Banos is a town you can easily fall in love with. It’s one of those quiet places, tucked into a valley surrounded by mountains and cascades, where you feel safe and relaxed. But there is also plenty to do there. One of the highlights is riding a bike and cycling from Banos to Puyo.
WHERE TO RENT A BIKE
It’s easy to find a tour operator with rental bikes. They line the streets, each offering slight variations on model and price, and most with a selection of other tours, including white water rafting excursions, jungle canopies and rappelling trips.
For the adventurous types, there’s also a bridge jump and swing.
I chose Caroline’s bike hire, which had bikes of different qualities ranging from $5 to $15. I plumped for the $10 model, hoping that the splurge would provide a little extra comfort and safety.
BANOS TO PUYO BY MOUNTAIN BIKE
One of the best ways to see the lush countryside around Banos is to plummet down the steep mountain road from Banos to Puyo.
You don’t even have to be in the best physical condition because its possible to hitch a lift back from the bottom in a van.
This trip takes in many thunderous waterfalls. Some of them are visible from the main road as you whizz by, while others require a little more effort to get to.
The climate in Banos is quite unpredictable. One day you might be basking in sunshine while lounging in a thermal bath, but this is a rainforest and it’s quite possible the heavens will open and drench you with monsoon-like rain.
While the temperature is usually warm, if you’re damp and travelling at speed, the breeze can feel really cold, so a poncho or light rain mac is a really good idea.
BRIDGES AND TUNNELS
The road from Banos to Puyo is a main highway. It sees a reasonable amount of traffic, and its not uncommon to meet articulated lorries and buses travelling at speed.
Take extra care on the bridges and when going through dark tunnels. In some places, the cycle path skirts around the outside of the tunnels, which is a much safer option.
One of the highlights of the Banos to Puyo trip is the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall. We made it there by about 2 pm in the afternoon. Using a lock provided by the rental company, we secured our bikes and went for a closer look.
It’s about a 15-minute hike down a steep path to the falls, where you’re required to pay a small entrance fee ($1.50 at the time of writing). From here, you can clamber through dark tunnels to a spot behind the thundering water. The spray here is pretty powerful, so again, a rain mac would come in handy.
There’s also a wobbly bridge near the entrance kiosk, which is well worth checking out for unobstructed views of the falls.
At the top of the path where we’d left our bikes were a few restaurants, but the quality of food was extremely poor, so it’s better to pick up something in Banos and bring it as a picnic.
GETTING BACK TO BANOS
The Devil’s Cauldron is about 20 km along the Banos to Puyo highway. The full journey is about 60 km. It sounds like a lot, but since so much of it is downhill you shouldn’t struggle to do it all in one day.
At any point, if you decide you’ve done enough, you can flag a lift from one of the regular trucks that passes through.
THERMAL BATH RECOVERY
If you’ve worn out your legs after this day trip, Banos is also famous for its relaxing thermal baths and many hostels and hotels offer a huge range of massage options. The baths only cost a couple of dollars, and you can’t complain about a full body massage, aromatherapy and facial for $20. It’s the perfect way to end an action-packed day in the mountains.
CONTINUE YOUR JOURNEY THROUGH ECUADOR
Ecuador is a fantastic country filled with stunning landscapes and unique wildlife. If you enjoy the forest, the quaint adventure town of Mindo near Quito is the perfect place to unwind. Quito highlights include the Mitad del Mundo museum and a round trip to browse Otavalo Market.
Once done, you should consider checking out the Galapagos Island wildlife on a Galapagos cruise. This is hands down one of the best experiences nature has to offer. Isla de la Plata near Puerto Lopez is the closest you’ll come if you can’t afford the Galapagos, and it’s also a brilliant place for whale watching.
Closer to Banos, the city of Latacunga is a base for a Quilotoa day trip or the renowned Quilotoa Loop, as well as the challenging Cotopaxi Volcano climb. It also hosts the intriguing Mama Negra festival twice a year in September and November.