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.
- Bungy Jumping
- Adventure Travel
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
Bridge Jump - Puenting
When I on my bike tour passed Río Blanco I saw someone just doing a bridge jump (puenting). I had never done anything like that before, and never thought I would, but when I saw the other person doing it I got tempted to try it. The bridge at Río Blanco is not so high, so this is a good place to try puenting for the first time. Puenting is not like a bung jump, because you swing under the bridge instead of bouncing up and down.
After you have got the harness on you will stand on the rail of the bridge, the guide will hold your feet and then you fall forward. It was not scary , but I felt a bit hesitant when I was just going to fall forward off the bridge. It was fun, but over very quickly. For the bridge jump I paid $15 (July 2011), and I couldn’t resist buying the CD with the pictures they took of me. It was $5.
The bridge at Río Blanco is only 35 metres high, but if you book a bridge jump with one of the travel agencies in Baños you will probably go to the San Francisco Bridge in Baños, which is 120 metres high. If I had had more time in Baños I might have tried the puenting there too.
- Adventure Travel
La Ruta de las Cascadas
La Ruta de las Cascadas (The Highway of the Waterfalls) is what the road between Baños and Puyo is called. The road follows Río Pastaza in a green lush valley. The views are spectacular and there are 19 waterfalls along the road. Most waterfalls are along the first half of the road (coming from Baños). Between Baños and the biggest waterfall Pailón del Diablo there are several viewpoints from where you can see the waterfalls, which are on the other side of the river. At some of them you take a tarabita across the river to get a closer look.
From Baños you can take a tour along La Ruta de las Cascadas with a bus or a chiva. It is also popular to go by bike, and that is what I did.
Pailón del Diablo
Pailón del Diablo is probably the most spectacular waterfall along Ruta de las Cascadas. They are were Río Verde meets Río Pastaza. Pailón del Diablo is situated about 1km from the parking place in the village Río Verde, 18 km from Baños. From the parking place there is a nice walk to the falls on a path passing through green and lush vegetation. Were the path begins there are a few souvenir stalls and a stall selling fresh orange juice for $1 (July 2011).
There is a suspension bridge from where you can get a very good view of the waterfalls, but unfortunately it was closed for reparation when I visited. By the restaurant I paid the admission of $1.50 and took the path up to a closer view point. Here it is very moist in the air and a rain jacket can be good to have. You can take a narrow passage to get further up and see the roaring waterfall from behind. The altitude of Pailón del Diablo is about 80 metres.
Pailón del Diablo means Devil’s Cauldron. I have read that this is because when you look at the falls from the suspension bridge (which I couldn’t do) there is a rock shaped like the devil’s face, and there is another rock formation looking like a pan.
Along La Ruta de las Cascadas there are a few tarabitas going over Río Pastaza. A tarabita is a kind of open cable car, well, more like a basket, going on a cable over the river so that visitors can get a closer look at the waterfalls. On my bicycle ride from Baños to Puyo I stopped to take the first tarabita I came to along that road. It was at Agoyán. In July 2011 the price was $1.50. On the other side of the river there was a few paths, and I took a short path up to a viewpoint, before going back. The view over the river was very beautiful.
Many companies in Baños offer rafting tours. I booked my rafting tour with Adventure Equatorland and it was $25 (July 2011). I arrived to the office before nine in the morning (the time we were supposed to be there), but then it took a very long time before we left. We also stopped outside Baños to wait for two more people that had been late. At Rio Blanco we took a dirt road up along the river to drop off a group that was going canyoning, before we continued to the starting point of the rafting. When we arrived groups from other companies were already there, ready to start their rafting, but it was good that not all groups arrived at the same time. We travelled in a chiva, a colourful open bus, which meant it was quite cold, especially after the rafting when we were wet. All other groups had arrived in minibuses.
Before taking the boat to the river we had to practise, learn the commands and what to do if we fell into the water. We were rafting in Río Pastaza and the rafting was level 3+ (I don’t think there was any 3+ that day as the water level was quite low).We were divided in two groups with five tourists and two guides (one learning) in my boat and six tourists and a guide in another boat. No one in my boat fell overboard, but from the other boat three or four people fell into the water (one of them three times). The next day I heard the agency was doing a level 4 rafting and I think that would have been more fun, but then I was leaving Baños.
On the way back to Baños we stopped in Río Negro to eat lunch (it was included in the price of the tour). An just after 15.00 we were back in Baños.
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.
- Hiking and Walking
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!
I think the company I went canyoning with was called Expeditiones Amazonicas. Anyway they have an office by Parque Central, and another one on Oriente. I came to the office before 9am to get the equipment and to get changed. There were five more people going canyoning, but they had booked through the agency nearby and were changing there. Not until 9.30 we left Baños. We were not going far though, as we were canyoning at Cascadas Chamana just outside Baños.
We started with practising and first the guide showed us how to rappel down the rocks before we did it. Then we rappelled down a waterfall, around 15m high. In the end of the fall there was a pool and the guide made a sign to us when it was time to let go and just fall backwards into the water. As I was the first one this felt a bit scary, I didn’t know how far it was down to the pool and had not seen myself that it was free of rocks below, but it was fine. The second waterfall was around 10m and hear we slid down sitting up. The third waterfall was as high as 45 metres and this part of Chamana is called Silencio. The guide didn’t tell us in advance that we were not rappelling down rocks all the way, but only in the beginning , than we were just going down the rope. I noticed this when I was leaning out from the rocks having my picture taken. I put my camera on video and the guide filmed me when I went down (the video is here on my Baños page). Going down Silencio was the best part of this tour and it was great fun. Before the others came down my camera came down in a waterproof bag.
Around 13.00 we were back in Baños and it had been a great tour!
There are many companies in Baños offering Canyoning, some go to Cascadas Chamana and some to other waterfalls further away. I paid $25 for the tour (July 2011).
- Adventure Travel
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