If you are planning a trip around Ecuador maybe you are wondering “Baños, what to do there?” As you begin researching destinations in Ecuador you’re guaranteed to come across Baños (short for Baños de Agua Santa), a small city about four hours from Quito between the Andes and the Amazon. If you’re wondering whether you should make time in your itinerary for Baños, please read on!
Who is this trip for?
Baños is considered the “adventure capital” of Ecuador and tends to attract travelers that want to enjoy the area’s natural surroundings while engaging in adrenaline-pumping activities. As soon as you arrive in the city center, you start to get a sense of the types of activities you can do: ziplining, cycling, canyoning, river rafting, and kayaking, among others.
That said, there’s something in Baños for everyone, including families with small children and the lazy traveler that prefers to lounge in thermal baths and eat good food (that would be me).
Tip: If you’re ziplining, bungee jumping river rafting and other adventure activities, make sure you’ve invested in travel insurance!
How long should you stay at Baños?
Most people will only spend a couple of nights in Baños and then either head into the Andes through Riobamba and Cuenca or travel into the Amazon on a multi-day rainforest tour.
Others like Baños so much, they make it a “home base” as they explore other areas of the country on day trips. This preference is due to the location of Baños (between the Andes and the Amazon), but also because it offers travelers a number of comfortable and affordable hostels and restaurants to choose from.
Two Day Itinerary in Baños
If you only have a couple of days to spare in Baños, this itinerary will get you to all the best spots in and around the city:
- 8:00: Eat breakfast at your hostel
- 9:00 to 14:30: Go on a half-day river rafting excursion. Make sure to use sunscreen!
- 16:00 If you can splurge, go to Luna Spa for their thermal baths and massage, otherwise head to El Salado Hot Springs (you might need a $1.50 taxi to get there)
- 20:00 Dinner at Leoni Pizzería
- 22:00 Pass out, you deserve it! (River rafting is exhausting.)
- 8:00 Breakfast at Cafe Good
- 9:00 – 13:00 Rent bikes and do the Waterfall Route, stopping to zipline near Cascada Agoyán. Make sure to ride the cable car at Manto de la Novia and definitely visit Pailón del Diablo! If you don’t feel like biking back to Baños, you’ll find pick-up trucks to take you back for $2 or just wait for a big blue bus.
- 13:00 – Lunch at Carpe Diem Di Verdi
- 14:30 – Head up to Casa del Árbol for a picture swinging at the edge of the world (it takes about 40 minutes to get here, each way)
- 17:00 – Walk to Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa, one of the main churches in Baños, to appreciate some local culture.
- 19:00 Dine at the Swiss Bistro, drink a little too much wine and…
- 22:00 Pass out or head over to Eloy Alfaro Street to keep the party going
Day trips itinerary from Baños (four days)
Perhaps you’d prefer to use Baños as a jumping-off point to visit other nearby areas. Good idea! Here’s a sample four-day itinerary:
- Day 1: Enjoy Baños and its surroundings first! Choose either Day 1 or 2 from the previous itinerary (I recommend Day 2 unless you really love river rafting.).
- Day 2: Visit the Amazon Rainforest on a day tour. This will likely consume the entire day, from dawn until around 8 pm. Though tours may vary, you can expect to visit an animal sanctuary, a Kichwa indigenous community and go on a canoe ride. Make sure hotel pick up/drop off, a professional guide and lunch are included and don’t forget sun protection, especially if a canoe ride is involved!
- Day 3: If you haven’t already, go on a day tour to Quilotoa, located about three hours from Baños. Hike down to the lake or around the crater ring (if you get there early enough). This day tour requires a lot of travel time (3 hours each way) so you might want to consider making it an overnight trip.
- Day 4: Are you a fearless adventurer? Do you laugh in the face of danger? Climb up the active Tungurahua Volcano with a guide. Make sure you’re in good physical condition as you’ll be reaching 5,023 meters (16,480 ft) above sea level and hopefully Tungurahua doesn’t erupt while you’re on it!
How to get to Baños
If you’re starting from Quito, there are many options to get to Baños. You can either go to the Quitumbe or Carcelén bus terminal (“Terminal terrestre Quitumbe o Carcelén”) where you’ll find regular buses departing to Baños. More buses tend to leave from Quitumbe, but getting there is a journey in it of itself. Once in Quitumbe, you’ll find regular buses departing Quito to Baños from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for around $4. The trip takes about four hours by bus.
Always try to travel by day since bus terminals are notoriously sketchy places – keep an eye on your belongings! If you don’t want to worry about safety or getting to these bus terminals, read on – the Wanderbus is a convenient alternative to bus travel in Ecuador.
If you haven’t yet decided how to get to Baños, make sure to check out our passes; many of them stop through Baños and other top destinations in Ecuador.
Wanderbus is a hop-on, hop-off bus that saves you the hassle of figuring out bus schedules. Pick up and drop off points are convenient and usually only walking distance from your hostel, if not from your hostel itself. You can avoid bus terminals entirely, which significantly minimizes safety risk since the bus terminal are notoriously unsafe.