Banos, Ecuador

Thursday, January 22

Even though I hate picking "favorite" places on each of our trips…I kinda sorta think Banos inched its way up as a top contender for our South America trip. Maybe it was the stunning natural beauty that surrounded us with its grand waterfall making a huge splash on the southeast side of town, or the majestic Tungurahua volcano looming high above us up in the clouds, or maybe it was hundreds of  adventure activities that were within our budget that made me fall head over heels for this little spa town? It also could have been the massage I got, or maybe the hot springs? All said and done, Banos made me a believer…I think the volcanic waters may have had something to do with it:) 

If you go to Ecuador, Banos should be on your itinerary (no ifs, ands or buts about it!). Banos, named for its natural volcanic hot springs, is a charming little town in central Ecuador. It sits on a plateau surrounded by mountains and a huge volcano, and has more than 60 waterfalls in the surrounding areas. Every where you turn is a huge gorge, a cliff, a river below, and a waterfall within your view. It's spectacular, really. 

Part of the charm of Banos, is that you'd be hard pressed to run out of things to do. Kevin and I were in Banos for 2 1/2 days, and still we were begging for more time in this sweet little city. Below i've listed some of the activities we participated in…don't worry, I will be blogging about each activity individually, so you can get more detail! Today's just an overview!! 

Day 1 included a drive up to Casa de Arbol, where the infamous "swing at the end of the world" lies. You may have seen my picture on IG {@hopeengaged}, but essentially you swing out from a treehouse over a canyon that lies thousands of feet above sea level. It's exhilarating. We then took bikes, and rode down the steepest and most gorgeous mountain ever. It was a blast. Once we arrived at the bottom, we decided to go zip lining….can I just say WOW! The views from this zip line were off the charts! Later that night, we headed to Las Piscinas de la Virgen, the town's public thermal baths. It costs $3 to get in, and $1.50 to buy a cap. While it was PACKED with people when we went (because we were there over the New Years holiday), and I was cozied up alongside more locals that I could count, it was a great cultural experience! For $3, you gotta go! 

Day 2 included a one of the craziest things ever…Bridge Swinging! Yes, it was as heart-pounding as it sounds. We then spent the rest of the day soaking in the volcanic waters at a local spa that overlooked the city. #bestdecisionever

Besides the activities we did, Banos hosts a wide variety of adventures sports such as paragliding, bungee jumping, amazon tours, white water rafting, horse back riding, etc. so it really appeals to everyone. And each activity is about $15-30, so very affordable. Being a spa town, they also had tons of places that offered full body massages. Kevin let me splurge and for $20 I got an hour massage. It was incredibly heavenly. Beyond the activities, the town is actually really cute. It centers around a large square and church, as well as the thermal baths. Try the taffy…it's hand stretched right in front of you…as well as the sugarcane, a local favorite! And, as a Ecuadorian specialty, try the "cuy" {guinea pig}…I wasn't quite brave enough! 

If the activities, thermal baths, and natural beauty aren't enough to tempt you, there's also some incredible dining in Banos. We ate at Cafe Hood (western and Ecuadorian food) & Cafe Marianne (french food, with the best ambiance including a roaring fire place for those chilly nights!) and both were delightful! 

Lastly, we really enjoyed our hostel, Hotel Marianne. For the price, you can't beat it.  It has a beautiful garden, is secluded from the noisy downtown, and is within walking distance to everything (Banos is a very small town!). The rooms were basic but clean and it had a gorgeous view of the city and waterfall! 

I hope this gives you a peak in the quaint and bustling little town of Banos. This next week you'll get to see a glimpse of each of the activities we did!! Enjoy! 

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