|Travel Ecuador : Cities : Baños de Agua Santa|
Banos is a traveler’s favorite in the Central Ecuadorian Andes. This small Andean town is a great place to kick back and relax for a few days. Banos is famous for its hotsprings, outdoor activities and rocking nightlife. Overshadowed by the towering, and highly active volcano, Tungurahua, Banos is occasionally evacuated due to the threats of eruption. However, this does not put off either local or foreign tourists from flocking to the town at any opportunity.
Banos is an outdoor-lovers paradise with many different kinds of things to do for the active. It is possible to bike to nearby waterfalls, and even on to Puyo, hike in the surrounding countryside, bungee jump off bridges, rappel down waterfalls and raft the whitewater in the area. Visitors can also rent quad bikes and explore the area in that way. Other popular options are visiting the town’s hotsprings or spas for a soak or a massage, or taking a chiva (multicolored open air bus) ride to view the town from above, and maybe get a peek at the volcano erupting.
As a hugely popular tourist destination, Banos is overrun with hotels, restaurants and other traveler amenities all within close distance of the main plaza.
Banos is home to countless hostels and hotels and all travelers should be able to find an option that suits. From cheap hostels with dorm rooms, to luxury out-of-town spa hotels, Banos has something for everyone. Most of the options are within a few blocks of the main plaza and the nightlife, though you may want to consider avoiding the streets closest to the night action if you’re hoping for a decent night’s sleep.
Banos restaurants allow the visitor to choose between food options from all over the world, including some of the favorites which are French, Italian, Swiss and Mexican. It is also possible to find typical local food and cheap set meal options. Close to the artisan market, you will see Ecuadorian specialty, cuy (guinea pig) for sale. Banos is a good place to try this traditional option.
Banos nightlife is not to be missed. Numerous bars and clubs line the streets offering all variety of different nightlife opportunities for those who want to party-hardy. A favorite option for many travelers, is to take a night time trip in a chiva to the volcano viewpoint (which also has a great view of the town), with the hopes of catching a glimpse of Tungurahua erupting. The local drink, Canelazo, made from sugar cane alcohol, is commonly served on these two-hour trips.
Banos is easily accessible from Quito and the main way to get there is on a local bus. The journey takes around three to four hours, and the bus passes along the Pan-American highway, passing through local towns Latacunga and Ambato. If you’re lucky, on clear day you’ll get a glimpse of Cotopaxi on the way, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. The bus will drop you on the edge of town, just a short walk from the center.
Banos is a relatively safe place to stay, though it is important for visitors to understand the usual risks of pickpocketing and spiked drinks. Aside from these issues, tourists should check the status of Tungurahua ahead of their visit, to avoid traveling to Banos at times when the volcano is likely to have a major eruption.