Where We Be
Gorgeous setting of Las Piscinas de la Virgen, the best-known hot springs in Baños
Baños, Ecuador
We liked the feel of Baños straight off. It's
smaller than most of the places we visited in
mainland Ecuador (other than Vilcabamba) and
has a quiet vibe overall with lots of restaurants
and fun activities. First off, there's the thermal
baths that give Baños its name; the best known
is Las Piscinas de la Virgen, shown at left, with
a waterfall cascading down behind it. At the
other end of town is a short but steep hike to a
statue of the Virgin Mary that offers fine views
of Baños below and active Volcano Tungurahua
above. On the day we hiked it there was "a
moderately strong explosion producing a 4-5
km tall eruption column." Another highlight is
the "Ruta de las Cascadas" or "Highway of the
Waterfalls" which you can do by bike, motorized
buggy, or "chiva" (an open-air truck). Besides
beautiful waterfall views it offers opportunities
to swing-bungy or zipline across a canyon like
Superman. I tried the latter and loved it!
We spent about an hour at the Bellavista overlook where a brightly lit cross stands at the top of a steep hill.
Baños lay spread out below us, but the volcano remained stubbornly hidden behind mist and clouds.
Beautiful stretch of scenery along Ruta de las Cascadas
When my time came, I got into “Superman” position and they “roped” me to the posts (one for the arms and one for the legs).
Then they pushed me partway out over the abyss, pulled me back over the lip of the platform, then gave a good shove and I was off!
This is the Virgin of the Pools who is said to have dipped her toe into the waters here
These were the first waterfalls we visited; we took a ride in a suspended cable car for a closer view of the falls ($1.50 each)
We explored the Ruta de las Cascadas (Highway of the Waterfalls) by chiva, an open-air truck painted in bright colors ($5 each)
At the same falls I decided to do a zipline across the canyon ($12). It was a little unsettling watching the preparation as there was no permanent
attachment to the cable, only cords wrapped several times around both handles of a two-pronged metal post. A grooved wheel rode atop the wire.
"Superman" returns via cable car
I extended my arms Superman fashion and enjoyed a beautiful ride across the canyon. It felt like flying! At the far end I came in fast and would
have collided straight into a rock wall if it hadn’t been for the guy whose sole job is to catch you and slow you down with a hooked pole of sorts.
We had such a good time during our chiva ride!
The chiva ride continued past these twin waterfalls and along a one-lane cobbled road
We missed seeing the biggest falls, Pailon del Diablo, because of a tunnel closure, so instead
we visited Machay Falls ($1), which required a steep fifteen-minute descent through cloud forest
At the bottom we got a great view of the falls making a straight drop to the rocks below
We decided to do a "volcano tour" that same night starting at 9 pm ($3 each). Once again we boarded a chiva (this one
complete with flashing disco lights) where we met these young Ecuadorian teens clearly out to have a good time!
Hey, when you can't beat 'em, join 'em! The only volcano we saw that night was "Volcan" nightclub where the chivas took us at the end of the tour.
A raised wooden platform allows you to get close to the Cascada de la Virgen del Agua Santa (Waterfall of the Virgin of the Sacred Water)
The main cathedral in town
The flower-filled central plaza in Baños offers a wonderful place to relax
On three different days we climbed the stairs for a look at the volcano but the weather in that direction was always cloudy. The left-hand photo shows
our best view (not very good) of the top of Tungurahua peeking out of the clouds; the right-hand photo shows a dark column of ash rising above the clouds.
We hiked up a steep set of stairs to a statue of the Virgin Mary to get a glimpse of Volcano Tungurahua -- and to look back down on Baños itself
Baños has many fine restaurants for a town of its size -- we particularly enjoyed Posada del Arte (shown above) and Le Petite Auberge
Volcano Tungurahua isn't directly visible from town so the fastest way to get a glimpse of it is to hike up these stairs (halfway up gets you your first view)
This is the view of Volcano Tungurahua we would
have liked to have had! [NOT MY PHOTO]
The statue of the Virgin is said to protect the inhabitants
of Baños from the ravages of Volcano Tungurahua
Wispy waterfall located just behind Las Piscinas de la Virgen
You could also explore Ruta de las Cascadas by motorized buggy, a popular option