Out of all the places to experience the essence of Ecuador’s natural beauty, few can compete with Baños. Despite what this town’s nickname may imply, the area is absolutely gorgeous. Baños de Agua Santa is the second most populous city in the eastern Tungurahua Province. It’s the last city in the mountain region before plunging into the jungle, which makes it the “Gateway to the Amazon”. It’s located at the foot of the highly-active Tungurahua volcano, but even this looming threat can’t dissuade visitors.
Between its strategic location and breathtaking displays of nature, Baños is easily one of our favorite places in Ecuador. Even after you go through all of the usual tours and parade around in the brightly lit chivas, there’s still more to explore. There are over 60 waterfalls around Baños, multiple aguas termales and countless caves to dive into. Even after spending a week here, we weren’t even close to seeing everything.
Baños is a joy to get lost in, since it highlights everything we love about the South America. If you want to go wild there are plenty of discotecas, as well as plenty of lesser-known trails to escape society. It’s a little town with a larger than life list of potential attractions and activities. To showcase what this area has to offer, we collected our favorite places to visit. Each one caters to a different sense of adventure, so come embrace nature and get your dose of adrenaline!
Must See Attractions In & Around Baños
Attraction #1: Termas de la Virgen – Visitors don’t have to look far for these hot springs, since they are literally on the outskirts of town. Even though the complex was officially built in 1928, natives have been bathing in these volcanically heated pools for centuries. The area currently consists of 8 pools that boast temperatures ranging from tame to 42 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Farenheit!). Allegedly the Virgin Mary dipped her feet in these waters, which is why it boasts such a holy name. While this claim is debatable, there’s no denying these hot spring’s charm.
Even though the soothing effects of the waters is amazing, the real draw of these aguas termales is the view. Termales de la Virgen is nestled right at the base of the Cabellera de la Virgen waterfall that cascades down the jungle mountain. It’s a gorgeous sight to see from the pools, and evokes enough awe to make anyone briefly religious.
Attraction #2: Pailón del Diablo – About 18km outside Baños lies one of the most impressive waterfalls in the area. La Cascada de Río Verde sits on the main route that flanks río Pastaza. After taking a brief hike and crossing multiple suspended bridges, visitors are greeted by a truly tremendous waterfall. Towering over 80 meters, el Pailón del Diablo thunders out the side of a cliff without mercy. We’re no stranger to waterfalls, but this one took our breath away! It’s easily the most notorious cascada in the region, so don’t miss it for the world.
Attraction #3: Cavernas del Río Anzu – Even though the aforementioned sights are bonified tourist attractions, these caves fly under the radar. The town of Mera sits just an hour outside Baños, but it’s the gateway to a different world. There are countless caves in the neighboring jungle that are waiting to be explored. We got the opportunity to see the Caverna Unión de los dos Continentes y la Caverna Copa del Mundo. Both of them provided sensational excursions into the depths of the jungle floor.
After crawling through tiny crevices and weaving through massive stalactites and stalagmites, there’s no denying the sense of relief you experience after emerging back onto dry land. These caves provide glimpses into a different dimension that we happily walk over every day. The jungle’s underworld is filled with bats, spiders and random jaguars. Only a few of them are safe to visit, so don’t go alone. There dozens more caves for those who want to go deeper, so hire a local guide and kickstart the adventure!