El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Next Time You're in Ecuador, Do This‏

Dear International Living Reader,
My favorite thing to do on a Sunday in Ecuador is a trip to Baños. Not the major spa town in the central sierra…but the little village in the southern sierra, 15 minutes from Cuenca.
In Catholic Ecuador, almost everywhere is closed on a Sunday and most places that remain open serve the local "weekend retreat" market. This includes country clubs and thermal baths.
The naturally hot volcanic waters of "little" Baños feed four bath houses in the village. As well as thermal baths, each one has pools and steam rooms...and some have other pleasant distractions like massages and mud baths. (The masseuse at the luxurious Piedra de Agua works in elaborate rooms carved out of red stone caves.)
Prices vary depending on what you do, but at Balneario Durán you can try the thermal baths for about $5; at Balneario Rodas and Agapantos it costs less. At Piedra de Agua it's a steep $10—this is where locals come when they want a treat…and you may bump into the occasional Dutch tourist. If you're not looking for hustle and bustle, Piedra de Agua has the quietest thermal waters.
Durán serves tasty meals. And at the restaurant at Piedra de Agua you can get a plate piled high with food for $4. Lots of places in the village serve meals for less.
Walk it off with a stroll along the river, or up to the pretty blue church overlooking the village.
A taxi back to Cuenca costs $3 or $4; as always in Ecuador, the bus is 25 cents (half price if you're over 65).
After a day like that, it would be a shame not to spend the night in one of Cuenca's restored colonial houses that now operate as boutique hotels: $25 - $120 a night, depending on how luxurious you like your digs.
Len Galvin
Managing Editor, IL Postcards

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