THINGS TO DO IN BAÑOS
Banos is often referred to as Ecuador's adventure hotspot. A playground set in the tranquil beauty of the Amazon jungle. Banos is only a small town, home to some 15,000 people, but that is part of its magical charm. With so much to see, do and experience, it's easy to see why some travellers end up staying here for a week, or even longer. Read on to see how you can enjoy Banos without breaking the bank.
How to get there
From Tena - The bus journey with Transporte Banos takes 3 hours and costs $5 (£3.70)
From Guayaquil - Again with Transporte Banos, the bus ride lasts 7 hours and cost $7.25 (£5.40)
Things to do in Banos #1 - Cycle la Ruta de las Cascadas
The Route of the Waterfalls is an 18km from Banos to the town of Rio Verde which is best enjoyed by hiring a bike from one of the many vendors in town. Along the way you will ride past 4 waterfalls until you reach the small town of Rio Verde where you'll find the thundering Pailon del diablo waterfall. When you're ready hop into one of the waiting trucks with your bike and they'll take you on the 30 minute drive back to Banos. You can ride back, but its all uphill.
Bike for the day incl lock - $5 (£3.70)
Entry to tunnels behind Pailon del Diablo - $1.50 (£1.10)
Truck back to Banos - $2 (£1.50)
Things to do in Banos #2 - La Casa del Arbol
La Casa del Arbol is 'that famous swing in Ecudaor' where you can swing over the edge of a cliff (kind of). Whilst this isn't all its cracked up to be, its well worth taking a few hours out of your day to visit. You can take one of the hiking trails from town which will take you around 4 hours, or catch the bus from the corner of Pastaza and Rocafuerte at 11:00, 14:00 or 16:00.
La Casa del Arbol entry - $1 (£0.75)
Bus - $1 (£0.75)
Things to do in Banos #3 - ride the CHIVA night bus
The CHIVA night bus is an open air, one-tier bus which blazes loud, obnoxious music and has more coloured lights than an under 18 party in Ayia Napa. But, don't let that put you off. The bus takes you on a little tour of town before taking you up to the La Cruz Bellavista which overlooks the town below. There's music, food and drink to enjoy whilst taking in the beauty of Banos at night.
CHIVA bus - $3 (£2.20)
Bellavista entry $0.50 (£0.35)
Things to do in Banos #4 - Canyoning
Widely considered one of the best places in South America for canyoning, this is a must for any thrill-seeker. You will get to descend 3 waterfalls of 8, 15 and 45 metres.
The cost? $25 (£18.50)
Things to do in Banos #5 - Hit the hiking trails
The hills surrounding Banos are beautiful and there are a number of trails you can walk. Amongst the most popular are the Virgin statue which is a 2 hour round-trip and Bellavista, also 2 hour round-trip. It is possible to do both of these together which should take no longer than 3 hours. And, if you fancy, hiking to La Casa del Arbol, you can expect that to take around 4.5 hours. Ask at your hostel for a map and make sure to take plenty of water and be prepared for a fair amount of uphill action.
The cost? Free!
Things to do in Banos #6 - Soak in the thermal hot baths
After the hiking trails you'll no doubt want to rest your weary legs. Well, you're in luck! Thermales De La Virgen is the most popular one and it's in the centre of town, near the base of the waterfall. Note - it is mandatory to wear a swim cap. Buy one from one the shops near by as they are ridiculously overpriced inside.
Hot springs - $4 (£3)
Things to do in Banos #7 - Jump off a bridge
Yep, you read that right. There is a bridge near the Terminal Terestre which hangs high over the Rio Pastaza below. If you're crazy enough you can have the guys there tie some rope to your feet and jump off. Kind of a bungee jump rope swing hybrid. This is a very popular activity and the guys are there from sunrise to sunset everyday.
Get thrown from a bridge - $20 (£14.80)
Things to do in Banos #8 - Rubbah dingy rapids (if you know, you know)
The rivers in Banos are reputed to be some of the best in South America. Rio Pastaza has a "rapid level" of 3 to 4 so some experience is recommended but not essential.
Half day - $25 (£18.50)
Full day - $50 (£37)
Things to do in Banos #9 - Treat yourself.
Travelling is hard work so every now and then you need to take a little you time. Visit Banos De Cajon for an Ecuadorian style sauna. It's a little different to what you might be used to but well worth trying. They also have massage services, facials and a hot tub.
Only $10 (£7.40)
Things to do in Banos #10 - Head into the Amazon
Banos is know as the Gateway to the Amazon for a reason. There are a bunch of agencies offering everything form 1-5 day excursions. With so many agencies competing for your business there are definitely deals to be had. Shop around and check TripAdvisor to make sure you get the best experience possible.
Things to do in Banos #11 - Indulge in street food
During the day pay a visit to the Mercado Central for the menu del dia (menu of the day) to try some of the local specialities. When night falls make your way to Parque La Basilica near the church where there are dozens of vendors serving up churros, empanadas, burgers and chicharron. It is (or should be) forbidden to leave Banos without trying the candy. There are shops all over town serving up sickly-sweet goodies. Just look for the guys stood at the front stretching out Melcocha (kind of like taffy) on hooks.
Where to stay in Banos
We recommend Hostal Transilvania for your stay in Banos. Located on a quiet street less than a 3 minute walk to the centre this place was an absolute gem for the price. We had a private double room with an en-suite, excellent WiFi and use of the communal kitchen for $15 (£11) per night. It is owned by a lovely Ecuadorian-Israeli couple who are super kind and helpful.
Where to next
Latacunga - This is the starting point for The Quilotoa Loop trek. Take the Expreso Banos bus to Ambato (1 hour) for $1 (£0.75) then change to the Cotopaxi bus to Latacunga (1 hour) for $1.15 (£0.85)