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As the gateway to the Amazon and the focal point of adventure tourism in Ecuador, it should come as no surprise that there is a wide array of exciting day trips around Baños. Featuring deep canyons, dramatic ravines and an ominous volcano set among lush subtropical terrain, the entire region is ripe for outdoor exploration. Here are a few of the best options.
From white-water rafting to canyoning, slack-lining and rock climbing, there’s an adventure sport for everyone in this thriving tourist town. Hordes of young backpackers have been descending on Baños for decades in search of an adrenaline fix, relishing a variety of dirt-cheap activities amidst a stunning mountainous backdrop. Read our Adventure Traveler’s Guide to Baños for the lowdown.
Also known as the Casa del Arbol (tree house), this long rope swing that stretches out over a sweeping valley has become a huge hit in recent years, largely thanks to the stunningly surreal photo opportunity it provides. A must for any aspiring Instagrammer, the swing can be visited in just a few hours and is guaranteed to reel in those precious Facebook likes. Hire a quad bike to rock up in style and avoid the organized tour crowd.
Famous for its multitude of mineral springs, Baños is awash with pristine waterfalls that cascade down from the surrounding mountains. The most accessible is the famous – although rather crowded – Cascada del Virgin, which is believed to have been blessed by Mary herself. More interesting, however, is the spectacular Ruta del Cascadas, a series of tall picturesque waterfalls that are best savored on a day-long biking or hiking adventure.
Considered among the most spectacular volcanic lakes on earth, the breathtaking Quilotoa is a must while in Ecuador. Tours depart Baños around 8:30 a.m. and pass other scenic lakes plus a fascinating indigenous farming community before arriving at the main attraction. Once settled, travelers have the opportunity to hike, kayak, or just sit back and take in the views.
Those short on time who yearn for a taste of the Ecuadorian Amazon can book a one-day tour in central Baños. Spanning a whopping 11 hours, this epic Amazon adventure includes a visit to an exotic wildlife sanctuary, a jungle hike, a canoe trip down the river, bathing in waterfalls and a stop at an indigenous Amazon community on the way home. It’s the perfect way to get a feel for the Amazon in just one day.
The Baños region has oodles of hot springs, the best of which are located outside of town. Jump on a tour or go it alone for some serious rest and relaxation. The water here is said to have a variety of medicinal properties – the perfect excuse to just put your feet up and soak the afternoon away.
It may appear impossibly high, but the ominous Tungurahua volcano can actually be climbed over the course of a day by a fit and adventurous traveler. Just bear in mind that an icy peak and dizzying altitude (5,023 m / 16,479 ft) mean a professional guide is of utmost importance. Furthermore, Tungurahua is known to violently spew volcanic ash and lava every now and then, so it’s really best to check the latest seismic activity before setting off.