La Casa del Arbol, Baños (Swing at the End of the World)

The Swing at the End of the World in Casa del Arbol, Baños

photography by: Omri Westmark

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In recent decades, Baños de Agua Santa has turned into South America’s extreme sports capital, boasting a medley of attractions, including bungee jumping, whimsical lookouts and white-water rafting, to name just a few. Standing out among the town’s numerous generic tourist traps is a verdant hilltop, where a treehouse coupled with two swings offers plucky visitors an acrophobia-inducing experience.

In 1999, following a long period of dormancy, Tungurahua Volcano erupted all of a sudden, unleashing torrents of lava and billows of ash in all directions. In the wake of this violent outburst, more than 20,000 people from Baños and the surrounding area were evacuated for a year or so. Upon their eventual return, native resident Carlos Sánchez resolved to construct a rather unusual structure for monitoring the mountain’s seismic activity.


Perching atop the precipice of a grassy mountaintop near the village of Runtún, La Casa del Arbol (simply meaning “the Treahouse”) might seem at first like yet another product of Baños’ ample tourist industry. Looks can be deceiving, though, as this wooden edifice was originally built by Sánchez as a makeshift seismic observatory along with a swing that pendulates over the steep hillside.


At the height of roughly 2,600 meters, the site was and still is a great vantage point of Mt. Tungurahua, something that made it an ideal location for keeping an eye on that volatile beast.


A few years down the line, occasional tourists came across the canopy-dwelling shed and its hanging seat, and not long after, the place inadvertently became an unofficial attraction among intrepid hikers. As Baños evolved into the thrill-seekers Mecca it is today, the once secret place was incorporated into a fenced park.


Due to safety concerns, the rickety structure has since been replaced with a sturdier pair of swings, each of which comes with its own seatbelt too. Better yet, a small concrete ramp now provides a boost of momentum to anyone riding the swings, best known by their pretentious moniker – Swing at the End of the World.


One earnest disclaimer about La Casa del Arbol is that in spite of its photo-based reputation, the place is far from offering the same adrenaline rush of close-by attractions like Columpio Fantasias De Volar, after all, the swing hovers over a grassy slope rather than hundreds of meters of freefall as it initially appears. It is for this reason that the park can be a great alternative for all of those who wish to experience the town’s extreme sport industry without risking a heart attack.


In addition to the scenic treehouse, the park is also home to another duo of swings, a smattering of floral sculptures, an eatery and a 70-meter-long zip line, all for an entrance fee of 1 USD (as of 2023). You can either get here by bus from downtown Baños (departing at 11AM, 2PM or 4PM), an organized tour, a car or the most extreme option – a 6-kilometer uphill hike that takes between 3 to 4 hours to complete.