Baños, Ecuador

A Must-Do During Any Visit To Ecuador!

The swing is located in Baños, Ecuador at a seismic monitoring station named La Casa del Árbol (The Treehouse). As the name suggests it’s a small house built in a tree, at the edge of a canyon. This spot was popularized by photos of people seemingly swinging over a cliff. In 2014 a photo taken here won an award from the National Geographic Traveler magazine. The winning photo captures a man on the swing overlooking an erupting Mt. Tungurahua.

swing

Photo by Sean Hacker Teper

This photo was the inspiration behind our trip to the swing. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to visit La Casa del Árbol. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Mr. Bean Car

Our adventure began at the airport where we waited a full hour for our rental car. Courtney (we will introduce her in a later post), Brandon, and I waited as the agent at Localiza struggled to process our reservation. Computers that wouldn’t update, a late employee, and a credit card machine that couldn’t read the numbers on my card didn’t stop us, Mr. Bean was ours! I could try to describe Mr. Bean, but instead I’ll just add a picture and let you bask in all its Korean glory!
Kia Picanto

Mr. Bean!

Getting to Baños from Quito

The 3.5-hour drive from Quito takes you through the center of town, scenic volcanic vistas, and several small communities – we used google maps to get there. Google maps has the ability to save offline maps while you travel. Many thanks to the Googles for that! The drive from Quito to Baños is beautiful and full of YAZZZ trees.

You’re probably wondering what are YAZZZ trees… here it goes. While driving to Baños, Brandon noticed skinny, tall pine trees clustered together, which to him, looked as if they where holding their hands up saying YAZZZ (a video explanation will be coming soon and yes you will want to watch it). Naturally we yelled YAZZZ every time we saw them.

A few hundred YAZZZ , 15 volcanic activity warning signs, and 30 impossibly vertical stretches of road later,  we arrived at Baños. The town is very small, located on Via a Baños (Highway 30). All of the tourist attractions are easy to find and labeled very well. We followed the Google Maps directions and came to a point where the pavement ended. But Mr. Bean was undeterred and he brought us up the bumpy 20 minute drive (if you took a taxi or bus to Baños you’ll need to take a taxi up this road). We got to the parking area and hiked the 3-minute trail to the treehouse (it costs 1 USD to enter).

Road to Banos Ecuador

Via a Baños (Highway 30)

The views are amazing and, of course, the swing is great fun. There are two to choose from. The one on the left is less busy but you’ll want to wait for the swing on the right side – the pictures are better. I could’ve stayed there for hours, and if you want to, you can. They have a restaurant up there with plenty of covered seating and lots of area to roam. So, if after reading this you’re still wondering if you should make the trek to Baños, the answer is absolutely YAZZZ.

Driving In Ecuador

I read a ton of really negative stuff about driving in Ecuador on several reputable travel blogs. I almost didn’t rent a car because of the comments, but I am so happy I did.

First, the guided or private tours are expensive and I’m not a big fan of being on someone else’s timetable. I like to do my own thing without worrying if someone in the tour wants to keep going instead of waiting for me to take a picture, etc, etc. Oh and complaints! Blah, blah, blah. I can’t stand people complaining on vacation.

pan american highway

Driving down the Pan-American Highway on our way to Baños

Second, driving to Baños  is fun and you get to drive on the Pan-American Highway!!! Now, yes it’s not like driving in the states, but I never felt unsafe. The roads are very well maintained and the signs are big and clear. No one drives like a lunatic, as some would have you believe. The only issue we encountered was a lack of power. As it turns out poor Mr. Bean was very under-powered and at times it was hard to drive up the steep hills of Ecuador. My only advice is to study the directions well before you leave and be a few steps ahead of the GPS, buts that’s just good planning!

Roadside Guinea Pig Grills

If you can, leave early enough, perhaps 6:00 AM, so that you have enough time to stop at one of the roadside BBQ/grill joints. We didn’t have time to stop and I totally regret it. There are at least 10 different places, maybe more, throughout the drive. You’ll notice them because they have random people standing near the edge of the road frantically waving at you to stop. I’m pretty sure they all had guinea pig (yes, it’s a thing), so this would be a great time to stop and enjoy the local cuisine, though I suggest you do it on the drive back in case you have some… gastrointestinal issues… ahem.