Guide for Baños, Ecuador

Aerial view of the town of Baños, Ecuador
John Coletti/Getty Images

In spite of the volcanic activity from Tungurahua that forced an evacuation from Baños during 1999–2000, the town is a popular tourist area with both Ecuadorian and foreign visitors. They come for the Basilica, the famous hot springs, the scenery, and the accessibility to the jungle via Puyo and Misahuallí.

Tungurahua, also known as "The Black Giant," is the largest volcano in Ecuador yet the most easily climbed, since Baños is already set on its hillside. Periodic drills keep residents and visitors aware of the potential risks. Be aware of activity before going to Baños.

Getting There and Around

Check flights from your area to Quito and other Ecuadorian cities with connections to Baños. Buses to and from Baños arrive from Ambato (the capital of Tungurahua province), Quito, Cuenca, Latacunga, Riobamba, Puyo, and Misahuallí. The station, Terminal Terrestre, is within walking distance to most of the hotels.

There are Jeep rentals in town, or you may travel by mule.

When to Go

Ecuador enjoys a spring-like climate most of the year. The pleasant climate is often misty and clouded over, but the clouds don't interfere with activities.

Baños on Saturday and Sunday is crowded with weekenders, so if possible, plan a trip during the week. If you want to tie your visit to a local event, try:

  • October: The festival of Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa (Virgin of the Holy Waters) draws crowds with the religious processions, music, dancers, and fireworks.
  • December 15–16: Baños anniversary celebrations begin the evening before with verbenas when each neighborhood or barrio hires a band and residents hold street dances. The anniversary day is celebrated with parades, civic events, street fairs, and sporting events.

Things to Do

  • Baños (the full name of the city is Baños de Agua Santa) is named for the Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water. The church is a place of pilgrimage for those who come to thank the Virgin for many miracles and to ask her blessing. The church was built in Gothic style from volcanic rock at the start of the century. Inside the basilica are depictions of the volcanic eruptions and the Virgin's miracles.
  • Visit the museum within the basilica and its museums and art galleries.
  • The baths, or baños, are located within walking distance of the center of town. The water is colored by the high mineral content, and the temperature varies by the amount of cold water mixed into the bath. Enjoy the thermal springs in town at Termas de la Virgen, which is by the waterfall near Sangay Spa Hotel, and Santa Clara baths with sauna and a gym. Balneario El Salado, Santa Ana Canton, and Eduardo's baths are also near town.
  • Take a dip in the swimming pool or go down the water slide next to Termas de la Virgen.
  • Admire Cascada Manto de la Virgen, which is one of the area's waterfalls.
  • Learn Spanish in one of the language schools.
  • Ride a horse in the hills around the town.
  • Walk, hike, or climb the surrounding trails and the volcano.
  • Take a jungle tour to the Amazon rainforest. There are many tour operators in town.
  • Rent a mountain bike.
  • Tour Zoologico de San Martin to see many of the animals native to the Amazonian cloud forests, and observe the care and protection given to endangered species or injured animals.
  • Raft on one of the nearby rivers, but check the water quality and conditions first.

Shopping Tips

  • Visit market days, and purchase local produce.
  • Check out the craft stalls and shops for crafts, handiwork, and silver jewelry.
  • Buy some sugar cane taffy called Melcocha. You may see it being made or being pulled by beating the candy against a door frame or other sturdy surface.
  • Stroll the pedestrian mall, and browse the small shops.

Places to Stay and Eat

  • There are a number of lodging choices, from residential spots, hostels, and upscale spots such as the Luna Volcán, Sangay Spa Hotel, and other hotels. During the week, it's easy to walk in and find a room, but on the weekends, accommodations are tight.
  • Catering to international visitors, restaurants in town offer various cuisines in addition to Ecuadorian favorites.