One of Ecuador’s most popular destinations is famous for natural hot springs, one very active volcano, and one very big swing. Use our city travel guide to get the best out of the town of Baños, Ecuador.
What to do in Baños, Ecuador
The most famous thing to do in Baño involves the very active 16,479 foot (5,023 meter) Tungurahua Volcano and one dramatic swing. Nearly 20 years ago, the owners of the property on which La Casa del Arbol now exists built a simple wooden shelter and platform around a tree to use as a base for observing and taking notes about the volcano’s activity. A simple rope swing was added to the platform for fun and tourists started coming so they could swing out over the edge of a cliff while enjoying views of Tungurahua (the name means Throat of Fire).
The original swing, which has since been fortified for safety, is sometimes called the “swing at the end of the world” which is flagrant hyperbole. But it is a dramatic activity, especially when the volcano is puffing and belching. Now there are now two swings, a zipline, and a simple restaurant at La Casa del Arbol as well. To reach La Casa del Arbol, book a tour in town which will include transport. We drove our truck 20 minutes up from town. You can also rent bikes for the journey or hike up (2-3 hours).
A close second in the “things to do in Baños” sweepstakes is a soak in the area’s famous hot water heated by Tungurahua. There’s a large complex of pools in town (whose full name is Baños de Agua Santa). For a more peaceful soak, buy a day pass to Luna Volcan Adventure Spa. This complex on 330 acres (135 hectares) includes a hotel, a restaurant, and four pools and one hot tub filled with volcanically-heated water.
And speaking of water, the Gothic church in Baños has holy water that’s said to help ward off traffic accidents. Priest sometimes use it to bless taxis and we considered getting our truck blessed but our timing wasn’t right. The church also has a Madonna of miracles in a side cloister and is the home of a special Virgin Mary. Called the Virgin of the Holy Water, she is the patron saint of Baños.
Every January 6 residents of Baños celebrate the day people could return to town after evacuating in 1999 after a particularly big Turuhuhua eruption. Celebrations usually include a massive fireworks show. Other activities include hiking, rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, horseback riding, and biking through the mountains, rivers, and waterfalls that surround town.
Where to sleep in Baños, Ecuador
One of the best budget hostels we found in all of Ecuador is in Baños. Here’s what you get for US$10 per person at Hostel Chimenea: a spotless private room with wood floors, lots of light, a hot water (mostly) bathroom, small patio with partial view of a nearby waterfall, a TV, plants, a desk and chairs, Wi-Fi, and parking. Just be sure you reserve an upstairs private room (our favorite is number 23) because the private rooms off the small pool on the ground level are not the same quality. Shared dorm rooms are also available for even less money.
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Eating and drinking in Baños, Ecuador
Eating in Baños can be tricky. There are a ton of simple comedors and restaurants (from shwarma to Mexican to Italian to local eateries), but they keep unpredictable hours. La Casa de la Abuela was the best lunch place we found, but your best bet is to take a taxi to the nearby town of Ulba and try one of the roadside parilladas that set up on the weekends. Around US$6 gets you a huge meal of grilled meat or rotisserie chicken or fish.
Here’s more about travel in Ecuador