport you and your bikes back to Baños at the end of your journey for a couple dollars. Definitely consider this because you’ll undoubtedly be exhausted.
Start your day with a visit to the iconic Casa Del Arbol. This tree house is located atop a steep hill. Tourists come from all over the world to take a picture on the swing that zips you over the endless green of the countryside below. The views are breathtaking, the swing itself is thrilling. Beneath, the wide, grassy area surrounding the tree house is perfect for a picnic.
Cheap public buses travel to and from the Casa Del Arbol every day for only one dollar a ride. If you want a challenge you can hike up through the woods to reach the destination. The hike is definitely not for the fainthearted, as it takes a couple hours and consists of mainly steep, dirt trail. If you decide to hike it, the exercise is exhilarating and the views of the city below are wonderful.
For lunch after the Casa Del Arbol, the town center is full of affordable restaurants with amazing food. Any traditional Ecuadorian place serves “Almuerzo” for as little as five dollars. You get a fresh juice, a soup, a main course of rice and meat or veggies, and a dessert. Baños also has numerous quirky health food places, including vegetarian restaurants with flavorful and filling dishes.
To end your trip to Baños, visit the famous thermal baths. The most popular site is the public baths at the base of the waterfall that falls right next to the city center. Admission is around three dollars, and you can bathe in the warm, mineral waters of the pools for a soothing end to the day.
While three days is perfect for a short, action-packed trip to Baños, you can absolutely stay for longer. Other popular activities in Baños include mountain biking and riding ATVs, ziplining, rafting, horseback riding, and numerous different jungle hikes. The city really is beautiful and full of things to do, so definitely stop in Baños while touring Ecuador for an unforgettable experience.
(As originally published on Student Universe )