HOW TO BIKE THE RUTA DE LAS CASCADAS IN BAÑOS
The ‘Route of Waterfalls’ is a great full-day activity that costs you under $10. Here’s how to plan the day:
- Step 1 – Rent a bike in town
- Step 2 – Pick your waterfalls to stop at along the route
- Step 3 – Get on the road
- Step 4 – Reach your final stop at Pailon del Diablo and explore
- Step 5 – Grab a lorry taxi back to town with your bike
Step 1 - Rent a Bike In Town
Grab yourself a bike from one of the many places in town – they are all $5 to rent for the whole day and they provide helmets, a bike lock, and a repair kit.
Just check the tyres, brakes, gears and seat before heading off as the entire route is around 15 kilometres so you will want to have a half-decent bike.
We rented ours from Wonderful Ecuador, a tour agency close to the bus station. The bikes were well kept in comparison to some others we saw, the tyres were well pumped and the brakes all in working order.
Step 2 - Pick Your Waterfalls To Stop At
There’s a total of 6 waterfalls you can stop at including the biggest one and one of the towns most popular attractions – Pailon del Diablo (The Devil’s Cauldron).
If you’re a waterfall fanatic or fancy a long bike ride, then go ahead and do all of them. Our main aim was to get to Pailon and avoid the inevitable crowds that tour buses bring along.
Here are the 6 main waterfalls to stop at:
- Cascada Ulba
- Cascada Silencio
- Cascada Agoyan
- Cascada Manto de la Novia
- Pailon del Diablo
- Cascada Machay
Our bike rental company gave us a printed map with all the stops on. Here’s an online one if you want to check out the route before you start. We found it easier to star each waterfall into google maps and use our phones.
The whole journey, along with coming back took us around 4-5 hours with multiple stops and a good hour at Pailon del Diablo. We will cover the stops we chose below.
Don’t stress out about having to ride back though as there are trucks at the end that will take you and your bike back to town for a small fee.
Step 3 - Get On The Road
Once you have your bike it’s time to set off. 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 E30). Again, google maps is your friend here.
The ride is mainly downhill or flat so it’s not too much of a slog. There are multiple stops on the way to grab a drink or check out a random waterfall, so you never feel like you’re putting in too much effort!
Quick Safety Tip – Along the route, the road will go through several tunnels. The golden rule is to only go through the first tunnel on the bike. The others are not for cyclists as they are narrow and dark.
Going off-road next to the valley will lead you on the safe path for cyclists, one which is far more picturesque.
Cascada del Silencio and Cascada Ulba
These two waterfalls are a 10 minute walk from each other so can easily be done in one stop.
Before aiming to get to some of the larger cascades, after about a 10-minute downhill ride you should see a big sign for waterfalls on your right, just before the town of Ulba. These waterfalls weren’t recommended to us by the nice lady who we rented our bikes from, but we saw the sign and went for it.
It’s a short 5-minute walk to each waterfall and both were equally impressive. We recommend visiting these if you want to avoid some of the crowds at the bigger ones as they are often overlooked and were empty when we went. You can see both in the pictures above along with our power poses.
Cascada Manto de la Novia
As you travel along the road you will see multiple points to pull over and check out the valley, along with some budget looking ziplines and swings.
None of these looked that exciting, or safe for that matter, so we avoided them and just took in the incredible Baños valley and the Rio Verde.
Make sure to mark Cascada Manto de la Novia on google maps and take a quick stop here. It’s around 7km along the route so a good halfway point to rest the legs. The waterfall’s name is due to the colour of its white waters that resembles the veil of a bride.
You will see a red cable car, costing $2, that will take you across the valley. If you want to see it more closely you can walk along a path and cross a suspension bridge where you reach the foot of this amazing waterfall. You can also walk down to the bottom of the valley to get a view from down under, just remember you’ll have to trek back up!
Step 4 - Your Final Stop At Pailon Del Diablo
The Devils Cauldron – Ecuador’s tallest waterfall plunging 61 metres (200 ft) into a huge pool of rapids and rocks, is the main attraction for the day and your final stop most likely.
It’s hard to miss as you will come to the small town of Rio Verde with shops, restaurants and lots of signs pointing you in the direction of the falls. Outside most of the restaurants, there are bike stations where you can lock up your bike.
There are two ways to visit the falls: the original route is a 20-minute walk down steps to reach underneath the falls or a newer, shorter route along a suspension bridge with panoramic views. Entrance costs $2.
We went the original route as we wanted to get as close as possible to the falls and standing among the staircases and platforms carved from the cliff is pretty cool.
If you are visiting the bottom first, you will see a path that people can crawl through to get underneath the waterfall called La Grieta del Cielo, which roughly translates to the crack of the sky.
If you decide to crawl through, you’ve been warned, it’s a dead-end and killer on the knees. Your reward for your curiosity? You will get soaked trying to get through, which is exactly what happened to us. After you’ve spent some time on the platforms, you can head out across the suspension bridge to get another great view and soak in the immense raw power churning through the gorge.
If you want to avoid the walk and not get wet, then take the newer route as it’s set further back from all the spray. You will also get a bird’s eye view of the waterfall.
You can find the entrance near the soccer field in town and from there, you’ll see a well-signed path. It’s possible to go to each entrance though if you leave enough time, so why not do both?
Step 5 - Getting Back To Town
The great news is you don’t worry about riding back to town on your bike.
The ingenious locals have worked out that lazy backpackers won’t want to do that and offer lifts back to town along with your bike! If it isn’t too late in the day, the trucks wait outside the entrance to Pailon and will take you and your bikes back to the town centre for $2 each.
Check out our Baños guide and itinerary to help you plan the rest of your days in town.
WHAT TO PACK
A couple of things are a must for this trip. These two items are things we wish we had brought but ended up learning the hard way.
Of course, bring your standard sun cream to battle the equatorial sun, water bottle (although you can buy some along the route) and google maps or maps.me to track yourself along the road.
Here are a couple of others we failed to foresee:
- Rain jacket or waterproof – the devil’s cauldron is an insanely powerful waterfall and even standing 50m away from it on a viewing platform will cover you in a fine layer of spray. Also if you wish to climb up a bit further and get behind the waterfall you can, but here the spray is even worse and you will get wet, potentially very wet.
- Hiking boots or waterproof shoes – for the same reason as above, but also if you visit some of the smaller waterfalls like Ulba or Silencio, the paths can be wet and muddy.