Volcanoes and Hot Springs of Banos, Ecuador
By Mike Yaeger and Matt Lepkowski
In every country, exists a city that draws expatriates and tourists alike, offering a little bit of home in a foreign land. In Ecuador, that city is called Baños - a small, sleepy, but exciting town of 12,000 people situated on a high alpine plateau (5,971 feet) between several mountains including the 16,479 ft. volcano peak of Tungurahua hidden in the clouds.
This is a jumping off point for many tourists climbing volcanoes, starting horsepack trips, or going into the Oriente. The Oriente (literally "East") is the area East of Baños where the elevation drops and tributaries of the Amazon river form. This region contains Ecuadors rainforests.
This waterfall towers over the town of Banos
Almost every street corner has a tour guide, horse rental, backpacking or outdoor equipment store. There are many restaurants and bars run by expatriates, and overall the town exudes a very relaxed atmosphere with the feel of an American or European college town.
Wandering the streets of Baños provides a number of lodging options, from fairly nice pension style hotels to the standard cheap hotels found throughout the rest of the country. We had arranged previously to meet another traveler at the Isla de Baños with the hopes that we would stay there as well. However, although quite nice with lush gardens and a wood-beamed lobby, it is expensive by Baños standards - about 7.50 USD per night. Our friend hadnt arrived due to the strikes effecting travel, so they let us leave a message for him at the hotel.
Top floor of Hotel Residencial Banos, with it's central courtyard
We ended up at the more reasonable area of town surrounding the town market and Parque Central, where the streets are lined with inexpensive hotels and hostels. The Hotel Residencial Baños (Phone 740-284) is located on Ambato Ave. and has basic rooms with or without private baths and hot water. We talked to the friendly owner in Spanish for a few minutes and managed to negotiate a price of 2.50 USD per night. But, it was low season and the hotel was empty. The "normal" rates were 3.50 - 4 USD per night.