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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO BAÑOS, ECUADOR & 4 DAY ITINERARY

The beautiful green valley of Baños is a backpacker’s dream, where good bars, cheap restaurants and fun activities are in abundance. With its famous route of waterfalls, forested mountain trails, thermal springs, and of course, the still-active Tungurahua Volcano, it has everything a nature lover needs. If adventure and adrenaline kicks are more your thing, there’s a wealth of waterfalls to rappel down and high-grade rapids to navigate. Our guide covers everything you need to know from where to stay, where to eat, how to get there, and the best things to do all broken down into a simple 4-day itinerary.

HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED IN BAÑOS?

A minimum of three days in Banos is needed to do the best things – the route of waterfalls and the famous ‘swing at the end of the world’. 

 

If you can spare the time, then between 4-5 days is perfect to see and do everything this awesome town has to offer.

 

Banos 4-Day Itinerary Breakdown

Rather than give you a huge list of all the things you can do in Baños, we prefer to break down our guides by what we did on each day. We hope this gives you a better idea about timings and how many days you might want to spend in Baños. Feel free to pick and choose whatever suits your itinerary.

 

  • Day 1 – Massage and Hot Springs
  • Day 2 – Bike the ‘Route of Waterfalls’ and visit Pailon Del Diablo 
  • Day 3 – The ‘Swing At The End Of The World’ and Tungarahua Volcano
  • Day 4 – White Water Rafting

Day 1 - Massage and Hot Springs

The towns full name, Baños de Agua Santa, means bath of holy water.

 

The name comes from all volcanic springs surrounding the town where mineral-rich water bubbles feeds thermal pools. Used for centuries and dating back to the pre-Inca civilisations, these hotspots are now home to spas and resorts that help melt away the stress of travel.

 

After coming off the weeklong trekking adventures in Cotopaxi and Quilotoa, we were destroyed both physically and emotionally.

 

We needed some TLC, so we dropped the bags off at our hostel and went straight for a massage. 

 

We chose Huellas Natural Spa for its good reviews and reasonable price for an hour-long massage However, there are lots of other spas and massage places in town if you are looking for something cheaper.

 

  • Hour-long full body Massage at – $25
  • Manicure – $10
  • Pedicure – $15 (a necessity to deal with the hobbit feet after the 80km Quilotoa Loop)

After our massage, we headed to one of the thermal baths around town to soak away the pain.

 

You have four main options here ranging from cheap to flashpacker. If we were to go back, it would have made more sense to get our massage and thermal baths in the same place at either Refugio or Luna. If you are looking for a full day of treating yourself then definitely do this.

 

It will set you back around $40 but for a full day of pampering in a top-quality spa that seems like a bargain to us!

 

Here are the four baths in Banos:

 

  • Termas de La Virgin – ($2) – The cheapest option and most popular with the locals meaning its likely to be the busiest as well. They have a hot pool right next to a cold one, fed by the waterfall coming down the mountain, however, after years of use and mineral build-up, it isn’t considered the cleanest. 
  • El Salado Hot Springs – ($3) – Located outside of town tucked in a little gorge, the location is better, and the baths feel a lot cleaner compared to Termas.
  • El Refugio – ($15 for use of the baths) – For less of a public bath and more of a spa setting, El Refugio is the preferred option for travellers and tourists –  Along with baths they have saunas, steam rooms and offer a range of spa services such as massages, mud baths and pedicures. On their website, they even offer ‘colonic stimulation’ if you’re into that thing. You pay roughly $15 to use their pools, and then any other service on top will be extra.
  • Luna Volcan – ($20 for 4 hours in the pools) – Whilst it’s the most expensive option this is the one you want to visit. The Luna Volcan hot springs (previously known as Luna Runtun) are nestled high up on the mountainside of the valley. The pools overlook the city and give you one of the best views of the entire valley. This is the place to go to get the best photos for Instagram! The spa at the resort also offers treatments including facials, massages, and mud baths using volcanic mud. They also have a restaurant and café on-site although these are a bit more expensive compared to other food options in town.

Day 2 - Bike the Ruta De Las Cascadas & Visit Pailon Del Diablo

A single main road winds its way through the Baños Valley with waterfalls dotted at almost every corner and bend on the way.

 

This road is known as the Ruta de las Cascadas or Route of Waterfalls, and is perfect for exploring by bicycle.

 

Rent yourself a bike from one of the many places in town – they are all $5 for the day and provide helmets, a bike lock, and a repair kit. Be sure to check the tyres, brakes and gears before heading off as the entire route is around 15 kilometres.

 

To get onto the route, simply head to the bus station in the middle of town, take a right and you are on the main road. The ride is mainly downhill and easy and there are multiple stops on the way to grab a drink or check out a random waterfall.

 

If you don’t want to stop at every waterfall then simply head to the highlight on the route, Pailon del Diablo, an insanely powerful waterfall that plunges 61 metres (200ft) into a pool of rapids.

 

With bridges and paths running through the gorge, and multiple platforms and viewpoints, this is not to be missed.

 

Check out our Ruta de las Cascadas guide for a more in-depth how-to with a few of our little tips and tricks included.

Day 3 - Ride the Swing at the End of the World & See Tungurahua Volcano

After an intensive day riding up and down the valley, we decided to take it easy on our third day in Baños.

 

Head to Honey Café for breakfast for a simple but impressive breakfast menu – we like the $8 option for a huge serving of eggs, bacon, bread, croissants, butter, jam, fruit, coffee and juice.

 

After a good feed at Honey, we made our way to Casa de Arbol – the swing at the end of the world.

 

Tours are offered from almost every company in town and are fairly cheap but it’s an easy place to get to, so if you prefer to have more time at the top of the valley with the amazing views then best avoid the tours.

 

Unfortunately, local buses are infrequent so make sure you find the times first from your hostel or the bus station, otherwise, a taxi will get you there in 15 minutes for the same price as a tour. Ask the taxi driver to wait for you and let him know how long you want to stay – 1 to 2 hours should be enough.

 

Once you’ve been dropped off at the top, watch out for the imitation swing at the end of the world trying to entice you in. Both are called Casa de Arbol but you’ll be able to tell the difference, one is a huge metallic swing with not much else going on around it, whilst the actual swing at the end of the world is attached to a treehouse and set on top of a flat part of the mountain with some other swings and viewpoints dotted around.

 

Try to avoid weekends and public holidays. We went on a Saturday and the queues for the swing were about half an hour long.

 

Sit on the grass and drink in the beautiful valley views and keep your fingers crossed that Tungurahua Volcano spits out a bit smoke and ash to capture some epic pictures.

Day 4 - White Water Rafting

Our fourth day brought us back to adventure and to one of our favourite activities – whitewater rafting.

 

We booked with Geotours from previous recommendations and weren’t disappointed.

 

$30 for a half-day rafting trip which included transport, lunch and pictures and videos of the day. Our guide, Pat, was hilarious and helpful making a memorable day.

 

From what we saw during the day, we were the only group with one boat and a safety kayaker following our boat. All the other tours had two boats and no other kayakers in the water. Pat was a bit too keen to flip our boat constantly and we went in the drink a couple of times!

 

Evening means it’s time to let off some steam and go on a night out.

 

The nightlife in Baños is all contained to pretty much one street which you won’t be able to miss. Start with some drinks at your hostel, grab a crew and head out to Calle Eloy Alfaro where all the bars are located.

 

Everyone in town ends up partying in ‘The Leprechaun’ by the end of the night – nice and easy!

WHERE TO STAY IN BAÑOS

There’s a host of backpacker hostels in Banos. Here are our top three picks.

 

  • Community Hostel – If you enjoyed your stay at Community Hostel in Quito, then the chain has another establishment here with the same great social vibe. With a large communal table where they serve breakfast and dinner, it’s the perfect place to meet other travellers and make friends.
  • Selina – they have a large building with a bar, rooftop terrace, pool table and workspace for digital nomads. Always a great fallback due to the number of amenities such as yoga classes and their very own tour agency in house, even if it is usually a bit more expensive.
  • Papachos – simple, clean dorms and a great communal space with an amazing view of the mountains and waterfalls throughout the valley.

BEST RESTAURANTS IN BAÑOS

As mentioned, Honey Café is a great place for breakfasts, brunches or a sweet treat and a coffee.

 

For dinner check out any of these places for a good meal:

 

HOW TO GET TO BAÑOS

How To Get To Banos From Quito

Baños is fairly easy to get to and will be on most backpacker itineraries if they are making their way down south from Quito or Cotopaxi.

 

If you are coming from Quito, then buses leave from Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe. The bus takes about 3.5 hours, costs around $4, and may stop in Ambato on the way to Baños.

How To Get To Banos From Latacunga

As we were leaving from Latacunga after finishing the Quilotoa Loop, we just headed to the bus station and jumped on the next bus south.

 

The journey takes around 2 hours from Latacunga and costs no more than $4. If you are going directly from the bus station in Latacunga, you will have to take two buses. First to Ambato, and then when you get off at the station, hop on a second to Baños.

 

As we have mentioned, Ecuador bus timetables are non-existent online or even in the actual stations, but you will never have any trouble turning up on the day and catching a local bus as they run frequently.

 

If you want to get a direct bus, then you will need to take a taxi out onto the Pan American highway where the bus also stops. You can take a taxi to ‘la lateral’ which is the big roundabout outside the town where buses going up and down the country stop (you may have been dropped off here when arriving at Latacunga). Then wait until you see a bus pull up going to Baños.  

How To Get To Banos From Guayaquil

If you’ve flown into Guayaquil then the journey will take a little longer.

 

The bus station in Guayaquil is close to the airport inside a shopping mall. If you aren’t staying longer than a night, then there’s a great family-run hotel right across the road saving you having to stay in the city centre called Casa Canelos.

 

It’s a large house with each room upgraded to hotel quality standard, the booking includes a homecooked substantial breakfast of eggs, fruit, coffee and juice.

 

When you find the bus station inside the shopping mall there are around 30 different desks, all with timetables. Buses should leave every hour.

Google maps say it takes 5 ½ hours by car but it’s more like 7 or 8 on the bus (this is how long it took us to go in the opposite direction) and should cost around $7.  

Where to next on your Ecuador journey? If you are heading north then our Quito guide has everything you need for a perfect 3 days in the city.

 

Or if you’re heading to the Galapagos Islands then our guides have everything you need to plan your trip and save money.

 

Or if you are still planning your Ecuador trip, our month itinerary will help you!

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