“Conociste a Baños?” “Have you been to/ visited Baños?” For the past few weeks, my answer to this question had been no. In response to this, I would often receive a reply saying I had to visit Baños. Now, I know why.
From hiking up Ilaló mountain to spending a relaxing weekend at the beach in Canoa, we have not had a shortage of exciting adventures in Ecuador. Each time an Ecuadorian has given me recommendations for places to visit, Baños has come up as a must-visit location. All of a sudden, this place I had never heard of became the next place I wanted to visit; and I was not alone.
Wanting to take advantage of as many travel opportunities as possible, my fellow interns and I planned and executed a two-night trip to Baños. There was little to dull my spirits once our journey started; not even the pouring rain we had to wait in. If the bus wasn’t so crowded, I wouldn’t have been able to sit still. As we drove through the mountains, the landscape that opened up was nothing short of incredible.
Snow-capped volcanoes (typically visible on a clear day) came clearly into view alongside mountains and lush green lands that were probably still wet from the day’s rain. I stopped short of pinching myself; “this has to be a dream”, I thought. The rest of our trip ended up feeling just like that – one big dream; but it wasn’t a dream, and we took advantage of every moment. Reliving our days.
Bicycle + ATV + Cable Car rides to waterfalls: For our trip to some of the waterfalls in the area, we opted for varying methods of transport. Some of us rode bikes while the rest of us hopped on 4-wheelers/ATV’s. I’ll let you decide which group made the smarter choice. Haha!. At one of the stops, you could ride [for $2] standing up in a cable
basket car across the mountains. Casa del Árbol: This literally translates to “house of tree”, but you know it as a treehouse. We visited this site for its famous cliff swings and volcano views. Scary-looking at first, this ended up being fun and liberating! The fog in the atmosphere only added to the charm of Casa del Árbol; it felt like we were swinging into the clouds. White Water Rafting: Bright and early, half of our crew opted for rafting in the river. Unfortunately, none of their rafts were tipped over… you know, for the fun of it.
Baños – Baths/Bathrooms
Terma del Virgen: One of the many thermal baths baños is known for is right next to a waterfall with an incredible view of the mountains on the horizon. We walked here from our hostel (~5 min walk) for a relaxing dip in the hot spring waters. I expected these to be natural outdoor springs and was a bit disappointed when I saw that the baths were in a building. Nonetheless, there was no denying the relaxation factor. All I was missing was some spa music. Tip: To avoid crowds, visit the baths at off-peak times (so not in the evening; which is when you’d want to go) or look for less popular baths! If you don’t care about the crowds, go make some new friends! We made acquaintances with two travelers from Guadalajara, Mexico.
I know people [almost] always say this at the end of a trip, but I can’t help it; a return trip to Baños is already on my to-do list. If Ecuador is missing from your travel bucket list, now would be a good time to scribble it on there. At the top of your list of places to visit, write Baños. My hope is that you won’t regret it!
Where we stayed
Cost: $15/ night for a private room + bathroom
How we got there
Bus #1 from Sangolqui to Tambillo: 35 cents
Bus #2 from Tambillo to Baños: $4.25
Where we ate
We grabbed an almuerzo (lunch) for $3 from one of the many Ecuadorian spots in town. Each almuerzo typically comes with soup, juice, an entree (rice always makes an appearance) and dessert.
I would tell you to skip the tourist spots but 1) We didn’t 2) Baños is a tourist town and 3) some of them, like Stray Dog -owned and run by a Chicago native living in Ecuador- put out some stellar plates! It won’t cost you $3, but it’ll definitely be worth it.
Have any of you been to Baños? What did you get up to? If you haven’t, do you think it deserves a spot on your travel bucket list? Leave me a comment to let me know!
thank you for reading!
All photos shot and edited on iPhone 6S+
Same footprints, different sands