There are some towns out there that are just calling for adventurers. Searching for the people who live for adrenaline and for those who love to push the limits both physically and mentally. There is a small town in the Tungurahua province in Ecuador, often recognized as the ‘Gateway to the Northern Amazon’. It sits amidst mountains and explosive volcanoes and is the perfect place for all things bungee, white water, and canyon. If you’re looking for an adventure…try out Baños, Ecuador.
What to do in Baños, Ecuador for the Adventurer
Swing off the end of the World, Casa de Arbol
You know that cool picture of people swinging far out above the mountains, well that’s in Baños! Situated high up on a valleys edge about a 45 min drive from the city is the one and only Casa de Arbol swing. Sit down and hold your breath as you swing out above the clouds on an everyday swing attached to an old tree house. Originally this space was used to monitor the volcanic activity in the area but is now a top tourist attraction. You can take a tour up here but it is better to take the public bus for $1. It leaves 3 times a day; 6am, 11am, and 2pm and takes you to the swing where it costs another $1 to enter. The bus returns to town 2 hours later at 8am, 1pm and 4pm. If you are feeling more active it is possible to walk to the swing from town taking 3 hours each way (one way up, one way down).
Try the famous Bridge Swing
Bridge swinging is special and is one reason many people come to Baños. Where else can you just walk up to a 100 meter bridge, give a guy 20 bucks, be harnessed in, and take the plunge. Remember this is not a bungee jump, you fall forwards and flip and swing under the bridge. You can also get your photos taken for an additional $5USD. If the big bridge, called San Francisco, is too much for you, they do the same activity 15 minutes’ drive out of town on a smaller bridge. When I stayed in Baños, leaping from the bridge was part of my morning regime…and I loved every minute of it.
White Water Rafting
The nearby Pastaza River has rapids which range from class 2-5, and the water is only a little bit cold. There are a number of tour companies in the city that will take you white water rafting for about $25. If you are lucky, you will get a guide who really likes swimming and they can make the journey just that much better.
In Baños, there are dozens of tour operators offering canyoning tours. If you are into an adventure that gets you down and dirty with nature then this is for you. Canyoning involves activities like rappelling down waterfalls, cliff jumping, and falling, swimming, and walking through rapids. These tours can cost about $30 for a half day and $60 for a full day.
Fly across the Sky on a Zip-line (Canopy tour)
You won’t have trouble finding locations for canopying (zip-lining) here in the mountains. These lines can cost between $10 and $15 per ride and some even have you in the superman position!
There are a number of trails accessible from the city for trekkers to hike up the mountain side. Grab a map of the trails at the tourist office or from your hotel/hostel and give one a try. These treks are all half-day distance and provide amazing views of the city. One of the more popular and easier walks even has stairs leading to the Virgin on the mountain side.
The city of Baños is blessed with good winds for flying. For $60 you can grab a tour from any agency in town (who all book with the same main pilot, Edgar), be taken to the launch site outside of town and then have a solid 25 minutes flying in the clouds. A perfect adrenaline rush for the adrenaline junkie in you. Do you trust the wind?
Enjoy natural Hot Springs
The full name for the city of Baños is “Baños de Agua Santa” because of its healing mineral hot springs flowing from nearby volcanic activity. There are 2 locations for thermal bathes in Baños. ‘Las Piscinas de la Virgen’ are thermal pools located about 5 minutes’ walk from the Church and right next to the Virgin’s Hair waterfall. ‘El Salado Hot Springs’, which are slightly less busy are 1.5km from town. These hot springs tend to get a little crowded, so be prepared to have a fun time interacting with locals…and their kids. Get the idea of a spa relaxation experience out of your head and you will enjoy.
Take the Waterfall Tour
The ‘Ruta de las Cascadas’ is something one can take as by bus, by bicycle, or by rented ATV and includes visiting many of the waterfalls surrounding the town of Baños. Stop at a zip-line along the way, or just enjoy the ride/drive and see some of the large, small, and sometimes double waterfalls of this mountainous area.