In the middle of what feels like nowhere, there is a small tree house sitting at the edge of a cliff overlooking a tree-filled ravine. Sitting at about 8530 feet (2600 meters) above sea level, the tree house is actually a seismic monitoring station built with the purpose of observing nearby Mt. Tungurahua, an active volcano. But over the years, the precariously perched tree house, known as Casa del Arbol, has become one of Ecuador’s most famous attractions because of two swings hanging from poles attached to the tree’s scrawny branches. People come from all over the world for the adrenaline rush of swinging from the tree house.
Casa del Arbol, A Personal Bucket List Goal
Many moons ago in college, while studying for an exam, I procrastinated and surfed the web for a number of hours reading about far-flung destinations and generally avoiding responsibility. As I clicked on link after link, the light from my computer illuminating my future dreams, I stumbled on a photo of a tree house sitting at the edge of a cliff. There was no caption. There was no other information. It was just a tree house with a swing and it seemed to sit in a very remote part of the world. Of course, I dove down that rabbit hole quickly to learn everything I could about it and realized it was called Casa del Arbol in Ecuador. At the time, it was virtually unknown by most the world and I immediately decided I needed to visit this humbly incredible destination at some point in my life. It was, practically speaking, one of the first things I ever put on my bucket list. As a poor college student, I never actually thought I’d make it to Casa del Arbol but definitely dreamed of swinging out over the ravine.
A Trip to Ecuador
Nearly a decade later, I started this travel blog and eventually made my way down to Ecuador to explore the Galapagos Islands with the Nomadic Boys. After the Galapagos Islands, we spent a month traveling around and exploring Ecuador which was such an incredible experience. During the trip we ended up in the small city of Baños de Agua Santa, located in Ecuador’s Tungurahua province and famous for its mineral-rich hot springs and plenty of outdoor activities including hiking, zip lining, and cycling. It also happens to be the town closest to La Casa del Arbol and, as soon as we realized this, we quickly decided it would be a stop during our visit to Baños.
Visiting Casa del Arbol
We hired a taxi for the day at an agreed upon price (though he tried to force us to pay more in the end…it didn’t work) and made our way to Casa del Arbol. When we arrived, it was totally empty. There wasn’t a single other person, aside from the three of us and the attendants, at the attraction. It was as quiet as the night. We really felt this spiritual connection to the earth at that moment as we made our way over to the hallowed Casa del Arbol. Since there were no lines, we were able to ride the swing multiple times for a really fulfilling experience.
That’s how I pictured a visit to Casa del Arbol in my head.
The reality is Casa del Arbol became a very popular tourist attraction in the years since I first saw that photo on my laptop at university. It was crowded…extremely crowded. In fact, the word crowded is a substantial understatement. There were so many people visiting Casa del Arbol and its swings that it didn’t really feel like we were in a remote part of Ecuador. It felt akin to Disney World with screaming children running everywhere and overflowing trash cans. Additionally, the line to actually sit in the swing and swing out from Casa del Arbol was forever long. We waited for about 45 minutes to and hour for our turn in a line that curled around. Needless to say, it wasn’t the perfect bucket list experience of my dreams.
Was It Worth It?
The short answer to this question is YES! It was absolutely worth the wait, the screaming children, and the overcrowded environment. Even in the chaotic atmosphere of this attraction, seeing Casa del Arbol with my own eyes was such a spiritual travel experience. There it stood, humbly watching over Mt. Tungurahua and waiting to fling me out over the cliff. When I finally was able to take my turn on the swing, I climbed into the seat. I fastened the seat belt. And the attendants pushed the swing out, out out…as I flew over the canyon. As soon as I began to swing, it seemed that the cacophony melted away. It simply stopped and I was left with the sounds of my own thoughts and the views of the Earth passing beneath, above, and all around me.
It was exhilarating as the sound of my own blood flowing though my veins brought me back to reality and I took stock of everything going on. And just like that, the ride was over. It was time to get off and give the next person their turn. I thought the swing literally stood at the edge of a cliff but it actually stands at the edge of a steep slope. That didn’t really take away from the thrill since swinging out means if you fall, you certainly will meet death. In any case, it’s quite the rush to take a ride at the end of the world. If you love adventure and blood-rushing experiences then you certainly cannot miss swinging out at Casa del Arbol.
El Vuelo del Condor
Now, if you’re looking for an experience that will make your adrenaline really rush, then you need to try El Vuelo del Condor. It’s not too far from Casa del Arbol and offers two swings for an extreme adventure. The first swing is called La Bella, swinging out approximately 130 feet (40 meters) and the second swing is called La Bestia, swinging out approximately 200 feet (60 meters) over a canyon. These swings are different from Casa del Arbol because there is no steep slope. Instead it’s you and a very steep drop into a canyon.
Since I don’t really enjoy experiences that are too extreme, I sat this one out. My friends, the Nomadic Boys, decided they would do it together though. So they climbed onto the platform and were tied into the swing. Then they waited for the platform to fall from beneath them which would allow the pendulum to swing them out over the canyon. As I stood and watched, I drank a nice, warm Canelazo spiked with Aguardiente (brandy made from sugar cane), happy in the knowledge that I would not be doing it. When the swing moved into motion, their screams were priceless! They tell me it was quite the thrill but I’ll take their word for it. You don’t have to though. You can have this experience for yourself when you visit Casa del Arbol by simply adding it as another stop.
Important Information for Casa del Arbol
How to Get There: There are a number of ways to get to Casa del Arbol from Baños. I’ve listed the ways below.
- By Bus: The bus leaves from the center of the city and goes straight to Casa del Arbol. It costs $2.50 each way.
- By Shuttle: Many tour companies offer a shuttle from Baños to Casa del Arbol and vice versa multiple times a day. It costs $5 each way.
- By Taxi: Taxi fare from Baños to Casa de Arbol and return is approximately $10 each way. You can also hire a taxi for a number of hours which makes it easier to get to some of the other attractions or to pull over for photos. The price of this can vary and is negotiable. Be careful because your taxi driver might demand more money in the end. Don’t give into it.
- By Bike: Of course, you can ride a bicycle up to Casa del Arbol if you wish. Keep in mind the road is bumpy and it can be very windy. Also altitude is pretty high so breathing might be a problem if you are not trained.
- By foot: You can also hike up to Casa del Arbol from Baños. Depending on the trail, it can take anywhere from 1.5 to 4 hours of hiking to arrive so plan accordingly.
Admission: The cost of entrance to the Casa del Arbol park is $1-2. Make sure to take cash with you because no credit or bank cards are accepted. Admission gives you access to the park, the gardens, and swinging on the famous Casa del Arbol swing for approximately 1 minute.
Food: There is a café on site that serves very basic Ecuadorian food.
Time to Spend Here: Plan to spend approximately 1 hour waiting in line at Casa del Arbol if it is a very busy day. Use that information to plan how much time you’ll spend in the park overall. Quite honestly, the biggest attraction here is the swing on the tree house. After you’ve done that, I’d move on.
– Read about my traditional Andean cleansing ritual experience!
– Learn everything you need to know about visiting Ecuador’s Quilatoa Lake.
– Seeing Ecuador by train with Tren Crucero is an amazing experience. Learn more!
So, what do you think? Would you dare to swing out over a canyon?
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