Baños (de Agua Santa) is a small city in the Andean highlands of Ecuador under the smoke of volcano Tungurahua.
Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water
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 is very touristy, lots of people love it, more for the activities and surroundings than for the city itself. 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 centre 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.
Easy, just walk. Nowhere is more than a 15 minute walk from where you start and usually even less. It is relatively flat in the city centre.
Also check out the mountain biking section should you wish to explore further afield.
There are also plenty of taxis around should you need one.
The neo-gothic interior of the church
- 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
- Cascada de La Virgen. This is the main waterfall near the city center which empties near the thermal baths. edit
- Manto de la novia, (Ruta de las Cascadas). This dynamic waterfall sometimes features two distinct chutes and has a cable car ride available. edit
- Pailon de diablo, (Ruta de las Cascadas). This is the most impressive of the falls in the area with an option to hike to the source for a closer look. edit
There are dozens of travel agencies offering rafting, canyoning, paragliding, zip lining, biking tours, jungle tours, horseback riding, trekking tours, etc.
- Imagine Ecuador, 16 de Diciembre between Luis A. Martinez and Montalvo (half block from the Montalvo Park), ☎ 5930987286625 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 8am to 21:00. 10-5000. 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/h) - 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!
Cable car over Manto de la novia falls
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.
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 or in the cargo hold. 2.50 USD for the bus ride + 0.50 USD for the bike. 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 and Dirt Bikes
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.
November 2015: if you wanna jump from the higher Bridge, thats San Francisco just cross the street from the busterminal. No agency needed. Just go there. Price 20 USD. Great fun!
La Casa Del Arbol
Hailed as the "Swing at the End of the World" this awesome and cheap ($1pp) 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 ($15), or public bus ($1pp) which leaves Banos at 6am, 11am, and 2pm daily (except Sundays) from the corner of Rocafuerte and Pastaza and returns from La Casa Del Arbol at 8am, 1pm, and 4pm. Note that the place is very touristy and depending on the day/season you are likely to queue a bit to be able to use the swing for 30-60sec. It is actually a very interesting place to see group-effect in action as everybody queues and takes the same pictures :)
You can go to the waterfall trail daily during the morning at 10h30 or 14h30 is a tour that takes about 3h30 to 4 hours and it cost $7 Now (2015) the price is everywhere 5$.
Dozens of tour operators offer rapelling down waterfalls (half/ full day $30/ 60).
Book one of the tours or rent a bicycle and go down the Puyo-Road. There your can choose among dozens of operators(per ride $10-15).
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.
Baños is the adventure capital of South America, here you can do all kind of activities from rafting to paragliding, every single tour agency is well equipped and prepared.
You can find all this activities for great prices:
- horseback riding
- rock climbing
- biking tours
- zip lining
- jungle tours from 1 to 5 days.
- kayaking courses
- and more.
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.
There are minimum 5 in Agua Thermales in Baños, walking distance. 2015 Piscina de la virgin costs 3 USD entrance and a bath cap is obligatory. 1 USD and you get 0,50 USD back. Opening hours 5 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. This bath is quite scenic because its located next to the waterfall la virgin.
There are a lot of different places to buy handicrafts, there are a lot of small business in front of the church in the middle of the town.
At the market you can find decent meals from $1.50 to $3.
Other places to try include:
- Sam Fast Food, Eloy Alfaro & Vicente Rocafuerte (outside the market/mercado), ☎ 0980007701. 5p.m. to 11p.m. This place, owned by Christian Valdivieso, is probably the best Burger Restaurant in town. Meat is perfectly spiced, the salsas/sauces are outstanding and the french fries are fresh cutted potatoes freshly fried. Don't miss out that place as you would miss out a main attraction in Baños. From 1.25 USD - 6 USD. edit
- Casa Hood, Martinez & Eloy Alfaro, ☎ +593 3 274-2668. 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
- Mestizart Ecuadorian Restaurant, Central Park Corner (Ambato & Thomas Halflants Crnr.), ☎ +593 3 274-3254, . Traditional Ecuadorian food for great prices. Try their Llapingachos. They serve a variety of daily specials. They do indeed have a wonderful variety of plates on any given day, one of the best breakfasts in town, and an interesting choice of beers. Trendy Ecuadorian & international cuisine. Beautiful décor. Amazing views of downtown and the surrounding areas of Baños Ecuador. $3-10. edit
- Pancho's Snack Bar, Rocafuerte & Maldonado, ☎ +593 3 274 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
- Arte Cafe y Te, 12 de Noviembre 500 y Oriente, ☎ +593 3 274 3448. This beautiful new cafe serves gourmet coffee, tea and delicious sweet and savoury 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
- Taberna Armenia, Pastaza y Montalvo (In front of a new hospital, 3-4 blocks from Central Park to the south west), ☎ +593 99 679 1903, . Small fusion restaurant runned by two owners who cook and serve you by themselves. They specialize in authentic salads and quality meat dishes. Here you can find lamb and llama dishes and their beef steaks (ribeye, New York, t-bone and etc.) are just as you will expect them to be (quality of meat, thickness, done as you want from blue to well-done). Good selection of wines and cocktails and one of the best service in town. On busy weeks it's a good idea to reserve a table in advance. $7-20. edit
Sugar cane taffy (Melcocha)
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 speciality. 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.
Sugar cane juice (Jugo de Caña)
Sugar cane juice (Jugo de Caña
Sugar cane is also popular in a less worked form as chewable cane pulp sticks or squeezed juice.
Flaming Bob Marley - Leprechaun Bar
- 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, $6-10 for sandwiches/meals. edit
The city is full of hotels and hostels. Note that during weekends and holidays everything fills up very very quickly and prices go up. Book in advance or expect to pay over 20usd pp. Outside of this high season you will easily find accomodation.
- Hostal Evay, Via a Baños & Pastaza (directly next to Busterminal, on mainroad). This inofficial Hotel offers few clean rooms, for reasonal price, also in high season. To get informations ask in the Peluqueria Evay next door. Hotel has no signs. WI-FI is available as well as warm showers. from 8$ p.p.. 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
- Hostel Erupcion Ambato & Thomas Halflants Central Park Crnr. phone="0996892931"  is a quality backpacker hostel, clean and comfortable place located in the magical downtown of Baños Ecuador, your accommodation includes (dorms from USD8.25 & private from USD9.99), Wi-Fi, 2 computers with unlimited internet, book exchange area, free movies, hot showers 24 hours, gameboards, luggage storage, kitchen facilities, laundry service, cable TV, free map & tourist information. - Email: email@example.com
- 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
- 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
- Hostal Huillacuna 12 de Noviembre y Juan Montavlo. A hostel, art gallery, cafe. Impressive art worth a visit even if you are not staying there. $20 per night with a superb breakfast and and interesting owner/artist. 0987597973 0984573759 032742909 email@example.com
- Backpackers Paradise - Princesa Maria, Rocafuerte y Mera, Baños, Tel: 03 2741 035 firstname.lastname@example.org A short walk from the main strip slightly up, but a friendly budget option (12$ pp during off-season) with free internet and wifi, hotel-level clean well stocked kitchen which is cleaned every day, DVD player and good hot showers. Victor & Yolanda are our trips' to Ecuador absolute favorite hosts - super friendly and helpful and always in for a chat! This is a perfect place to have some seriously calm and comfortable place to get back to after having enjoyed Baños' activities, explicitly no party-hostel. Often shows as fully booked online when they have rooms.
- 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. Dorm 8$, double room 16$, clean, kitchen, good common areas and wifi. Real hot water in the shower!
- 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. Steam baths available for rent. Information about the area. dorms from $7.50. Private rooms also available.. 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
- 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
- Mayra´s apartments and Spanish School, Oriente Y Eduardo Tapia 112, ☎ +593 27 43019 or +593 998 822 588, . Studio, Two bedroom apartments, and Flat share available. All apartments equipped with full kitchen, private bathrooms and Free Wifi. For information on bookings or Spanish lessons, contact Mayra at MayraSpanish@gmail.com. from USD10 per 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. *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 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, Oriente Y Eduardo Tapia 112, ☎ 02-743019 or 0998822588, . 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. For more information, or to book lessons contact Mayra at MayraSpanish@gmail.com edit
Frequent buses go to Ambato where you can connect to other destinations.
Also frequent buses to Riobamba.
One direct bus per day at 8.45am to Cuenca.