Baños, or Baños de Agua Santa, as it is more rightly known, is a small city located in the central Ecuadorian Andes. It is found in the Tungurahua province, and it is often described as being the Gateway to the Amazon. This is because it is the last large town before getting to the Amazon region. It is also a very popular place for extreme and adventurous activities in Ecuador, with lots of adrenaline-pumping activities to do in and around the city. Baños is at an altitude of 5,971 feet (1,820 meters) and it sits at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano. This is a fiery volcano which has erupted several times over the past two to three decades, with dramatic lava flows and pyroclastic displays. This has led to the town’s residents being evacuated at various points for their own safety. However, people soon drift back,and when you visit Baños, you will see why. It’s a very special place. The town is named for the hot springs that are found in different spots throughout the city. You’ll want to spend at least two days in and around this lovely town. Here is our Baños travel guide to help you plan your trip.
Baños highlights are so many, it is impossible to mention them all here. However, some of the very best are:
Ziplining – soaring high above and through a canopy of trees and across canyons will really make you feel very alive. This is a treat that is not for the faint of heart, or for those that do not like heights, but it is an adventure not to be missed for the rest.
White water rafting – on the nearby Rio Pastaza there are superb opportunities for white water rafting and you can hire the gear to enjoy it properly (e.g. wetsuit, safety gear). Here you can enjoy class 3 and 4 rapids.
Don’t miss the Melcocha – this is a sugar can candy that hangs off hooks on door frames outside candy shops in Banos. This tasty sweet taffy is only found in Baños, so you won’t want to miss it.
One of the most popular things to do in Baños is to head out on a bike to the Pailon del Diablo. This is the “Devil’s Cauldron” waterfall, a spectacular sight in itself. On a bike, the route is about 10 miles long. From the entrance there is a short walk to the waterfall.
However, biking is just one of the activities that you can enjoy at Baños. You can also enjoy other mountain biking opportunities, or watersports, such as rappelling, canyoning, kayaking or rafting. If that isn’t quite exciting enough for you, there is a chance to bungee jump from a large bridge. For those that like more sedate outdoor adventures, there are also lots of chances to hike in the area too.
Once you’re done with all of the exhilarating activities that Baños has to offer, another of the things to do in Baños is to head to the hot springs and some of the spas. The hot springs vary significantly in temperature, and some good ones can be found towards the middle of the downtown area. There are also plenty of spas to choose from, offering massages and other luxurious treatments.
The weather in Baños is generally warm and humid. The temperature does not change much during the year. This means you can visit Baños at any time and expect pleasant warm days with slightly chillier evenings.
Baños is a popular place for Ecuadorians to visit, and it gets rather booked up over Christmas and New Year. It is also very crowded on public holiday weekends, such as during Carnival (dates for this move every year as they are related to Easter), Easter weekend and around Day of the Dead in early November.
From Quito you can take a bus from the southern bus terminal (Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe) to Baños. Many of these buses will stop at Ambato on the way. The journey takes approximately 3-4 hours. If coming from Guayaquil the bus takes around 5.5 hours, or from Cuenca it takes about 7.5 hours. Once you have arrived in Baños, unless you are staying somewhere out of town, you will find getting around can be easily done on foot.
One of the most delightful nearby attractions is the Ruta de las Cacadas. Along the route it is possible to see seven spectacular waterfalls. Many follow the route on a bike, but you can also take an open-air bus tour to observe the waterfalls. The most spectacular of all the waterfalls is Pailon del Diablo. Another nearby attraction is the jungle town of Puyo. This is a lovely place to visit, and organized trips to the town generally take in a rescue center for animals, the Hola Vida Reserve, and the Puyo River.
Baños has plenty of different accommodation options to please those that have a variety of budgets. There are expensive, luxury hotels, right the way down to cheap and cheerful dorm-rooms in hostels. A very pleasant option is La Casa Verde, which is an eco guest house located slightly out of town. A quirky option is La Floresta with different art displayed in every room in the property. Out of town Hacienda Manteles is a lovely spot, worth a splurge. Meanwhile, a stay at the Samari Spa Resort can be really very special.
As a Central Andean town in the Ecuadorian highlands, you can expect that much of the cuisine in Baños revolves around soups, rice, potatoes and meat. However, because Baños is such a touristy spot, you will find a wide range of other types of restaurants too, with plenty of international cuisine here, including Italian, Spanish, Swiss, Mexican and Asian. A long-time favorite in Baños, Café Hood is a pleasant place to eat with a number of international and vegetarian options.
A lovely and interesting spot in Baños is the so-called Swing over the Edge of the World. The swing is pretty makeshift, and it provides an excellent adventure for those that decide to climb aboard. The contraption swings out over a mountain side and provides a momentary breath-taking experience.
Another Insider recommendation that we have for Baños is to visit the zoo there. While the zoo may seem unremarkable at first glance, last time we visited, the two resident tapir there were out and about walking around with the guests, which was quite a special treat!
Finally, we recommend visiting the hot springs at night. They are less crowded at this time, and on a clear night the experience is really special – bathing beneath the stars.
If you are planning a trip to Baños, why not get in touch and find out how we can help? At Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders we are very knowledgeable about Baños and the surrounding areas and we would be delighted to help you organize your trip there.