Baños (de Agua Santa) is a small city in the Andean highlands of Ecuador under the smoke of volcano Tungurahua. Its name, which is Spanish for "Baths (of sacred water)," comes from the famous hydrothermal springs in the area. It's equally popular with foreigners as with Ecuadorians, and is known as the adventure capital of Ecuador. The streets are lined with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and tour agents. Although it seems a bit touristy and artificial, lots of people love it, and it's definitely worth a visit. It's an important hub for outdoor sports and jungle tours.
The small bus terminal is on the north edge of town and is within walking distance to the center and almost all hotels. However, if you need to catch a taxi, it should cost you $1.
There are frequent connections to Baños from Quito (3.5 hours, $3.50), Riobamba (2 hours, $2) and Guayaquil (5.5 hours, $7.00). Most buses out of Quito will leave from Terrestre Quitumbe, also referred to as Tumbe (located in the far south of the city). The closest bigger town is Ambato (1 hour, $1) on the Panamerican and there are very frequent buses between the two towns.
Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water (Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa). This neo-Gothic style church is named after the vision of the Virgin Mary seen near the appropriately named waterfalls and is therefore a place of pilgrimage for those who come to thank the Virgin for many miracles and to ask for her blessing. It was built with many volcanic rocks and the inside is lined with paintings depicting the Virgin's miracles, including saving the church from multiple volcanic eruptions. edit
There are dozens of travel agencies offering rafting, climbing to Cotopaxi, mountain bike rental, multiple day trekking, jungle tours, etc.
Imagine Ecuador - Tour Operator Banos, 16 de Diciembre, between Montalvo and Luis A. Martinez Streets (www.imagineecuador.com /email@example.com), ☎ +593-032743472 / +593-0987286625, . A tour Operator and Travel Agency with German-Ecuadorian management specialized in outdoor adventures like Whitewater Rafting, Kayaking School and Courses, Canyoning, Zip-Lining, Rock-climbing, Paragliding, biking and Horseback Riding as well as different Amazon Rainforest Tours. Imagine Ecuador is the only company in Baños certified by Ministery of Tourism to sell Galapagos Cruises and Tours including flights. edit
There are many studios in the centro or hostals, within 50m of each other on the same street. They all cost around $20/hour but are mostly local women without full training. The nicer spa locations around town cost $35/hour.
If you want to get away from the hustle & bustle of the centro, try these options:
Xu Jing Casa de Salud: excellent massages from a wise old chinese woman. Corner of Luis A. Martínez and Eloy Alfaro, across from Casa Hood. ($35/hr)
Jade Spa, just a few blocks away on Avenida Oriente y Pablo Arturo Suarez. The services are excellent, the casa is sparkling clean, and the atmosphere is tranquilo and relaxing. Jade Spa accepts both reservations and walk-ins. ($25/hr) EDIT jan2013 - a little bit hard to find, few blocks from main plaza and close to La Biblioteca. Highly recommended.
Around Baños there are several easy trails. The tourist office (calle T. Halflants at the park) can provide simple maps.
On some trails you can find many signs on the way, though the indicated distances seem to be quite contradictory. Head up to the statue of the Virgin Mary which overlooks the town for nice views.. but be warned, it's a heart-pumping hike!
Several agencies rent out mountain bikes (7$ a day or $1.25 a hour). But make sure that you or someone with experience checks out the bikes and ensures that they are safe to use. Especially check if the gear is clean and oiled enough - bikes look really good, but are sometimes not maintained like they should be. Also be sure to understand who has to pay for damage to the bike should it occur.
We managed to rent bikes for only five dollars a day, look close to the bus station, two blocks up from there.
A popular ride is the 61km, mostly downhill, to Puyo. The first 18 km to Rio Verde is strewn with impressive waterfalls,
some reached by mini cable cars across the valley. Rio Verde's Pailón del Diablo is the most dramatic. Actually you can leave the bikes there for a small truck and they will take you and the bike as well to Baňos for like 2 dollars. The frequent tunnels on this road
mostly have bike bypassses and the only one you need to go through is the first one. There are good signs indicating where to go all the way to Puyo. From Rio Verde or Puyo there are frequent buses back to Baños, some of which will put you bike on the roof. It is also fairly easy to hitchhike your way back on a pick-up truck.
You can also sometimes include a small bungee-style jump off a bridge some 30 minutes from Baños.
Many companies organize rafting trips to the nearby Pastaza river. The rapids range from class II to IV, depending on the recent rainfall. A half-day trip costs about $25-35 and you are best off going with a respected, well-known organizer. The water is not too cold but beware of sunburn where the wet suit doesn't cover.
ATVs (All Terrain Vehicles) and motocross bikes abound in the town and you can easily rent one for a couple of hours or days. The hills surrounding the town provide good views of the town and the volcano and climbing to the antenna or to the cross are both good options. You can also drive down to Puyo if you don't feel like biking.
Many kinds of tours are organized to the Amazonas jungle from day trips to the edge to two week adventures deep in the jungle. You will get to meet natives in their villages, swim under a waterfall and see at least some small wild animals like frogs, fish and spiders. You can usually also bundle the tour with rafting if you want. Shop around a bit for the package and price that best suits your wishes. 55 dollars for the trip.
Several tour operators offer bridge jumping (puenting). There are two bridges this is done from, one is much higher than the other. Although the operators are not covered by any kind of liability insurance, the rigging equipment is of high quality and done professionally.
An incident has occured on the higher bridge with an operator in early February 2012. Although two ropes are used, one of them snapped and the operator just laughed it off and offered no refund to the poor girl. They are extremely unprofessional and just see gringos as people to milk money from. Its recommended you do bungee jumping somewhere else where they take your safety more seriously.
Hailed as the "Swing at the End of the World" this awesome and cheap ($0.50pp donation) activity will have you sitting on a plank of wood as you sail out over the edge of a steep hill. Reachable by a 3 hour hike from Banos (directions available from the tourist office), or 30 minute taxi ($10), or public bus ($0.50pp) which leaves Banos at 6am and 2pm daily (except Sundays) from the corner of Rocafuerte and Pastaza and returns from La Casa Del Arbol at 8am and 4pm.
Most agencies offer paragliding ($60). There is only one operator (Edgar Soria) in town so all agencies should have the same price. His office is in Calle Ambato y pasaje Mideros at one block from the Church.
Activities in Baños Ecuador, if you are looking for the ultimate travel experience and outdoor adventures check out IMAGINE ECUADOR is highly recommend for whitewater rafting, canyoning, rock climbing, paragliding, zip lining, bridge jumping, mountain climbing, biking, trekking, amazon tours and galapagos cruises and tours. Excellent equipment, safe and fun! 16 de Diciembre between Montalvo and Luis A. Martinez near to Hostal Le petit.
For a reliable, affordable, and fun outdoor activities check out MTS Adventure between Av. 16 de Diciembre and Luis A. Martinez near the church. Canyoning, rafting, canoping, bungee jumping, mountain climbing, hiking, etc. Guides are knowledgeable and fun.
Arte del Mundo voluntourism project where the emphasis is on sharing the love of books and the arts with the children and adults of Baños.
Merazonia]) is located just outside the nearby town of Mera. Here, volunteers can pay a small weekly fee to help with the daily feeding of monkeys, parrots, kinkajous, pumas and any other animals that might be passing through on their road to recovery. Other projects volunteers can assist with are expanding/building new cages and helping with building new accommodations for volunteers. Quote from their website - `Merazonia is a dynamic rescue and rehabilitation centre for trafficked and abused Amazonian animals, located on 250 acres of rainforest, in Mera, Ecuador, South America´.
The work is extremely rewarding and you will make friends with people from all over the world whilst you help the owners, Franke and Louisa get the animals back to good health again.
At the market you can find decent meals from $1.5 to $3.
Casa Hood, Martinez & Eloy Alfaro, ☎ 03-274 2668. Perhaps the most recommended restaurant in Banos, Casa Hood serves up an eclectic array of dishes that are all outstanding, including many vegetarian options. The atmosphere here is very relaxed and the many bookshelves full of books and games make it feel like a living room. Any of the books can be traded for your own and the games are open for anyone to play. $5-$8. edit
Pancho's Snack Bar, Rocafuerte & Maldonado, ☎ 03-274 2395. The confusing mix of cultures inside these doors make the place a hit. Enjoy your superhamburguesa between the shrine to Che Guevara and the pictures of John Wayne. edit
Jugo de Caña
Arte Cafe y Te, 12 de Noviembre 500 y Oriente, ☎ 03-274 3448. This beautiful new cafe serves gourmet coffee, tea and delicious sweet and savory crepes. The cozy hammock chairs on the patio and the beautiful presentation of each drink and plate of food only add to the instant appeal of the French-Colombian owned cafe.$1.50-$5. edit
Melcocha is Ecuador's hallmark candy and the majority of it is made in Baños. The abundance of sugar cane in the area makes this version of taffy a local specialty. It is a naturally sweet taffy made from boiled raw cane syrup. In store fronts that sell it you are likely to see it being made by pulling it and beating it against sturdy door frames.
Leprechaun Bar, Eloy Alfaro (between Oriente and Espejo), ☎ 03-274 1537. This is the happening place for travelers and hip people in Baños to hang out. By the front bar there is a large dance floor with the DJ playing a variety of music. Upstairs is a smaller dance floor. But the real gem of the place is the back yard, which has another bar, a stage for occasional live music, and a large fire pit that the staff keeps roaring all night long on weekends. Be sure to try the signature "Flaming Bob Marley" shot.edit
Bar Cafe Jack Rock, Eloy Alfaro 541 & Ambato, ☎ 03-274 1329. Rock and roll themed bar with an always busy foosball table. edit
Discoteca The Trebol, Av. Montalvo & 16 de Diciembre, . edit
Bar Dak, Av. Oriente & Alfaro, . Small bar with very friendly Ecuadorian owner Roberto -head there for a cheap beer or coctail before you go to a disco or when you get bored at the clubs.$1.75 for beer. edit
Stray Dog Brewpub/Cerviceria, (Maldonado & Rocafuerte kitty corner from the city hall plaza), . Weekdays: 3pm-11pm (Closed Tuesdays). Sundays: 11am-7pm.. Perhaps the only microbrewery in town with tasty brews, sandwiches, and great fresh cut fries but terribly slow service. Expect quick pours but around an hour for most food. Beer is made with local virgin blessed water.Beer is no longer made locally as of 2014. Pints are $3 USD. Don't expect beers to style no matter what the names suggest.$2 for beers, $6-10 for sandwiches/meals. edit
Hostal Restaurant Erupcion Ambato & Thomas Halflants Central Park Crnr. phone="0998047456"  is a quality lodging, clean and comfortable place in the magical downtown of Baños Ecuador, your accommodation includes breakfast (dorms from 7,75USD & private from 9USD), internet wifi, kitchen facilities, laundry service, cable tv, free map & tourist information.
Santa Cruz Backpackers Hostel 16 de Diciembre Street & Luis A. Martinez. phone="0985749787"  Santa Cruz Hostel is one of the classic backpacker hostels in Baños Ecuador. Created for a new generation of travelers offering shared dorms & private rooms.
Hostel Backpackers Ricardo Z. Carrillo y Ambato Lovely, beautiful hostel with a great common area with bar, pool billiard, free films and good book exchange. Breakfast (and in low season also dinner on Mon., Tue. Wed.) included in the price (dorms from $10, private from $15 pp.). Run by two Argentinian backpackers. A little bit off the chrowd but therefore really nice and quiet - expect a gorgeous sleep! Also close to the the Virgin thermal bath. +59332741825 firstname.lastname@example.org
CharVic Hostel Maldonado y Oriente (2 blocks from the Bus station). Offers basic, small private rooms; larger rooms w/ TV and a nice big window with a view of the village and mountains; or go even bigger with an ensuite. Kitchen for guest on the room/terrace. Slightly rundown bathrooms. Stay 3 nights and get free laundry service (although the machine might be "broken" when you ask for it. Stay 5 nights and get the 6th night free. +5932742258
Hostel Transilvania 16 de Diciembre y Oriente Big bright rooms and a great, relaxed atmosphere. Run by two backpackers who know exactly what budget travelers need and want. Tons of free amenities, gorgeous views and a their own fantastic restaurant next door. +59332742281
Backpackers Paradise - Princesa Maria, Rocafuerte y Mera, Baños, Tel: 03 2741 035 email@example.com A bit of a walk from the main strip slightly up, but a friendly budget option with free internet and wifi, clean well stocked kitchen, DVD player and good hot showers. Staff are super friendly and helpful. Often shows as fully booked online when they have rooms.
Hostería Spa Miramelindo, KM 15 Vía Baños Puyo, Banos, ☎ 032493004, . Located at just minutes away from Baños Ecuador, Miramelindo Spa Inn is one of the premiere hotels in town; we offer an outdoor pool, buffet breakfast, an indoor Hot Tube, Direct TV in every room, the best Ecuadorian cuisine in our restaurant. Rio Verde River and Pailon Del Diablo Waterfall is only minutes’ walk away from our hotel.edit
Plantas y Blanco, Martinez y 12 de Noviembre, Baños, Tel: 03 740 044.  Opened 13 years ago by French owner Michel Leseigneur, this is one of the old favourites in Baños with it's great location in the centre of town. For most part, very unfriendly staff who seem bothered everytime asked for help. There has been report of a worker propositioning lone females in their rooms at night when the hostel is mostly empty, although he did leave when rejected/asked to. The basement rooms have no windows and are very stuffy and mouldy. Cockroaches sightings are not uncommon. Doubles $8-12.
El Marques Posada, Pasaje V. Ibarra y Av. Montalvo, Baños, ☎ 03 740053, . Located at the foot of the magnificent Cascada de la Virgin, El Marques Posada is a sociable and welcoming hostel decorated with warm colours and boasting incredible views of Baños from the roof terrace.edit
La Chimenea, Luis A Martinez & Rafael Vieira (Coming from the bus station, continue 4 blocks along Calle Maldonado and turn left onto Calle Martinez. From there, you'll find La Chimenea around six blocks along and on your right.), ☎ 03 274 2725, . checkout: 12:00. Really nice place, very good value. Lovely roof-top terrace / cafe / kitchen with great view of the Virgin waterfall. Friendly, relaxed, and helpful staff. Every room is clean and modern, with hot water and balcony. Some rooms contain televisions. Internet computers in lobby (free). Swimming pool and jacuzzi (temporarily out of service as of April 2011). Steam baths available for rent. Information about the area.$7.50 -8.50 per person. edit
La Floresta Hospedaje, Montalvo y Thomas Halflants, Banos, ☎ 032741824, . Mid range hotel with large airy rooms, spotlessly clean, helpful English speaking staff, a pleasant garden and excellent breakfast$50 US. edit
Mayra's House, Oriente Y Eduardo Tapia 112, ☎ 593 3 2742 850, . Self Contained Apartments in the building of Mayra's Spanish School, (email: welcome at mayraspanishschool.com) Choice of Studio or One bedroom, all with private bathroom, cable T.V., fridge and fully equipped kitchen. All have access to rooftop terrace with stunning views of Baños. edit
Flat share Banos, Calle Oriente 905 y 12 de Noviembre (firstname.lastname@example.org), ☎ 0987 947038, . 3 rooms available for rent in Baños. Two rooms with a double bed each and one room with 2 single beds. Communal kitchen (w/ large fridge), washing machine, bathroom (hot water), dining/living area (with a good view of Cascada de Virgin), and free internet in a well-lit, clean, and centrally located apartment. Excellent value for money. Owner is a Spanish teacher and speaks English. Gives you a chance to polish your Spanish, as the owner being a teacher corrects your Spanish and helps you improve it. He also offers Spanish classes if you can spend a minimum of 4 hours on learning. $10/night/person. edit
La Casa Verde Eco Guesthouse, el camino real, santa ana, ☎ 593 986 594 189, . checkin: 2pm. la casa verde is your eco-friendly haven on the outskirts of beautiful and tranquil baños. set in a peaceful and scenic valley on the rio pastaza, la casa verde is surrounded by a magnitude of flora and fauna, including hummingbirds and fire flies, complete with spectacular views of the llanganates and sangay national parks. we offer the perfect place to rest, relax and enjoy baños, in a volcano safe area, in a sustainable and comfortable environment. please visit www.lacasaverde.com.ec for more info. Received some bad review due to apparent religious discrimination.$22.00. edit
Luna Runtun, Caserio Runtun Km. 6, ☎ 593 3 274 0882, . This adventure spa is located on a ridge high above the city and features swimming pools filled with volcanically heated water. edit
Samari, Av. de las Amazonas Vía a Puyo Km. 1, ☎ +593 - 3 - 2741 855, . This all inclusive spa resort is the premier accommodation in the city. edit
Mayra's Spanish School, Montalvo and 16 de Diciembre, ☎ 593 3 2742 850, . Mayra's Spanish School was established in 1998 and is officially recognized by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Ecuador. The school is centrally located in Baños with modern facilities, including comfortable classrooms, a library, bathrooms and kitchen. Lessons are available mornings, afternoons, evenings or weekends.$6.50/hr. edit