While in Banos, Ecuador, you’ll find myriad tour operators selling guided trips, like hikes to the Tungurahua Volcano, white water rafting, bungy jumping, canyoning and other adventure and sightseeing activities. For those who like to do things themselves while also saving money, a different option is to rent a bike and cycle the “Waterfalls Route”. The route takes you to visit four main waterfalls: Agoyan, Manto de la Novia, Pailon del Diablo and Machay. Along the way, you’ll also have the opportunity to take in smaller waterfalls, lush jungle and beautiful mountains.
The route is pretty straightforward, and although it is uphill during some parts, it is level or downhill for majority of the time. I recommend taking the bus back at the end for $1, as the way back is an uphill climb. Furthermore, while there are many tour operators in Banos renting bikes, I used Caroline’s Tour on Martinez Street. For the basic bike it’s $5 for the day, although I would suggest splurging for the better, more comfortable bike for $10. They’ll also supply you with a map, extra tubes, a pump, chain, lock, and key.
The first waterfall, Agoyan, is the highest waterfall in the Ecuadorian Andes. It’s 200 feet high, and its water comes from the Pastaza River. There was no fee to use the lookout point when I visited.
Next was the Manto de la Novia, which literally translates to “the bride’s veil”. The name comes from the white color of the waters. I didn’t really see a good lookout point for this one, but instead just pulled over to the side of the road to get a good shot. The waterfall is 131 feet high, with the water coming from the Chinchín River and falling straight into the Pastaza River.
This is also where you’ll have a chance to bungy jump near the waterfall! No reservation required.
Before arriving to your next destination, you’ll get to travel through a small village with manytypical restaurants. This is a great place to stop for a delicious and cheap bite to eat.
The third waterfall, Pailon del Diablo, is the one you must see. It’s the second biggest waterfall in Ecuador, and is definitely a sight to behold. You’ll have to hike about 15 minutes in the forest to get to the lookout and pay $1.50, but it’s definitely worth it. The falls are enormous and have a strong and loud impact, so bring a raincoat or you’re going to get soaked.
To get to the top of the lookout point, you’ll have to do a bit of crawling on your belly in a cave, as well as climbing some precarious stairs.
For some fun, try these two trippy activities. First, to make yourself feel like you’re falling, find a drop of water at the top of the falls and follow it with your eyes all the way down. Then, if you want to feel like you’re flying, stare at the bottom of the falls and slowly but steadily make your way to the top. You’ll definitely feel like you’re on a rollercoaster.
If you’re hungry, there’s a good restaurant with a great view right near the falls.
The final waterfall is Machay. If you’re not physically fit, do not even attempt to go to the viewpoint, which costs $1. The hike downhill isn’t so bad, however, on the way back you’ll have to climb hundreds of steps, as well as a very steep plank of boards that you do not want to fall off of.