Set in a picture-perfect landscape of lush mountains streaked with waterfalls just three and a half hours from Quito, lies the small yet bustling town of Baños. Known for hot springs and adventure activities, visiting Baños is on most travelers’ itineraries. There are tons of things to do in Baños, you'll never be bored!
In fact, nearly all the friends we made at our hostel in Quito were heading there as well, so we all arranged to stay in the same place. We stayed at Great Hostel Backpackers Los Pinos. We ended up spending the entire week together and became like a little “family”. (Our hostel in Baños was pretty great too. We even listed it as one of our favorite places in all of South America. Read more here!)
During our week in Baños, our days were packed with adrenaline-pumping activities. If you're interested in more things to do in Ecuador, check out this backpacking Ecuador guide.
Casa del Arbol (Tree House)
I saw pictures of this dreamlike swing months before our trip (likely on Pinterest), and put it on my “must do” list while in South America.
To get there, one must follow a path at the edge of town up a mountain, and at the top stands the famed swing. Our attempt to take a shortcut led us onto someone’s farm. A little girl approached us and told us we had made it to the Casa de Arbol. She led us on a trail and picked us apples and flowers, and caught us a guinea pig from her shed.
I was a bit skeptical, but she assured us she was taking us to the swing. After following her around for ten minutes, she finally brought us to a makeshift ladder against a tree with a rotting platform at the top, and told us to climb it.
I'm pretty sure those boards could not support a human... No thank you, little girl.
We did finally make it to the real Casa Del Arbol and got a chance to swing at the edge of the world and took pictures to document our experience.
Hot Springs in Baños
The local people in Baños unwind after a long day by taking a soak in the town’s famous hot springs. We joined the locals in this ritual on two occasions during our stay in Baños. The strange thing about these hot springs is that everyone is required to wear a shower cap.
Oh, and while waiting in line to enter the hot springs, we saw a volcano erupt. Apparently this is a common occurrence, as the locals didn't seem too surprised by the smoke billowing up from Tungurahua.
Puenting in Baños
Also known as “swing jumping”, this activity involved jumping off a bridge into a gorge 100 meters below, much like bungee jumping. The main difference between the two activities is that when puenting, you swing back and forth rather than bouncing up and down.
Standing at the edge of the bridge and looking down into the rushing river below was absolutely petrifying. It took everything in me to jump. Leaping, then plummeting into the gorge was the most incredibly terrifying and exhilarating feelings I have ever experienced.
This was our second whitewater rafting experience, and though a bit tamer than the rapids in Costa Rica, we had a blast!
Routa de las Cascadas
One activity that everyone seems to do while in Baños is this 18 kilometer bike ride past seven waterfalls.
At one waterfall, we were able to take a cable car across the gorge for a better view.
We went canyoneering in Costa Rica a few years ago and liked it so much that we went again in Baños. Rappelling down waterfalls in the jungle never gets old!
Oh, and then we ate Cuy (Guinea Pig)
Very bony (and hairy... ewww), but surprisingly tasty!