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So far, I feel like my Ecuador posts have been falling a bit flat, and I think that’s because ya’ll have been feeling the residual hangover of the little depression I was in while I was there. But that just makes me even more excited to begin writing about Baños — because here, this tiny highland town in the Andes, this was the highlight of Ecuador for me.

Can you see why already? There was a palpable energy in what has been nicknamed the “Adventure Capital of Ecuador,” brought on by a combination of crisp mountain air, endless lush vistas, welcoming locals and a lively backpacker scene.

The fact that we were there over the New Year public holiday didn’t hurt. People were in a celebrating mood, and everyone we passed had a smile — or a free sample of sugarcane — to offer.

Downtown Baños has maintained considerable charm, impressive taking into account the city’s major tourism appeal. Here we found our favorite hostel in all of Ecuador, as well as a respectable lineup of restaurants, cafes, day spas, and bars.

Of course, most people don’t come to Baños to stay within the city limits.

The biggest draw to Baños is undoubtedly its endless menu of adventure activities at rock-bottom prices. From $25 rafting trips to $10 ziplines, spiking your heart rate Baños-style can cost less than a round of Red Bulls back home (results are inconclusive as to its wing-giving abilities).

In just six days, we had enough adventures to sate your average adrenaline junkie for at least a few months. We rented ATVs and drove to a secret treehouse in the hills. We battled trucks biking the infamous waterfall route. We ziplined a third of a mile over a deep river valley. We rappelled down a jungle canyon. We rafted the toughest rapids I’ve ever faced. We rung in the New Year dancing in the streets while giant statues burned all around us. I think the week more than earned the adjective epic.

There will be many a post more about those activities in detail. For now, you can see a little hint of what’s coming in Anders’ excellent roundup video.

Thank you, Baños, for showing me the magic of Ecuador.

Practical Info

Where I stayed: Great Hostels Backpackers
Where I ate: Cafe Hood and Casa Hood (supposedly each owned by half of a divorced ex-couple) each serve healthy international options
How I got there: We paid $9US for a bus from Guayaquil to Banos.
Bonus Tip: Be prepared that your bus will arrive hours earlier than planned. Our bus left at 11pm and was meant to arrive in Baños seven hours later. We got there at four in the morning.

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35 Comments...
  • Jasmine Brown
    February 10 2014

    I never knew Ecuador could be this fun. Nice pictures by the way.

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      Thanks Jasmine! I didn’t know much about Ecuador before I arrived in South America. It pleasantly surprised me in this case 🙂

  • tammyonthemove
    February 10 2014

    I am so glad you liked Banos. I loved it there when I went a few years ago. It is so pretty with the surrounding mountains and jungles. Love the last photo by the way!
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      I remember you recommending it to me when I first mentioned I was going to Ecuador 🙂 It was a good suggestion!

  • Jade
    February 10 2014

    Anders’ video is awesome! I definitely need to start adding more adventurous activities into my travels as these all look awesome.
    The last picture of you is lovely by the way!
    Jade recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      Aw, thanks Jade! I was thinking about making it my new Meihoukai in Wanderland profile picture 🙂 And yes — adventures all the way!

  • Laura
    February 10 2014

    I never realized Banos was so big with the adventure sports. Sounds like such a fun place! The mountains look beautiful and it looks like you guys did so many fun things.
    Laura recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      That’s pretty much what people come here for! And at those prices, there is no reason not to give it a try.

  • J in Beijing
    February 11 2014

    Oh this post brings back so many memories! I visited Banos nearly 7 years ago now (I actually cannot believe it was that long ago now!). I remember hiring a bike and cycling around, nearly dropping my camera in a river and then hitching a lift back to the hostel in the back of a truck when we couldn’t be bothered to cycle anymore. It’s a really fun and beautiful town and I’m glad you were happy there. 🙂
    J in Beijing recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      I wonder how much the place has changed in seven years! To me it still seemed quite charming but I met a few people in Ecuador who deemed it “too touristy.” I thought it had the perfect balance. Glad you loved it too!

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    February 11 2014

    Such a cute video! I’m going to give video-making a try soon as well. I think it’ll be a little nerve wrecking to be on film though! My boyfriends’ gopro sadly just sits in his laptop bag unused… something isn’t right about that! Looks like you had more adventures that week than someone might have in a lifetime!

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      We love our GoPros! Anders is really creative in shooting with his and it definitely inspires me. I am not a huge fan of being on camera but I have gotten more and more used to it with one always in my face!

  • Oliver
    February 11 2014

    I think I have seen this treehouse and “the swing at the abyss” before, but wasn’t aware this place is in Ecuador actually… Looks fantastic! 🙂
    Lovely impressions Meihoukai, thanks for sharing!
    Oliver recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      I met someone on the road who told me that it was in a big Buzzfeed story or something that went viral, and it was the whole reason they went to Ecuador! I was amazed. The power of the internet, eh? 🙂

  • Dad
    February 11 2014

    Never heard of Banos but it looks great and the video is excellent

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      I will pass on your compliment to Anders!

  • Janice Stringer
    February 11 2014

    Love the white water rafting!

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      I have a whole post about it coming up soon!

  • Steve
    February 11 2014

    It certainly looks like you found the magic of Ecuador. It is one of those place I’d never consider visiting before. Another great video by Anders.
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    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      I really think it’s worth coming all the way to Ecuador for, for someone who really loves adventure sports. Such a cool destination!

  • Shaun
    February 11 2014

    I MUST GO! I’m on board with all those activities. And that price! I’m all over it. I bet there’s great hiking through all the mountains as well.
    Shaun recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 11 2014

      I think you would love it! Maybe your next vacation destination? 🙂

  • Emma
    February 11 2014

    I’m gutted I missed Baños. It was a decision between Baños and Cuenca. I’m looking forward to seeing what could have been!

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2014

      We ended up making a last-minute detour to Cuenca before our flight out of the country, and were so glad we did! Definitely a tough call!

  • Emma
    February 11 2014

    video looks amazing! 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2014

      Thanks Emma! I’ll pass on the kudos!

  • Mita
    February 11 2014

    WOW! you guys have really good times there! And Ander’s video inspired me a lot to buy a Go Pro.

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2014

      If you buy it through one of the Amazon links on this site so I can earn an affiliate commission, I’d be forever grateful. But wherever you buy it, you’re going to love it! Enjoy!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    February 11 2014

    Loving that shot of Anders on the swing!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 12 2014

      Apparently there is a crazy view, sadly we missed it because of the cloud cover!

  • Sebastian | Off The Path
    February 17 2014

    Ecuador just made it onto the bucket list! Thanks for inspiring Meihoukai!
    Sebastian | Off The Path recently posted..

  • phoebe nygren
    May 29 2015

    Meihoukai-

    I am so so glad I have found your blog! I am currently planning my trip to Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru- and it has been really hard to find great blogs and information about South America….AND THEN I FOUND YOU! So I am currently going through your posts about all these countries. Thank you so much! Anyways, can’t wait to read more 🙂

    febes
    phoebe nygren recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      May 31 2015

      Hey febes! Thank you so much for reading — I’m glad you found me and that my posts have been helpful so far. Sounds like you have quite the trip planned! Enjoy the archives… and your travels! 🙂