Banos is a town about 3.5 hours from Quito, Ecuador. Go to Quitumbe station and find one of the sellers offering trips to Banos. There are plenty and it’s $3 each for a one way trip. The buses have reclining seats, toilets and are quite comfortable. Put your suitcase underneath and hold your valuables for the trip. We heard you can get robbed if you don’t take good care of your belongings, particularly on the overnight buses.
Once you arrive at Banos, you’re at an elevation of 1860m and you’ll find yourself in a town surrounded by mountains, unspoilt Andean forest, fog, cobblestone streets and plenty of hostels. We booked before we came but you can easily find accommodation here. We paid $20 a night for a private room with a bathroom, tv, breakfast and wifi.
There’s so many places to eat that are cheap and you can easily get lunch from $1.50 for a burger or $3 for set Ecuadorian lunch. There’s also upscale restaurants that might set you back $15 pp at the most.
You’ll see heaps of stalls selling melcocha (taffy) in the form of chewy and hard lollies.
There’s plenty of tour companies offering trips to the waterfalls, big swing, rafting, mountain biking, canopy zip lining and more. Find yourself a good deal. We did the waterfall bus tour for $5pp.
We loved this town and thoroughly recommend it for a visit.
Where to stay
Balcon De Cielo
I found this hotel on booking.com and selected it for its spot near the San Fransisco bridge with a nice outlook. It also had good reviews. At $75 for three nights, it was a bargain. The private room was spacious with a double bed as well as two bunks, a bathroom, television and towels provided. The bathroom doesn’t have toiletries so be sure to bring your own. They say they have wi Fi but it doesn’t work in the rooms, only downstairs. Despite the fact there isn’t a heater or aircon, the room stayed warm. It was quiet and very clean.
The cost included breakfast, including a super fresh bread roll, cold meat and cheese, a small plate of scrambled egg, a pineapple juice and coffee. Our last day also has a bowl of fruit.
They have a cheap laundry service too.
They don’t speak much English at all but we worked it out through phone translators and the staff are very friendly and accommodating.
Where to eat
The food in Banos is top notch. We had both basic local options, the set lunch and also had a superb meal at a more pricy option too.
The Mercado (central marketplace) has numerous stalls offering local foods like the Hornado – suckling pork with llapingacho (potatoes) fritters, salad, chorizo or your choice of meat. This was very delicous and good value for the price. We also tried cuy, the grilled guinea pig – for a hot tip, ask for the rear legs, as they have more meat. The taste was on a mix of chicken and rabbit, not overly gamey.
A set lunch, or almuerzo will only set you back about 3 dollars with a drink, sopa (soup), carne/pollo/pork with rice and salad. We enjoyed these lunches as we were on a budget and it allowed us to spend more at dinner time.
We also became a big fan of their Maracuya (passion fruit) jugo (juice) and also it’s addition to cocktails.
We enjoyed our visits to Amarelo Restaurant which is claimed to be a Mediterranean fusion restaurant, with Argentinean and Ecuadorian influence. This restaurant is in the centre of town. Think grilled prawns, octopus, carpachiou, risotto, paella, salad and soups, salmon and steaks.
We ordered the house salad with lettuce, spinach, shrimp, matchstick potatoes, roasted red peppers, orange vinaigrette and topped with a red beet crisp.
We also ordered the tenderloin medallion on volcanic stone served with Andean potatoes, vegetables, and a tossed salad. This is an awesome steak, very tender and highly recommended that you try this if in Banos. The accompanying chimichurri and bearnaise were both very tasty, as were the little potatoes. The portion is large and it is a great value meal for $11.
Drink wise, they have microbrewed beers, wines and I enjoyed a vodka with Maracuya (passion fruit).
We enjoyed it so much we returned for the medallion as well as a superb beef carpaccio and maracuya cheesecake.
We went here for a drink, owned by some guys from Chicago, it’s a brew pup with a few good beers on tap. They do sell food and spirits as well.
Honey, coffee and tea.
This became our regular for a good coffee each morning. They also sell patisserie goods, sandwiches. We also found it to have good wi Fi.
Plantas y Blanco
We spotted this restaurant walking by. It appealed to us with its Japanese like set up. With a fire place and low couches to sit on the floor, it was very inviting. However, it was not Japanese, rather upscale Ecuadorian fare. The food was less than $10 USD for some amazing trout that was nicely prepared with crisp skin and the flesh perfectly cooked served on top of cucumber, tomatoes and seasoned nicely with dill. The chicken with vegetables was also tasty. This restaurant also had a selection of beer and Chilean wine.
Where to visit
Sadly the Las Modernas pools with water slides were closed, but we visited the Las Piscinas de La Virgen which stays open til 9:30. It’s a $3 entry. There’s a cold, warm and hot bath that is 42 degrees. It’s great for a visit to soak those muscles and you can mingle with the friendly locals. Be sure to take a towel and swimming cap or you’ll need to rent them. Whilst they look old and not too hygienic, we found the experience good. There’s administration areas with “lockers” or someone to look after your bags, as well as change rooms.
You can head out of town in a cab to Piscina El Salado for some other well recommended hot springs.
This said, there seems to be all kinds of hot springs around, public and also private within the hotels.
At an elevation of 2200 m, it is one of the fancier hotels you will see around Banos and well worth a visit. For a fee, you can use the facilities in cluding the hot springs which consist of 4 pools and jacuzzi, all supplied with volcanic thermal water. We were not staying at the hotel, but for a $20 fee it was well worthwhile. This included hot spring access, rental of a towel, swimming cap which was mandatory and also provided us with a bathrobe. You can order from the pool bar and have drinks, as well as food brought to you in the hot springs. This place has an amazing view of the city both by day and night. We recommend visiting late afternoon as you can take advantage of the daytime and nighttime views. It is such a nice quiet place to enjoy a the hot springs, though it is not nearly as warm as the springs in town.
La Casa Del Arbol, tree swing at the end of the world
There’s plenty of swing style adrenaline activities in Banos, but La Casa Del Arbol is the original. Set from a treehouse are two swings (made from steel now) and you can sit on the swing and get pushed out into the clear air or clouds depending on the day’s weather. If it’s clear, you should see he Tungurahua volcano. It’s quite a fun activity for adults! For kids, there’s some smaller swings and a mini zip line. Entry is $1 and then tip the guy pushing the swing an amount of your choice. Organise a ride, a taxi or a bus up there. You can also have a bite to eat and a beer or two, the empanadas are delicious and cheap too, they will set you back 50c.
Pailón Del Diablo
This is worth a visit for the amazing waterfalls there. Take the 5 dollar Chivas, which is much like a party bus, as they pump the tunes. Sit in the back and you can have a bit of fun mixing it up on the stripper pole, which is not so easy on a moving bus.
The Chivas will take you to a few waterfalls, to see or partake in the adrenaline activities like; Bola Extrema (swinging ball), canopy triple (zip line) and the cable car at Tarabita Agoyan.
Whilst it isn’t too comfortable as it is pretty rough and squashed and open to the weather, it is a cheap and fun way to see the sites.
We were in the town for three nights which was probably the perfect amount of time. We would definitely recommend you pay Banos a visit.