Baños is a touristy, adventure hot spot sort of town that sits right near the foot of the Tungurahua volcano. Baños. A funny name for a town, I first thought, as the word meant “bathrooms” in English. In reality, it was a word for “Baths” as the town had a hot springs right in the town, as well as a few others surrounding. The activities you can do here are endless it seems. You do one crazy, adventure filled activity and you can always seem to find something else to do or explore in this interesting little town.
One of the first activities I did was paragliding. It was my boyfriends 20th birthday, so naturally, I wanted to do something big. We did it through a company recommended to us called Natural Magic, who were professional, mostly English speaking guides. The price per person was $60, which seemed relatively fair considering how much it would probably be back in the States. We paid, had training that included putting us in a simulated harness for about 5 seconds with them saying,
“Okay, 2 steps forward, 2 steps back, RUN!” And that was about the extent of our training for our flight in the air. Most people were pretty nervous about the lack of knowledge about what we were really supposed to be doing, but it didn’t bother me, they probably knew what they were doing well enough, I assumed.
We were then off. We all crammed into a van and drove for about half an hour to our destination. We had to wait another half an hour or so for the needed “perfect conditions” for flight. When it finally came time, I understood why such little instruction was needed, it was so simple, and smooth, so I thought. The instructors assume that common sense would kick in with most of us, however that’s not the case with all humans. A couple of the people forgot the simple steps, and barely got off the ground, making the guide do all the work, just in time to get off the ground safely. No injuries at all, but some close calls with takeoffs and landings.
When I finally got into the air, the view was absolutely spectacular. I could see an entire city below me, as well as Tungurahua right in front of me. I was floating, and gliding through the air, as the bird I felt I was. Perhaps that feeling was more dizziness due to the lack of oxygen from being so high up, but no matter. I’ll say it was from the utter awe I felt from the stunning view I had.
2. CASA DEL ARBOL
“The tree house” or better known to most bucket list adventure goers, as the Swing at the end of the Earth. This was one of the big appeals of Baños, for sure, as I had seen pictures on travel blogs and sites, as well as, yes, bucket list sites. This was something that absolutely I had to do. I did it twice, in fact. There are a variety of ways to get to the swing, which is very near the volcano, so quite the upward drive, or walk if you dare. Most would not recommend that. You can take a “party bus” for $5-$10 per person, which was a little too much “party” for me, or maybe not enough, as all it consisted of were flashing lights and blaring music that made most of us on the bus sick. Another way, if you have a load of people, is to get a taxi to the top. We got a taxi there and back for $15, but we also drive a hard bargain. If you’re really a “penny pincher”, like me, then another good way is to take the local bus which leaves at certain times each day there and back for a few dollars. Just ask the local bus station, or any local on the street should know as well.
Some days arriving, it will be packed with people, other times it will be quite relaxed. The first time I experienced this epic, end of the earth swing, there was a huge line for the swing, and about a 8 second swing time, just swinging for the picture. This was not the experience I wanted, so thankfully, the second time, was immensely different. There was no line, and few people. I could actually look out and feel like I was at the end of the earth with this swing, feeling a sense of freedom as I made myself go as high as I possibly could. This was the experience I wanted. This felt like the “end of the earth” had just given me a new beginning. Fantastic.
3. Bike ride to Pailon del Diablo
One of my favorite activities in Baños, by far, was the about 20 kilometer, beautiful bike ride to Las Cascadas, or the waterfalls. I love any kind of adventurous activity that involves working up a sweat or being in nature, so this was the perfect activity for a beautiful day. I didn’t know exactly what to expect at first on this ride, we got directions in Spanish, and understood the gist of it. I figured it would be some kind of path or back road to the waterfalls, but I realized most of the way would be on the regular road. This scared me a bit at first, based on the questionably dangerous driving of Ecuadorians, compared to what I was used to. However, I felt safer on the roads there than I probably would have at home. The road was marked to watch for bikers, as it is a very popular place for tourists. On the ride, we would ride through one tunnel, but bypass the rest and go on our own path, the kind of off road I was expecting from the beginning. This is where the ride became absolutely stunning. From the small road you could see the vast terrain becoming more and more green and lush. There were even mini waterfalls we rode through, soaking us.
On this ride, there are several main waterfalls which you can stop and gaze upon, or even go down to. One, we stopped and took a cable car down to one commercialized waterfall, which ended up being completely worth the couple dollars we paid. The power of the waterfall was amazing. I was able to literally go right up to it, just inches away. I was completely soaked, physically with water, and soaked spiritually with it’s immensity. There are times in life you cannot explain the shear awe you feel, and this was one of those moments.
The true magnificence, no matter how touristy, was last, but not least, Pailon del Diablo, or Devils Cauldron. This waterfall was even more powerful and grand, but what surrounded it was the real wonder. There were beautiful, perfect looking rock stairs around it. There was gollums cave that you had to practically crawl under to get to more sets of stairs. It was such a rush. Not in the way of adrenaline, but just taking in all that beauty was overwhelming. In a good way. I am absolutely fascinated with beauty and nature.
Along the way on this bike ride, there are a variety of activities offered such as zip lining. When you get to Pailon del Diablo, at the end of the town, on your way to the waterfall, there is the worlds best empanadas ran by the sweetest lady for only 1 dollar. If you don’t find the time here, her daughter owns a shop in Baños as well! This was definitely one of the best experiences my stomach has ever had.
4. Stairs to the Virgin Statue
If you’re looking for a butt burner, there are the painted white stairs that take you partly up the mountainside for a magnificent view of all of Baños. I would complain of the amount of stairs to the top, but considering some locals were running up to the top, I’ll go ahead and stop right there.
We were walking around Baños for a while when we saw some stairs along the mountain, so we decided to adventure to find where they started and where they led. It was simple to find, as there were hiking signs leading to the exact location. Take in some beauty, eat a sandwich, drink a beer, all while observing the beauty of Baños, and the surrounding mountains at the top.
There are many more adventures to be had in Baños such as repelling, horse back riding, hiking, the zoo, rafting, ATVs, and more! This little town really is the outdoor adventure hotspot. As well as some great clubbing to be had! Don’t miss the bar strip of the greatest clubs such as the Leprechaun, El Volcan, and the Goodbar! Some salsa dancing and free flaming shots was the perfect night after a day of adventure.