Why You Should Add This South American Destination To Your Outdoor Adventure Bucket List

South America is a treasure trove of experiences and destinations waiting to be explored. From the misty coffee regions of Colombia to the sun-kissed beaches of Peru and the snow-capped mountains of Argentina, each country tells a unique story. While these destinations draw in the crowds year after year, there's an undeniable charm about all the countries that aren't on every traveler or travel guide's radar.

Ecuador is a perfect example. Typically overshadowed at times by its more popular neighbors, the country offers plenty of opportunities to get in touch with the local culture. You can also sample some world-class cuisine, kick your feet up during a jungle retreat, join a beachside rave, and even stand at the center of the Earth — or come very close to it. For adrenaline lovers and nature enthusiasts, there's no better place to go than Baños.

Nestled about 120 miles south of Quito, Baños is a small town set against the backdrop of the Tungurahua volcano. However, it's not just the breathtaking volcanic landscapes that call out to thousands of local and foreign visitors each year. From white-water rafting to mountain biking and hiking, the town is synonymous with outdoor adventure and adrenaline — making it the perfect destination if you're looking to get your heart racing surrounded by lush forests and hot springs.

Chasing thrills in Baños

Baños is a hub of heart-racing outdoor activities. First, there's a day out navigating Río Pastaza on a white-water rafting adventure. With Class III and IV rapids that promise an exciting and bumpy adventure, most tours typically last up to 5 hours and include transportation to the river. If you prefer dry land, the "Ruta de las 7 Cascadas" could be just what you need. An 11-mile downhill ride that takes you to seven different waterfalls along the way, bike rentals are available in town for $10. After you've made it to Pailón del Diablo, you and your bike can hop aboard a bus that'll take you back uphill.

Once you're ready to take things to a new level, you can even elevate your Baños adventure — literally — with activities that promise stunning views. The "Swing at the End of the World" at Casa del Arbol, for example, is a front-row seat to the beauty of the Volcán Tungurahua, and a chance to soar high. Meanwhile, for thrill-seekers, Puntzan Adventure Park offers six different ziplines that run through the dense rainforest for just $20.

When it's finally time to wind down, the town's thermal baths await. There's a reason the town's name "Baños" translates to "baths" — it's dotted with volcanic baths that locals believe to be blessed and are also filled with medicinal benefits. Plus, an evening dip when the air turns crisp is the perfect way to wrap things up in Ecuador's adventure capital.

Journey to the heart of adventure

Getting to Baños from Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, is pretty straightforward. Local buses to Baños depart from the Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe and the journey takes anywhere from three to four hours. At $5 a ticket, this is the most affordable way to travel — especially if you're hoping for a budget-friendly vacation. Alternatively, if you're traveling with a group and prefer a little more privacy, door-to-door private transport is also available for roughly $30.

As for choosing the best time to visit Baños, you won't have to look too hard. Located on the Equator, the weather in Baños is relatively stable throughout the year. However, if you're hoping to avoid too much rain, your best option is to plan a trip anytime between October and March, when rainfall seems to decrease in comparison to the rest of the year. In terms of weather, temperatures typically reach a high of 72 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, while lows hover around 54-55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.