I arrived in Baños by bus from Cuenca via Ambato. The towns full name is Baños de Agua Santa (Baths of holy water). On the bus ride here the winding road took us past quaint tiny hamlets, streams and seem to circle around the foreboding volcano named Tungurahua. This volcano has come close to destroying the spa town on a number of occasions and even as I visit now, the snow-capped volcanic mountain is very active!
I did my normal routine when I arrive anywhere at a new travel destination, I looked for a place to sit down and have a coffee or cold drink. Coffee seemed much more agreeable at this altitude of 1,820 m (5,971 ft) and a temperature of just 20 C. This is when I can relax, stretch my leg, look at a map and ask around about accommodation and generalities of the place I am visiting. One should always take time to smell the roses. We, travellers, know that the journey is the often the best part of an adventure.
A small spa Hostelería had been identified and off I went for a walk of about 300 meters. My room had a beautiful SOFT king size bed, views of cascading waterfall just 2oo meters away and the price of just 22USD included a hot and filling breakfast. Close by was the public and very, very inexpensive option of a mineral pool. To gain access to the pools you had to wear a swim cap, which can be rented for 25 cents. This was NO relaxing in a four-star spa experience, it was one of those “been there done that experiences never wanted to be repeated again”. Hundreds of people, often shoulder to shoulder were in 3 pools, half of which were kids and in water that was murky and tepid. I lasted a full 15 minutes and looked for a shower to clean myself pronto. Only a cold water pipeline was available… refreshing, to say the least, but it did the trick! Needless to say you can find more upscale versions of this whole spa thing dotted all over town.
The town of Baños was on my radar from both what I learned from reading and from people who raved about the place. Personally, I didn’t understand the hoopla about this town. Waaaaay over commercialized and not that pretty. However, the surrounding countryside is gorgeous for hiking and trying to get a better view of the volcano. Remember, it’s all good!