Banos is a small village in the Ecuadorian Andes around 3,5h drive away from Quito. It is also called the adventure capital of Ecuador as it offers an variety of great outdoor activities to do. Compared to Quite the altitude is not that high and the chance of altitude sickness is by far lower. Other then outdoor action, the village also has the famous thermal baths to offer from which also its name is derived: Banos = bath in Spanish.
The place itself is rather small with a typical high density touristic center with loads of restaurants, bars and shops. When I was visiting the city was full of families and for me the saying of the adventure capital was soon to be discussed as also the attraction around where more kids and family oriented (like the big dinosaurs park). Also what I noticed that the majority of tourists are from the country – there were very little western tourists visiting.
In the village
Banos town is not quite big and easy to walk. In the evening it can get a little crowded as everyone is heading for a dinner.
Palomino Flores (Parque Central) is little park in the center of Banos. It is very clean there and a great place to chill and spend some relaxed hours. In the night the park is lighted up in different colors which gives it a new look.
Santuario y Basílica Católica Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Agua Santa is directly at the main square Letras Banos. The square was a complete construction yard when I was visiting so the church is the highlight there.
Termas de la Virgen is one of the famous thermal bath in the city. You see the water coming down the huge waterfall directly next to the pools.
Hikes into the hills
Being an outdoor place Banos also offers nice routes for hiking into the mountains. I picked the Casa del Arbol as my first desired destination, after a quick check and recommendation from the internet. The entire hike would be around 10km and 800m up/down. Just a quick note: the trails are not pretty well marked. From time to time there are some signs but they give only rough directions. I navigated with the overview map below and my Google maps. Mobile network connection is given at any place of the hike, so you can look up things. The entry point for the hike is behind the hospital the way up to the La Virgen monument. The uphill part is quite challenging and is following the right path after La Virgen, all the way up the hill (trail Number 5 from the map). You will come to a asphalt road just a few meters before Casa del Arbol. For the way down go back to the crossing with the asphalt road and then pick the right path down (you came up on the left side).
Mirador “La Virgen” is a big white statue of holy Mary very at the beginning of the tour. The way to get there are mostly steps so prepared for that. At the monument you will get a first great view of Banos from above.
La Casa del Arbol was the destination for my hike and basically the trees hut you see on the first picture. Entry fee to the area is 1$ which is basically very much designed for kids. The giant swing is a popular insta motive as well.
Columpio Fantasias De Volar is a place I visited on my hike back down. It is basically a viewpoint with a tower or platform to check out the city from above.
My second hike was to the north facing mountains of Banos. The start point is the small suspension bridge near Calle Carmino real (when you enter the street, it is the first road left side that will bring you down). The first part of the path is trail number 7 from the map. The trail brings you a little up the hill and then turns flat and moves to the left side back to the village. At some point you will come to a crossing where I decided to go more uphill. The right path upwards (can’t really be missed) brings you high up the hill until you reach after some time the La Choza del Asquith restaurant. From the top you will have another great view from a different angle to the village of Banos. Pass the restaurant to the left until you come to a bigger forest road and follow that one back down to The Valley.
One of the outdoor and action activities Banos is popular for, is the wild water rafting where you can experience rafts up to level 4 at the Pastaza river. There are many operators in the town that offer this activity for around 25-30$. The raft itself was around 1,5h on the river and quite some fun but also no frictionless, as 2 girls from my boat were thrown into the river when a big wave was hitting us. Also normally included is a lunch at a local restaurant.
A typical tour is a full day trip into the Amazonian jungle. The trip will bring you to the area around the city Puyo, which is 65km/2h drive away from Banos. The tour is offered as well by lots of agencies so you better also compare prizes and itineraries. Mine brought me via a short term hike to a spectacular waterfall in the forest, to an indigenous community, a cacao farm and to the viewpoint Mirador Indichuris (for 25$).
A bike tour to the waterfalls is another day activity. You can rent a Mountain-bike for around 10$/day in various places in Banos. And then you just have to follow the road to the East (in the map the lower part shows the waterfalls along the road). Myself didn’t do that activity but I was told that it’s around 17km to the popular El Pailon del Diablo with loads of other waterfalls in between and mostly just downhill. There is also an option to get back to Banos via truck and not do the uphill by bike.
During my 5 days visit in Banos I could definitely not do half of the available activity options available. There is much more: canyoning, paragliding, visit the adventure parks with zip-lines etc and many more.