We’d heard great things from friends about Baños de Agua Santa, so we decided to head there after our time in Quito. Commonly referred to as Baños (Spanish for “baths”), it is a small city a few hours south of Quito popular to both foreign and Ecuadorean tourists because of the hot springs and adventure activities.
When we arrived in Baños, we had a short walk to our hostel where we were greeted with amazing views from our room. Baños has some great hiking trails, so one day we set out to do a hike that was supposedly only two hours up and one hour down - easy, right? I’m not sure the last time our hostel owner did this trek, but either his timing is off or he is in way better shape than we are! It only took us 30 minutes to make it to Bellavista, a steep hill that has beautiful views of Baños. At this point we were pretty confident in our hiking abilities, assuming that of the two hours up, we were already halfway there.
Oh man, were we wrong. It ultimately took us at least 2 more hours to reach the top! The trails were not well marked, half the time we were on a road, and whenever we came across other hikers making their way down, we had to confirm we were still going the correct way. We had met another guy who had gotten lost several times that day and didn’t want to end up in his shoes. Eventually we made it to Casa del Árbol (The Treehouse), which is famous for its Swing at the End of the World and has killer views of the Tungurahua volcano on clear days. Of course it was cloudy so you couldn’t actually see the snow-capped, active volcano but the other views were still amazing.
In addition to hiking, we were also planning to bike along the Ruta de las Cascadas. This scenic route from Baños to Puyo has numerous waterfalls, and you can rent a bike in town for only $5/day! However, we were both coming down with colds the day we planned to do this and spending several hours biking in the rain probably wasn’t going to be the best way to get healthy. Instead we rode a chiva, a colorful open-air bus that stops at all the sights with Latin music blaring as loud as possible. It was a great way to see the waterfalls, even if our eardrums were blown out by the end of the trip.
In addition to nature, we also had to check out the beer scene! At Stray Dog Brew Pub, a small microbrewery, we tried an Irish Red and the Mora Sabora, a fruit beer made with local Andean berries. We also tried some beers from two other Ecuadorian breweries, which were all pretty good! From Sabai we tried their Chaquiñán IPA and Cerveza con Guayusa, which is made with an Amazonian plant that is often brewed as tea for its health benefits and mega amounts of caffeine. At Amarelo Cafe & Resturant down the street, we found two beers on tap (a rarity - most bars only have bottled beers) from Cherusker, including their oatmeal stout La Negra and strong ale Super Doble. The only disappointing part was that we learned both breweries are based in Quito, so we missed out on our chance to visit the source. Maybe next time!