The Volcanic History of Baños

Baños, Spanish for “baths (of sacred water)”, is famous for its thermal baths and adventure tourism. The city is located at 1826m above sea level and nestled in the side of the still-active Volcano Tungurahua. Tungurahua restarted activity in 1999 and the whole city had to have an emergency evacuation. The most recent major eruption was on April 26, 2011 so things are still very much alive under that cone of ash. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for any red hot lava that might start coming my way.

Quaint little Banos

A view of Banos from a lookout. From this point, I was supposed to be able to see the volcano. Unfortunately there was too much cloud coverage.

In the centre of town is the Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water (Nuestra Señora del Agua Santa), which is made out of black volcanic stones, giving it an eerie gothic look. The church is named for a vision of the Virgin Mary at a waterfall near Baños and has therefore become a place of pilgrimage for pious Catholics asking for miracles. The neo-gothic interior is particularly impressive, including paintings depicting the Virgin performing various miracles for those who ask for her help.

The volcanic rock of Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water and another great view of Banos

The beautiful interior of Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water

A small selection paintings depicting the Virgin Mary doing miracles for locals