48 Hours In Baños, Ecuador: Natural Hot Baths, Spas And Good Food
In the beginning of April we did a great two day tour to Banos with our clients Randy and Sarah from Colorado/USA. Both love hiking, so beautiful Banos, Ecuador’s adventure capital, was the ideal destination!
Banos is a 4 hour drive away from Quito in the Tungurahua province – it’s one of Ecuador’s most popular tourist destinations, both for Ecuadorians and foreign tourists. It’s located at 1820 m above sea level and has a warm subtropical climate. Its location is spectacular, nestled among green hills streaked with waterfalls.
The town is named after its thermal baths, the water of which comes directly from the active Tungurahua volcano. And when I say active, I mean really active – in December 2012 we were lucky to hear the volcano rumbling and even saw lava flowing down the volcano from a viewpoint! What an awesome experience 🙂
In Banos, there’s a huge choice of accommodations, everything reasonably priced compared to Quito – we dropped our clients off at “La Posada del Arte”, a nice and very individual hotel with cozy rooms and good food (Link: http://www.posadadelarte.com/).
If you are interested in a cheaper option, you can also check out “Hostal La Chimenea” (Link: http://www.hostelchimenea.com/). We went for a walk in town to see the waterfall and the basilica and enjoyed the sunny day in the small streets.
In the afternoon we went by car along the “Avenue of the Waterfalls”, the road from Banos to Puyo, which offers one of Ecuador’s most scenic approaches to the Amazon basin.
We passed by a string of waterfalls along the way. We had several photo stops along the way – the river was full of water as it had rained a lot the days before we arrived.
We enjoyed a cable car ride with the first cable car that existed in Banos – nowadays there are plenty and it is hard to choose. I especially like the cable car we took because it takes you to the community San Pedro on the other side of the mountain.
The view from the cable car on the canyon is amazing – nothing for you if you suffer from vertigo though 😉
On the other side of the mountain is a hidden gem…a small path leads to San Pedro…no cars, no noise, just a peaceful atmosphere, tangerine trees and beautiful flowers.
That must be paradise! If you would like to stay a night, I highly recommend you Shuglaya Ecolodge (Link: http://www.shuglaya.com) – a rustic haven for rest and relaxation in the middle of nature! Shuglaya boast three rustic cabanas, in each of which up to 4 persons can sleep. The cottages are surrounded by wonderful gardens and green areas.
In their restaurant Ecuadorian and international food, gourmet style, is served. Cooking is done on a wood stove, made of volcanic stone. Close by is a waterfall and there are several paths and natural trails around. On weekends near the waterfall fresh orange juice is served to the visitors…so good!
Next stop: the impressive waterfall “Pailon del Diablo” (Devil’s Cauldron) close to the village Rio Verde! We did the 15 km from Banos by car, but it’s also a wonderful cycling route – also for non-experienced bikers as it’s mostly downhill.
From the parking lot it’s a short 1 km hike down to the waterfall along a nice ecological path.
The Pailon del Diablo is formed by the Rio Verde river, which hurtles down the gorge to join the Pastaza river.
Seeing the waterfall is impressive…masses of water thundering down can be observed from different balconies. On the balconies, you will definitely get wet, so if you mind, you better bring a rain poncho.
A short walk away from the waterfall, we crossed a bridge across the river and could enjoy a wonderful view of the Pailon del Diablo and the river.
After the hike back up the hill, we enjoyed a freshly pressed orange juice, before heading back to Banos through the tunnels.
Sarah decides to get a relaxing massage after an adventurous day at “Spa Yerba Buena” (Link: http://banosecuador.com/spa-yerba-buena-masajes-banos-ecuador/) just around the corner of the hotel. Great prices and great service! After a glass of red wine, we are ready to head to the hot springs.
We like the “Piscinas de la Virgin”, which are located at the foot of a waterfall that tumbles down the mountain. At night the pools are open from 6 pm to 10 pm – they are a meeting point for the locals and it’s easy to get in touch with lots of people, even if you are a solo traveler.
On weekends and public holidays it’s hard to find a space in the pools. A smaller one is almost boiling hot and it’s great for your immune system to change between the hot and another cold one. On the upper deck there’s another bigger pool with a nice bath tub temperature. Also try the cold showers which get their water directly from the waterfall.
Now we are ready for a nice dinner! Our favorite restaurant in Banos is the “Swiss Bistro” – nice atmosphere, especially the patio on the first floor, where you can sit outside. (Link: http://www.swiss-bistro.com/)
Food is Swiss inspired and the steaks served with roestis are awesome! With our stomachs filled and nice memories of a great day, we are ready for bed 🙂
The next day after breakfast, we start our hiking tour and head to the south side of town, where the path leading up the mountainside starts. Our destination is a big white cross on the top of the hill, which marks a spot called Bellavista.
A group of three street dogs walk along with us the whole way up.
After walking about 45 minutes uphill, we can enjoy amazing views of the town of Banos and the surrounding mountains from the Bellavista viewpoint.
We continue further up to the first class hotel Luna Runtun. Next time I definitely want to enjoy their amazing pools.
Unfortunately their great cafe “Cafe del Ciel” was still closed when we arrived (opens at 1 pm) – would have been great to enjoy a cup of coffee there just enjoying the views!
We start our way down and pass by the monument of the virgin of Banos from where a steep path with lots of stairs leads us back to Banos.
Before heading back to Quito, we have lunch at the restaurant “Casa Hood” (Link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g312857-d1086761-Reviews-Casa_Hood-Banos_Tungurahua_Province.html) – the restaurant offers a big variety of different dishes (from Mexican to Asian and Indian food) in a nice atmosphere. Try the shakes, fruit juice mixes and the desserts – they also have a book exchange and show a movie each afternoon.
On the way to Quito, we try to get a last view of the Tungurahua, but unfortunately it’s still covered by clouds.
Tired but happy after a nice tour, we head back to Quito…as always, I leave Banos hoping to be back very soon 🙂