Baños: The Waterfall Capital of Ecuador
What is it about water falling over rocks that we find so appealing? If I were a psychologist I’d probably say that it has something to do with our fathers, or that the crashing water signifies the tears that we repress in our adult lives. I’d be talking nonsense though — waterfalls look pretty and that’s why we seek them out.
Baños, in central Ecuador, is home to several behemoth waterfalls. Gia and I spent a few days there on our overland trip through Latin America — this is what we found.
A Trip to Devil’s Cauldron
We booked our seats on a $5 open air truck thing which took us to some of the sights outside Baños. The truck took us along winding country roads as emerald mountains towered above us.
First stop on the tour was at a zip lining operation by the river outside Baños. The scenery there was awesome but we decided to skip the zip lining after being put off it by an episode of South Park. We talked to some fellow tourists and eventually decided to cross to the other side of the river on the little cable car thing seeing as it only costs a few dollars.
From there the truck made its way to the Devil’s Cauldron. We walked through the jungle for a few minutes until we came to a bridge. From there we saw our first glimpse of the powerful waterfall. We then walked down underneath it and got soaked, but it was a great experience to get up close to such a powerful entity. I imagine it’s how Ant Man feels like when he’s around the other Avengers. A lot of people cycle to the sights out of town but we decided to take the tour, mainly because it had been raining a lot and the tours are so cheap. I’ve heard the cycling is a lot of fun though.
Afternoon tea with a view
It rained a lot while we were in Baños. We finally got a clear afternoon and headed to Cafe del Cielo, which has great views over Baños and the lush green valley — it’s a great place to relax for a couple of hours. We took a taxi to Cafe del Cielo, which cost us $5. The plan was to catch another taxi to the famous “Swing at the end of the world” but there were none around. We decided to walk back to Baños instead, as we’d passed by some beautiful scenery in the taxi on the way up.
Spotting Waterfalls from the Road
The hike from Cafe del Cielo to the bottom of the hill is really easy and offers up some nice photo opportunities. The rocky green mountains and the massive waterfalls which crash down them give this area a Lost World feel. There is a bit of traffic on this road from time to time so it pays to be aware of your surroundings and to listen out for vehicles. Once we neared the bottom of the hill a bus came up slowly behind us. We waved it down and jumped on it, deciding we’d already immersed ourselves in enough mountain scenery for one day.
Waterfalls in Baños
It’s not often you get to see such impressive waterfalls in a town, but Baños is special like that. Las Piscinas de la Virgen is a short walk from the tourist centre of Baños — it’s free to look at but you’ll have to pay to get into the adjoining baths. Baños means baths in Spanish and these are what the town is most well-known for.
Baños is a cool little tourist town and makes for a nice place to slow down and relax for a few days. We spent longer than we had planned because we liked the laid-back, tourist town atmosphere there, something we hadn’t found much in Colombia and Ecuador. We found some really good western food and also a frozen yoghurt shop run by a friendly local family just down the road from our hotel. They must have loved us as we bought a lot of frozen yoghurt there.
There isn’t a lot to see in the town itself as it’s fairly new (at least most of the buildings are). The central plaza is a nice place to hang out. There are usually plenty of people milling around and there’s a cool old church — it’s easily the most interesting area of town (other than the waterfalls, of course).
If you’re looking for a hotel you can rest easy in the knowledge that there are heaps of them in Baños. We found a nice one for $20 a short walk from both the main plaza and the bus station — it doesn’t seem like there’s any need to book ahead but you might want to consider it if you’re visiting during a local holiday.
It rained a lot in Baños (which isn’t uncommon) and it stopped us exploring more of the wild nature outside of town. There are heaps of things to do in Baños, including a wide range of adventure sports — we barely scratched the surface.
Would you like to visit Baños? Are you planning an overland trip through South America? Let me know in the comments below.