the banos-es of banos.

if there’s one place in Ecuador you don’t plan on going, but should – make it Banos. a sleepy little town catering to outdoorsmen-y tourist, but not in a bad way. no one comes out of their shop to sell you a hat/gloves/horse ride, but it’s there if you want it. heaps of massage parlors and a handful of good bars/restaurants – one in particular that shines. but you don’t come here for these things, you come for the thermal baths – cascading off of the mountains that surround you. and they’re fantastic. you should go. and to help prod you along, here is exactly the way of going about it:

1. head to the place in the photo, La Piscinas de La Virgen. a 10-minute walk from the center of town and the best around. either get there super early [opens at 5am] or later on in the evening [8p-ish]. during the day, quite a few locals take up the area.

2. you’ll pay $2 during the day, $3 after 6pm. walk in, and then up to the top area [the bottom bit is smaller. more crowded. grab one of the plastic containers [photo – top right] and throw your clothes, bag, etc in there and then take it all to the lady in the window. she will – for free – hold it and give you a little elastic bracelet in exchange with a number on it.

3. shower. do not offend everyone by just jumping in the pool, head to the outdoor shower [to the left of the baggage storage] and rinse off quickly.

4. into the hot springs. now, the large pool is medium warm. the smaller pool is hot. would highly suggest starting mild until you know.

5. now – here’s where everyone is different. I would go in the morning, jump in the hot springs for 5 minutes, then head to the waterfall [there’s also a cold pool and pipes with freezing water from the fall if you don’t want to walk around the corner] for 2 minutes, and then repeat this process 2 more times. it’s an amazing way to wake up and quickly became a daily routine for me. others like to soak longer [max 20 mins.] and then shower off – never coming close to the cold water. all up to you – really no wrong way of going about this.

6. towel off [bring your own – none there] and either sit in one of the pool chairs to people watch, or walk back.

… pretty simple stuff, but the best way of enjoying one of the finest towns in Ecuador.