Baños yes you read right. Baños, that also means, toilet, or bathroom in Spanish, is the name of a little beautiful town in the middle of Ecuador. It’s the home of the famous “end of the world”-swing, some amazing thermal baths and the place to embark on your best extreme sport adventure! So what can you really do in Baños? How much time do you need there? Here is a guide to things to do in Baños, the little town that charmed its way into my heart.
Who am I kidding, it kicked in a place in my heart with all its adrenaline filled activities!
About Baños Ecuador
Baños actually goes by the full name of Baños de Agua Santa, Baths of holy water. It’s named after the hot springs spread around the city, believed to have healing powers.
The city is small, with about 15000 inhabitants. Still, it’s actually the second biggest city of the region of Tungurahua, after the regions captial, Ambato.
Baños has an elevation of about 1,820 meters but lies in a valley surrounded by green mountains, rivers, and over 60 waterfalls. The location and conditions outside the city make for a great mixture of relaxation, adventure, and adrenaline.
Though Baños is located in altitude, it’s also nicknamed the gateway to the Amazon. It’s the last big city before the Amazon Jungle about 6 hours away. On the way there, you’ll pass several natural parks, smaller villages and indigenous communities living off the gridd.
Due to Baños location in altitude, but close to the jungle, the town has a subtropical highland climate. This means that Baños almost always has a comfortable temperature. It has mild summers and cool winters but has a pretty stable temperature all year round. Another reason for it to be a popular vacation destination for locals, as you can visit all year. Baños usually never gets colder than 12 degrees and can reach 25 degrees on a warm day.
How to get to Baños de Agua Santa
Baños lies pretty much in the middle of Ecuador, and can easily be made a natural stop if you’re traveling from Peru, though Ecuador and towards Colombia or the other way around.
How to get to Baños from Quito
To get from Quito to Baños you have to start out at the central terminal in Quito, Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe. It shouldn’t be hard to find a bus to the terminal, especially if you’re staying close to or in the Old town of Quito.
If you want more beautiful views and challenging experiences, try hiking volcano Cotopaxi! It’s a natural stop between Quito and Baños.
From Quito to Baños it should take more or less 3,5 hours. If the bus directly to Baños from Quito is full or not going, you can always take a bus to Ambato and change there as they have frequent connections to Baños. Most buses that go to Baños passes though Ambato anyway.
Another option if there are no direct buses or busses to Ambato is to take a bus to Latacunga and change for a bus to Baños there. Latacunga is also where most people transfer to hike the Quilotoa loop, so definitely take this route if that’s on your Ecuador bucketlist.
Are you traveling to Quito too? Check out my guide to what to do in Quito!
How to get to Baños from Cuenca
There should be direct buses to Cuenca from Banos, some of them may stop in Riobamba, and you may have to get a connecting bus there too. It takes around 7 hours, but the views are absolutely amazing!
How to get to Banos from Guayaquil
If you fly into Ecuador you either land in Quito or in Guayaquil, the biggest of Ecuador’s coastal cities. From Guayaquil to Banos it’s about a 6 hours bus ride. Make sure to calculate the time at the bus terminal in Guayaquil. It’s huge with lots of different bus companies and departure areas. It’s also connected to a mall.
Where to stay in Baños
Banos has a lot of accommodation options, from luxuries resorts in the side of the mountain to the family-owned hostels with a handwritten note on the door.
Things to do in Baños Ecuador
1. Bike “Ruta de las Cascadas
The area around Banos is filled with beautiful rivers and waterfalls. As a result of this, a popular activity is to bike the Banos waterfall route.
You can rent bikes starting at 5 dollars for the day. If biking isn’t for you, you can rent a 4×4 or go by the buses, Chivas. With that said, the biking route is pretty easy and mostly downhill. This way you can enjoy the views and take your time. Just be prepared for biking on a road a trafficked road from time to time. The route switches between being on the “highway” and on more isolated roads.
Biking The Route of the Waterfalls
As shown on the map above, you’ll start out in Banos (upper left corner). The waterfall you pass on the waterfall route is La Cascada de Agoyan, Manto de La Novia, Cascada San Jorge, Cascada San Pedro, Pailón del Diablo, and Machay/Cascada Del Rocio. Still, in addition to all the waterfalls along this route, there are plenty of amazing sceneries to take in along the way.
The two first waterfalls you pass are free to watch, Cascada de Agoyan and Manto de la Novia. The waterfall is about 40 meters and devices into two. The viewpoint is from across the river just along the road. You can take a cable car like thing called tabarita, over to Agoyan waterfall.
Manto de la Novia is also viewed from the side of the road. If you choose to take the cable car, “Tabarita” over, there’s a trail that will take you to see both Cascada San Jorge and Cascada San Pedro.
Then you’ll reach Pailon del Diablo the highlight of the waterfall route. It’s a huge and pretty powerful waterfall, entrance is 1 dollar. The visit will probably take you about an hour, as you’ll have to hike down to see the waterfall. In addition, there is another entrance where you can pay 2 dollars. From there you can walk on a bridge above the waterfall and get a view of the area from above.
After visiting Pailon del Diablo, grab some lunch and head to the next and last waterfalls on the route Cascada Del Rocio. Entrance is another 1 dollar, and you can go swimming in the bottom of the waterfall.
After Cascada del Rocio most people catch the truck back to Banos. You can also keep on biking the 3 km to Rio Negro(the nearest town), but that’s mostly uphill compared to the rest of the route. The truck back to Banos cost 2 dollars and fits your bike in the back. You can always try to bike back, but it’s a lot of uphill. It just didn’t seem worth it to me. After all the hiking I did in Ecuador, I felt that it was justified.
2. Do one or several of the activities offered by the agencies in town.
Among what to do in Baños the offers are diverse. The most popular activities are rafting, canyoning, and canopying. They also offer day tours and 2-3 nights experiences in the jungle. You’ll be taken to indigenous communities where you’ll be able to see a wide range of animals and nature.
Negotiate a package deal for your Banos activities
Don’t be afraid to negotiate and try to get a package deal if you decide to do several activities, just make sure that your agency seems trustworthy.
I negotiated with one tour agency and got 3 days of activities for 50 $. I decided to do one day of canopying, one of rafting and one day of biking Banos Ruta de las Cascadas.
I highly recommend all 3 activities!
When I was in Baños I already had a Couchsurfing(!) lined up in a Shuar community, if not I would probably have stayed and tried out more activities.
4. Bridge Jump from San Francisco Bridge
I also did the swing-jump from the San Francisco bridge in Banos town.
It was 20 dollars, but so worth it for us adrenaline junkies! The film and take your picture too, but there is an additional 8 dollars to get them. You’re free to see them after you’ve jumped anyway, and then decide.
3. Visit Casa Del Arbol and snap the epic photo from “the end of the world”-swing
You might have seen the beautiful three house swing photos with the incredible Ecuadorian mountain backdrop around on Instagram. The hype is well deserved as the view is absolutely incredible from Casa Del Arbol outside Banos.
How to get to Casa del Arbol Banos
There is no need to take a tour or taxi to go to Casa del Arbol. There are buses going up to Casa del Arbol leaving Banos city at 05.45, 11, 13, 14.15 and 16. The bus from Casa del Arbol to Banos goes 8, 13, 15, 16 and 18. The bus stops on the corner of Vicente Rocafuerte and Pastaza. The bus to Casa del Arbol costs 1 dollar.
When at the top, there are several places you can visit and several swings. Each area has an entrance fee or a fee for the swing.
To get to the “famous” swing, you pay an entrance fee of 1 dollar. This will give you access to an entire park with a beautiful view. The park also has several swings including the treehouse one, a zipline for kids, as well as the cafe. You can easily spend some time here by just checking out the activities, views and enjoying the weather!
4. Spend an evening in one Baños’ thermal baths.
As mentioned, Baños got its name due to the many thermal springs found in and around town. The minerals are believed to have healing powers.
There are several thermal baths in Baños. The biggest one, and the one located in town is La Piscinas de Virgen.
For 3 dollars, plus an additional dollar for a bathing-cap (assume you don’t travel with such?), you get access to several pools, both hot and cold.
Go to the thermals in Baños when the sun starts to set and enjoy the warm water in the chill evening air! They also have an area where you can buy snacks and beverages to relax on the poolside before going back in for another round of relaxing thermal magic.
5. Eat lunch or breakfast in the Baños Market
I love the markets in South America and always try to visit markets when I get to a new town. Visiting a South American market should really be a must on every travel guide. At least if you’re into food the way I am haha.
So just go to the market in Baños! Try to go for breakfast or lunch to get a huge, filling, traditional Ecuadorian meal.
The Lunch menus consisting of juice, soup, and a main dish, and cost 2,5 dollar.
The breakfast menus also cost 2,5 dollar and the food variates from the different stands. A breakfast menu usually includes some form of eggs, you can sometimes choose how you want them done, a coffee or hot chocolate and some bread with cheese, queso fresco. There are also several juice-stands with juices for about 1 dollar if you just feel like getting a refresher.
Try some local street food: If you feel adventurous, you can try some of the street food outside the Baños market. The most notable street food offered is the local “cui”, or in English guineapig. They usually grill it, and you’ll see plenty of them in the area outside the market hall.
6. For a rainy day: Do a cafè crawl and check out the selection of hot chocolates in Baños.
One thing I can tell you after staying in Baños for a week is that the weather is extremely unstable. One second you have blue skies and sun. Then before you know it, dark clouds come rolling in and you’ll be soaked in heavy rain.
Still, the temperatures are nice, and the heavy rain usually doesn’t last long. However, as a result, I ended up spending several days exploring the towns cozy cafes. I have to say I’ve never had better hot chocolate then the hot chocolate I got in Baños. Raining or not, you should have a couple of hot chocolates while you’re in town!
I can especially recommend the Arome cafes(one is right behind the central market), and Arte Cafe & Te pictured underneath.
Baños is such a relaxing, fun and beautiful little town. I hope this list inspires you to visit and gave you some ideas of what things to do in Banos.