Even someone with the most minuscule grasp of Spanish knows that baño means bathroom. When you think of travel destinations in South America, I’m sure that traveling to a city named similarly to a bathroom isn’t on the top of the list, but trust me, it should be. Baños is located in central Ecuador, near the active volcano Tungurahua. From the outside, the architecture doesn’t make it seem like a tourist attraction. But when you lift your eyes to the sky, you’ll notice a landscape of waterfalls, mountains and lush rainforests. These are the reasons for all of the tour operators, backpackers and hostels. Luckily, it’s incredibly affordable, as Ecuador recently transitioned to the U.S. dollar. When people leave Baños, you’ll notice a smile on their face and a slight sore, fatigued aura lingering on their stride. If you’re thinking of exploring Baños, make sure to check out a few of the following adventures. Your wallet, and memory, will thank you.
1) Canyoning (Waterfall Rappelling)
In the mood for waterfalls, wet suits and tasting the freshest water you’ll ever experience? For $30, you can tap into your inner daredevil for 2-3 hours with a group of like-minded travelers and experienced tour guides.
Who hasn’t ever thought of being able to fly? For under $50 backpackers can fly over the Tungurahua Volcano and several waterfalls in Baños. Several local tour guides located downtown can arrange day-of tours.
3) Hike to La Casa del Arbol – The Swing at the End of the World
The Swing at the End of the World – a three-hour hike from the center of town – is known for its freedom of swinging into an endless void over an active volcano. La Casa del Arbol is known well by locals and sought after by tourists. For absolutely nothing travelers can experience the Swing at the End of the World – just watch out for random cows owned by the little man beyond the fence. He may occasionally close the swing in order to raise money for updated rope, but don’t worry, a few pennies and the swing is once again open for anyone willing to jump aboard.
Flickr photo via Rinaldo Wurglitsch
4) Bridge Jumping (Puenting)
It’s every adventurers dream to let loose and fly through the air. Bridge jumping in Baños, also known as puenting, is very common and extremely cheap. For as little as $15, travelers can get arranged tours of nearby bridges to (safely) throw themselves over.
5) Rent an ATV
Any traveler who has ever driven a car, four-wheeler or go-kart knows how invigorating ATVs are. When in Baños, hop on an ATV to explore the amazing sights, smells and wonders for only $8 an hour. Just don’t forget where you rented your ATV from; getting lost will cost you a few extra dollars.
These are just a few of the adventures found in Baños. Don’t let the name fool you; it’s a wonder of the world worthy of discovery. Just make sure to end the day (or everyday) with a chocolate covered banana. At $0.50 each, it’s a treat that’s sure to not break the average backpacker’s budget.