Explore Ecuador’s Spectacular Ruta de las Cascadas
The spectacular Route of the Waterfalls – Ruta de las Cascadas – runs between the towns of Baños, located between four impressive volcanoes, and Puyo, the capital of the Pastaza province of Ecuador. With the Tungurahua volcano towering over it, Baños is a popular destination well known for its hot springs reputed to have therapeutic properties and its outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, bird watching, bungee jumping and rappelling down waterfalls. While there are buses and guided tours traveling along the Ruta de las Cascadas, one of the best ways to enjoy this route is by bicycle, which can be hired at a reasonable price in Baños.
The route covers a distance of around more than sixty kilometers, dropping nearly 1,000 meters in elevation, and visitors will soon see why it has been named the Route of the Waterfalls. Shortly after leaving Baños, cyclists will follow the road through a tunnel, which can be a bit of a hair-raising experience, but tunnels further along the route are not open to cyclists, who will travel a scenic route, which used to be the old road, along the side of the canyon. There are a number of places to stop off and view the dozen or so waterfalls encountered along the route, and places where visitors can walk down to the base of the waterfalls to get the true perspective on just how magnificent they really are.
At the Cascada de Agoyán, a beautiful double waterfall feeding into the Río Pastaza, visitors can take a gondola down to the base of the waterfall for a small fee. At the bottom of the valley there is a long hanging bridge to the waterfall and a park area where visitors can relax and appreciate the spectacle of the rushing water, lush green foliage and large raptors riding the thermals overhead.
The Manto de la Novia, or Bride’s Veil, is one of the most impressive waterfalls along the route. Visitors can take a gondola ride across the gorge, with beautiful views in all directions, then take a short walk to a viewing platform, or hike down to the foot of the waterfall at the bottom of the gorge. Around 18 kilometers out of Baños is the access point to the El Pailón del Diablo, or Devil’s Cauldron, a powerful gushing waterfall flowing over vertical cliff walls. There are viewing platforms and a pathway cut into the rocks, leading to a cave behind the waterfall. A few kilometers further on is the village of Machay which features trails leading to a number of smaller waterfalls.
With the return journey being all uphill, cyclists usually travel back to Baños by bus, with their hired bicycles strapped in with the luggage.