This small, relaxed town, lies a brief, okay 3-1/2-hour, bus ride from Quito, Ecuador. It is most commonly referred to by its shortened name of Baños. Its less official name is the “adrenaline junkie capital of Ecuador,” a name it definitely deserves. While it does offer the more adventurous traveler a wide range of exciting adventures, it also does this at very affordable prices. We really loved it here.
Also known as Bungee jumping, or insanity. Strap on a harness and take a leap off a perfectly good bridge and let the rope stop you before you crash into the raging river below? Not for me! Still this crazy feat is enjoyed by many people, enough that almost every touring company in the town offers it. There is a shorter bridge for those who are a bit more timid but still have enough guts to take the jump. This massive boost of adrenaline will cost you about $20 USD. Incidentally, Ecuador uses USD as its official currency.
Perhaps you’re not into flinging yourself hundreds of feet into a river-carved canyon but still find heights exhilarating. This is a metal basket that moves along 2 cables, 1 above and 1 below. It is a fairly stable ride, as in the basket doesn’t rock much, and takes you from one side of a canyon to the other. Most often people combine this with a zip line “ride,” but it is possible to just take the tarabita across and back. The cheapest place I found that offers the above combination is a small place located just up the road from the Ecozoologico San Martin (site is in Spanish). Just follow the signs and arrows. You can take the tarabita across the river and then zip line back for as little as $6 per person. There is a $1 extra charge if you decide to go across in a Superman pose as opposed to being seated.
There are several trails around Baños including a wonderful waterfall route which takes you past several of the local falls. If it happens to be warm enough, or you’re not afraid of a little hypothermia, you can swim in the waters of the final one. The trail is well marked and is a combination of paved and dirt path. If the altitude doesn’t affect you too much, you can also bike up some of the local mountains for amazing views of the valley and the nearby active volcano Tungurahua.
There are several trips to volcanoes. Some are as sedate as sipping coffee or hot cocoa from a tree house at night while watching the glow from the crater, or if you’re really lucky she may put on an even better show for you. Others include climbing the volcano for a closer view.
You can rent mini buggies and take them 4-wheeling. Prices vary widely, and it’s best to try to barter. Note that weekends are the most expensive time of the week for tourist activities as Baños is popular among vacationing Ecuadorians as well, so you’ll find better deals Monday through Thursday.
Finish the day off with something more relaxing: Head to the local thermal pools to soak your body and then afterward grab some delicious food and a locally crafted beer at the Stray Dog Pub (on a corner of the central park plaza). Baños de Agua Santa has a lot to offer, so plan on at least 4-5 days for your visit for the maximum experience.
Have you been to Baños? What was your favorite sight or activity?