Banos is famous for it’s outdoor activities, swimming in the thermal spas, mountain biking, hiking trails and waterfalls, but probably it’s most famous attraction for backpackers is Casa del Arbol; the treehouse with it’s swing on the edge of the world.
It’s technically only a few km from the centre of Banos but the surrounding terrain is so mountainous that it would make an incredibly tiring uphill slog to walk or cycle. Indeed, many tour operators offer daily cycling excursions to the treehouse, but for the majority of people, that seems like far too much effort.
Taxis are easily available but the most fun, cost effective and probably convenient way is to get the local bus. It leaves from 3 streets to the right of the main bus terminal on the corner of Rocafuerte and Pastaza but if you see the bus coming down the street the driver will be happy to slow down and let you hop on not at an official stop. The bus costs a dollar, which for a long, uphill, winding journey seems very good value. The buses are usually packed and often blast out loud seemingly random music all the way up into the mountains. Banos is already at quite a high elevation so if you suffer from altitude sickness remember to take some tablets before you leave. The bus stops at the car park next to a small cafe and then sits there for usually an hour before heading back down.
Bare in mind that there are a few swings at the top; one more for the thrill seekers and one for ‘that instagram shot’. The closest one to the bus stop is high up a hill, requiring a steep climb using a rope to get to, and is more nerve wrecking. You’re tightly strapped into what looks like an old plane seat, before being enthusiastically pushed off the edge of a cliff sending the chair rocking back and forth. It feels like something your mum would advise you against doing, and isn’t for the faint hearted but is fun nevertheless.
Further along the path is the main attraction, 2 dollars to get in, giving you access to a few zip wires and a range of swings along the edge of the hilltop. The swings don’t actually go very high and are suitable for children and adults, but give the illusion that you’re swinging out into the sky. There’s the famous treehouse too allowing for lovely photos which would make viewers think you’re alone on the cliff edge and not actually in a queue of backpackers & families.
With so many tourist attractions massively overcharging and being a let down, Casa del Arbol is a cheap day out and very much does what it says on the tin. Recommended.