Leave your inhibitions at home. They won’t suit you here.
It’s not every day that you can fling yourself off a bridge over waters of the Amazon Basin—but in Baños, it’s one of many thrilling and typical activities. This valley town is only four hours by bus from bustling Quito and has everything you need for an adrenaline-pumping itinerary. The fusion of the Andes Mountains and dense, sprawling jungle makes for a stunning setting with verdant greenery met by misty mornings … and did we mention there’s an active volcano next door, too? A visit to Baños encapsulates all that adventure seekers dream of.
Baños has earned the title of Ecuador’s adventure capital, and here’s why.
There’s a Giant Bridge to Jump and Swing From
The infamous Baños bridge swing feels like a fusion of skydiving, bungee jumping, and casual swinging all wrapped up into one big daredevil dream. The unafraid can plunge 80 meters from San Francisco Bridge, enjoy a free fall, and take a swing back and forth above the flowing waters of Pastaza River. It’s the longest and tallest bridge around, clocking in at 100 meters. If a shorter height assuages your nerves, opt for the smaller bridge, which is about 15 minutes from the main jump site. It’s common to show up and pay for a jump in person, but you can also prearrange with a tour service like Imagine Ecuador.
INSIDER TIPOther than a harness and some hearty encouragement, there is no insurance or strict safety regulation. Jump at your own risk!
You Can Hike up an Active Volcano
Hiking around a dormant volcano is one thing—but scaling one of active status takes it to another level. Tungurahua Volcano is one of two active volcanoes in Sangay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site neighboring Baños. Tungurahua can be visited for just one day or experienced in a multiple-day trek with camping at one of two refuges. If the volcano doesn’t erupt, elevation sickness might. Tungurahua’s lofty elevation of 16,145 feet at the summit makes it snow-covered year-round, so be sure to come prepared for the elements. Just when you thought this little town couldn’t get more venturesome, an active volcano gets thrown in the mix.
Canyoning, and Lots of It
If you’re looking to channel your inner ninja, canyoning is the best way to do it. In the same afternoon, you’ll be abseiling waterfalls, descending down narrow crevices, and jumping into natural pools—to name just a few activities. In Baños, the energetic Río Blanco cascades down through the mountains inviting the ever so adventurous to navigate its serpentine twists. One might question their sanity while dangling by rope over roaring waterfalls, but the sense of accomplishment afterward is undeniably rewarding. Excursions are available for beginner to professional levels from a variety of local providers, such as Geotours. Take your pick from full or half-day adventures with experienced guides and pack your best sense of humor (you might need it).
High Level Whitewater Rafting
Baños boasts Level 4 and 5 whitewater rafting: a true test of stamina and endurance. When you’re ready to hit the river, join in on a group tour with fellow travelers in the pursuit of getting soaked on a rollercoaster of a waterway. Rio Pastaza is right next to town, making it easy to head over for the class 3 and 4 rapids. You’ll want to plan your day in advance since most tours leave early in the morning. The majority of trips include lunch, transport, a snazzy wetsuit, safety gear, and a trained guide. Go with a tour agency like Ivaga and they’ll get you properly geared up.
INSIDER TIPIt’s not terribly uncommon to go overboard—whether by fate or design. Either prepare yourself or perhaps reconsider if the thought of a sudden swim is unappealing.
Climbing Waterfalls Is the Norm
You’re going to want to chase some waterfalls while you’re here (sorry, TLC). The most efficient way to see them in one swoop is by taking Ruta de Las Cascadas, a popular winding route featuring all of the best waterfalls. The route includes Pailon Del Diablo, an aptly named feat of Mother Nature that translates to “Devil’s Cauldron.” The only thing more intimidating than the name is the rainforest-slick pathway that goes behind the falls. You can climb through a narrow cavern on your way up, ducking and crouching at points to pass through. When you’re ready to get even more up close and personal, embark on a canyoning tour to abseil some of the other local falls with your bare hands. There’s nothing quite like coming face to face with powerfully thundering Amazonian waters.
INSIDER TIPGrab lunch in Río Verde, a small town near the entrance of Pailon Del Diablo. You can get a traditional almuerzo packed with amazing flavors for a fabulously reasonable price. Save room for an empanada.
Paragliding Above the Clouds
In the Ecuadorian Andes, oftentimes the clouds can’t even match the height of the mountains. Paragliding in Baños reveals new heights, bringing you face to face with fluffy strings of clouds and the tallest peaks around. A lofty jaunt in the sky gives you bird’s eye views of the town below, Tungurahua volcano, and endless stretches of jungle. You’ll see the land change from elevation, ranging from airy grasslands to the humid depths of canyons. Flyniton offers tandem flights and full courses.
INSIDER TIPThe weather can be unpredictable (to say the least). Paragliding availability depends on clear weather with suitable winds, so be sure to check in advance to guesstimate the best day to glide during your time in Baños.
Prime Cliff Diving Opportunities
It’s no shocker that a town surrounded by canyons has ample opportunities for cliff diving. When you’re not busy teetering on the edge of massive boulders, you’ll probably find yourself leaping off of them. Canyon tour participants can expect to leap from a variety of massive rocks and waterfalls into naturally formed pools below. And the best part? You don’t have to be a skilled diver to hurl yourself off the top. Rookies are welcome—so long as you’re willing to reach new heights (and careen off of them).
INSIDER TIPContact lenses are a no-go for this one.
High Speed Zip Lining
You’d be remiss to visit Baños without an adrenaline-pumping flight through the jungle via zipline. Most visitors head over to Puntzan Canopy, an expansive adventure park with 2,000 meters of cable just waiting to be zipped over. In just one minute you’ll find yourself sailing over spring green mountains, lush vegetation, and rapid rivers. There are a handful of different lengths you can choose for your ride depending on your preference and budget—and they all include the same thrill.