In the centre of Baños, on the north side of Parque de la Basílica, is Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Agua Santa. Construction of the church was completed in 1929 and it was built in a neo-gothic style using volcanic rock from the nearby Volcán Tungurahua.
The church is dedicated to the Virgin of the Holy Water and it is visited by many pilgrims every year. Inside the church there are many big paintings describing miracles that has occurred. I could not have a closer look at those paintings as the church floor was being repaired and visitors could only look inside the church through the doors when I visited.
Just next to the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Agua Santa, in an old Dominican convent, there is a museum. This museum has a big variety of artefacts. There are religious paintings and sculptures, taxidermic animals, handicraft from nearby regions, dresses for the Virgen de la Agua Santa and many items donated by people to la Virgen de Agua Santa.
The museum is open in the afternoon. The first time I came I thought it was closed as I couldn’t see any open doors while walking around the patio. The second time I realised the museum is on the second floor.
The admission was 1 USD (July 2011).
This waterfall is on the Ruta de Las Cascadas. Its called the Pailon Del Diablo because the rocks in front off or more to the side of the waterfall is in the shape of a face. They say it is the face of the devil. The hike is about a 15 minute hike to the bottom of the falls. There is a suspension bridge and the trail is not too tough to hike. There is a place to purchase beverages and other snacks too.
You will reach an overlook where you will see the water from the waterfall pour into a bowl like rock. This is the Pailon del Diablo or the Devils Calderon.
This wasnt so scary and it was pretty cheap. For a little bit of change you can ride across the river on the Tarabita. It is also pretty quick. You get some great views from up high and you can get across the river to find new places to explore. This was alot of fun and there were alot of little kids and families doing this.
They almost got me to do it but I chickened out. For about $5 you can bungee jump and something similar. It looked safe enough but I didnt want to take the chance. There were plenty of people doing it and alot of people just watching. It looked like fun but I just couldnt do it in the end.
You can find this place on the Ruta de las Cascadas. If you cant find it just ask anyone and you will be led to the right place.
This is probably the main reason people come to Banos. Especially the locals. The thermal baths are the big attraction here. There are many pools here with different temperatures. They are also all over town. They look more like swimming pools and there are packed with people. Some of these thermal baths have changing rooms and attendants. As a kid I loved going to the thermal baths now I prefer to hike to the waterfalls.
It is said that that thermal pools are great for healing ailments.
While you are at Banos you might be approached to go in the evening to Bellavista. You will take the Chivas, or the buses with loud music and loud colors up the mountain to where the cross is. Up there you will be given canelazos which is a hot tea with puntas (moonshine) in it. They say "all you can drink" but it runs out before you get all you can drink. On the top of the mountain at the big cross there will be a bonfire and entertainment. The entertainment is fire dancers, music, food, dancing. There are also great views of the city of Banos and of the volcano Tungurahua. You might even see smoke or fire coming from the volcano. This is also a great place to take pictures.
On the down side, it might rain here and you might be miserable and cold. You still have to wait till everyone on the chivas are back on before you can go back down.
So you are taking your chances. One time we went the weather was great and the views were wonderful. The second time we went it started to rain as we were going up the mountain. It was so cold and the bonfire couldnt even get started. We waited for what seemed an eternity for everyone to get back on the bus to go back to town. Also there are so many buses and so many people going to the same place.
It cost about $3 for this little excursion. It was fun but when the weather is good.
We had our own car but we parked it and walked around the town. A taxi driver asked us if we wanted to do a tour of the waterfalls. For $20 he took a carload of us and off we went. He let is take as much time as we wanted at each of the falls and being that he was local he knew everything about the town,
We were gone for a few hours. We went to 5 different falls and even hiked a bit. Our driver waited for us with no problem.
He also took us to where they were bungee jumping and through the tunnels. The tour was totally worth it. This is a popular tour that many people do.
This is also known as the Ruta de las Cascadas.
The big church in the middle of the town is a nice place place to visit. Surprisingly you can even take pictures in here. There is a small museum if you go into the courtyard of the church. You can find paintings of the virgin and the many miracles that have taken place here. They say that on the way out you will see the crutches and canes that people have left here after a miracle has been performed. I missed them. The courtyard is simple but pretty and reminds me of some of the churches in Quito but on a smaller scale.
No, the town of Banos does not mean 'toilet' like some people would like to think. When you say "donde estan los banos" in spanish, you are referring to the washrooms in a polite way, aka the baths. So the town gets its name principally from the hot springs that trickle down from the volcanic run off. The main thermal baths in town are just a block and a half down the street from La Chimenea Hostal on the northeast end of town. Entrance is about $5 and you then get access to four major pools. The lower section has an UBER hot pool which I could barely stick my toes into, and the upper section has three pools- a warm kids area, a perfectly heated but crowded main pool and then a large deep pool that is filled up only some of the time. The hot springs has a snack bar, change rooms and outside hot water showers as well as a place to check in your valuables and belongings. You can rent a towel there but since they don't have any change, a standard problem everywhere in Ecuador (from restaurants to street vendors to museums to taxi drivers), it may be best to bring your own towel. A bottle of cool water will also be helpful as the hot water will work up your thirst. This is a great place to unwind at the end of the night and ease those achy muscles after that bike ride, bridge jump, canyon repel, hike etc.
The town market is quite small but nevertheless worth a run through in case you find something cute to remember your Ecuador and Banos experience by. I never got tired of looking at the paintings, the llama wool sweaters or the jewellery.
There are several places to ride a tarabita across the canyon with views of the landscape, river and waterfalls. Cost is around $1 each place. You can try one while biking or dune buggying down the avenue of the waterfalls (en route to Puyo) or try one on the Waterfall Chiva - they make a stop but the $1 cost is extra.
This chiva leaves around 9 pm everynight and takes people up in the colourful, music blasting chiva to the Cross, several hundred metres above Banos from where you can have views of the city, the nearby Volcan Tungurahua (on a clear night, we saw NOTHING on our night which is common), enjoy a Canelazo (or not, I think its gross - a hot cinnamon flavour drink with aguardiente in it, the local cheap liquor which I am very averse to- I got it alcohol-free in that case), and enjoy a fire show from two local performers. Bring a jacket since the nights can be chilly!
This chiva (open-aired truck that pulls benches of people behind it with bright colours and roaring music, goes twice a day (once in the morning and once in the afternoon) and takes passengers for several hours along the road past several tarabitas (you can go on one for the extra cost of $1 to get a better view of another waterfall), waterfalls (most notably the Pailon del Diablo) and finally stopping at a hiking spot where you descend a number of ladders to finally get down to the Machay waterfall up front. You hike back up and are then driven back into town. A great introduction to Banos and costs $7.
Any number of travel agencies will sell you the tickets. Afternoon one leaves at 3:30 and is back by 6 pm.
Puenting is a classic Banos activity that involves you climbing to the top of a bridge, connected from your waste to a harness that is in turn attached to ropes attached to the bridge. With a count of 3, you do a swan dive off of the bridge and are flipped around into a big pendulum swing beneath the bridge. So much fun! And such a counter-instintual thing to do. For only $15, we did this with Adventure Equator tours who drove us to and from the bridge site for no extra cost.