Some people only go to Ecuador for the Galapagos Islands, but hang around long enough and you’ll meet plenty of people who will keep barking the same thing at you: Go to Baños! As an adventurer’s paradise, Baños has no shortage of outdoor activities and is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Amazon” because of its close proximity to the jungle.
After weeks of listening to stories from other travelers, I finally decided to round up some friends and pay a weekend trip to Baños. We woke up before the crack of dawn so we could knock out the three hour bus ride and take advantage of the day. Baños, which is south of Quito, is easily accessible by public transportation.
When we got there, the town was already awake and bustling with travelers and locals. The streets were lined with different tourism companies, each one bursting with offers for different activities. Ziplining, whitewater rafting, canyoning-Baños has enough activities to fill itineraries for multiple trips. Because we were only there for the weekend, we decided to keep our itinerary small to give us enough time relax without worrying too much about fitting in too many activities.
The first thing we did was head off to see the famous “swing at the end of the world.” Plastered in travel blogs throughout the Internet, the image of a person swinging in midair with the ground nowhere to be seen is almost iconic among travelers. The famous swing is located at La Casa del Arbol and is easy to get to with a cab. If you’re afraid of heights, take a glance over the edge before you sit down-although it’s known to be “at the end of the world,” the slope below is actually much less terrifying. Sitting at 2,600 meters above sea level, the famous swing provides fabulous views of the volcano Mt. Tungurahua. Make sure to clear up some space on your phone before you go so you can snap a lot of photos.
The second major activity we decided to do was check out Baños’ waterfalls. Baños has over ten major ones and there are multiple options for riding along Ruta de las Cascadas to view them. Plenty of companies offer bus tours, but we decided to rent some bikes to enjoy the weather. We decided to do a small section of the 60 kilometer route before it turned dark. Along the way, we visited about three different waterfalls, including the famous Pailon del Diablo, or “Devil’s Cauldron.” The multiple viewpoints at the site allow you see the phenomenon from different angles; at some parts, the water splashed onto us, giving us a refreshing break from the heat. When undertaking this route, it’s a good idea to wear a bathing suit and bring a plastic bag to cover any electronics you might bring. Though we didn’t stop to try it out, we rode over a bridge where you could go puenting for cheap. Similar to bungee jumping, puenting also requires you to jump off a bridge, but you swing on a taut rope instead of bouncing up and down.
Although we only managed to knock out two different major activities, Baños has enough going on to make it worth multiple trips. Besides chasing waterfalls and visiting the famous swing, you can also try canyoning, relaxing in the many hot springs-or, just walk along the streets and ask about the many other activities that Baños has to offer!