Baños has adventure at its beating heart. Surrounded by lush forest in the lap of Mount Tungurahua, it’s a gateway to the Amazon basin in Ecuador. You can zip-line over the treetops, raft on the fast waters of the River Pastaza, and trek the jungle trails. Downtown, there's a colourful mix of markets, shops and picturesque squares. Baños is also home to the Termas de la Virgen, hot thermal baths where travellers can soak after an adrenaline-fuelled day of exploring.
Hostels in Baños include a mix of traditional guesthouses on the edge of town and modern dorms in downtown buildings. You can choose a thatched roof lodge with hammocks on the porch, a quiet cabana surrounded by gardens, or a fun-loving hostel with wall art and an outdoor fire pit. Most Baños hostels have free Wi-Fi and hangout areas with sofas and beanbags. To meet others over a home-cooked meal, look out for those with a restaurant or café.
Downtown Baños is small enough to explore on foot. Wander around the main strip of Ambato Street and you’ll see sellers making melcocha, a sweet treat made from sugar cane. The market in the centre of town is a hive of activity where you can pick up traditional dishes from the food stalls. To dance salsa with the locals, head to the late-night clubs and bars of the Zona Rosa along Eloy Alfaro Street.
There are many cascading waterfalls in Baños, and the Ruta de las Cascadas is a 60km track to take them in. The impressive Pailon del Diablo is at the end of the route and you can climb right under the falls for a soaking. To get your heart thumping, try high-energy activities like rock climbing on lava cliffs, extreme canoeing or paragliding in the clouds. Casa del Arbol is known as the Swing at the End of the World. Hop on and hold on for sky-high views of the Mount Tungurahua volcano and beyond.
The small bus station in Baños is a few streets from the main square and has buses arriving from other towns and cities in Ecuador. The journey from Quito takes around 3.5 hours, leaving from the Quitumbe bus terminal. It’s a 7-hour trip if you’re coming from Guayaquil. You can walk around Baños or hire a bike to cycle the trails. Pick up a taxi at the bus station for longer trips – they're unmetered, so don't forget to agree on a price before you go.