Visit the Adventure Capital of Ecuador

Author: Michele Mundy

The town of Baños de Agua Santa is located in Tungurahua province and is about four hours by bus from Quito. Due to at an altitude of 1800 m above sea level, the town is blessed with a fabulous subtropical climate and surrounded by greenery. Baños is a bustling little town in the central highlands nestled in a lovely valley and surrounded by spectacular cloud- topped mountains. It is one of the major tourist hubs in Ecuador and is frequented by both Ecuadorians and foreigners alike. During the week you may see an abundance of foreign tourists, but on weekends and holidays Ecuadorians flock to town to enjoy a relaxing getaway or a weekend of adventure.

As you step off the bus in  Baños you may be surrounded by hoteliers and tour vendors, but don’t let this deter you. The town may seem touristy at first, but people come here for good reason. They come not just to see this delightful Ecuadorian town, but to enjoy all the outdoor activities there are in the surrounding area. Baños is known all over as the adventure capital of Ecuador. There are a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy here.  This region is famous for hiking, biking, kayaking, rafting, climbing, zip lining, canyoning, horseback riding, and even paragliding. You can also book jungle tours since it is a convenient gateway to the Oriente. Since there are so many activities and tour operators, most excursions are affordable even for those with a tight budget.  There are endless natural wonders surrounding Baños; a thunderous river, crashing waterfalls, steep canyons, thermal hot springs, and even an active volcano.

The Volcano Tungurahua  is an active volcano that looms over the town. It can often be seen smoking from the city streets. As recently as the year 1999 the volcano erupted and the area was evacuated. The eruption was not major and soon the area was returned to normal. Climbing the volcano is one of the many excursions that can be enjoyed on your trip to Baños.

The Rio Pastaza is the river that thunders below the town. This river is the setting of many kayaking and rafting expeditions. It cuts dramatic canyons into the rocks surrounding it and creates some amazing opportunities for canyoning, rock climbing or zip lining.

There are three major waterfalls in the vicinity. You can see La Cascada de la Virgen, the town’s main waterfall, directly from the city center. This cascade plunges down right next  to the thermal baths of the Virgin. Manto de la novia has two separate chutes and you can see it from a cable car. El Pailon de diablo is  the most impressive waterfall in the region.

The town gets its name, not from its excellent bathrooms, but from the steaming thermal baths created by the Tungurahua Volcano. There are a variety of baths to choose from. La Virgen hot springs is in the center of town at the base of the crashing cascade, and is popular with both locals and tourists. Santa Clara has springs that feature a sauna and a gym as well. El Salado hot springs are just five minutes from town by bus or taxi. There are also Santa Ana and Eduardo’s baths.

You may notice as you walk down the streets of the city that there are an abundance of candy stores. You will see the vendors pulling a taffy like substance attached to the wall by a hook. This is Melcocha, a sweet taffy made from boiled raw cane syrup. This is candy is a local specialty and many vendors offer free samples, so give it a try!

Where to Stay-

La Petite Auberge Hotel is located in the heart of the town, but you don’t have to worry about parking since onsite parking is included. In this charming hotel every room contains lovely terrace and a private fireplace! The cabins also have private bathrooms and include hot water, television, and wifi. The hotel is nestled among tropical gardens, for entertainment there is a pool table and a children’s  playground. A healthy breakfast is offered as well as  a café and bar service between the hours of  14:00-23:00.  You can find the hotel at 16 de diciembre 240 and Montalvo or on the internet.  To make a reservation call 59332740936 or via  email at lepetitbanos@yahoo.com.

Abby’s Hideaway is located just ten minutes from Baños in the quaint town of Lligua. This hidden gem is right on the river Pastaza so that the soothing sounds of the river will lull you to sleep. You can pick citrus fruits or avocados from the garden or enjoy the paths around the village. Abby’s hideaway is an excellent choice for families, large groups or anyone looking for a secluded getaway. Check out their website or the Facebook page. You can also call 099375336  or 0993556698  or email to make a reservation at – carmenoasis@yahoo.com.

Things to do-

There are so many tour operators in town that it can be confusing to decide which one to choose for a day of adventure. Make sure you go with a reputable company that makes safety as an utmost priority. Here is a list of some of the best tour operators in town that put safety first.

Imagine Ecuador is a most reputable company with a wealth of activities in Baños. They offer: rafting, kayaking courses and tours, canyoning, rock climbing, paragliding, biking, zip lining, trekking, swing jumping, horseback riding, slack lining, Galapagos, and Amazon Tours. Imagine Ecuador strives to provide only distinctive travel experiences, unmatched in creativity, safety, professionalism, and attention to detail. Safety is always their primary concern. Years of experience combined with carefully planned safety procedures and contingency plans form the backbone of our successful operation. Their Baños office is located at 16 de diciembre and Montalvo or visit them online. To make reservations you can call 5930987286625 or send an email at imagineecuador@gmail.com.

Geotours has been around for more than twenty years, so they can offer experience and a wealth of knowledge of the area. Their bilingual guides offer a variety of activities suited for all people, with half day, full day tours and even one of a kind, personalized experiences. Tours they offer include: rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, bridge jumping, bicycle tours, a canopy tour, and kayaking classes. Geotours makes sure to use the highest safety standards for all of their activities. You can find them at Calle Ambato and Thomas Alflants or visit their website. Call to make your reservation at 032741344 or contact them by email at geotoursbanios@gmail.com.

Natural Magic is an incredible tour operator that takes safety and integrity to the next level! They are genuinely interested in giving their clients an amazing educational experience while respecting nature. Paragliding is their specialty, but they have a huge range of tours that span the four elements, air, water, earth, and fire! Their tours include paragliding, canyoning, rock climbing, canopy, puenting, rafting, kayaking, trekking, horseback riding, and cycling.  Natural magic is more than just a tour operator, they are focused on creating a unique educational experience that emphasizes personal development. You can find their locale at 16 de diciembre and Eloy Alfaro or at their website. To make a reservation call 0998833377 or send them an email at naturalmagic@live.com.

Parque  Aventuras San Martin offers  a unique extreme experience consisting of an 850 m canopy zipline where you can reach speeds of more than 100km/h! You then move on to the Tibetan bridge that crosses the Rio Pastaza, from there you scale a 90m basalt wall, and you conclude the adventure with a 350m canopy zipline. You can find Parque Aventuras next to the Ecozoo San Martin or on Facebook. To make an appointment call 0987914616 or email them at parquedeaventurasanmartin@gmail.com.

Extras-

Chakra Massage offers Swedish massage, hot stone massage, reflexology, Thai massage, natural facials, and waxing. After a day of adventurous activity you will need some relaxation, and what better way to cure your aching muscles than with a massage! There are loads of massage companies to choose from in Baños, but you will want to go with a masseuse that has both experience and training.  Carmen has sixteen years of massage experience and specialized training in Thai massage. Drop by the office at Eloy Alfaro and Luis Martin, visit their website, or you can call 0993556698 or email to make an appointment at carmenoasis@yahoo.com.[wpgmza id=”28″]