After an amazing week in the Galapagos, we flew back to Quito for the night and left first thing the next morning on the Wanderbus. The Wanderbus is a hop-on-hop-off bus that you can use to travel all around Ecuador, stopping at places that interest you for a few days along the way. In our case, we used their Colibri pass which runs from Quito down to Cuenca. Our first hop off point was Baños de Agua Santa (usually referred to as Baños) but not before stopping along the way at both Cotopaxi and Quilotoa.
After a long day of travelling and sightseeing, we arrived in Baños after dark. We’d have to wait until the next day to see what Baños looked like.
Waking up to rain and thick fog, we were a little bit worried but after a couple of hours, the rain stopped and the fog lifted. The owner of our hostel gave us a lift down the hill into town and as he drove us down we were treated to some amazing views over Baños. We were suddenly transported back to the north shore of Kauai after a rainstorm! Small waterfalls were flowing everywhere down the beautiful lush green hills surrounding the town. It was an incredible sight!
The small town of Baños is located at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano and is surrounded by verdant mountains, rivers and hot springs. But not only is Baños breathtaking, if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, Baños is also a great place to get your adrenaline hit. But if that’s not your thing, you’ll still find plenty to do there. Baños is also the perfect place to just relax and enjoy its chilled out atmosphere and beautiful surroundings.
What to do in Baños, Ecuador?
Here are a few things you should do while in Baños:
Rent a bike and ride the Ruta de las Cascadas
You absolutely must do this while in Baños. The Ruta de las Cascadas takes you past some pretty incredible scenery and past many waterfalls along the way. Hiring a bike is easy in Baños and there are several tour agencies that will rent them to you from just $5 a day.
You can either cycle the Ruta de las Cascadas on your own, or you can take the free guided bike tour that departs most days from Alexander Tours’ office, just across from the bus station. The tour itself is free, you just pay the $5 for the day’s bike hire.
We did the free tour and Carlos from Alexander Tours was a great guide. The ride was mostly (90%) downhill and we took about 3 hours to reach our last stop at the largest waterfall, the Pailon del Diablo. After visiting the waterfall, we had lunch at one of the restaurants there. We happened to have some of the best empanadas we’ve tasted in Ecuador but unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the restaurant!
From the Pailon del Diablo, you can either cycle back to town (but it will be 90% uphill!) or catch a $2 ride back in one of the local trucks who wait there daily. That’s the option we chose.
We loved the bike ride. It was a great way to enjoy the scenery, at the same time as doing a little exercise. We had plenty of breaks for photos along the way and having a guide meant that we didn’t need to worry about where to go.
But if biking is not your thing, you can still enjoy the Ruta de las Cascadas, by Chiva. Chivas are open-air vans that will take you along the road, stopping at some of the major sights. Chivas also cost $5, so you don’t end up paying any more. However, the driver may not stop as many times along the way, or stop every time you want to take a photo.
Zip line above a waterfall
That’s right, you can do that in Baños and it is totally awesome! We loved it. You can watch our video below to see just how cool it is. We enjoyed the Tarabita zip lining which goes above one of the waterfalls on the Ruta de la Cascadas. It cost us just $15 each. There were two zip lines, one over the gorge and waterfall and then one back across the gorge to where we started from. There’s also the option of taking a little cable car across if you aren’t feeling adventurous but we’d definitely recommend trying the zip line, or maybe you can do both!
Go swinging at La Casa Del Arbol
You’ve probably seen this on Instagram many times and not realised. It’s the swing at the end of the world and it’s one of the most popular things to do in Baños. But if you visit during peak season, you may have to wait up to 45 minutes to try it out. Fortunately, because we visited outside of peak season, we didn’t have to wait at all.
Casa Del Arbol is the original swing but there are several others around Ecuador, including one in Quito at the top of the Teleferico.
The main swing at Casa Del Arbol is a little scary, especially if you’re afraid of heights. However, there are a couple of less scary swings just to the right of it, which I preferred. I also think they were a better location for taking photos.
The whole area is blessed with some pretty awesome scenery, so a trip to Casa Del Arbol is definitely worth doing, even if you are not brave enough to try the swings. The views over the active Tungurahua volcano are also quite stunning.
You can get to Casa Del Arbol by local bus which you can catch from the town centre. We took it from out the front of the bus station and it only cost u $1 per person, each way. There was also a small $1 fee to enter Casa Del Arbol. Bargain!
Hike to La Virgen viewpoint for some great views over the town
Just past the hospital in town is a path leading up to the La Virgen viewpoint. Be warned that it takes quite a few sets of stairs to reach the viewpoint. I found it particularly tough, maybe I wasn’t acclimatised enough, or maybe I’m just carrying a few extra kilos from all our months of travelling! Either way, it was worth it. Take your time and enjoy the views along the way, which you can enjoy all the way up. The ones at the top are of course even better, so do make the effort to make it all the way to the viewpoint.
Wander around town
Baños is a really nice little town, so make sure you spend time walking around exploring this cute place. There are colourful old streets to check out, some cool street art to marvel at and it really just has a nice feel to it. Stop at the local market for some local handicrafts or some delicious local food. Sit down in one of the small parks, relax and enjoy life!Relax in the thermal springs
Relax in the thermal springs
After too much hiking or biking, there is no better way to unwind than by going to the hot springs. There are a few thermal baths that are walking distance from the town centre such as the old and new Termas de la Virgen. Alternatively, you can get a taxi out to the fancier Luna Runtun Spa. There, you’ll have some great views of Baños as you soak yourself in the baths!
Sign up for some more adventurous activities
If you like adventure, there’s a lot of it on offer in Baños. You can go paragliding, white water rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, bungee jumping and more. The choice is yours to enjoy!
Where to stay
Where we stayed
Casa de Campo El Descanso: This lovely place is located up on the hill with a splendid view over the town. The owners are friendly and extremely welcoming. It’s a bit of a way up the hill but they gladly give you free lifts down into town and back up again.
We also stayed at
Balcon del Cielo: This hostel offers amazing views of the river gorge from their balconies. The owners and staff are very accommodating and friendly. Their rooms are clean and comfortable.
Best on booking.com
Great value: Hostal D´Mathias
If none of those are suitable, you can search across all the major accommodation sites with hotelscombined.com, using the search box below. We use it all the time.
Where to eat?
Leoni Pizzeria: For the best pizzas in town.
A Lo Mero Mero Oficial: Excellent Mexican food at good prices
Stray dog Brewpub: Has a great selection of beers on tap and snacks available to accompany your drinks.
Alto Caribe Restaurant Bistrot: Lovely Arepas, good pasta and friendly staff.
Is Baños safe?
Baños makes most of its revenue from tourism, so it’s pretty safe to travel there and to walk around during the day. Of course, you need to take a little more care at night. However, as a rule of thumb in South America, don’t flash your wealth around unless you are prepared to lose it. Petty crime still occurs when tourists are around. You can use your camera, just put it away when you are done with it. Just to be safe, don’t walk back to your hotel alone late at night; take a taxi.
Is Baños worth visiting?
Hopefully, after reading this you already know the answer but in case you are still unsure, the answer is 100% yes! Baños was one of our favourite places in Ecuador. It’s fun, beautiful and it’s a great place to hang around for a few days.
How long should you stay in Baños?
You could see most of the attractions in 2 days if you don’t have much time to spare but we would suggest hanging around for at least 3 or 4 days just to kick back and enjoy this beautiful town. We had only planned 2 days there but after visiting Cuenca, we ended up going back up to Baños for an extra 2 nights on our way to the Amazon.
How to get to Baños from Quito?
We took the Wanderbus from Quito to Cuenca, stopping at Baños along the way. We loved this option because it was not just another boring bus ride with very little breaks. Instead, we stopped in Cotopaxi, Pujuli and Quilotoa for some sightseeing. The bus was comfortable and our guide also helped us with tips on what to do in Baños.
However, you can also take a local bus from Quito down to Baños. It takes approximately 4 hours and costs around $4. Head to the Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe station in Quito, which is the main bus station in the south of the city. You can buy a bus ticket at the counter on the day. The bus may also stop in the town of Ambato along the way.