This spectacular 61-kilometer road drops nearly 1,000 meters in elevation along the Pastaza Valley to the edge of the Oriente. There are nearly a dozen waterfalls along the newly christened Ruta de las Cascadas, which has developed into a major tourist attraction with several tarabitas (cable-cars) across the valley as well as a range of adventure sports.
There are three ways to see this route: You can hop on a Baños–Puyo bus and stop off at the waterfalls, take a guided tour, or the best option is to hire a bicycle and take in the scenery at your leisure and see how far you get toward Puyo. If you feel too tired to cycle back uphill, you can always take a bus back and stow your bike on top.
The new Baños–Puyo road goes through half a dozen tunnels, only the first of which is open to cyclists. Along the rest of the route cyclists bypass the tunnels and take the old road, enjoying wonderful canyon views along the cliff face.
Leaving Baños, cross the Agoyán hydroelectric dam and the first set of cable car rides to small waterfalls, including the Agoyán. After 40 minutes, you pass one of the most impressive waterfalls on the route, Manto de la Novia (Bride’s Veil). For a small tip, the tarabita staff will watch your bike.
Take the hair-raising tarabita ($1) 500 meters across the gorge from where you can take a short walk down to a viewing platform or a longer hike (20 minutes) down to the bottom of the gorge to stand at the foot of the waterfall. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, but also sobering. In February 2010 a huge landslide here killed five residents and swept away houses, and there are now two waterfalls where for centuries there was only one. You can cross the rickety bridge back across the gorge and walk back up to the main road.
After Manto de Novia, it’s 40 minutes farther to Río Verde, 18 kilometers from Baños, an emerging town with several hotels, small restaurants, and shops selling local crafts. More importantly, this is the access point to El Pailón del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron), a dramatic waterfall tumbling between vertical walls into a deep depression.