First of all, I’m not talking about THAT Baños. There is a really famous Baños full of outdoorsy adventurous activities that I would love to visit but didn’t have time for. Everyone I know who has been there loves that place so if you have a chance to go there, do it. But, I’m not talking about that Baños.
Instead, I’m talking about a Baños de Cuenca, which is about a twenty-minute drive outside of Cuenca. It is a little town with tons of hot springs and is famous in Cuenca as a place to relax and unwind. I’m told that there are many hot springs you can visit, but our hostel and other people I’ve talked to said, that Piedra de Agua is the best. This is where we went at 6:30 AM so we catch the early bird 2 for 1 deal.
There is a website where you can see their daily deals. Just be forewarned that the deals don’t run during holiday weeks so call ahead to make sure. I also heard that there is a foreigner discount on certain days, so bring your passport.
We had originally planned on taking a #12 bus to get there for 25 cents, but we must have just missed it so we took a cab for about four dollars. Our cabby knew where to go and we had to just walk up a paved path from the road where he dropped us.
Thanks to my new friend Andrea, I was able to split the $30 cost since it was 2 for 1, so $15 dollars got me: a steam bath with aromatic leaves, volcanic red mud pool, volcanic blue mud pool, underground thermal hot and freezing cold pools, steam box bath and the use of three thermal outdoor pools.
To start off, we paid at reception and the receptionist took us to the unisex locker room and gave us robes. The attendant instructed us to take a hot shower before entering the steam room. He had us stay in for 15 minutes, take a cool shower, and then return for another 15 minutes. I didn’t last the whole time on the second round so I cooled off in my robe at a nearby lounge chair.
The next treatment is the red mud pool. Here we used red mud and rubbed it all over our bodies including our face and sat on nearby lounge chairs for about 15 minutes to dry. Then we scrubbed off all the mud from our body and rinsed our faces in one of the outdoor volcanic shower stalls.
Tip: bring a dark colored swimsuit because the red mud is known to stain.
Our next treatment was the blue volcanic mud pool where we did the same thing like the red volcanic mud. While the red mud was very coarse and great for exfoliating, I enjoyed the smoother blue mud for its polishing properties. I felt like my skin should be sparkling after it dried and I rinsed it off again.
We were taken to the next location in a cave to an underground thermal pool. The area was dimly lit with candles and quiet. Soft music was playing in the background. We were instructed to sit for a few minutes in the really hot pool and then jump into the freezing cold pool next. The first time was the hardest. I recommend just dunking yourself in one go. You kinda become numb after that. I loved doing this after a while. I think we were here for about 20 minutes total.
If you are claustrophobic, the next step may not be for you. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle it, but once I saw that I could easily kick open the doors in front of my knees I was fine. Each of us sat in an individual steam boxes with our heads sticking out. The attendant wrapped a towel around my neck to help keep the steam in. There was a control knob for us to turn the steam higher or lower. After about 12 minutes we were to rinse ourselves at the shower located in the same room.
After this last treatment we were given a flowery red tea and were shown to the outdoor pools. There are three pools that are just outside the mud bath areas and a pretty Japanese pool that is a little further removed. With your 2X1 entrance fee you can stay all day repeating the circuit or enjoying the outdoor pool. We were also given the option of paying more for a massage and/or having something to eat in their restaurant. We passed on both because they were quite a bit more expensive than if you were to get a massage and meal in Cuenca, and after spending about 30 minutes enjoying the outdoor pools, we showered and were on our way.
On our way, to the bus stop we passed a fresh juice place and I enjoyed some fresh squeezed orange/carrot juice before we took the bus back into town.