Only a two-hour drive from Quito lies the town of Mindo, nestled along the Ecuadorian Andes’ western foothills. The majority of its population, made up of around 3,000 inhabitants, is dedicated to protecting the area through ecotourism activities and services.
Mindo an ideal destination for those of you that don’t want to travel too far to experience rich biodiversity, good weather, and sustainable travel.
A place you will fall in love with
There are people that visited Mindo while vacationing through Ecuador and – fast forward two years – now live there. You might be next! Here are a number of reasons why you too might fall in love with this village:
This is completely subjective, but if you’re looking for a fresh, tropical environment, Mindo has it.
The average temperature here is 19 degrees Celsius (66 F) and, because this village is located at 1,248m above sea level (4,084 feet), it’s surrounded by dense cloud forest and is often engulfed in fog. Expect to experience rain here; the average annual rainfall here is 2,525 mm (99 inches).
If you’re a nature lover, and especially a birdwatcher, you’re gonna go wild here. There’s so much to see!
Mindo is home to more than 450 species of birds, including the unusual cock-of-the-rock. Hummingbirds can be observed on nearly every open patio area that has flowering plants.
In terms of mammals, if you’re lucky, you might be able to spot armadillos, anteaters, two-toed sloths, various species of monkeys and even a large feline, like a puma or ocelot.
While in Mindo, you can’t miss a visit to the Butterfly Farm, where you can observe (and interact with) over 1,000 butterfly species. And, if you’re a fan of orchids, you’ll find over 400 species spread out across Mindo, both in the cloud forest and in the gardens of local businesses and homes.
Top activities in Mindo
Mindo is a wonderful destination to simply disconnect, read a book, relax and soak in the clean forest air. However, if you prefer to remain active, here are some of the top activities to enjoy there.
Like coffee? This region of Ecuador is one of many coffee-producing regions and, to learn more about the coffee-making process, you can sign up for the Coffee Tour at el Quetzal. The tour begins with visitors harvesting coffee cherries from the trees and ends with a roasted cup of coffee.
Chocolate making tour
A few businesses offer chocolate making tours, which go through all the steps in the chocolate-making process. You’ll observe how the cacao beans are harvested, fermented, dried, roasted, hand shelled and hand ground, and much more. These tours last about an hour, costs $10 and, of course, includes some chocolate tasting along the way.
You don’t need to be an expert birdwatcher to enjoy this activity. Simply get your hands on a bird guidebook and a pair of binoculars, or even just a hummingbird guidebook, and sit out on a quiet outdoor terrace.
If you prefer taking the more active route, go on a hike around the village and you’ll be sure to spot various types of hummingbirds, mot-mots, bird-eaters, and raptor species.
There are a few birdwatching tours in Mindo, like the Bird of Paradise Tours, where a local guide points out some of the more rare species, like the Andean Cock of the Rock. Reserva Ecologica Pachijal Eco & Bird Lodge also offers tours, and you can always opt to hire a recommended local guide from the village itself.
Though not generally recommended by hip hop artists, this is an activity worth doing in Mindo. Head up the main hill, involving a 7km hike uphill, and pay a few dollars ($5 per person) to cross the gorge on the aerial tram (tarabita). Once on the other side, head left and you’ll begin along a waterfall route where you can stop through seven waterfalls. To complete the entire hike, and depending on your physical state, this hike might take about 5 hours to complete, so make sure you bring water, snacks and a change of clothes (you’ll likely get wet).
Apart from the waterfall hike, there’s also a great hike starting at Casa Amarilla (Yellow House). There’s a small entrance fee, but these are some of the prettiest paths that are easily accessible from Mindo. This series of hiking paths wind their way through her property and can take from 1-8 hours to complete, depending on which you choose.
This is one of the activities preferred by local tourists. You’ll notice in and around town that you can rent inner tubes at a few locations. Grab yours and head up river for a short (20 minute float down Mindo’s main river) or long (2 hours along the Río Blanco). You can hire a guide too, if that makes you more comfortable.
If you prefer flowers and plants to birds, this is another rewarding activity you can do in Mindo. Hike along one of the above-described trails and keep your eyes open for various species of orchids that grow in abundance in this area. Make sure you don’t touch, move or extract any of these plants.
There is also an orchid farm in Mindo, and most hotels/gardens will have an orchid section that the owners have collected over time.
Mindo Lindo, located at the top of the hill, just pass the main entrance into Mindo, is a beautiful reserve that has been left to flourish. There are hiking trails, wild animals and many orchids, as well as other plant, to appreciate.
What to do next?
Once you’re in Mindo, you can choose from a number of options to continue along your journey.
Head back to Quito
If you haven’t fully explored Quito yet, you might consider heading back to the city and going on a tour through the Old Town. You can also climb up Rucu Pichincha one morning and visit museums the rest of the day.
One the way back to Quito, you’ll pass an entrance to Pulalahua, a town nestled within the crater walls of what was once an active volcano. You’ll find a hostel here, camping options and activities like horseback riding and hiking. This is a lovely, picturesque area that’s worth a day or overnight trip.
Mitad del Mundo
This is another stop you can make while heading back to Quito. You’ll find a large marble monument that was erected to symbolize the location of the Earth’s equator. Unfortunately, years after this monument was placed, a re-calculation determined that the equator was actually located a bit farther north. Woops.
Happy wandering and we hope you enjoy your time traveling through Mindo!