Arriving in Baños
After the Quilotoa Loop we were on our way to Baños, Ecuador! Considered the adventure capitol of Ecuador we were excited to see what was in store for us. Upon our arrival we were greeted by a crowd of hostal hawkers trying to direct us to subgrade places. With our heavy packs we walked a few blocks before arriving at a place decided upon beforehand.
We are traveling during a shoulder season. This means the weather is still decent but for one reason or another there are few tourists. We have decided to try our luck at not booking in advance. The booking companies take a large commission from the hostal. We have been able to pay anywhere from 5-10 dollars less per night at each location as a result. We settled in began figuring out all that we could do.
The Swing at the End of the World
As you could very well guess this is a classic tourist spot. We took a bus to the top of a hill above town and paid $2 to enter a park that included a few swings, a little zipline, and a café with actually reasonable prices. What surprised us was that most of the tourists were actually locals, and despite being such a touristic place it was more than just a staged picture. The food was good, and the views from above were breathtaking. Although the swing wasn’t dangerous it was still a thrill as we swung out over the valley below.
Heading down we missed the bus into town and decided to walk and enjoy the view until the next one would pass by. It was a beautiful walk. The view was amazing as we watched the fog get chased away by the sun. We stuck out our thumb to a passing car, which stopped to offer us a ride. We waved them off when we saw it was full of a large family. All the kids, however, scooted over to offer us room! We squeezed in and were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the family parrot, Lilly. Sitting on a stick placed between the driver and passenger seat the parrot enjoyed meeting us!
The Baños of Baños
The name of the town means baths in Spanish. We visited one of the hot springs in town near walking distance of our hostal. Upon arriving you can change in a private room with a warm shower and check your possessions into a free storage area. Nearby is a little store that sells snacks and water and we highly recommend getting some one of the large bottles of mineral water.
There are three pools in the place. Two of the pools are packed, like barrels of sardines! These are the ones up-stairs. One of them was very shallow going from 6 inches to about two feet in depth. It appeared to be the little kids pool, however, a lot of adults used it as well. It was a little bit cooler and larger. Nearby was a pool definitely hotter with a depth of about 3-4 ft.
Downstairs besides the changing stations (there are some upstairs as well), you will find a pool that is comparatively empty. People are sitting along the edge with just their feet resting in the water. The few people that do get in quickly get out. This pool is pretty much boiling temperature. We found this pool to be unbearable.
Renting Bikes for a Day
Baños is a city in the mountains and as a result there are many beautiful waterfalls nearby to visit. Renting bikes is a popular way to do it, since a very pretty route taking you past many waterfalls is pretty much all downhill. We paid $10 to rent two bikes for the whole day, and received directions for the route we needed to take.
The ride was a combination of terrible and wonderful experiences. About half of the trip is along a busy road with trucks and buses barreling past you. Combined with a strong wind it was disconcerting at times. The road is marked as a shared road, and the vehicles driving past treat bicycles with respect. They made every effort to give us ample space and did not endanger us in any way.
As we got further from the city the ride became amazingly gorgeous with beautiful scenery. At times there were scenic byways which were primarily for bicycles. They offered close up views of the scenery and felt very peaceful and serene. At the end of our ride we arrived in a small town where we visited a waterfall named Pailon del Diablo.
Pailon del Diablo is a magical place. There are two companies operating separate entrances. Although we visited both and enjoyed them, the eastern entrance was definitely more bang for your buck. There you are able to get right under the waterfall, and feel the force of it as it pounds over you. It was from the western entrance, however, that we snagged an amazing picture of the falls and the stairs below them. At the end I would recommend a visit to both of them!
We returned by hiring one of trucks that run back and forth from Baños for a few bucks.
By far the most exciting thing we have possibly ever done in our lives is go Paragliding. We were a little bit hesitant, at first, wondering if this activity was safe enough. After reading up on it decided to go ahead and try it. The pilots picked us up at the tour agency and drove us about an hour to the official paragliding spot. We pulled up at a hillside and proceeded to wait for the perfect conditions.
After about an hour of waiting the wind was favorable. The pilots prepared us for takeoff. First, we dressed into warm clothing and put on a harness. After being given instructions the parachute was spread out. I strapped in, and suddenly we were up in the air!
We soared up like birds and looking around I could see the farms right below, the city in the distance, and the beautiful mountains around us. We had a perfect view of two volcanoes Tungurahua and Chimborazo. After a few minutes of serenely floating through the air the pilot felt comfortable enough to take us into a downward spiral. I felt an amazing sensation of exhilaration as we spun closer and closer to the ground. We pulled out of the spin and floated over the farms. After a few minutes more of soaring through the sky we came in for a landing.
Afterwards Katie took to the skies and it was amazing to watch as the pilot soared through the air. One of the most interesting things we discovered about paragliding was the feeling of control. We really felt like the pilot was master over the wind. Maybe in the future this is a hobby I’ll try picking up!
Our next destination the beautiful city of Cuenca, Ecuador.
Favorite Places in Baños, Ecuador:
Hostel- “Princessa Maria“- a quiet and friendly hostel. Dorms and Private rooms w/bathroom. Equipped Kitchen and a comfortable community area with tables and a couch.
Hostel-“Hostal Chimenea” – right next to the hot springs. Dorms and Private rooms w/ bathroom. They also have a pool and spa that you can use for an additional fee. Equipped kitchen and breakfast is served in the morning.
Cafe- “Honey Coffee & Tea”- a cute coffee shop with lots of space to sit and work. Great pastries, sandwiches and coffee!
Pizza- ” Leoni Pizzeria” – the prices are great. Delicious pizza and one that you can share.
Lunch Spot- “Casa Hood”- the set menu of the day is a great choice. We also tried there falafel plate and that was very filling for two people. Salads are big!
“Zumo”- a modern cafe. Great for snacks & lunch. Vegetarian options!
Central Market- a great place to buy cheap vegetables and fruit
Supermarket- “Supermarket 9-9”- a great place to buy food if you are cooking at the hostel or if you need snacks & water!
Tip! If you have been to Thailand you are familiar with the amazing massages that you can get for very cheap. Baños also has many spa & massage places that are advertised by young women who offer you great deals. We decided to both get a couples massage with, reflexology and aromatherapy. It wasn’t anything special and at times the lady who was doing the massage was distracted by her phone. I’d say if you really really want a massage then go ahead and do it but I personally think its not worth it. At least where we went.