Puyo is a jungle town. Getting out of it you are in the Lowlands of the Amazon Basin. It's just 50kms from Baños. We walked along the clear, happily flowing river up to the cascade where some of us had a bath. Too chilly for me. We saw the most beautiful orchid I have seen in my life! We saw some unbelievable flowers, the “besitos”, that looked like beautiful full red lips and each one put them on our lips to make fun. We covered our face with “barro” ( natural clay) which is said to be very nutritive for the skin. We saw “achiote”, a tree, the flowers of which are used to produce the red paint and also for cooking. We saw the shy little plant, mimosa, that folds its leaves when you touch it. In Indonesia they call it “the shy Princess” a very appropriate name indeed! If you decide to take a 2 or 3day tour – with another agency of course - you can stay in the lovely typical amazonian wooden cabanas of Hola Vida hotel in the middle of the jungle. They are airy and comfortable and the hotel provides simple but very tasty food and all the basic amenities. Finally we went up a short but steep way to a view point where we had the best view of the vast green valley and the two rivers, Rio Pastaza and Rio Verde joining in the background. A truly amazing panorama!
View more pictures in my Travelogue
- Family Travel
Sugar cane and Melcocha
Sugar cane is native to warm and tropical climates so it's very common in the area. The plant has stout, fibrous stalks that grow 2 to 6 meters tall. Its juice is really really delicious. It contains a lot of sugar but is not so unbearably sweet as you might think. I love it! In Banos I saw so many “sugar caners” I have never seen in any other countries. They are all gathered in the same place and make their delicious product extracting juice from the canes, through the special machinery. The stores all over the town are selling it in bottles.
Melcocha is taffy. You can see locals in the side of the street pulling it again and again giving it an elongated shape. Then they cut in small squares. I tried some, as most of the sweet makers offered me a bit. I tried to taste every kind of local confections of every shape and colour but I had to give up as they were much too sweet for me.
- Food and Dining
- Family Travel
Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Agua Santa
The Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Agua Santa is the most apparent feature in Baños. Its construction was completed in 1929. Its name ( Agua Santa=Holy Water) comes from the affluent waters of the hot springs in the area. It is visible from almost everywhere in the city and it's very pretty both inside and outside. The interior is finely decorated with a collection of paintings on the walls, depicting the history and the miracles of the Virgen. The proportions of the neo-gothic church are so beautiful that I came back many times and sat in the pleasant square just to look at it. It is built from volcanic rock from Volcano Tungurahua. The courtyard of the convent next to it is green and peaceful. It attracts thousands of faithful who worship their Señora and believe she has saved them from a lot of calamities.
Canyoning – Rio Blanco
The canyoning in Río Blanco is done in a narrow, very beautiful canyon. We went rappelling down four waterfalls and then went down a fifth waterfall on our bottoms. The first waterfall had lots of water where we were rappelling and you could feel the strength of the water. Waterfall three was 20 metres high and waterfall four was 30 metres high. They had almost vertical walls and we rappelled down beside the waterfall. At the fifth waterfall were we went down on our bottoms we were still attached to the rope so it was not going fast at all. It was fun canyoning and I hope I can do it again one day.
Were we parked the minibus near Río Blanco there is a bathroom where you can change clothes, both before and after the canyoning. Before leaving for Río Blanco we got the equipment at Geotours office; a helmet, shoes, wetsuit and harness. I’m glad that I got a wetsuit with long legs and sleeves plus a wetsuit jacket as I easily get cold.
We came back to Baños around 13 – 13.30 and were then taken to a café where we got a large sandwich and a juice. It was included in the price. I had booked the canyoning with Geotours, which seems to be a reliable company, and it was $30 (July 2014)
I didn’t bring my camera, but Geotours always take photos during the canoyoning which they transfer to their computer. If you want to have the photos you need your own memory stick.
- Adventure Travel
Massage and spa treatment
There are lots of places in Baños offering massage and different spa treatments like steam baths, face treatments, manicure etc
Last time I was in Baños I did had a massage and a face treatment at Yerbabuena, which is situated in hostal El Marques, just next to Posada del Arte where I stayed.
The massage was very good and relaxing. It was a 60 minutes classic massage and it was $25 (July 2014). During the day I had been canyoning and hiking up to Caé del Cielo. The massage I had in the evening. I must say that after that I slept very well the whole night.
The next morning I had booked a face treatment. I was the first cutomer of the day and things had not been prepared. I don’t think the young woman who did the face treatment was so good. She was not smooth in her movements and she loudly opened and closed drawers and I think she was putting on her makeup while I was lying with the facemask. It did not feel so relaxing. The face treatment was $25 and took almost 60 minutes.
Yerbabuena is open 9 - 21.
So, if I go to Baños again I would go to Yerbabuena for massage, but for face treatment I would try another place.
La Piscina de La Virgen
Baños is known for its many thermal baths. The thermal baths in Baños are rich in minerals like chlorates, magnesium and sulphates and the water it is said to be healthy to swim in.
There are several baths in Baños but the bath in the picture is Las Piscinas de La Virgen and it is situated just below a waterfall. There are several pools with different water temperatures and the warmest pool has a water temperature of 42 degrees C. The main photo is taken on a Sunday afternoon from the viewpoint by the waterfall. As you can see it is very crowded at this time of the week. Other days, and in the mornings, it is less crowded. In the photos it looks like the water in the pools is dirty, but it is only the high mineral content that gives the water that colour.
Unfortunately I never visited one of the baths in Baños, even if I was here for many days, but there were so many other things to do . Next time I will go though!
Update 2014: This time I visited the baths one evening while in Baños. It was a Tuesday night, around 20.00, in July and it was very crowded.
After paying the admission, which is $3 in the evening (and $2 during the day), I picked up a box for my things and went to a changing room to change. Then I left the box over a counter and got a number to put round my wrist. I had been told that it is safe to leave the things with the staff there. While you are in the baths you need to wear a bathing cap and I had borrowed one at Posada del Arte before going to the baths. There are also bathing caps at the baths. I can see in the photo of this tip that people are not wearing bathing caps, but that photo is from my visit in 2011.
I didn't go into the cold pools but only the warmer ones. It was very crowded and it was not easy to find an empty spot. It was too many people for my liking and if I ever go again I will do so another hour when there is less people.
Hiking around Baños
2011: One day I went hiking for four hours above Baños. The weather was nice and the landscape beautiful. I met some people, but was most of the time all alone. It was a very pleasant walk. I started the walk by taking the stairs up to La Virgen . First I couldn’t find the starting point of the path towards Runtun, but a jogger coming up to the statue pointed it out for me, and he also said that if I walked the narrow path strait up I would come to Mirador del Vulcán. I took the path towards the village Runtun and from there I continued to Mirador del Vulcán. It was much longer, but not as steep and I didn’t want to make the walk as short as possible. At Mirador del Vulcán you will have a great view of Vulcán Tungurahua, when it is clear, but on this day the summit was covered in clouds, as it is most days. Then I walked back down to Runtun and from there I walked along the road to Bellavista, until I found a path, also going to Bellavista. From Bellavista it is easy to walk down to Baños.
There are more photos from the hike in two of the travelogues below.
I also made a hike up to Bellavista another day.
2014: I only did one hike while in Baños this year, and that was up to Café del Cielo. Before going I had first asked at the hotel how long it would take and they said 1.5-2 hours. A young guy at Geotours said it would take 45 minutes and at the tourist office they said 1.5 hours. It took me 45 minutes to walk from Parque Central up to Café del Cielo. It is uphill all the way and for me, who had spent time on high altitude for a while (and had climbed Cayambe just two days earlier) it was easy.
- Hiking and Walking
Mirador de la Virgen
From Baños you can see the statue of Virgen de Agua Santa above the town. You can easily hike here by taking a path beginning near Montalvo and Mera. It is not a very hard hike, but there are altogether just over 600 steps to climb. When you reach the statue you will have beautiful views over Baños. From the statue you can take another path to continue your hike, or take the steps down again.
Update 2014: I was going to climb up to the statue again but could not see it. I asked someone if it still is there and it is, but it is now hidden behind the trees. You still have a great view over Baños from the statue, it is just from the town that you can't see it.
- Hiking and Walking
Get a Massage
Banos is a good place to get a low cost massage. Someone at my B&B recommended a guy who worked behind the Cafe Mariane. I got a good, professional 90 minute massage from him for $35. I don't know when I felt more relaxed and it was good for my muscles after hiking all over this mountain town.
- Spa and Resort
Banos is known for its thermal baths. La Virgen is one in the middle of town next to a waterfall. It had cold water, hot water, and really hot water. That was fine and the location very pretty but I got a day during summer vacation when there were lots of kids there who saw it as a community swimming pool. So not the best experience but worth trying on other days.
- Spa and Resort
Jumping from San Francisco Bridge
When I had been in Baños two years earlier I had done a bridge jump (puenting) from a lower bridge over Río Blanco. Already then I thought I wanted to do the jump from San Francisco Bridge in Baños. It is a 120 metres high bridge going over Río Pastaza.
San Francisco Bridge is situated just north of the bus terminal in Baños so in the morning I went there to check it out. It is high, and I felt I wanted to see someone else doing the jump before I did it, and luckily two people came who were going to jump. I went to the viewpoint over Río Pastaza and when they jumped I saw that the line is not very long, so the actual fall is not very long. Then you swing under the bridge for a while and they make the rope longer so that you eventually come down to the ground.
It didn’t feel scary at all to do the jump and it was very quickly over. Actually I was a bit disappointed that the fall wasn’t longer, but I guess it isn’t possible with a longer rope and fall with this kind of swing jumping.
The price for the jump is $20 (July 2013) both if you pay directly to the people by the bridge and if you book the jump through a tour agency in Baños.
- Adventure Travel
- Bungy Jumping
Mirador El Pastaza
Just north of the bus terminal in Baños there is a viewpoint with beautiful views over Río Pastaza. There is a passage through the sugar cane stalls, or you can walk around the building. From the viewpoint you will also see San Francisco Bridge, the 120m tall bridge that you can do a bridge jump from (the jump is not so long tough).
Canopy tour - zip line
One afternoon in Baños I went on a canopy tour with Geotours. We went to a place by Rio Ulba, above Cascadas Chamana. The cable system here is 2km long, divided in six zip-lines. The landscape was beautiful, especially when we went on the zip-lines over the river gorge. Besides going down the cable in a normal way I tried three different ways; the bat where you hang upside down like a bat, Superman where you go horizontally with your head first and the mariposa where you go upside down. It was a great feeling to see everything pass by upside down.
There were three guides and we were six tourists in the group, so we didn’t have to wait too long for other people. Between the different platforms there were some walking to do.
It was a fun tour and the weather was nice! We left Baños at three o’clock and returned three hours later. The price of the tour was $20 (July 2011).
Update July 2013: I did the same tour once again and also this time we were six people in the group, and we did the bat, Superman and mariposa. However it was a colder day with some drizzle. The price for the tour was still $20.
- Adventure Travel
Wander around Banos and you will come across Women squeezing the sugar cane in a press. You will be able to sample the fresh sugar cane juice. The sugar cane is also used to make Ecuador's favourite candy, "melcocha". After the sugar cane is passed through the press the raw cane syrup is boiled then it will be beaten and stretched by the locals until the candy is ready. They will pull it and beat it for hours until they get the finished product. Banos is the town where most of the candy is produced.
Bicycle tour from Baños to Puyo
I rented my bike from Aventure Equatorland and they had bikes for rent for $5, $7 or $10 per day (July 2011). I chose one for $10 dollars because they were best and I was going to be away for the whole day. Before deciding I tried the bike, going back and forth on the street in front of the agency, and then I noticed I didn’t understand how the gears worked, so it was good I asked before leaving. From the agency they will give you a simple map, a helmet, a locker for the bike, a bicycle pump and an inner tube for the tire.
When I started my bicycle tour I didn’t know if I was going to make it all the way to Puyo in one day, as I wanted to stop by some waterfalls and it was already 9.30. I thought I would go on as long as I could and then take a bus back from somewhere along the road. To Puyo it is 61km and to Pailón del Diablo it is 18km.
The road follows the beautiful Río Pastaza valley and it is very lush and green. As you descend from Baños at 1800 metres to Puyo at 950 metres the vegetation will change. From Puyo to Río Verde, where Pailón del Diablo is, there is mostly downhill, and many people only go this far on their bicycle tour. I stopped at a few waterfalls, did a bridge jump at Río Blanco and had lunch at Pailón del Diablo.
You must remember that you travel by a trafficked road and there will be cars and trucks passing you. There are several tunnels along the road, but only one tunnel you have to go through with the bike (and it is a one way tunnel), by the other tunnels there are trails for the bikes on the outside (see main photo).
When I left Pailón del Diablo it was already 14.00 and I had more than 2/3 left to go. Soon after I left Río Verde the rain started to pour down, and it probably went on for an hour. I almost gave up, but wanted to see if I could make it to Puyo. From Río Verde to Puyo there is no longer only downhill, but some steep climbs as well. At two points I had to get off the bike to lead it uphill. Besides that I only stopped to take some photos and to buy bread and something to drink when I reached Puyo. I was at the terminal in Puyo at 17.00. It was a great bicycle tour and I would gladly do it again!
- Budget Travel