Home > Ecuador > Baños, Ecuador: Thermal Springs (Part Two)

Baños, Ecuador: Thermal Springs (Part Two)

After the short walk in downtown Baños (“Baths”), we head for our hotel to check in and have lunch… Even what should be a logistic stop becomes the source of pleasant surprises…. The Hotel is located atop a high hill, overlooking the city, which, from here, looks like a child’s magical painting, a maze of colors and the small town nestled at the bottom of a bowl-shaped deep and small valley, crushed between towering hills and the steep slopes of the mighty Tungurahua volcano. The view is truly breath taking, more so when we discover that this is the backdrop we have from most of the rooms, as well as the social areas.  The Hotel, actually situated on the very foothills of the active and temperamental volcano, also features a fully equipped top class Spa….. No wonder, if the entire area sits over an active geological cauldron…..

After enjoying a luncheon of local delicacies, we descend the steep cobble-stoned country road, with Willy carefully maneuvering along the narrow winding lane.  Back in the city of Baños, we first explore the popular public Thermal Baths, for which the city is famous.  One of the oldest ones sits by a vertical rocky cliff, complete with a spectacular cascade tumbling down more than 50 meters.  The pools complex teems with people, a mix of locals and national Ecuadorian tourists, mingling with some foreign travelers, mainly young, but all eagerly enjoying the warm sulfurous waters, while others eagerly look for soothing some body ailing in these volcanic waters.

Ivan decides to take a dip in one of the warm water pools and then shifts into a freezing cold shower, and repeats the process several times…. I rather enjoy a photo taking session…. Once Ivan emerges from his thermal experience, we walk along the busy center of Baños, a very international little village, with an international ambiance: pizza outlets and French restaurants, next to traditional Ecuadorian cuisine; many signs in English and even German and some other foreign languages, plenty of internet cafés and numerous discotheques and bars for the enjoyment of a predominantly national and international young crowd…  Another surprise for us is to see the numerous travel agencies and local tour operators, most of them small enterprises, yet offering a vast variety of touring alternatives, from scenic rides aboard the popular and very local “chivas”, open-sided buses, to the most advanced extreme sports such as kayaking on the roaring waters of the Pastaza River; rafting, tubing, canoeing, canopying, wall and rock climbing, mountain biking and all else you can imagine on such environs….

Baños is a heaven for sports and adventure lovers and the town responds with an ample offer of activities.  The surroundings are astounding and provide the perfect venues for this kind of activities.  Now we drive along the deep and narrow gorge of the Pastaza, stopping at the “Devil’s Cauldron” to admire an amazing view of the river well over two hundred feet below, roaring and tumbling as it descends towards the vast Amazonian plains…  Further down the road, a string of cascades, including the beautiful “Bride’s Veil”, are a marvel for the eyes and great for picture ops…. No wonder Baños and its surroundings has been known, for decades in Ecuador, as the Gateway to the Amazon…  Actually, just a one hour ride would bring us already to El Puyo, one of the most antique human settlements on Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest.  The vegetation is lush and exuberant; myriads of orchids and bromeliads compete with ferns and mosses, whilst amazingly colorful butterflies and birds fly incessantly around….

Sunset finds us back at the Hotel’s terrace, sipping a cocktail and watching this natural paradise…. Just a short break before a relaxing Spa treatment, prior to dinner and, yet, a night outing to mix with the crowds on some of the lively bars and discos, to enjoy music, conversation and the delightful Ecuadorian beer…..  Above us, the awesome Tungurahua volcano is quiet and clear tonight, whilst, higher above thousands of stars twinkle over Baños, as if they had all decided to concentrate only over this small, semi-hidden (yet easily accessible) outpost, one more of Ecuador’s natural wonders and a great tourism destination…..

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