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Baños, quite like most of Ecuador, is home to a number of stunning, natural landscapes. Full of greenery, rushing water and a buzzing atmosphere. On a recent trip to Ecuador – renowned for the Amazon Jungle, Andean mountains, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, the Galápagos Islands and cuy – accompanied by Luis, we took a day trip to Baños, the gateway to the Amazon, whilst travelling across the country for the La Nariz Del Diablo train tour.
As the sun began to rise over the mountains of Quito, tired and weary, we packed our bags into the back of our rented minibus – which, little did we know, would give us problems throughout our stay. The snacks were packed, phones and portable phone chargers charged and music downloaded. We were ready for the 3 and ½ hours drive to Baños.
The drive consisted of winding mountain roads lined with deep green vegetation, cattle walking too close to the edge and street vendors weaving in and out of stationary vehicles selling fruit, sugar cane, drinks and random goods. Not long into our drive the clouds descended upon us, engulfing the roads, wrapping us in a thick white blanket blinding us to no more than a meter in any direction. Of course, being from the UK we had seen fog like this before, but rarely, and most certainly not on a mountain edge. Our eyes widened and hearts quickened as the driving slowed and we began to navigate the twists and turns of the mountain descent.
Once we reached Baños we had three stops on our to do list, they consisted of flying above the mountains, getting splashed by fresh water, and hiking to view points.
Our day went like this:
The Cable Cars at Cascada Manto de la Novia
The cable cars that make up part of La Ruta de Las Cascadas [The Route of The Waterfalls] were our first stop in Baños, and whilst we were all a little nervous at first – our cable car was more like a metal basket powered by a man at one end pressing the gas of an old car engine – the views were amazing! On the cable car you cross a gorge containing the river Pastaza and come to a stop at a view of the waterfall Manto de la Novia, which means Mantle of the Bride, as it hits the ground below and runs into the river. Once on the other side you can take a short hike up to a viewpoint and look out over the mountains.
El Pailon del Diablo
El Pailon del Diablo [The Devil’s Cauldron] is a must do in Baños. This site is a very popular tourist destination, despite the crowds, it’s well worth the visit. The waterfall is around 80-100 meters high and boasts man made stairs and balconies leading you directly behind the water running from the Río Verde and pummeling into the Devil’s Cauldron. Whilst the waterfall is a natural wonder, the hundreds of steps were created in 1994 to allow tourists the chance to step closer to nature and appreciate El Pailon del Diablo. If you plan to do this route be sure to take waterproof clothing and keep your camera safe!
La casa del Árbol
Get ready to swing beyond the mountains on the Columpio al Fin del Mundo [Swing at The End of the World] attached to La Casa del Arbol [The Treehouse]. La casa del Árbol was the last stop on our day trip. The swing lets you fly 2600 meters above sea level over the edge of a mountain – on a lucky day, you can get great views of the Tungurahua volcano. Yes it sounds scary, and your heart pounds on the first outswing, but after that, you get an incredible sense of freedom high above the mountains. You can get some amazing images here. You can also find a small restaurant, a zip line, and some other crazy swings that go 360 degrees.
Our trip to Baños was mystical and unforgettable. I had never seen vegetation so thick and so vibrantly green welcoming those who travel its roads into the Amazon. The natural beauty is unparalleled and one that I would urge everyone to consider, learn about and even visit. If you want to see more images from my time there check out my Instagram account: _jmegan. We will definitely return to see more of Baños! Have you been before? If so, where else should we visit?