Hitch hiking two rides from Latacunga, I ended up in the little tourist town of Banos in the central Andes. The town is located at the base of the active Tungurahua volcano, which has been pretty active lately with the last eruption reported in April 2011.
Originating from Quichua tunguri (throat), rahua (fire) "Throat of Fire", I wasn't able to see the volcano for two days due to a thick cloud and fog cover. The third day, after I hiked to the top of mountain and above the cloud layer and the volcano Tungurahua rewarded me by revealing herself, albeit for a brief moment. Thank you Mama Tungurahua!
I contacted the management of Luna Runtun couple of days ago to arrange accommodation in the resort. This is a luxury spa and hotel that is located just above the town of Banos, with easy access to the Amazon Rainforest, hiking and adventure activities in the Andes, and relaxing in pools that is claimed to be filled with hot water from the volcano.
I was assigned a room with a large window that offered beautiful view of the valley. The town of Banos is clearly visible (if there is no fog!) below - so close yet so far. At night, it is fun to watch how the whole town lights up. On a clear night, the stars would look awesome.
There are 2 options to eat in the facility - a restaurant and a cafe (payable extra, depending on the package you booked). The prices are on the steeper side However, Banos town is very close if you have the time and will.
My favorite activity in the resort was to chill in the hot volcanic waters in three pools and then dive into the jacuzzi. I spent a couple of hours here each day, reading my book and enjoying the clouds and cold breeze. It’s quite surreal to sit in a hot tub surrounded by clouds and looking down into the valley.
In addition, the resort offers several treatments in its in-house spa. However, I did not get a chance to splurge here.
Use of the pools and jacuzzi is included in the price of the rooms. However, if you are not staying here, you could always pay separately and use the hot water pools for a day.
The resort is literally located on top of the Baños town and is visible from the town center. A taxi ride here costs $5 and takes about 10 minutes from the town centre. There is also a couple of hiking trail that start from the city. I took the one that passes the Virgin Mirador and it took me about an hour to reach the top, with stops for breathtaking pictures. If you like more risks, do what I did and save the $5 taxi fare. I hitch hiked twice from the Baños-Puyo highway but I hear there are 2 buses during the day too. The hotel staff or website don’t tell you about it despite asking (I wonder why).
The hotel boasts of “high speed internet” but I had trouble connecting. I understand that internet access may not be a priority for those who are looking for a relaxed weekend, but I have to mention this since it was a major selling point and I was disappointed.
My interaction with the sales staff and hotel folks was excellent. Ask them for a map of hiking trails, the hosts told me a variety of things I could do here.