A Week of Nature Ecuador Style: Part 2

May 24, 2015



I really had no idea what to expect when arriving into Baños. I knew that there was some sort of swing with a cool view and some thermal baths, and that’s about it. But boy was I in for a pleasant surprise. Not only is the town completely adorable, there is a ton to do there. I will say first and foremost that the town is basically built on tourism so almost every other storefront is an agency willing to take you on a tour of this or that or some other thing. So it definitely has more of a touristy vibe, but not at all in an offensive way. It’s touristy in a cute way, in an “I’m tucked into a tiny, beautiful valley” kind of way. They have guys slapping around toffee on nails tacked into doors frames for crying out loud! You can’t be offended by that. 

So that’s the first thing that’s so great about Baños: the landscape is so beautiful. The valley walls are steep, which create an intimate feeling in town. The second great thing is the fact that there is just so much to do there. On our first day there we all rented bikes and rode them about 10 miles, stopping to view the many stunning waterfalls along the way. Teague and I finally decided to try zip lining and zipped across the deep river canyon Superman-style, flying by the edge of one of the falls. It was AWESOME. Unfortunately we lost the video and photos of that so you’ll have to take my word for it. Actually we lost 90% of the photos from the entirety of Parts 1 and 2 of this series. So, sorry about that. Mental pictures! Yay! Not really. To get back, we took another one of those rickety cable cars across the gorge. That was also awesome and we got to see some fantastic views of the waterfall.

The last waterfall we got to was by far the best of all of them. You can go on to a few more waterfalls from there but you’ll only be let down thanks to the awesomeness of this one. There are two ways to view this one up-close and personal. Both are worth the inexpensive entrance fee. The first one we went to took us along the river above the waterfall, which included a cave-like pool immediately before the edge. There was just something about it that made you feel like you were in a hidden world. After walking a little further, we arrived at the coolest looking bridge ever. It was more like a ladder bridge as it was at a very steep angle, but it was one of those things that kind of brings people together when you share a common fear and excitement. Even if you don’t speak the same language, we all speak, “holy crap, I might poop my pants.” After making it across (down) the bridge, we climbed further down some stairs to position ourselves right next to the waterfall, about halfway between the top and bottom. This was also fantastic, however we couldn’t help but notice that by going to the other side, we could get ever closer.

Originally we had no plans of going to the other side but after riding our bikes a little more and deciding that we didn’t care to go any further, we returned to the entrance to the other side of the waterfall and Teague and I headed in. It was quite a hike down but it was absolutely worth it. The first viewpoint was maybe 100 feet or so above the swirling pool at the base of the waterfall and the second was just below that one. The better and more fun viewpoint required us to crawl through a tight crevasse in the rock, which then opened up to a walkway and then was followed by another tight space, which we had to shimmy up to continue on. This viewpoint my friends, was right behind the cascade. And of course we got soaked! This was definitely one of my favorite waterfall experiences.

Once we had enough of biking and waterfalls, the nice thing about the bicycle renting business in Baños is that there are always guys with big trucks waiting around to bring you back into town for a small fee. It was perfect. So perfect in fact that while we had to wait – to get more people to make it cheaper all around – we satiated our thirst with an ice cold beer.

In addition to biking, we also went to check out one of the big thermal baths just outside of town. The fun part about it was that we went at about 4:30am when they opened up and it was still dark out. There were about 5 other people there and so we got to enjoy the peacefulness of the baths as well as watch the sun come up. There were three pools there that we enjoyed; one was like a very warm bathtub, very comfortable but not too hot. The next one was so hot that you could only stay in for about 15 minutes, if you could last that long or get in at all. And the last one was freezing cold! A way to jolt you awake after sitting in hot tubs for two hours!

The last thing we did during our stay in Baños was to hike up to Casa de Arbol (the Treehouse). It was a somewhat strenuous hike/walk just because of how long it was but it was pretty darn cool. The first part of the hike took us up to a giant cross that sits high above the town and is illuminated at night. Remember how I mentioned that the valley walls are mostly vertical? We had to climb that, which wasn’t as bad as it may sound, but it certainly wasn’t the easiest thing we’ve ever done. It only took us about 30 minutes, which we were very proud of. The views from the lookout there are excellent. Not only can you look out over all of Baños in its intimate glory but you also have a fantastic view of Volcán Tungurahua spitting out little puffs of smoke. After taking a short break at the viewpoint, we continued on about another hour or so to Café del Cielo at Luna Runtun. We figured we could have an early lunch to fill our bellies for the rest of the walk up. Unfortunately the café wouldn’t open for another two hours. So onward it was for another hour up winding roads where we took in fantastic views of the neighboring valleys from an open cow pasture, met a couple of horses and a foal and finally ran into some fellow hikers out to see the infamous Casa de Arbol. Once we finally made it, we paid something like $1 to enter the property and from there you pretty much have free reign of what you do and how you do it. It’s pretty much what the name suggests: a giant 10350516_390994377725137_8076689488893167196_n.jpgtree with a tree house and two tree swings on either side right on the edge of another valley. Both swings do in fact have “seat belts” and one even has a launch ramp to give you an extra boost for your swing. Frame your photo just right and you’ve got a picture perfect view of the swing-ee and Volcán Tungurahua in the background. Depending on how many people are present, everyone generally just mills around patiently waiting their turn to use one of the swings. It’s a lot of fun and certainly brings you right back to your childhood. Except it’s not recommended to try and jump off of this swing. Just don’t do it. Unless you’re a fan of a body full of broken bones and maybe dying.

After spending just under an hour at the Tree House, swinging and milling around and enjoying the good views, we set out for town stopping in to Café del Cielo for our much anticipated lunch. Which by the way, was freaking delicious and it’s built right over the valley so again we got some fantastic views of Baños.

I’m sure there is plenty more to do in the outdoors there in Baños. You can rent different motor vehicles like dune buggies and the like to cruise around, there are a few other thermal baths and much more that I can’t think of because I didn’t do it and I didn’t bother to research it. Either way, Baños is awesome, I love it, and if and when I return to Ecuador I will absolutely go back there, as well as Mindo and maybe even Cotopaxi because why not.

So there you have it folks, a ton of stuff to do in Ecuador without breaking the bank in the Galapagos. Of course I’m not suggesting that you don’t visit the Darwinian masterpiece islands, but just don’t go to Ecuador solely for that purpose, ignoring everything else that it has to offer. I didn’t even mention the fact that you can go to the Amazon as well for a fairly reasonable price.

Ecuador: It’s more than just the Galapagos!


Roam on!







Written by Jen Hays
Jen is a marketer with a passion for the digital world and an insatiable desire to travel and explore all that the physical world has to offer; marrying the two to share her experiences with and inspire all who join her along the way.

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Category: Activities

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