If you’re the type of traveler who loves extreme adventure and being active, you’ll love Baños, Ecuador. Located about three hours south of Quito, Baños is a small but lively town surrounded by mountains and lush greenery. There are dozens of tour agencies lining the streets, although I’d recommend using a highly reputable company like Geotours or Rainforestur. Some of the adventures you’ll be able to partake in include:
Taking A Trip Into The Amazon Jungle
From Baños, you’ll be able to do one day or multiple day excursions into the Amazon Jungle. The tours usually begin with a trip to a monkey sanctuary. Next, you’ll visit an indigenous community to get your face painted with fruit, drink Chicha, shoot dart guns and learn about the culture. Jungle hikes, canoe rides, waterfall swims and night treks encompass the rest of the tour. You’ll see unique plants, like the Devil’s Penis, which squirts a clear liquid used to enlarge the manhood of indigenous men, as well as wildlife like anacondas, tree frogs, exotic birds and enormous spiders.Biking The “Waterfalls Route”
I recommend getting your bike from Caroline’s Tours on Martinez Street. You can get a basic bike all day for $5, or upgrade to the more comfortable one for $10. She’ll give you a map, and a fanny pack filled with pumps, locks and spare tubes. The “Waterfalls Route” takes about two hours, including stops at viewpoints and hikes to the falls. You’ll see:
- Agoyan- At 200 feet, it’s the highest waterfall in the Ecuadorian Andes.
- Manto de la Novia- Literally meaning “the bride’s veil,” this waterfall has a distinct white color, and is 131 feet high.
- Pailon del Diablo (shown above)- This is the second biggest waterfall in Ecuador, and is thought to be the most interesting one on the route.
- Machay- This beautiful waterfall includes a challenging hike to get to and from its viewpoint. It’s popular for swimming, so bring your bathing suit.
You can take the bus back to Baños for $1 from Machay.
If you enjoy jumping from rock to rock and repelling down gorges, Baños offers canyoning excursions each day. You’ll descend numerous waterfalls, some extremely steep, along the Rio Blanco, while immersing yourself in the lush cloud forest. Your adrenaline will be pumping, as at times you’ll be dropping yourself 148 feet.
In Baños, there are two main viewpoint hikes: Bellavista and The Virgin. They’re both very straightforward, so don’t worry about getting lost. Bellavista takes you to a giant cross overlooking the city, and you’ll be able to continue the hike on the Runtun trail to see small villages and the Tungurahua Volcano. Just be sure to carry rocks, as dogs from the villages can get nasty. The trek to The Virgin takes you up hundreds of steps to an enormous Virgin Mary statue, for an all-encompassing look of Baños.
Rafting On The Pastaza River
Baños is a great place to enjoy white-water rafting. Depending on water levels that day, rapids can vary from class two to five. The rivers in Ecuador are warm and tropical, and you’ll even get the chance to journey through the lush flora and fauna of the Amazon Jungle.
The city is well known for its aerial adventures, like zip lining/canopy and bungee jumping. For the zip line, you’ll be strapped to a high wire, and will fly above the cloud forest. Moreover, bungee jumping is $20 or less, and allows you to jump off a bridge and swing like a pendulum. No need to book in advance, as you’ll be able to get off your bike and jump along the “Waterfall Route.”
Hiking And Biking Tungurahua Volcano
A hiking and biking excursion on this 16,480-foot active volcano is my top pick for the adventurous in Baños. I only recommend doing this thrilling excursion if it’s a clear day out, as the views awarded from this volcano are priceless. The day begins at 9:00 a.m., when a van will take you to the starting point. Then, you’ll hike up three hours to the refugio for excellent views of surrounding mountains, valleys and rivers, before cycling downhill at rapid speed. Once you get to the bottom, you’ll also bike your way back to Baños.
Called cuy, eating this delicacy is usually an expensive culinary adventure. However, if you walk around near the main square, you’ll be able to find street food vendors cooking it for an affordable price. For example, I was able to buy a single serving with potatoes and vegetables for $3.50. While eating guinea pig may sound scary, it tastes a lot like greasy, fatty chicken.
Paragliding, which involves soaring through the air via a parachute, is a popular activity in Baños. Additionally, it’s a great way to take in views of the entire region. Most paragliding tours take off from Niton Mountain, and you’ll see mountains, volcanoes and rivers as you soar through the air like a bird.