Baños de Agua Santa or Baños for short is known as the Gateway to the Amazon as it is the last biggish city before the jungle. It also has the reputation for being Ecuador’s adventure capital. Situated about 4 hours from Quito and on the base of Tungurahua volcano, there are so many different types of things to do in Baños that there is something for everyone.
Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water in Banos
Our top picks for Baños are:
There are a number of thermal baths in Baños depending on what you are looking for. We went to El Salado and it cost $3 to enter. Swimming caps are compulsory and cost 0.50c to rent or $1 to buy. If you are going to go to more than one thermal bath then it’s easier to buy it. Taxi cost $2 from town and it’s about a 30 min walk. We really enjoyed the baths as it was quiet, not touristy and lots of baths to choose from. There are five lukewarm to hot baths and two cold baths. Changing rooms and lockers are available for use.
There are other baths in Baños too so if you fancy another place to dip your feet try out: La Piscina de la Virgen (in town), Balneario las Penas (some slides) and Luna Runtun (expensive).
Ruta de las Cascadas
This is a must do that will keep you entertained for the majority of the day. If, of course visiting numerous waterfalls, perhaps a little zip-lining and some cable car action sounds like your kind of day. I think there is even a bungee jump\ puenting option on the route for the more adventurous amongst us.
The first waterfall on the route
There are a few options available to see visit the waterfalls; bike, chiva, taxi, bus. We chose the bike as we wanted to make a day of it and enjoy the scenery at our own pace. Bike rentals costs between $5-10. Have a walk around town and chose a bike that looks sturdy, provides helmets and a map.
Aoife at Manto de la Novia
Now the good news, it’s nearly all down-hill. At points it felt like we were barely cycling just rolling down hills. It is possible to cycle 60km but 18km was enough for us. We got a lift back with our bikes for $2 from the Rio Verde village after visiting Pailón del Diablo.
Alan at Manto de la Novia
The “Cable Car” over Manto de la Novio
Pailón del Diablo
There are two entrances to Pailón del Diablo depending on what view you want. Suspension view\upper platform view or slippery steps view\lower platform view! We went with the suspension bridge option. Ask around in the village and they will help you out if you need directions. It is a magnificent waterfall standing at approximately 80m in height. We were in awe of it’s power and the amount of water passing through.
Checking out the roar of the waterfall
The highlights of our day were the powerful Pailón del Diablo (Devils Caldron), cable car over la Novia waterfall and enjoying the scenes as we rolled along on our bike.
Some entrance and activity prices below:
- Zip lines ranged between $10-15.
- Cable car over the Cascada Manto de is Novia $1.
- Entrance to the base of Cascada Manto de la Novia: $1 (use of changing facilities)
- Entrance to Pailón del Diablo: $2
- Many waterfalls cost $1 to enter.
We wanted to go for a swim but due to rain and swell it was not advised but bring swim wear just in case.
Casa de Arbol \ Swing
The swing at the end of the world is a great way to spend a few hours above the clouds although hopefully there are no clouds on your chosen day. On a clear day you get the chance to swing high while looking over at the Tungurahua volcano. But even with clouds it’s really fun.
Swinging into the abyss (can you see the look of fear in my eyes?)
To get to the swing you can go by bus, taxi or walk (3hrs uphill!). Check out the bus times below. We got the bus from Calle Pastaza and Vicente Rocafuente corner. The bus costs $1 each way and $1 entrance to Casa del Arbol.
Bus times to Casa del Arbol
The main attraction is the two main swings attached to the tree-house. One swing is self-push and the other you are pushed by an employee. We preferred the DIY one as you can spend as much time on it as you liked. There is a café, two other smaller swings and a short zip-line too for more entertainment.
We may not have had a clear day but it was still fun!
Visit the Venezuelan Café – Arepas To Go
This café is run by a really friendly and talented Venezuelan family. The empanadas and arepas are to die for, especially with their garlic dip. We went back again and again and it was always so good. There are combo meals for $5.50 which include an arepa, empanada and drink. Delicious!
Visit Aromi Café and Chocolate Gourmet
Want to choose your own chocolate bar and then have it melted into a hot chocolate drink?!? Sounds amazing and it is. They have a range of flavours to excite the taste buds: lemon, maracuya, orange, mint, cranberry to name a few. To makes things even better they have chocolate cake and other desserts. Or if you want to mix things up why not try hot chocolate with cheese. So many options too little time.
Other things to do in Baños
Possible on your own: Mirador de la Virgen del Agua Santa (650 steps or so), Mirador la Cruz Bellavista (longer hike to the white cross), walk up to Casa de Arbol (at least 3 hours), visit the other baths listed above.
Organised tours: horse riding, canyoning, white water rafting, rapelling.
Banos is also a good place to party!
Where we stayed
We stayed 4 nights in Baños, 3 in Molino Biento (poor internet and up a hill!) and 1 night in Cañalimena, good location and internet but we suffered with rude noisy neighbours as there is no quiet time policy.
Side Note: Parasite Strikes again
I had planned to do the white water rafting in Baños but after days of feeling crap it was time to go get myself sorted. We went to the hospital first but after waiting for an hour with no one at reception we headed to the Centre de Salud and registered to visit the doctor. Without any test results he diagnosed me with a little parasite and prescribed some glorious pills. Just to make sure he was right I also got a sample tested and he was bang on, I had a parasite. About one day after taking the pills I was feeling much better thankfully as our Galapagos trip was coming up very soon.