Baños de Agua Santa or simply referred to as ‘Baños’ is maybe the most touristy place in Ecuador.
But even if you dislike busy, tourist filled destinations, there is a good reason why the small town of Baños is such a busy place, even though it only has a population of 14,653 people.
Well, it’s not actually the town that’s drawing people in, it is everything around Baños – breathtaking waterfalls, thermal springs, a volcano, and even Amazonia, otherwise known as the Amazon rain forest.
If you are traveling around Ecuador, it would be almost impossible to skip Banos. The locals will point you in the direction of that town. The travelers you meet on the way will point you in its direction…You even will feel guilty if you don’t visit it.
If you want to avoid the crowd in this small town, you should visit Banos during the rainy season. Obviously, there’s quite a bit of rain, but also it is calm, quiet, and chilled. Every day there is something different to do.
First of all, you should visit the valley of waterfalls. You can rent a bike and ride through it, and visit all the waterfalls you want. They are all different and beautiful.
But your goal should be to get to the 80 meter high – Pailon del Diablo or “Cauldron of the Devil” in English. It is not exactly the Angels Falls or the Victoria Falls, but it certainly is a breathtaking place. Getting there is a wonderful trip because on the way you get to visit other, gorgeous, smaller waterfalls.
While biking to the Pailon del Diablo, you can enjoy the landscape with semi-jungle vegetation that often seems surreal. You can also see the Agoyan hydroelectric dam which is well worth a bit of your time, look out for the two tunnels which are unique compared to other Dam tunnels.
From there you can head to the Rio Negro and be at the edges of the Amazonia. There are so many things to do that the tourist agencies in Banos offer – horseback riding, kayaking, bridge jumping, canopy excursions, canyoning, and the most popular – rafting.
You can also hike or drive to the Casa del Arbol where you can enjoy “the amusement park” or the sight of the active Tungurahua volcano (“Throat of Fire” in English). The volcano looks massive and grand when seen from the “Casa del Arbol.”
You can also hike there, but it is a tiring, day long, hike, so make sure you’re fit and prepared, it’s well worth the effort though. If you decide to just enjoy the sight of the volcano, you can just chill on one of the swings or just sit on the grass and relax.
Early in the morning or if you come back from an exhausting hiking, biking, or rafting day, you can relax in the thermal baths of Banos.
Don’t be put off when you get there, the baths are at the bottom of the falls and although they can look dirty they are not, it’s just the high mineral content in the water. The staff drains the pools and scrubs them every evening.
You can enjoy piping hot pools or icy ones (in case you want to shock your body and improve your blood circulation). There are plenty of pools with different water temperatures, so you can find the one that suits you the best.
Another thing to do is to explore the city. Even though is small, you will enjoy the walk around. You can visit the neo-Gothic style basilica made of volcanic rock and called “Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa” by the locals or “Our Lady of the Holy Water” in English.
You really should try the “melcocha” – sweet taffy made from sugar cane. There are plenty of shops in and around Banos that make this “juice,” right in front of you.
Another thing that you shouldn’t miss in the town is the “Mercado” which is a typical Ecuadorian market that you can find in many places and where you can try Ecuadorian dishes (that are huge), buy fruits, or try “things” that you might see for the first time, the key is to be adventurous!
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