We got private transportation from Banos directly off our flight. It takes a little over 3 hours. The roads were surprisingly good. They cut through mountains and past small villages. It was scenic and nice. Here are some of the things we enjoyed in Banos.
- Spanish Lessons and Guides: Our guides and Spanish teachers from Raices Spanish School were the best decision we made in planning our trip. From our first day, the kids sang and danced in Spanish while we relaxed, took pictures, and learned. We had lessons in the market, at the swings, and next to the waterfalls. We made friends, had extra eyes on the kids, took time to learn new things, and always had translators. We couldn't have picked a better way to truly experience Ecuador.
- Waterfalls: The road along the canyon provided a great view of the 7 waterfalls. At some, you can take a basket across the falls to see the small farms and fishing villages. At Pailon Del Diablio, (Devil’s Cauldron), you can pay a small amount to hike to the waterfall. You can also venture through the caves or across the rope bridge. After all of that, enjoy a fancy drink, a well cooked meal, and a beautiful view from the restaurant! Best on a weekday with a rain jacket. A carrier would be helpful with little kids.
- Casa Del Arbol tree swing: This is a short drive up hill from Banos. It costs a couple of dollars a person and has swings for all ages and even the most fearful in the bunch. T1$ entry fee per person. To avoid lines, avoid weekends.
- The market: Locals shop here and you should too! Don't miss the passion fruit, tiny bananas, and little donuts with onions and cheese inside. Most travel books recommend that if you can't peel it or cook it, don't eat it. Packaged food and restaurants are generally considered safe.
- Yana Cocha Rescue Centre (Puyo, 90 minutes from Banos. We used a tour guide.) Yana Cocha is a sanctuary for animals that were either confiscated or found wandering after being imprinted. The enclosures are large and clean. The police have a strong relationship with the center, and bring animals there. Yana Cocha has a lot of animals who are being rehabilitated, many of which are free to roam and greet visitors. Nice place to walk around and see the local fauna. Our children loved interacting with Monkeys while walking through.
- Thermal baths: I've heard they are fun, but didn't get to try.
- Las Manos de la Pachamama: While standing on a pair of hands, you see the Ulba River Canyon and National Parks.
- La Aldea Mágica, is a garden full of goblins, there is a wishing well where a goblin sings.
- Animal Park children can interact with animals that live in Ecuador. Ask about the show hours.
- The chocolate factory is designed for children with a chocolate shop, ice cream shop, pastry shop and cafeteria.
- Las Manos de Dios has two hands that emerge from the top of a viewpoint to a wooden bridge, to view the landscapes of Baños.
After spending time in the calm life of Banos, Quito was much more fast paced and had a bit of sticker shock. I HIGHLY recommend finding housing near the center of Quito and considering guided tours. At 9,500 feet altitude can be rough for some. Although I have had issues with Altitude sickness in the past, I had none on this trip. I was probably lucky, but worked on hydration, got enough sleep, and took Tylenol. Here are some of our highlights:
- Quito cable car: The Teleferico ascends to 13, 280 feet. Highest cable car ride in South America. Babies have to be older than 18 months old to go up. $15 for adults and half price for kids. Ride is 18 minutes each way. Bring a jacket. At the top, there is a simple restaurant, bathrooms, a dog park, hiking, a kid's play place for $1, and some photo opportunities for an additional cost.
- Parque La Carolina: Has several different play grounds, an old airplane, outdoor gym, and street vendors. West end of the park, is the botanical gardens with a frog outside. Tree house style playground inside. The park doesn't have a lot of shade or drinking fountains.
- Museo Interactivo de Ciencias: Has interactive stations show how a farm runs, where animal products come from, store, office, music, and more. Slides end in ball pit with native stuffed animals. $0-infant, $2 clay, $3 child, $4 adult. CHECK HOURS!
- Iglesia de La Compañía de Jesús: A church is dripping in gold. You can’t take pictures inside. $5.
- Free Walking Tour: Every day (except Sunday) at 10:30 a.m. for 3-4 hours. Tour visits the market, main plazas, and artisanal candy shops.
- The real equator in Quito: Located in the Intiñan Museum, an easy 5-minute walk from the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo. Try to balance an egg on the top of a nail you can do this at the real equator!
- Juan de Dios Morales Street is home to boutique hotels, clubs, stores, and trendy restaurants. Visit Heladería Dulce Placer, Pacari chocolate factory, and Zabalartes toy store.
- The market: is where the locals shop for their food. Our kids always love tasting exotic looking local fruit and looking at funny things like chickens with feet sticking up in the air. There are also a few traditional healers in the central market selling medicinal herbs
- Catedral Metropolitana de Quito (Cathedral of Quito), allows you to descend underground into a catacomb crypt and take a tour with a friar. Thread through tight passageways up to the roof for a stunning view of Quito. Antonio José de Sucre is buried here.
- Yaku Water Museum near old town has spectacular views over the city from the glass building. There was a room to make giant bubbles, life-sized snakes and ladders floor game. If you arrive from the car park on the lower floor, have your camera at the ready as you ascend to the entrance in the elevator.