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Normally, I simply wouldn’t be one to question the wisdom of the 90’s American pop sensation TLC. No waterfall chasing — got it. No scrubs, didn’t want to work in the surgical field anyway — done.* But when I arrived in beautiful Baños, I knew I’d have to do some rule breaking. There were some waterfalls that needed to be attended to.

Biking the Waterfall Route in Banos

The Waterfall Route, or the Ruta de las Cascadas, is a must-do in the adventure capital of Ecuador. The 10 mile, primarily downhill route takes in almost a dozen waterfalls and almost as many ziplines, cable cars, and other canyon-side attractions. After handing over $7 each for rental bikes, we set off. Despite the fact that I post frequently about biking in my travels, I am actually a fairly nervous rider and I had a hard time relaxing and enjoying the scenery with huge trucks passing me on hairpin turns. Things did ease up a bit as we went on, but it seems the holiday road rush the bike rental company had warned us about was real. I know what you’re all thinking now, right? Hello, TLC wrote that song for a reason!

Ziplining in Banos, Ecuador

By the time we reached Cascada Agoya, I would have done anything to get off the bike for a bit — including the craziest zipline I’ve ever seen. At $15, what did I have to lose? (Answer: um, my life.) Okay, perhaps that is a tad dramatic, but I couldn’t help but wonder about the safety standards of the family-run ziplines that show up every ten minutes or so along the Ruta de Las Cascadas.

Waterfalls in Banos, Ecuador

Our next stop was at Manto de la Novia, where we payed a mere $1.50 for yet another aquatic thrill. I thought the cable car would be a breeze compared to the zipline we’d just tackled, but in reality it was equally as terrifying exciting. The jam-packed cherry-red car jerked and lurched unpredictably, leaving us squealing and laughing every time it started back up again. The bird’s eye view was so amazing, and the ride so giggle-inducing, I was almost tempted to do it twice.

The Waterfall Route in Banos

Riding a Cable Car in Banos

Riding a Cable Car in Banos

Finally I was feeling a bit more comfortable on the bike and by the time we reached the Rio Verde. It was warm enough that I was tempted to join the local families cooling off in the river, but my lack of bathing suit left me merely admiring the beautiful views.

Biking around Banos, Ecuador

Biking the Waterfall Route in Banos

All too soon, we reached our final destination — Pailon del Diablo, a waterfall named after the devil’s cauldron. The walk to and from the falls was actually more strenuous than any of the biking we’d done all day, but the payoff was huge. Our reward? A perfect, beautiful rainbow shining up at us while the mighty falls bellowed behind our backs, water tickling our necks.

Diablo Waterfall in Banos

Rainbow over a Waterfall in Banos, Ecuador

As we loaded our bikes into one of the many pickup trucks waiting to bring bikers back uphill to Baños, I couldn’t wipe off my smile. A day of adventure and beauty — and all at a budget. What does a day like this total:

$7 Bike rental
$15 Zipline
$1.50 Cable car ride
$1.50 Entrance fee to Diablo
$2 Pick up ride back to Baños
= Total: $27

TLC, I love you guys. But I’m going to have to assume that when you wrote that epic ballad Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls, you meant to add in a small disclaimer — unless you’re in Baños, Ecuador. Because in that case, you really, really should.

Have you ever been waterfall chasing?

* If you don’t understand all these references, you have clearly not devoted enough hours of your life to watching VH1 music videos. Don’t worry — it’s never too late to start developing effective time-wasting skills!

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36 Comments...
  • Taylor
    February 20 2014

    Ok, this has def made my list of what to do in Ecuador when I go. It looks so amazing! Though I’ll probably opt out of ziplining. Loved the pictures!
    Taylor recently posted..Expenses so far….

    • AkwaabaGolden
      February 20 2014

      I must agree with Taylor, ziplining would probably not be for me…! Ah my stomach is feeling funny just by looking at your pictures! But the cable car is cute 🙂
      AkwaabaGolden recently posted..First time in Ghana

    • Alex
      February 20 2014

      Okay, I was perhaps being a bit dramatic about them as the guides at GeoTours told me there has never been an accident! But they do appear to be family-run and not clearly regulated by anyone so you’ll have to make your own choices…

  • Chris
    February 20 2014

    Ah, I thank you yet again.

    Something else to add to the already large “To Do List” when we hit the road for Central & South America in July (yes, it is now a definite go!)
    Chris recently posted..A Dili-ghtful farewell

    • Alex
      February 21 2014

      Wow, exciting! Congrats on the big plans! Hopefully I’ll give you a bit more inspiration before then!

  • Where in the World is Nina?
    February 20 2014

    I HAVE gone chasing waterfalls and even hitchhiked to see some before. lol. Waterfalls are amazing and these look spectacular! That crazy little ride your on though would freak me out a bit. :-p
    Where in the World is Nina? recently posted..The Time My Favorite Place Almost Killed Me…

    • Alex
      February 21 2014

      Everyone else I talked to seemed to love the biking bit, so I think I was in the minority there! But I maintain it was scary!

  • Tony K + Steph H (@20YH)
    February 21 2014

    Maybe they were writing about the Philippines, since when Tony & I went chasing waterfalls there, it was largely a disaster. (And obviously we totally titled our post about it in a similar fashion to your and made the same references… Great minds! :D)

    I haven’t had the best luck chasing waterfalls anywhere on this trip, to be honest, but this looks really great. I guess I’ll wait until I’m in Baños before I defy TLC again!
    Tony K + Steph H (@20YH) recently posted..Kuala Lumpur Photo Walk: Pudu Market

    • Alex
      February 21 2014

      Haha, when I was writing this I was wondering how many other bloggers had gone the TLC route when writing about waterfalls 🙂

  • Jo
    February 21 2014

    Since reading this article yesterday, I have legit had that song stuck in my head. Clever blogging strategy Alex. 🙂
    Jo recently posted..Freediving: a Deep Sense of Euphoria

    • Alex
      February 21 2014

      Ha, I have too Jo! Just went through and downloaded their greatest hits!

  • J in Beijing
    February 21 2014

    Wait, when was Waterfalls released because I’m sure I remember it’s release and singing it with my friends! I’m sure I was still at primary school at the time but I feel pretty old now.. Ha! 🙂
    J in Beijing recently posted..Biking in Beautiful Bagan

    • Alex
      February 21 2014

      I remember singing it with my friends too! Can’t have been too long ago then… right? 🙂

  • Emily
    February 21 2014

    We plan on doing this when we head to Banos in March. Is there an alternative to biking or is that the best way to go?
    Emily recently posted..Walk the Pretty Streets of Cartagena

    • Alex
      February 21 2014

      You can also do a tour in this open-air tram car thing, which blasts reggateon music the whole way 🙂 Those were super popular with domestic tourists, while most backpackers seemed to go the biking route!

  • Jessica - Notes of Nomads
    February 22 2014

    Ah, that rainbow picture! Amazing!
    Jessica – Notes of Nomads recently posted..Inside the Labyrinth: Berlin’s Most Bizarre Bar

    • Alex
      February 24 2014

      Thanks Jessica — one of my favorites from Ecuador.

  • tammyonthemove
    February 22 2014

    The photo with the rainbow is stunning! My favourite waterfalls to this date are the Iguassu Fall at the border of Brazil and Argentina. I did a helicopter ride over the falls which was the most terrifying and stunning experience ever!
    tammyonthemove recently posted..Making merry at the world’s highest micro-brewery

    • Alex
      February 24 2014

      Wow, that sounds amazing and puts my cable car ride to shame! Might have to add that to the bucket list 🙂

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    February 23 2014

    You can buy all the makeup that MAC can make but if you can’t look inside you… I was going to leave a comment about the waterfall but TLC distracted me 🙁
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Koh Tao’s Chilled out Diving Vibe

    • Alex
      February 24 2014

      Could not be more obsessed with that song 🙂

  • Caroline
    February 24 2014

    What a great deal for all that fun! And the water in the river looked so clear…
    Caroline recently posted..Top Tourist Attractions In Finland

    • Alex
      February 24 2014

      Baños, and Ecuador in general, was just so sweet on the wallet! Loved it!

  • Rebecca
    March 8 2014

    Holy crap, I feel nauseous just looking at your pictures!
    Rebecca recently posted..Bali sunsets

    • Alex
      March 8 2014

      Uh oh, that’s not the reaction I hope to inspire in people! Extreme fear of heights? 🙂

  • Viviana
    February 4 2015

    wow sounds amazing! I’m going in early April. Which tour company did you go with/ because there are so many out there. Did you have to book all if that in advance?

    • Alex
      February 4 2015

      Hey Viviana, we didn’t book anything in advance! This tour we just rented bikes and did self guided, but other tours in the area we did through GeoTours, who I highly recommend.

  • Lauren
    October 20 2015

    Awe the rainbow picture looks too good to be true! And the one of you looking very excited (yet terrified) on the cable car is adorable 🙂
    Lauren recently posted..What I do every Sunday to prepare for Monday

    • Alex
      October 23 2015

      That’s still one of my favorite travel photos ever (the rainbow one, ha) after all these years! I adore it!

  • Kristi Black
    January 26 2016

    Love your pictures and what an experience! We are currently in Cuenca and plan to venture to Baños within the next week or two, I can’t wait! We did zip lining in Mindo (Cloud Forest) with Mindo Ziplining Tours, 10 cables, 2640 meters, 8450 feet high, for all of $20, it was awesome!
    Kristi Black recently posted..Comment on In and around Quito, Ecuador Part I – Jan 4 – 12, 2016 by Frank Crawford

    • Alex
      January 28 2016

      LOVED Mindo. And Banos! Probably my two favorite places in all of Ecuador 🙂 Enjoy!

  • Kristie
    March 5 2016

    Looks awesome! Thanks for the great idea! Did this take you a full day or could you do it in half a day? How did you get the $2 ride back to Banos?

    • Alex
      March 7 2016

      Hey Kristie! I can’t really be sure about the timing — this was years ago — but the share buses are waiting at the bottom throughout the day. You won’t have to hang around for long before one fills up!

  • Lauren
    March 23 2016

    I’m reading through your archives and I literally just did ruta de las cascadas today and I 100% agree that hiking into and out of Pailon del Diablo is THE HARDEST PART! I’m so glad I’m not alone!

    • Alex
      March 29 2016

      It’s a great little workout for sure, Lauren! You’re definitely not alone 🙂

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