Baños and Cuenca

In the heart of Ecuador within volcanoes and mountains lies Baños de Agua Santa. The village is a favorite with tourists for its offer in adventure sports. One of the nearby volcanoes gets locals worried every now and then since its been regularly erupting since 2000.

We went there after the Quilotoa Trek to have some days of relaxation. We loved the wide range of restaurants in town, even though the place felt a bit swamped with international tourists and tour agencies. 

Swing at casa arbol

While there we took the bus up to the Casa del Arbol, the tree house, from which you can swing and have a look at the active volcano Tungurahua nearby. Unfortunately it was covered in clouds when we went up there but the swing still is a lot of fun. We decided to walk back down to town but as the path was incredibly steep and slippery it wasn’t very enjoyable. We recommend for everyone to just take the bus both ways:-). 

Hot springs

Before becoming an adventure capital (bungee, canyoning …) the town was already a popular spa destination for local tourists. We visited one of the two thermal springs, Piscinas de la Virgen, which is right in town. Before going we bought some stylish swimming caps at a shop next doors for 50c. The water is rather brownish and varies in temperature. Upstairs there is a warm one just under the waterfall, as well as a freezing one to cool down. We tried to go in the downstairs one (45 degrees) but we just couldn’t manage. We enjoyed the hot springs but the location is rather run down and overcrowded.

Cuenca was our last destination in Ecuador before heading to Peru. It’s the country’s third largest city (300.000 inhabitants) but doesn’t feel like it at all. The center has beautiful colonial architecture, a declared UNESCO world heritage site, and is rather European looking. You can find all types of national and international cuisine and the city is very popular with expats from around the world. 

Cuenca is also the city of hats and the Panama hat comes from there. Ecuadorians sent them to the workers at the Panama Canal where they got their name. We checked out the Museo del Sombrero and went hat shopping. They are all hand made on spot and cost around 20-40USD.

Cuenca also features an archaeological site at the Museo Pumapungo, the city of Tomebamba one of the most important sites for the Incas, as well as information on indigenous Ecuadorian people. 

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Tips:

  • Parque Hotel Suites: we got a good online deal for 40USD per night for a huge suite with balconies facing the old cathedral. 
  • Eat Pakistani food at Taj Mahal, a nice change to local cuisine.
  • Fancy food at the city’s best restaurant El Mercado overlooking the river.
  • Free guided tour organized by the local tourism office to get a good overview of town. 
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