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How To Get From Baños To Cuenca – The Three Routes


by Lesli Currie



Traveling from Baños to Cuenca is a journey that offers a thrilling mix of natural beauty, cultural exploration, and adventurous experiences. These two destinations in Ecuador are known for their stunning scenery, rich history, and charming towns. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or simply seeking a new adventure, this article will guide you through the three routes you can take to get from Baños to Cuenca.


Located in the central highlands of Ecuador, Baños is a small town renowned for its thermal baths, waterfalls, and proximity to the mighty Tungurahua Volcano. Cuenca, on the other hand, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the third-largest city in Ecuador, offering a delightful blend of colonial charm and modern amenities. These two destinations are approximately 230 kilometers apart, and the journey between them promises to be a memorable one.


In this article, we will explore three different routes you can take to travel from Baños to Cuenca. Each route offers its own unique attractions and experiences, allowing you to tailor your journey according to your preferences and time constraints. Whether you prefer a scenic drive along the Pan-American Highway, an adventurous route through the Andes Mountains, or an immersive journey through the Amazon Rainforest, there is a route that will suit your travel style.


So buckle up, get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure, and let’s dive into the three routes from Baños to Cuenca!


Route 1: Baños to Cuenca via the Pan-American Highway

If you prefer a direct and relatively faster route from Baños to Cuenca, the Pan-American Highway is your best choice. This well-maintained highway offers a smooth and scenic drive through the heart of Ecuador, allowing you to enjoy breathtaking views of the Andes Mountains, picturesque valleys, and charming towns along the way.


To start your journey, head south from Baños and follow the signs to the Pan-American Highway. The highway will take you through the bustling city of Ambato, where you can make a quick stop to explore its vibrant markets and taste some delicious local cuisine. From Ambato, continue south on the Pan-American Highway, passing through stunning landscapes and charming Andean villages.


One of the highlights of this route is the town of Riobamba, located at the foot of the majestic Chimborazo Volcano. Consider taking a detour here to experience the thrill of hiking or mountain biking on the slopes of this iconic volcano, or simply enjoy the breathtaking scenery from the comfort of a café.


As you continue south, the landscape changes, and you’ll gradually descend into the lush green valleys that surround Cuenca. Along the way, you may want to make a stop at the town of Azogues, known for its colorful markets and traditional handicrafts. Here, you can immerse yourself in the local culture, browse through unique souvenirs, and even try your hand at traditional crafts under the guidance of skilled artisans.


Finally, as you approach Cuenca, you’ll be greeted by its charming cobblestone streets, colonial architecture, and vibrant cultural scene. Take your time to explore the city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where you can admire the majestic Cuenca Cathedral, visit centuries-old museums, and indulge in delicious local cuisine at one of the many cafés and restaurants.


The journey from Baños to Cuenca via the Pan-American Highway takes approximately six to seven hours, depending on traffic and the time spent on stops along the way. It is the most convenient option for travelers who prefer a direct route and want to maximize their time in Cuenca.


So, if you are looking for a faster route with stunning natural landscapes and a taste of the Andean culture, the Pan-American Highway is the perfect choice for your journey from Baños to Cuenca.


Route 2: Baños to Cuenca via the Andes Mountains

If you’re a nature enthusiast and seeking a more adventurous and scenic route from Baños to Cuenca, a journey through the Andes Mountains will be an unforgettable experience. This route takes you off the beaten path, allowing you to explore remote villages, hike through lush cloud forests, and marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the Andean landscape.


To embark on this scenic route, leave Baños and head south towards the town of Puyo. From Puyo, the road starts to wind up into the mountains as you begin your ascent towards the stunning Sangay National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is known for its diverse ecosystems, encompassing towering peaks, dense forests, and an array of flora and fauna.


As you make your way through Sangay National Park, take the time to stop and explore the El Pailón del Diablo waterfall, a magnificent cascade surrounded by lush vegetation. You can hike down to the base of the waterfall and feel the power of nature as the water crashes down, creating a mesmerizing spectacle.


Continuing on the route, you’ll pass through quaint Andean villages such as Guamote and Alausí. These traditional towns offer a glimpse into the rich indigenous culture and history of the Andes. Consider making a stop in Alausí to experience one of Ecuador’s most iconic train rides, the Devil’s Nose Train. This thrilling journey takes you down a steep mountain slope, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys and rugged landscape.


As you travel deeper into the Andes, you’ll be surrounded by towering mountains, picturesque valleys, and stunning vistas. The road will lead you through breathtaking landscapes, including the stunning Cajas National Park. This protected area is known for its pristine lakes, rugged peaks, and unique high-altitude ecosystems. Consider taking a hike through the park to fully immerse yourself in its natural beauty.


Finally, as you approach Cuenca, the road will wind down from the mountains, offering sweeping views of the city and its surroundings. Take your time to explore Cuenca’s historic center, stroll along its charming streets, and admire the colonial architecture that has earned it the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The journey from Baños to Cuenca via the Andes Mountains is a longer and more adventurous route, taking approximately eight to nine hours. However, the stunning landscapes, cultural encounters, and off-the-beaten-path experiences make it a truly rewarding journey for those seeking an authentic and immersive travel experience.


So if you’re ready to embark on an adventure through the majestic Andes Mountains and discover the hidden gems of Ecuador, this route from Baños to Cuenca is perfect for you.


Route 3: Baños to Cuenca via the Amazon Rainforest

For those seeking an adventurous and immersive journey from Baños to Cuenca, a route through the Amazon Rainforest provides an incredible opportunity to explore one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. This route will take you through lush jungles, mystical rivers, and indigenous communities, offering a unique glimpse into the wonders of the Amazon.


To start your Amazon adventure, leave Baños and head east towards the town of Puyo, known as the “Gateway to the Amazon.” From Puyo, the road will lead you deeper into the dense rainforest as you venture towards the acclaimed Yasuni National Park. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is home to a staggering array of plant and animal species, including unique wildlife like the elusive jaguar and the pink river dolphin.


Consider taking a detour to visit one of the indigenous communities in the area, where you can learn about their traditional way of life, from their sustainable farming practices to their spiritual beliefs. Engage in cultural exchanges, partake in traditional ceremonies, and even try your hand at traditional crafts under the guidance of the community members.


Continuing on the route, you’ll journey deeper into the heart of the Amazon, passing through tropical rainforest and alongside rivers teeming with life. Consider taking a boat ride along the Napo River, one of the major tributaries of the Amazon River, to fully experience the beauty and wildlife of the region. Keep your eyes peeled for tropical birds, monkeys swinging through the trees, and the occasional glimpse of caimans basking in the sun.


As you approach Cuenca, the road will lead you out of the rainforest and into the scenic southern highlands of Ecuador. Along the way, you’ll pass through rustic small towns, where you can indulge in local cuisine and experience the warmth and hospitality of the locals.


Finally, as you arrive in Cuenca, take the time to explore its historic center, known for its colonial architecture, picturesque squares, and bustling markets. Visit the iconic Cuenca Cathedral, wander through the charming streets lined with colorful houses, and savor the flavors of traditional dishes at the local restaurants.


The journey from Baños to Cuenca via the Amazon Rainforest is a longer and more immersive route, taking approximately nine to ten hours, including stops and the boat ride. It offers a unique blend of adventure, nature, and cultural immersion, allowing you to experience the wonders of the Amazon firsthand.


So if you’re ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through the awe-inspiring Amazon Rainforest and indulge in the vibrant culture of Cuenca, this route from Baños to Cuenca is perfect for you.



Traveling from Baños to Cuenca offers a range of routes that cater to different preferences and travel styles. Whether you choose the direct and convenient Pan-American Highway, the adventurous and scenic journey through the Andes Mountains, or the immersive experience through the Amazon Rainforest, each route promises its own unique charm and exploration opportunities.


For those seeking a faster and more straightforward journey, the Pan-American Highway is the ideal choice. This route allows you to enjoy the stunning landscapes of the Andes while providing easy access to charming towns and cultural attractions along the way.


If you’re a nature enthusiast and want to indulge in scenic beauty, the route through the Andes Mountains offers breathtaking vistas, opportunities to explore natural wonders like waterfalls and national parks, and the chance to interact with indigenous communities.


For a truly immersive experience in Ecuador’s biodiversity hotspot, the route through the Amazon Rainforest provides an adventure like no other. This journey allows you to marvel at the incredible diversity of flora and fauna, learn about indigenous cultures, and navigate the mystical rivers that wind through this enchanting region.


No matter which route you choose, you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. From the natural wonders of Ecuador’s landscapes to the rich cultural heritage found in the towns and villages along the way, the journey from Baños to Cuenca is truly a bucket-list-worthy adventure.


So, pack your bags, plan your route, and get ready to embark on an incredible journey from Baños to Cuenca. Indulge in the natural beauty, immerse yourself in the culture, and create memories that will stay with you long after your trip is over. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or a history enthusiast, this journey has something to offer for everyone.