Lost in Ecuador: Sink or Swim in Baños

Adventure Travel, Couples Travel, Ecuador, Food & Wine, Hostels, Tours & Attractions — By on March 18, 2008 at 7:30 pm

In Spanish, the word baños actually means “bathroom,” so I found it amusing that an entire town christened was such (but I promise to spare you attempts at potty humor in this post). My bf Jeff and I learned that the name actually refers to the thermal hot springs, or baths, that well up from underneath the town or fed by nearby waterfalls.

City planners turned these springs into series of separate soaking pools ranging from cool, to pleasantly warm to insanely, painfully hot (50 degrees C!). We recommend Las Piscinas de la Virgen, the only baths in town open at night. For $2.00, you can relax in the water with a few dozen strangers, sticking around until your fingers and are downright pruney. Technically, you’re not supposed to bring any alcoholic beverages, but we can assure that no one’s actually checking your water bottle.

The only thing that makes an evening soak run even more enjoyable? Getting yourself good and sore first with one of the innumerable adventure activities you can sign up for in town (or, in some cases, execute yourself).

Most tour operators lead white-water rafting and canyoning expeditions, lead hikes up the Tungurahua volcano, rent bikes for rides through La Ruta de Las Cascadas (route of the waterfalls) and the most testosterone-fueled option of all: bridge jumping.

Rather than a bungee cord, which helps you to slow your speed as you fall hundreds of feet, bridge jumping uses a distinctly non-stretchy rope. Your lifeline is simply tied to another bridge; rather than falling straight down, you jump off and swing in a wide arc. Here’s a look at some other crazy fool who made the leap and recorded the experience:

Once you’ve tested your mettle, burned some calories and made it back to town safely, you’ll be justified in treating yourself to some serious grub. On Ambato Street, between Halflants and Eloy Alfaro, you’ll find the restaurant row of Baños: Drop into La Calderada (“the kettle”) for some seriously delicious international specialties (they’ve got meat lasagna on the menu next to grilled meats) or Buono Pizza for a pie (tasty crust, but a little light on the red sauce).

Then round out your evening by bar hopping along Eloy Alfaro street–depending upon the night, you can sway along with Bob Marley cover bands, salsa dance with locals, watch scruffy traveler boys trying to pick up cute backpacker girls or just sit back and enjoy the gigantic bottle of Pilsner that only set you back a buck.

Once you’re good and toasted ($4 will do it!), you can impress all of the other tourists with your incredible karaoke stylings. Jeff really wowed the crowed with his Johnny Cash impression-the drunken Germans at the bar even bought us a drink to show their appreciation!

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