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Baños

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Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water

Baños (de Agua Santa) is a small city in the Andean Highlands of Ecuador under the smoke of volcano Tungurahua. Popular with both foreign and domestic visitors coming for outdoor activities, Baños is known as the adventure capital of Ecuador.

Understand[edit]

The name of Baños, which is Spanish for "Baths (of sacred water)," comes from the famous hydrothermal springs in the area. The streets are lined with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and tour agents. Although the city seems a bit touristy and artificial — even to the extent that it's nicknamed "Gringobamba" by some — lots of people love it and it's definitely worth a visit. It's an important hub for outdoor sports and jungle tours, tours to the volcano Tungurahua, and a pilgrimage destination.

Tungurahua throws more than just its shadow on the city — it's also a threat to Baños. During a major eruption in 1999, Baños and surroundings were evacuated as a precaution. The volcano has been continuously erupting since 2000 and intensity temporarily increases several times a year.

Climate[edit]

 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 
Daily highs (°C) 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 22.3 21.6 21.1 21.7 22.5 23.0 23.3 22.9
Nightly lows (°C) 13.1 13.2 13.4 13.4 13.4 13.2 12.6 12 11.9 12.1 12.8 12.8
Precipitation (mm) 99 111 137 154 159 207 173 149 135 105 80 88

Source:[1]

Only around 150 km from the Equator, expect the same temperatures around the year — a little more than 20°C during the day and lows of 12-13°C during the night, creating a daily average of about 17°C. The fact that the city is 1,800 m above sea level moderates the temperatures. As with much of the Andes, the combination of high altitude and equatorial location means some of the most intense UV-radiation in the world so do protect you skin from sunburn. Also, the rain season is not as abrupt and noticable as in many other tropical locations. The driest months, October to February, get about half the amount of monthly rainfall compared to June (the wettest month) and the transition is comparatively slow.

Tourist information[edit]

  • 1 Tourist Info, Th. Halflants between Ambato and Rocafuerte (at Parque Central Palomino Flores, a few minutes of walk west of the market), +593 3 2740 483. Open all day with a good selection of brochures and maps.

Get in[edit]

Road is the only way to get in; the closest airport is in Quito and there is no railway.

By bus[edit]

The small bus terminal (terminal terrestre) is on the north edge of town and is within walking distance to the center and most hotels. There are frequent connections to Baños from Quito's southern Quitumbe terminal (3½ hours, $4.45), Riobamba (2 hours, $2) and Guayaquil (5½ hours, $7). The closest bigger town is Ambato (1 hour, $1.10 from Terminal Mayorista, $2.20 from main terminal) and buses go frequently between the two towns. Coming from the east, there are connections from Tena.

There are reports of scams on the Amazonas bus company, whereby passengers are ditched in the southern districts of Quito. When ditched passengers then buy another ticket with another company, they are told they have to return to Quito and argue for a refund.

By car[edit]

Baños is east of Ambato and already half way into the deep Amazon. Coming from the north (e.g. Quito), turn off the Panamericana in Ambato and drive some 45 kms east to get to Baños. It's a scenic drive through the steep Andes.

Get around[edit]

Easy, just walk. Nowhere is more than a 15-minute walk from where you start and usually even less. It is relatively flat in the city centre.

Also check out the mountain biking section should you wish to explore further afield.

There are plenty of taxis around should you need one. For most places in town a ride should cost you less than $1.

Motorcycles can be rented for $15/hr for a 250cc off-road style bike. They will not ask for a license but will hold onto your passport. The agency near Hotel Passiflora has good quality Honda bikes maintained just as well. Be sure to take photos of the bike before you drive it away.

See[edit]

Parque de la Basilica
View from the end of Bellavista trail

While the town is mostly about activities, there are still places to see.

  • 1 Cascada de La Virgen. This is the main waterfall near the city center which empties near the thermal baths.
  • 2 Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water (Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa). This neo-Gothic style church is named after the vision of the Virgin Mary seen near the appropriately named waterfalls and is therefore a place of pilgrimage for those who come to thank the Virgin for many miracles and to ask for her blessing. It was built with many volcanic rocks and the inside is lined with paintings depicting the Virgin's miracles, including saving the church from several volcanic eruptions.
  • 3 Eco Zoo San Martin. The local zoo is quite large and features animals from various parts of Ecuador; monkeys, Andean bears, tayras (these may poop on visitors!), and jaguars, birds including condors, toucans and parrots, and Galapagos tortoises from but also snakes and tarantulas.
  • 4 Mirador de Bellavista. Viewpoint from where you can see Baños and the Pastaza river valley it's located in.
  • 5 Parque de la Basilica. Lively park right next to the basilica.
  • 6 Parque Central Palomino Flores. The central park just west of downtown is lined by the city hall and tourist information.
  • 7 Parque Montavalo. A park in the south of the city
  • 8 Puente San Fransisco. The bridge across the deep Pastaza Gorge is just north of downtown and a world class place for bungeejumping.

Outside the city[edit]

  • 9 Manto de la novia (Ruta de las Cascadas, about 10 kms east of Baños). This dynamic waterfall sometimes features two distinct chutes and has a cable car ride available.
  • 10 Pailon de diablo (Ruta de las Cascadas, near Río Verde about 15 kms east of Baños). This is the most impressive of the falls in the area with an option to hike to the source for a closer look.
  • Tungurahua is described in the Do section below.

Do[edit]

Cable car over Manto de la novia falls

The Pastaza river valley, which Baños sits in the middle of, is a canyon with several waterfalls and begins immediately east of Baños. In addition to the waterfalls there is a botanical garden, funiculars, bungee jumping and ziplines (up to one kilometer long). Ruta de las Cascadas is a biking route through the Pastaza river valley, and one of Ecuador's most famous biking routes.

There are dozens of travel agencies offering rafting, climbing to Cotopaxi, mountain bike rental, multiple day trekking, jungle tours, etc. Shop around.

Activities[edit]

  • Several tour operators offer bridge jumping. There are two bridges this is done from, one is much higher than the other. Although the operators are not covered by any kind of liability insurance, the rigging equipment is of high quality and done professionally.
  • Many companies organize rafting trips on the Pastaza river. The rapids range from class II to IV, depending on the recent rainfall. A half-day trip costs about $30–35 and you are best off going with a respected, well-known organizer. The water is not too cold but beware of sunburn where the wet suit doesn't cover. In June 2009, a French tourist drowned when the boat capsized. Be careful!
  • Several tour operators offer ziplining.
  • Dozens of tour operators offer rappelling down waterfalls (canyoning).
  • ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) and motocross bikes abound in the town and you can easily rent one for a couple of hours or days. The hills surrounding the town provide good views of the town and the volcano and climbing to the antenna or to the cross are both good options. You can also drive down to Puyo if you don't feel like biking.
  • 1 Parque Aventura San Martin, +593 98 498 6245. Well-run set of cables with competent guides and good name-brand gear. The zipline trip goes once into a crevasse between two rocks at a mild incline, followed by a climb, a rope bridge, and a zipline back to nearly the start point. It's about 10 minutes out of town, and takes 15-20 min to complete the circuit. $20+$5 for some photos and a video.
A swing in Casa del Arbol
  • 2 Casa del Arbol. Swing towards the mountains in the famous Casa del Arbol. Entrance costs $1. There are 2 swings with 2 more in construction. To get there, either hike (3 hr) or take a bus ($1 - 30 min). The bus generally comes back 1½ hr after it left you at the Casa del Arbol. In high season, the wait lines for the swings can grow quite big.

Wellness[edit]

Baños is not just well-known for its adventures, but also for healing.

The best massage studios are all on the same street, within 50 m of each other. They are all $20/hour. Try Xu Jing Casa de Salud for an excellent massage from a wise old Chinese woman. Corner of Luis A. Martínez and Eloy Alfaro, across from Casa Hood.

  • 3 Bioethika Center for Healing, at Luis A. Martinez and Thomas Haflants (next to the Libreria Cafe). An Ayurvedic clinic, which offers many kinds of Ayurvedic treatments including Ayurvedic massages.
  • 4 Termas de la Virgen, +593 98 721 3874. Right next to the waterfalls, this public set of pools holds the heated water bubbling up from inside the earth. Reportedly the water is quite cloudy and does not look too fresh. $2 entry fee and they will keep your stuff behind the counter in a plastic bin. It is hygienic: they require you to change and shower before entering the pools. Nice view of the waterfall, and they channel some of that water for a rustic cold shower after your hot dip. $2.

Hiking[edit]

Around Baños there are several easy trails. The tourist office (calle T. Halflants at the park) can provide simple maps. On some trails you can find many signs on the way, though the indicated distances seem to be quite contradictory. Head up to the statue of the Virgin Mary which overlooks the town for nice views, but be warned, it's a heart-pumping hike!

Tungurahua as seen from Baños
  • 5 Tungurahua, +593 987173573 (for Ricardo Robalino - the operator of the refugio). With its crater at 5023 m (16,480 ft) this active volcano provides strenuous hikes just south of Baños. You can hike up from the center of Baños (1800 m, 5900 ft) or take a taxi to the ranger station of Sangay National Park (2800 m, 9200 ft) and start from there. From the center go towards Termas el Salado. On the road that leads to the baths, take the first right to find the marked start of the trail. The first part of the unmarked but mostly obvious trail takes you up to the hamlet of Pondoa (2400 m, 7900 ft) which has a small restaurant. There follow the paved road that later turns into a dirt track up to the ranger station where you need to register (free). A steep and unmarked but obvious trail goes from there to the refugio at 3800 m (12,500 ft) where you could stay overnight ($5 per person) to enjoy the clearer views in the early morning. This hut has a basic kitchen, water access, and a few thin mats to sleep on. This is where you need to turn around unless you brought a guide. It is forbidden to go any further on your own because of the quickly changing weather conditions and the trail that is hard to follow in foggy conditions. Finally, there are bus tours (around $3) that drive up the mountain opposite the volcano. From there, you can see glowing lava if it isn't cloudy, and the volcano isn't producing too much smoke. $5 if you stay overnight at the refugio.

Biking[edit]

Several agencies rent out mountain bikes ($5 a day or $1.25 an hour). But make sure that you or someone with experience checks out the bikes and ensures that they are safe to use. Especially check if the gear is clean and oiled enough - bikes look really good, but are sometimes not maintained like they should be. Also be sure to understand who has to pay for damage to the bike should it occur.

A popular ride is the 61 km, mostly downhill, to Puyo. The first 18 km to Rio Verde is strewn with impressive waterfalls, some reached by mini cable cars across the valley. Rio Verde's Pailón del Diablo is the most dramatic. The frequent tunnels on this road mostly have bike bypasses and the only one you need to go through is the first one. There are good signs indicating where to go all the way to Puyo. From Rio Verde or Puyo there are frequent buses back to Baños, some of which will put you bike on the roof. It is also fairly easy to hitchhike your way back on a pick-up truck.

You can also sometimes include a small bungee-style jump off a bridge some 30 minutes from Baños.

Jungle tours[edit]

Many kinds of tours are organized to the Amazon jungle from day trips to the edge to two week adventures deep in the jungle. You will get to meet natives in their villages, swim under a waterfall and see at least some small wild animals like frogs, fish and spiders. You can usually also bundle the tour with rafting if you want. The tours around Puyo have a price range of about $35-50 per day, but no matter how much you pay, you'll probably end up on the same bus, eat the same food and stay at the same place, so shop around a bit before booking.

Events[edit]

  • City festival. Takes place mid-December.

Learn[edit]

  • Mayra's Spanish School, Montalvo and 16 de Diciembre, +593 3 2742 850. Mayra's Spanish School was established in 1998 and is officially recognized by the Ministry of Education and Culture of Ecuador. The school is centrally located in Baños with modern facilities, including comfortable classrooms, a library, bathrooms and kitchen. Lessons are available mornings, afternoons, evenings or weekends. Also rents out rooms and apartments. $150 for a week with 20 hr of classes.

Buy[edit]

There are a lot of different places to buy handicrafts, there are a lot of small business in front of the church in the middle of the town. In the markets of the city you can find a great selection of fruit. There you can also find cuy (roasted guinea pig), a specialty of the native Andean cuisine.

Eat[edit]

Jugo de Caña
Melcocha

In addition to the Ecuadorian traditional specialty cuy (roasted guinea pig, available e.g. in the market), the specialties of Baños are sugar cane, candies made of it, and other colorful sweets, all of which are available at stalls around the city.

Melcocha (sugar cane taffy) is Ecuador's hallmark candy and the majority of it is made in Baños. The abundance of sugar cane in the area makes this version of taffy a local specialty. It is a naturally sweet taffy made from boiled raw cane syrup. In store fronts that sell it you are likely to see it being made by pulling it and beating it against sturdy door frames.

Sugar cane is also popular in a less worked form as chewable cane pulp sticks or squeezed juice (Jugo de Caña).

  • 1 Alto Caribe (back side of the block the church is on). Astonishingly good South American fusion for a low price. Healthy preparation and warm staff.. $3.50-7.
  • 2 Bambu Steak House. A range of meat dishes; steaks, barbecue, chicken, as well as different Italian dishes. mains about $8-15.
  • 3 Cafe Mariane, Montalvo, Banos, +5933 2741947. Restaurant in Hotel Mariane
  • 4 La Caldera Cafe Restaurant. On the main street, serving Italian and Ecuadorian cuisine. Has received mixed reviews.
  • 5 Casa Hood, Martinez & Eloy Alfaro, +593 3-274 2668. Perhaps the most recommended restaurant in Banos, Casa Hood serves up an eclectic array of dishes from many cuisines that are all outstanding, including many vegetarian options. The atmosphere here is very relaxed and the many bookshelves full of books and games make it feel like a living room. Any of the books can be traded for your own and the games are open for anyone to play. $5-8.
  • 6 Donde Ivan, Eloy Alfaro 10-22 y Espejo. Ecuadorian cuisine, restaurant located in a hotel.
  • 7 Mercado Central (one block east from Parque Palomino Flores). During the day you can find affordable meals inside Baños' market. $1.50.
  • 8 Pancho's, 12 Noviembre & Montalvo, +593 3-274 2395. The confusing mix of cultures inside these doors make the place a hit. Enjoy your superhamburguesa between the shrine to Che Guevara and the pictures of John Wayne.
  • 9 Pappardelle Ristorante, Vicente Rocafuerte. Italian restaurant serving pizza and pasta but other dishes it is notable for are pork loin and trout with garlic.
  • 10 Swiss Bistro, corner of Luis Martínez and Eloy Alfaro. Swiss restaurant with outstanding service. Signature dishes here are the lomo foundue, carrot cake and Swiss ice cream. mains $8-20, some more expensive dishes too.

Drink[edit]

Flaming Bob Marley - Leprechaun Bar

Baños has a good selection of nightlife with bars and discos concentrated in the south of the city.

There's a whole street in downtown with salsathecas where you can dance all night. Other than that, in most salsathecas around Baños, they mostly play American pop music. One place to dance salsa is the Leprecaun Bar. Go there early (around 9 o'clock) where the place isn't too busy, ask the staff to put on some salsa music and they are even happy to give you dance lessons.

  • 2 Café del Cielo, Vía a Runtun Km 6.
  • 3 Discoteca The Trebol, Av. Montalvo & 16 de Diciembre, +593 3-274 1501.
  • 4 Leprechaun Bar, Eloy Alfaro (between Oriente and Espejo), +593 3-274 1537. This is the happening place for travellers and hip people in Baños to hang out. By the front bar there is a large dance floor with the DJ playing a variety of music. Upstairs is a smaller dance floor. But the real gem of the place is the back yard, which has another bar, a stage for occasional live music, and a large fire pit that the staff keeps roaring all night long on weekends. Be sure to try the signature "Flaming Bob Marley" shot.

Sleep[edit]

This guide uses the following price ranges for a guest:
Budget Under $10 per night
Mid-range $10-30 per night
Splurge Over $30 per night

Given its small size, there are a lot of hotels in Baños , and thanks to the competition prices are in general low and standards high. Public computers with Internet access are common.

Budget[edit]

  • 1 Erupción Backpackers Hostel, Maldonado y Eugenio Espejo (Half a block south from the south east corner of the bus terminal), +593 3 2743475, e-mail: . An economic option if you want to pitch a tent in town. The place has a shared outdoor kitchen, hot showers, a pizza oven running on wood, and a large turtle that might walk into your tent at some point. The staff consists solely of short-term volunteers that do not care too much about the guests. (The owners also run another hostel & restaurant at the corner of Ambato and Thomas Halflants that does not offer camping.) $3 camping, $8 dorm, $24 private room.
  • 2 Hostal El Recreo, Calle Las Flores Y Las Cucardas (Across the highway from the center of town, turn off the main road at the Amazonas bus stop and follow the signs), +593 98 326 6802. Chill family-run hostel, walking distance from the center. 3-bed dorms, Wi-Fi, kitchen, TV, clean, and the owners are very friendly. dorm $7.
  • 4 Illuchi Camping (across Puente San Francisco (where the bungee is) after 100 m (300 ft) go through a gate on your left and follow the trail up.). Camping area with a great view and great vibe just outside of Baños. Has a fully equipped kitchen and hot showers. No WiFi. $2 camping.
  • 5 Plantas y Blanco, Martinez y 12 de Noviembre, +593 3 274 0044. Dorm and room accommodation, laundry service, free Internet, nice roof terrace. $6-9 dorm, $10-12 per person for a private room.

Mid-range[edit]

  • 6 La Chimenea, Luis A Martinez & Rafael Vieira (Coming from the bus station, continue 4 blocks along Calle Maldonado and turn left onto Calle Martinez. From there, you'll find La Chimenea around six blocks along and on your right.), +593 3 274 2725, e-mail: . Check-out: 12:00. Really nice place, very good value. Lovely roof-top terrace and cafe. Friendly, relaxed, and helpful staff. Every room is clean and modern, with hot water and balcony. No TVs. Internet computers in lobby (free). Swimming pool and jacuzzi. Steam baths available for rent. Information about the area. $9 dorm, rooms from $20.
  • 7 Flat Share Baños, Calle Oriente 905 y 12 de Noviembre, +593 87 947038, e-mail: . A Spanish teacher rents out several rooms in his centrally located apartment. There is a communal kitchen, bathroom with hot water, a living area and free Wi-Fi in this well-lit, clean apartment. $12 per person.
  • 9 La Petite Auberge Hotel, 16 de Diciembre y Montalvo, e-mail: . At the border of downtown within walking distance from the baths, this hotel is affordable and has good rooms. Rooms have bathrooms, free wifi. single rooms $18-22, double rooms $14-20 per person.

Splurge[edit]

  • 14 Posada Del Arte, Calle Pasaje V. Ibarra, +593 3 2740 083, e-mail: . A very calm place, this posada has 15 rooms each of which is unique. All rooms have private bathroom, and are decorated with Ecuadorian art. Some have a fireplace, some have a jacuzzi, though no room has a tv. $38/person including breakfast, room price depends on the number of guests.
  • 15 Samari, Av. de las Amazonas Vía a Puyo Km. 1, +593 3 2741 855, e-mail: . This all-inclusive spa resort is among the most expensive accommodations in the city. Rooms have comfortable beds, cable tv, free Wi-Fi and large bathrooms. Rates include Wi-Fi, breakfast and access to the hotel's Spa area. rates from $189.

Stay safe[edit]

Emergency numbers[edit]

  • Police: 101
  • Ambulance: (03) 2741 367 ext. 25
  • Firefighters: (03) 2740 500

Go next[edit]

  • Quito — the capital is a couple of hours on the road to the northwest.
  • Puyo — to the northeast, here you can see a spectacular waterfall and it is a gateway to the Amazon.
  • Riobamba — to the south, this is Ecuador's third largest city and next to it is Chimborazo, whose summit is the point furthest away from the Earth's center.
  • 6 Llanganates National Park (Parque nacional Llanganates) (north of Baños). In Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Pastaza and Napo provinces. 219707 ha. Llanganates National Park (Q1120709) on Wikidata


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