- Spa and massage
- Encounters with locals
- Hiking / Trekking
- Extreme Sports
- Water Sports
Banos is a real seaside resort. Thanks to the numerous hotels and restaurants and a covered craft market, you can relax in the town and also explore the surroundings.
It's main attraction is the warm thermal springs and pools, which come directly from Tungurahua, a live volcano (5,020 m). I swam in them and then had one of the different massages available at the resort. I can also recommend a beautiful bus journey (the famous open topped bus) which puts you down at the start of the road to the waterfalls. You walk along this road for about 30 minutes before arriving at a little wooden bridge and a staircase along the rock face that brings you to "el pailon du diablo", an incredible waterfall which is one of the wonders of the world.
If you like adventuring over the countryside then there is an hour long (steep) ride through the selva where you can see lots of orchids. You can stop to take a photo of Banos between the mountains and then go back down beside the waterfalls. In the evening there are lots of western style restaurants serving good food and the nights are very lively!
Baños de Agua Santa, a spa resort located on the road that links two distinct environments, the Andes and the Amazon, is a well-known tourist destination in Ecuador.
Hot water pools are to be found throughout the city. I particularly recommend the La Piscina de la Virgen baths, where the four different pools are all at different temperatures. The hottest is supplied with water that emerges from the ground at a temperature of eighty degrees centigrade. But don't worry: it's "cooled" using cold water from the falls located just above. Nevertheless, fifty degrees centigrade can only be tolerated for limited periods of time. Something else interesting about Baños is that the city lives under a constant menace. The reason for this is the presence of the 5,023 metre high Tungurahua, one of the most active volcanoes in the Andes. Tungurahua is monitored constantly for activity and the local population is prepared to evacuate at short notice. I find it incredible that people can manage to live with this Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.
When visiting Baños, I also recommend taking advantage of the opportunity to try your hand at mountain biking, white-water rafting, canyoning, horse trekking, and why not bungee jumping even?
Three noteworthy things from our visit to Banos.
Firstly, the baths. We were the only foreigners there as we stepped into the bubbling, thermal springs known as 'Las Piscinas de la Virgen'. The water is yellowish in colour, as it comes from the sulphurous volcano that overlooks the town (and not from people relieving themselves!).
We then decided to have our fill by enjoying a delicious brunch in one of the many cafeterias. It was a yummy meal, not typical dishes but welcome all the same.
Finally, I never expected to find a ferris wheel during my trip to Ecuador. So in the evening, grinning like kids, we took a ride and saw the town from on high, without worrying about the safety of the apparatus.