Situated in a valley of waterfalls and hotsprings, Baños has become a mecca for international travelers seeking year-round temperate weather, a small town atmosphere, and a base for exploring the great Ecuadorian outdoors. Located four hours by bus from Quito, Baños offers hotsprings, trekking, rafting, climbing and mountain biking. It also offers easy access to Riobamba, the starting point of the exhilarating train journey down the Devil's Nose to the coast, and to Puyo, one of the gateways to the Amazon. Baños also serves as a popular site for studying Spanish -- a mellower and cheaper alternative to Quito.
Midweek, Baños is a sanctuary of peace and tranquillity. The big events are the occasional performance of a traditional Andean band, the nightly English language movie at the Hood Cinema, or beers with friends at one of the local bars. However, on the weekends and during holidays, Baños explodes with carnival-like festivities. Children straggle behind their parents with neon balloons and sticky sweets; photographers position themselves on street corners offering instant snapshots; a cartoonish caterpillar train on wheels toots through town; and women in pastel painted stalls sell everything from hand-woven sweaters to imitation barbie dolls. Tables spilling out of cafes onto sidewalks provide the ideal location to watch the lively scene of Baños go by while enjoying a papaya or sugar cane juice.