Banos: Ecuador’s Top Adventure Destination

amazon jungle 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.waterfall 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.

Going Canyoning

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.

banos Hiking To Various Viewpoints

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.

canopy Zip Lining And Bungee Jumping

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.

guinea pig Eating Guinea Pig For A Cheap Price

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

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.

10 best national parks in South America

In South America, there are myriad diverse landscapes, unique flora, and endemic fauna to experience. With so many destination options on the continent, however, it can sometimes be hard to decide exactly where to go. National parks can provide beautiful and educational experiences in nature and, depending on where you visit, you can experience enormous glaciers, white sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, gushing waterfalls, jagged limestone cliffs, and hot thermal springs, sometimes all in one place. If you love birdwatching and wildlife viewing, South America is also home to many rare species that cannot be found anywhere else, like the giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands or the spectacled bear in Peru. To help you plan your next trip to South America, or just to give you some inspiration from nature, check out the gallery below.

[Photo by Samuel Rochas, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0]

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Volcano grounds jets in Indonesia

Flights between Singapore and several Indonesian cities, including the capital Jakarta, have been grounded due to the latest eruption of Mt. Merapi. The volcano has been erupting for two weeks and has killed more than 130 people and displaced two hundred thousand.

Several airports have closed and while the ash cloud has affected international flights, domestic flights are continuing as normal. So far the suspensions of flights are up to the individual airlines, but major carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa and Cathay have chosen to play it safe.

Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, a giant arch of tectonic activity around the Pacific. Back in 2006, an eruption displaced tens of thousands and prompted local villagers to try animist rituals to placate the volcano’s spirits.

[Image courtesy user Tequendamia via Wikimedia Commons]

The perfect souvenir for volcano stranded passengers – a jar of ash

Some people get their friends an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt, others may bring back a horrible sombrero – but if you’ve been impacted by the European aviation disruption caused by the Icelandic Eyjafjallajökull volcano, how about five and a half ounces of pure Icelandic volcanic ash?

Think of this little jar as a reminder of how terrible your trip back home was, or how long you had to sleep on the airport floor. Or if you missed an important meeting, present a jar of it to your boss as “evidence”.

Sadly, the Icelandic merchants behind this souvenir charge a whopping $38 for filling a cheap glass jar with ash, plus an additional $36 for shipping.

There is an upside though – all proceeds from the sale of this ash souvenir will benefit ICESAR – the Icelandic Search and Rescue organization in charge of safety in regions impacted by the volcano.

For this Icelandic souvenir (or to see the assortment of other Icelandic products), click here to visit Nammi.is.

Vulcanologists worry about second Icelandic volcano

Move over Eyjafjallajökull, there’s a bigger volcano in Iceland.

While the unpronounceable volcano’s reputation has been made as a holiday wrecker, another volcano named Katla may cause even more trouble. Vulcanologists warn that this bigger volcano near Eyjafjallajökull may cause even more trouble. Katla erupts more frequently, about once every fifty years, but hasn’t had an eruption since 1918. Generally, the longer the period between eruptions, the bigger the eruption. Add to this the fact that Katla usually goes off within a year of when Eyjafjallajökull starts erupting, and there’s some serious cause for worry.

Vulcanologists are keeping an eye on Katla and report no evidence of an impending eruption, but they warn that trying to study magma hidden deep within the bowels of the Earth is hardly an exact science. They only knew that Eyjafjallajökull was going to erupt a few hours ahead of time. Katla’s magma chamber is ten times the size of Eyjafjallajökull’s, and the volcano’s cap has lots of ice on top of it, so any eruption could be a real problem for air travel.

With Eyjafjallajökull, the slump in the travel industry, and impending strikes at British Airways, Katla may very well be the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse for European air travel.