We still had roughly 1 1/2 weeks time before our flight from Quito to Galapagos. We decided to head down South to Baños. We had heard and read many things about it. Baños is supposed to be the adrenalin capital of Ecuador, as you can do downhill mountain biking, try out the longest Zipline of the country and many other adventures. We really felt like escaping the city and being in the nature and therefore thought that Baños was the place to go.
For a change we went for a quite luxurious hostel called Selina. We paid about 25$ for a nice double room and we even got upgraded upon arrival for a private bathroom. We found out later on the trip that Selena is actually a chain (having hostels all over the world) and that all their hostels are pretty fancy and normally prices are therefore high, way higher than in Baños.
We stayed 5 days. The city of Baños is pretty small, it gave us more of a town vibe, but it’s cute, has a great marketplace where you can grab fresh meals for 1.50$ and the people are very open and friendly. Of course we were not the only ones in Baños, but gladly it wasn’t overcrowded.
We paid 8$ dollars a day for renting bikes, on the last day we realized that you could also get bikes for 5$ if you went a bit further from the town square and closer to the bus station.
We highly recommend to rent bikes and do a one day downhill ride until „Pailon del Diablo“, a breathtaking waterfall. Don’t do a tour, just rent bikes and get yourselves a map from a hostel. On the way you can do several stops, try out various ziplines, including a 1km long zipline over a canyon (we did it, if you don’t believe us check out our ziplane video on Instagram. It is quite shaky, but it gives an idea 😀 ). You can also see other waterfalls on the route and have some nice walks in pure nature. The most important thing on that bike trip is that your bike is in a good condition and has functional breaks. That being said, Rubén had to prove to himself that he was a gifted cycler and therefore tried out some tricks, not listening to Elena’s warnings. In one of those moments his breaks didn’t work properly and he only managed to avoid crashing or falling using the right feet as a break. Seemed a bit like a wonder, but except of his nike having a big hole, he stayed without injury. That had nothing to do with skill, it was simply luck. Therefore check your bikes well before you rent them and maybe don’t try to impress anyone 😉
What else is there to do in Baños other than hiking and biking? If you like you can visit „Casa del Arbol“ to try out the Insta-famous swing in a tree house on top of one of the highest mountains in Baños. It is quite fun, but don’t get fooled by all the great social media pics, it get’s crowded and the probability that the sky isn’t cloudy is pretty low, at least in November/December. Other than that it’s a can-, but not a must do.
If you feel exhausted after all the hiking and adrenaline activities you can try out a bath in the hot springs. It costs 2 or 3$.
It is also possible to visit the Ecuadorian rainforest, starting from Baños. We did a day trip, which obviously isn’t enough for a full rainforest experience. But we knew that we would get to see a lot of the Amazon region in Colombia and Brazil and just wanted to have an idea on the rainforest in Ecuador. Like everywhere a rainforest experience is pricy. We paid 70$ for the day. In order to get there you have to take a ride ’till Puyo, the last town before the forest.
In our tour they included an animal rescue center, without letting us know in advance. If we would have known we would have refused it. What they called a rescue center seemed much more like a zoo to us, where by the way they were also keeping a lion and other animals that for sure normally don’t live in Ecuador. We are pro helping wounded animals, but we are strictly against keeping animals in a cage and making a tourist attraction out of it.
Other than that we had a good time. We ate an amazing lunch at a small local restaurant. Fresh fish from the river, cooked in a banana leave, simply wow! After that we started the hike. The forest was not the deepest rainforest, which makes sense as it was just a one day trip, but the nature was pure and beautiful. The highlight of the trek was a fairytale waterfall where we could swim in. We also visited some indigenous towns and did a canoe river ride. It was overall a nice experience. In general we suggest to always stay at least 3 days to get the real rainforest feeling, in our case, we were a bit limited in time and wanted to save money, knowing that we would dive into the the deep rainforest in Colombia.