BAÑOS / about 7 hours inland from Guayaquil you will find the adventure capital of Ecuador. Home to Volcán Tungurahua and amazing tropical scenery, Baños is a definite stop to make when travelling north. As we had a flight booked to the Galápagos Islands, we could only afford to stay two nights. However, we spoke to a number of travellers who were staying 4-5 nights or even a week. The weather wasn’t the best for our time but we didn’t let that stop us. We ended up having just one full day to explore the town and it’s surroundings. The centre streets are filled with tour agencies advertising every activity you can imagine. Biking, canyoning, rafting, bungee jumping, zip lining, hiking, you name it, they can offer it to you. It’s almost like the Queenstown of South America. The waterfall of Pailón del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron) is a must do, especially if you want to get that amazing photograph where the water is cascading across the stairs winding around the rock face. The road down to the falls from the village is fairly bike friendly and was a nice way to spend our first morning. Taking about two hours, mostly downhill, you peddle (or roll) through an abundance of waterfalls before reaching the ultimate waterfall. There are two spots to take in the mammoth quantity of water streaming down the jungle landscape. The first is from the bottom. Steps spiraling around the rock face and a suspension bridge allow you to get really wet and take in the H2O from the lower side. Then a short walk back towards Baños to the second viewing point. Two suspension bridges overlooking the stairs and Diablo goodness. It is in this spot that you get a real appreciation for the size of the waterfall and the creative design and execution of the steps looping around the rocks.
Back in Baños and for just $1 you can get a bus up the mountain to find the Instafamous Casa del Abuela, also know as the swing at the end of the world. It was so foggy and cloudy when we arrived at the swing. Normally you get an epic view of the volcano whilst swinging and it is the perfect spot to watch the sunrise or sunset. Unfortunately a mist impeded our views of the volcano and sunset but we still managed to swing high and enjoy the feeling of flying.
COTOPAXI / Cotopaxi National Park is home to the famous Volcán Cotopaxi towering at an impressive 5897m above sea level. If you’re after a place that is active, challenging, nourishing but also relaxing and calming you’ve found the spot! Secret Garden Cotopaxi welcomed us with open arms and was the perfect destination to explore and absorb the surrounding nature. The view from the accommodation, overlooking volcanoes and mountains, was spectacular. Mobile phones and WiFi are taboo so be prepared to leave your reality behind – you’ll be amazed at how quickly this helps you to unwind. On our first afternoon we did a short hike to two little waterfalls and then back down the stream, jumping between river stones. Pizza night for dinner, vegan and gluten free pizza, so scrumptious paired with some vino tinto. The following day we summited Volcán Rumiñahui, a dormant volcano standing next to its more active friend, Cotopaxi. The hike was a little tough at the end, quite steep but the view was spectacular. When the clouds cleared you got glimpses of Cotopaxi with its reddy base and snow capped top. Back to our cubby house at Secret Garden at about 3pm and then a short travel to Quito on a local bus. A stop on the way to Quito that is a definite must! Even if you don’t do a hike, the serenity and hospitality of Secret Garden make for the perfect setting.
Much love, Laura xx