Banos, Ecuador, is an adrenaline junkies heaven! It’s position in a valley at the base of Volcan Tungurahua couldn’t be better for opening up a world of outdoor opportunities. Competition is high amongst tour operators which has driven prices down to a very reasonable level.
We have summarised our favourite outdoor activities in Banos in this blog post. If, however, you are stuck there on a rainy day be sure to check out our post with alternative rainy day activities.
Views of the valley from the road connecting Banos and Puyo
Cycling from Banos to Puyo
This was by far one of our favourite activities in Banos and one of our main reasons for heading here. There are a few of different cycle routes around the area but the big one is the 60km ride from Banos to Puyo. It might sounds like a long way, but it is almost all downhill.
The road follows the Rio Pastaza as it winds down the valley towards the amazon jungle. It is a relatively well trodden cycle route and we found the cars were pretty considerate towards bicycles. The main road goes through a number of tunnels but at all but one of these tunnels there is an alternative scenic path for bikes to take.
The views from the road are stunning. As you near Puyo the scenery changes to more flatter, marshy jungle. There are multiple optional pit-stops which can be taken en route including about 5 different waterfalls. We didn’t venture to these but we did stop for a great little smoothie halfway in San Fransisco.
At Puyo we headed to the bus station and caught the bus back to Banos ($2.50pp + $1 per bike). Buses leave Puyo pretty regularly and if you don’t want to cycle the whole way to Puyo the bus will pick you up at any point along the road in between Banos and Puyo.
Bikes can be hired from any tour operator in Banos. Basic bikes cost $5/day and newer mountain bikes cost $10/day.
Open mountain roads, perfect for cycling down
For first timers, like us, rafting in Banos was a baptism of fire. We were thrown in at the deep end, both figuratively and literally.
The Rio Pastaza has a series of Class III+ and Class IV Rapids. When we booked these were just arbitrary numbers to me, but I now know these are bloody big rapids, especially in wet season!
After a quick 20 minute zero to hero brief we were off in the raft. We didn’t start off with the best of luck; on our first rapid our raft hit a rock and the boat flipped. I landed in the water with the boat and 5 lads on top of me. I felt like I was stuck under the water for aaages but I am told it was really no longer than 10 seconds.
Eventually I was coaxed (I’d like to use the word tricked here) back onto the raft and slowly started enjoying myself again. I can’t say the next hour went smoothly, but we did stay on board the raft for the majority of it.
A half day rafting trip costs $25 inclusive of transport, wet suits and lunch.
These were not little rapids!
There are a number of hiking trails around Banos, most exploring the lower slopes of Volcan Tungurahua. We had a number of rainy days there so didn’t explore these fully but did have a very pleasant walk up to La Virgin where we got fantastic views over the town of Banos.
A popular longer walk is up to Casa del Árbol. The hike takes around 4 hours. Once you get to the Tree House you can enjoy swinging over the edge of the valley.
Views over Banos from La Virgen monument
Our blog post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Canyoning in Banos. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to give this a go but it is very popular.
A half day canyoning trip costs $25pp.
Picking a tour operator
All tour operators offer pretty much the same price for these excursions. Geotours are one of the original tour operators and probably come with one of the strongest reputations. We went with Wonderful Ecuador who were fantastic. They provided us with all the safety equipment we could need, including a puncture repair kit when we hired bikes. They even bought my driving licence to me in my hotel after I forgot to pick it up when we returned out bikes!
If you are coming from Latacunga you have to take a taxi to a roundabout known as ‘La Lateral’ which is a few miles out of town. A taxi will cost $5. You will literally be dropped off on the side of a motorway roundabout but frequent buses to Banos will stop there to pick you up.
From Cuenca there are direct buses to Banos but they are infrequent. It’s often easier to get a bus to Riobamba and change there.
We are Nic and Kingsley… we married and now we are Kic (sic). We are currently taking some time out of our busy careers to travel Central and South America. This blog will detail our adventures from the volcanoes of Nicaragua down to the mountains of Peru. Hope you enjoy reading and let us know what you think!