Just a couple of hours from the Ecuadorian capital is Mindo, a tropical little town nestled in the cloud forest along the western slope of the Andes. If you have an extra day or two to spare in Quito, you should definitely visit the Mindo cloud forest.
Apart from its lush, tropical climate and natural biodiversity, there are many ecotourism enterprises to choose from. In the following blog, I’ll go into some reasons why you’ll fall in love with the Mindo Cloud Forest Reserve.
Mindo Cloud Forest Reserve is a great ecotourism destination
A good reason to visit Mindo is because it’s one of the top ecotourism destinations in all of Ecuador. Likely due to its proximity to Quito, both local and international tourists frequent this area, attracted to the rich diversity in flora and fauna, including species of endemic orchids, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
In Mindo, you’ll find many options in ecotourism. To further conserve the area’s biodiversity, local business owners have embraced ecotourism, often installing green energy solutions and choosing low impact approaches to running their establishments versus more conventional solutions. These businesses directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities.
You’ll still come across establishments that aren’t particularly eco-friendly, but suffice to say a substantial portion of the Mindo population values and does their part to protect their natural surroundings.
Everything you can do in the Mindo Cloud Forest Reserve
- Zipline adventure – Before Baños became the “adventure capital” of Ecuador, Mindo received a lot of attention due to its zipline circuits. Upon entering the town, take a right at the farthest corner of the central plaza. Follow this road across a couple of rivers and up a mountain toward El Edén: Treehouse. Before El Edén, you’ll come across two zipline companies: Mindo Ziplines Tour and Mindo Canopy Adventures. To get here following Google Maps, you would get on Vicente Aguirre, turn right on Ruta Río Mindo, and a final right on Vía a las Cascadas.
- Inner tubing – The Mindo River, which runs down from the Andes and along the town, is one of Mindo’s main attractions (as bodies of water often are!). A popular activity, especially for families, is to rent inner tubes and bump your way down the rapids. This is generally a fun, and harmless, activity, but children should be closely supervised. During the rainy season, the river swells and rapids become more dangerous for inner tubers.
- Butterfly farm – Mindo’s climate is ideal for many tropical critters, especially butterflies. Mariposas de Mindo is the town’s main butterfly center where you can interact directly with these delicate insects. If you want them to land on you, remember not to apply any insect repellent that day!
- Hiking – There’s nothing like hiking through tropical forests. Check out the Ruta de Cascadas trail or the Yellow House Trail to experience the forest. For the Ruta de Cascadas, you’ll have to head up to the tarabita (cable car) for $5 (roundtrip) and then follow the trail to see a series of beautiful waterfalls. The Yellow House offers visitors and number of trails which are great for avid birdwatchers There are many more hiking trails to explore in Mindo, so don’t limit yourself to these two! Ask at the tourist office or small tourist agencies for directions to other trails scattered throughout the surrounding cloudforest.
Other perfect destinations for ecotourism in Ecuador
If you love ecotourism you cannot miss out these destinations: Galapagos Islands, Cotopaxi, and the Amazon Rainforest.
We can’t speak of ecotourism in Ecuador and not mention the Galapagos Islands. The ecological and environmental significance of the Galapagos Islands attracts thousands of tourists annually: in 2018, it received 275,817 visitors.
Residents of the Islands and Galapagos National Park authorities are keenly aware of the importance of protecting their natural assets and much of the profits from ecotourism are used to continue conserving the Islands.
Upon arriving at the Islands, tourists are also expected to abide by certain guidelines to reduce their environmental impact. For instance, within protected areas, all visitors must be accompanied by a certified naturalist guide. Fishing is only authorized on certain boats and in certain areas and no one is allowed to feed the animals.
After the Galapagos Islands, Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s top ecotourism destinations. This protected area, covering 334 km² (208 miles²), is home to wild horses, the Andean Condor, the Andean speckled bear and the Andean puma. A few environmentally conscious businesses in the area include: The Secret Garden, Tierra del Volcán, and Chilcabamba Lodge.
The Galapagos Islands are clearly defined and protection of these and the surrounding waters is considerably easier than protection of tracts of dense, Amazonian Rainforest. The Amazon is disappearing at an agonizing rate and while you can still visit it today, it might not be around for future generations.
As a tourist, by participating in ecotourism, you can encourage protection of the region, instead of destruction, and this is particularly important in the Amazon.
Within the Ecuadorian Amazon are numerous protected areas, including the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, considered one of the world’s most biodiverse areas. Other protected areas within the Amazon include the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Cayambe-Coca National Park, Sumaco-Napo-Galeras National Park, and the Llanganates.
A few good community ecotourism projects you can support include:
- Sinchi Warmi, owned and run by an association of Kichwa women. You can stay in hand-built, attractive wooden cabins that are set around a small lake. Their restaurant offers local specialties as well as international dishes and vegetarian options.
- Near Lago Agrio, the Siekoya Remolino community protects 17,000 hectares of rainforest and is run by four families who have created a tourism project, Campamento Kwakwiyo. Accommodation is with families or in a covered camping area and you can bird watch, go on a night walk, a canoe trip, a jungle hike, and harvest yucca.
- Near the city of Puyo, Fundación Hola Vida has trails you can explore through 225 hectares of secondary rainforest, including a beautiful waterfall. The area is located 27 kilometers south of Puyo just off the Via Macas. The waterfall is a 20-minute walk from the entrance to the reserve and can be visited independently or with a guide.
As a Certified B Corporation, the Wanderbus is legally required to consider the impact of our decisions on our workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. We have routes throughout the country and strongly encourage our travelers to choose eco-friendly businesses while they explore Ecuador.
Wherever you might be traveling, and whether or not you’re traveling with the Wanderbus, ask us about ecotourism projects you can support. If you’re traveling with us, our on-board bilingual guides can provide recommendations as well.