- Galapagos, see our dedicated post
This town used to be a sleepy spa town however that has changed and now its a place for adventure activities. This town has certainly turned into a tourist town. There are hostels on every single corner, souvenirs shops everywhere and everything else is pretty much cafes and restaurants.
What to do
Casa del arbol, Swing at the end of the world
There is a famous swing here which sits on the edge of the mountain and you take a swing over the side of the edge, with a view over the Bellavista volcano,if the weather is clear. We thought it would a quick 45 min walk from the town to this place, how wrong we were! The hike up took just over 2 hours for us, luckily we did have some water and a bit of food. The hike is pretty steep, not very hard, but it was just a surprise that the walk was that long. There is a $1 entrance into the Casa del Arbol but there is more to do than just the swing. They have small zip lines, other swings and seasaws. We went on a saturday and of course the whole town has decided to take their kids up there for a swing so it was pretty full.
There is also a public bus that goes up there, we didn’t know that. Only $1 each way and leaves from town every 2 hours from 10am. If we had known about the bus and about how steep the walk was we probably would have splashed out on the bus.
On the plus side we got some exercise and we also saw the Virgin statue, with panoramic views over Banos.
Pailon del Diablo, Devils cauldron.
So this is actually in Rio Verdi, a small town only 16km away. We decided to hire bikes for $5 for the day and cycle the 16km downhill (300m decline) to Rio Verde. The ride is very beautiful, lots of waterfalls on the way.
There is a free parking place for the bike near the entrance to the Pailon del Diablo. this is where the main entrance is. If you decide to take this entrance you will get up close to the waterfall, you can even go behind it, however you will most likely get very wet. Entrance fee is $1.50
There is also another way to see the fall from above only. Here the entrance is $2.00 however you will not get close to it. We preferred this route, no stairs and it was very beautiful seeing the whole waterfall from above.
Rio Verde also has the best empanadas we have ever tasted, see below.
There are a lot of companies offered canopy, bungee jump ($20), jungle tours and many other activities.
There are many places to go a relax in up to 45 degrees for as low as $2.00. These places get very crowded so early morning or late afternoon is the best time to go.
There are so many options here. We ate dinner or lunch most days at the market for $2.50 for the standard set menu of soup, main and a drink.
BEST EMPANADAS EVER
So we actually found these in Rio Verde, by the Pailon del Diablo, however they are worth a mention. Mercedes, the owner, made the empanadas fresh in front of us. As soon as we had the first bite we ordered more. Its hard to describe how good the empanadas were but they were amazing. It may have been the sauce, the fact they were freshly made or just because Mercedes made them with love.
Ecuador is known for its chocolate, so it would be rude not to drink any hot chocolate here. We found a few different cafes which we loved and might have slightly overdone it on the hot chocolate drinking front.
Honey, coffee & tea. This place is filled with backpackers even though the prices are not backpacker friendly. They do serve up a delicious chai hot chocolate ($3.00) and yummy passion fruit cheesecake ($3.25) amongst other things.
Arome, cafe & chocolate. This cafe serves up a variety of hot chocolates. They have around 40 different bars of chocolate, you choose the bar of chocolate you want and the lady will make you a lovely hot chocolate($3.00) with this. So you can pretty much chose the flavour of hot chocolate that you like. There is also a cheap “house” chocolate for only $1.20
The coffee lounge. They serve up lovely “standard” hot chocolate ($2.00), crepes, sandwiches, salads and more.
There is a ton of hostels here, so many places to choose from. We stayed at Hostel Patty ($16.00 for a private double) for one night but quickly moved to Hostel Verda Vida. This hostel is super clean, the offer to clean your room daily and provide cleans towels daily too. The family is very friendly and always happy to help. Here we paid $20.00 for private double.
This place is known for the one of the most active volcanos, with its 5911 m its ranks among the world’s highest active volcanoes.
We stayed secret garden Cotopaxi which is opposite the volcano so you get the most amazing view (if you are lucky and it’s not cloudy) of the volcano.
Secret garden hostel is a very nice place, a bit like going on a school camp with the exception that you don’t have to join in with the activities.
We opted for the 3 day,2 night package which include a couple of activities, food and all the banana bread you can eat. This hostel is one of the most sociable hostels we have stayed at since most people will arrive together and stay for the 3 days eating together and to top it of there is no internet so no time spent wasting time on the internet or being unsociable. This deal is $88 total for the 3 days. There is a free transport from Quito to the hostel or from the horse statue in Machichina.
The activities includes one hike to a nearby waterfall for which they provide you Wellington boots to wear as you are walking through the water most of the way there. Pretty easy walk, nothing special but very nice to see the area. The round trip is 2 hours.
The main activity is a 6 hour hike to the Pasachoa mountain, the hike here is very nice, beautiful surroundings and you even get to summit the mountain which is always a great feeling.
Other than the hikes, banana bread, beautiful views they also have hammocks, a hot tub, 5 brilliant dogs, amazing staff and afternoon treat daily.
Here we stayed with a friend, Gerald, whom we met 6 months earlier in Belize, he very kindly welcomed us to his home and made us feel at home.
There isn’t too much to do in Quito, however of course you can go to the equator line and stand on both the north and the south side of the hemisphere at the same time. You can also get a stamp in passport if that is something you want.
Not too far from Quito there are some amazing natural hot pools in Papallacta. They have around 10 different pools all at different temperatures. We really enjoyed the time there, almost falling a sleep whilst lying on the edge of the pool.
Tours are available for around $45 from town, or you have your own ride the entrance is ony $9.50.
This place is mainly known for the “Saturday market” which is one of the biggest markets in South America. The market is pretty impressive and really big and you can buy everything your heart desires.
We found that the place is very impressive however if you are going on a tour from Quito this will set you back $40 from town. In my option this is not worth it as all the stalls pretty much sells the same stuff and there is nothing you can’t buy at all the other markets in south america. However if you are in the area and happen to be there on a saturday it is worth stopping. Its super easy to take a local bus there from the north terminal in Quito.
This is very close to Otavala and a great place for water activities. Here you can hire jet skis, paddles boards, wake boards, boats and kayaks for reasonable prices. If this is something you are into this is worth checking out. Surrounded by mountains, it’s also possible to camp here or stay in the very expensive cabins.