Baeza (Ecuador)Andean Highlands of Ecuador.
It's a quiet town that is rapidly coming into its own as a mountain town and lower-elevation stopover for travelers challenged by Ecuador's elevations. Its location at "The Y" (fork between routes to Lago Agrio/Coca and Tena) makes it a reasonable hub for exploring the area's attractions. Tourist infrastructure is very limited, but adequate and improving.
There are two Baezas: Colonial Baeza (Baeza Antiguo) and New Baeza (Nueva Baeza). It's a 5-minute walk between the two.
By carLa Y - If you want to handle your own transport to and from Baeza, it will be helpful to know about "La Y" (pronounced "La Yeh" in Ecuadorian Spanish). This important highway intersection is 2 kilometers downhill from Baeza. One fork heads east into the northern Oriente, toward Lago Agrio and Coca. The other fork heads up the hill to Baeza itself, before continuing southeast toward Tena and the central Oriente.
By busBaeza has no bus terminal as such. Buses from Quito that are bound for Tena often stop in the center of New Baeza. Buses from Quito to Lago Agrio or Coca pass within 2 kilometers of Baeza, and will stop at "La Y".
Buses pass by La Y westbound for Quito (2-2.5 hours, $4: May 2016) every 20-30 minutes throughout the day. Eastbound buses for Lago Agrio, Coca, Tena, and other Oriente transportation hubs pass every 30-60 minutes during the day. Most buses out of Quito will leave from Terrestre Quitumbe, also referred to as Tumbe (located in the far south of the city). Alternatively, once can taxi from the airport to the Pifo roundabout and flag down a bus for Tena (most direct to Baeza) or Lago Agrio/Coca. Another option for avoiding unnecessary travel to Quitumbe is to board a Tena-bound bus from the slightly-scary "autopista" transport hub on the east side of Quito you may have to run across 8 lanes of freeway traffic with your luggage going this way, but it saves over an hour of redundant travel and transfer through Quitumbe in the far south of Quito.
If you arrive at La Y and want to get up to Baeza, you can try hitching with traffic heading uphill, pay a passing bus $.25 to take you up, or ask for someone to call you a taxi. Walking is not recommended, as there are no sidewalks and the road is curvy
By footEasy, just walk. Nowhere in the town is more than a 10-minute walk away. It is relatively flat in New Baeza, whereas Old Baeza is on a quaint hill and the paved/cobblestone path between the two has some up and down.
By taxiThere are also plenty of taxis around should you need one.
Cascada San RafaelThis is the tallest waterfall in Ecuador at 150 meters of height, and the incredible volume of water flowing over the lip tends to leave visitors breathless. An enormous mist blows out from the base of the falls, which can be reached unofficially by the adventurous. There is a well-developed trail down to a safe lookout point.
In early 2016, the shape of the falls changed considerably due to the second tier of the falls collapsing into the pool below. There is now a freefall of 150 meters straight onto the rocks left from the collapse. Locals insist that the collapse revealed an image of the Pachamama, the Incan earth-goddess, who is still worshiped by Andean indigenous groups. Look for this image in the bare cliff to the left of the falls itself.
Whitewater KayakingBaeza is a major whitewater kayaking hub for Ecuador. Featuring runs from Class III on up to difficult Class V, with steep continuous character, the high season from November to March sees a large influx of several dozen expert whitewater kayakers who take advantage of the large numbers of paddlers to easily arrange daily kayaking outings.
The difficult rivers here run more consistently than in other Ecuadorian whitewater hubs like Tena or Santo Domingo, making Baeza a better bet for expert kayakers on short trips. The climate is much cooler and drier than lower-elevation destinations such as Tena.
HikingHikes within Baeza itself include a grueling ascent to a magnificent view from the antennas visible from anywhere in town, a descent from Old Baeza over blackened antique cobblestones to a small waterfall, a waterfall loop from New Baeza that begins near the zoo.
Jungle ToursBaeza can serve as a useful stopover for jungle tourists wishing to escape from the heat and humidity of the lower Oriente without going straight to high elevations.
Shopping is quite limited in Baeza. There are a handful of small grocery markets, produce stands, and hardware stores -- usual fare for small-town Ecuador. Notably absent: supermarket, ATM.
phone: +593 6 2320471, +593 9 99129880address: Batallón Chimborazo y JumandiLong-standing roadside diner with breakfast, set lunches, and set dinners in addition to an extensive menu. Their specialty is local trout prepared in a variety of ways.
Low season (Apr-Oct): bring your own company.
Hostal Ginaphone: +593 6 2320471address: Batallón Chimborazo y Jumandi, Baeza, Napo, EcuadorBasic single, double, and triple rooms with shared or private bathrooms. Located above a busy restaurant. Free shots of Ecuadorian tequila for first time visitors.
La Casa de Rodrigophone: +593 6 2320-124address: Calle Batallón Chimborazo y Jumandi, Baeza, Napo, EcuadorA few rooms in a nice house and a knowledgeable helpful host.
La Casa de Ginaphone: +593 6 2320471address: Batallón Chimborazo y Jumandi, Baeza, Napo, EcuadorUp to 8 beds in a private house. Features master bedroom with a double bed and a single, various other room configurations, office area, living room with bigscreen TV. Prices vary depending on number of people and length of booking.