Baños De Agua Santa commonly known as Baños, is a town that sits on the side of Tungurahua Volcano. Also known as the “Gateway to the Amazon”, Baños is the last big town located in the mountains before reaching the jungle and other towns in the Amazon River basin.
Here are the best things to do in Baños.
Take A Dip In The Hot Springs:
Baños, named for its public hot baths. You cannot possibly visit Baños and avoid spending time in one of the many thermal baths. All of the baths are fed by the hot springs coming from Tungurahua, the adjacent active volcano.
You are required to wear a bathing cap. They sell them on site for USD 4 or you can rent them for USD 0.50. There is free manned storage for your belongings, a snack bar and multiple pools with various temperatures.
These are the hot springs located in Baños:
- Termas La Virgen Calle Montalvo y Luis A Martinez | Open daily from 05:00 to 16:00 and 18:00 to 21:00 |
- Termas El Salado Avenida el Salado | Open daily from 05:00 to 22:00 |
- Piscina Santa Clara Calle Velasco Ibara Entre 12 de Noviembre y Rafael Vieira | Open on Monday to Friday 14:00 to 21:30 | Saturday, Sunday and Holidays 10:00 to 21:30 |
Termas La Virgen and Termas Santa Clara are located at a walking distance from the main square.
Termas El Salado is located 2 kilometres away from the centre, you can get there by walking or by taking a bus from the stop next to The Mercado Central. It would cost USD 0.30.
Swing In The End Of The World:
Casa De Arbol (Tree House) is one of the many names given to the Swing at the End of the World which remains high on every traveller’s bucket list. Casa De Arbol is located in the hamlet Runtún, and is 2600 meters above sea level. On clear days, it is the best place to see the Tungurahua Volcano.
Busses depart from Rocafuerte & Pastaza streets in Baños at 05:45, 11:00, 14:00 and 16:00. It costs USD 1 each way per person and entry to the tree house is an additional USD 1 per person.
Bike Down The Rutas De las Cascadas:
One of the legends on the gringo trail is biking down rutas de las cascadas (The Cascade Route). There are a number of places to stop and view a dozen or so waterfalls en-route to Pailon Del Diablo (Cauldron of the Devil) a renowned 80 meters high waterfall. Cascada de Agoyán is a beautiful double waterfall feeding the route. The Manto de la Novia, or Bride’s Veil, is one of the most impressive waterfalls along the route and places where visitors can walk down to the base of the waterfalls to get the true perspective on just how magnificent they really are.
- You can rent a bike for an entire day from one of the many travel agencies in Baños for USD 5. The route towards Pailon Del Diablo is down hill which makes it easier biking down. To return back to Baños you can hire a comioneta (pickup truck) parked in front of Restaurante Hortensias which would drop you at the Terminal Terrestre for USD 2.
- Alternatively you can get straight to Pailon Del Diablo from Baños by taking a bus from the stop near the Mercado Central, there is a good frequency and it costs USD 0.50.
- You can also go to the waterfall trail daily at 10:30 or 14:30 on “Chiva” an open air tourist bus that serves to all the major attractions around the town. A tour to the waterfalls would take about 4 hours and costs USD 7. Tour can be booked through travel agencies in town.
See Baños from the Mirador Virgen:
If you hike down from Casa De Arbol you would most likely pass Mirador Virgen on your way back to Baños. The walk up to the Mirador de la Virgen del Agua Santa involves around 650 steps. There is no entrance fees and its worth visiting at dusk to see the sunset.
Walk on Calle Mera until you get to the end of the road where the trail begins.
Visit The San Martin Eco Zoo:
San Martin Eco Zoo in Baños houses a number of species of animals which are found in the diverse terrain of the Orient and Sierra regions of Ecuador. The animals housed at the Banos Zoo include jaguars, spectacled bears, pumas, giant turtles, capybaras, tapirs, different monkey species, parrots, condors and toucans. The San Martin Zoo is two kilometres from the centre of the city.
It’s an easy walk from Baños on Avenida de las Amazonas. There are also busses running every 30 minutes from 07:00 to 17:30. It costs USD 0.30 each way. If you take a taxi, it would cost USD 1.50.
San Martin Eco Zoo is open every day from 08:00 to 17:00 and it costs USD 2.50 to enter.
Mirador La Cruz Bellavista:
La Cruz de Bellavista, is a white cross perched on the hill overlooking Baños. The Mirador (Viewpoint) gives a magnificent panoramic view of the mountain ranges and the town. The hike up the dirt road could be tricky hence its advisable to get there before dark.
The trail begins at the end of the Maldonado Street.
Swing Jumping in Baños is a popular activity, for USD 20 you get to perform 80 meters of pure adrenaline with a spectacular backdrop of the majestic Pastaza River and Baños. Its done from the San Francisco bridge. There is no need for an advance booking, you can simply get there and the operator will assist you.
San Franciso bridge is located right across the Terminal Terrestre (Bus Terminal).
Visit The Basilica:
The most popular building in town is the Basilica. Located in the central plaza of the city, people come to the Baños Ecuador Basilica to see beautiful collection of murals inside the church.This semi-gothic church is an important place of pilgrimage for local Catholics, who come to worship Our Lady of the Holy Water.
The basilica is located right in front of the town’s main square.
Taste the melcocha:
Melacocha is a sweet taffy made from sugar cane. In most shops in Baños, you can watch the melcocha artisans wrap the taffy around a wooden peg on a door frame, and repeatedly beat and stretch it into perfection. Try it fresh off the peg, but beware, some melcochas are very tough and are not for the weak-toothed.