Only a short jaunt from the sprawling city of Quito, Mindo simply feels like another world. You notice it quickly on the bus ride in as smoggy metropolis changes into misty covered mountains. Deep plunging canyons, covered in mossy trees blanket the entire landscape, dominate the area. Mindo is located in Ecuador’s cloud forest. Mystical clouds pass over the vegetation and suddenly your sense of sky and earth disappear melting into one tantalizing creation.
Mindo is known for its birdwatching, a place where over 470 different species of birds are found. In fact, Mindo is one of the worlds most diverse concentrations of not only birds but also butterflies and plant life. This makes Mindo one of the best places in Ecuador to get out into nature, where the options for budding biologists and general lovers of mother earth are endless!
Places to stay:
Mindo is a small town offering a good selection of basic accommodations. If you are looking for something with a little personality here are our favourite options:
- La Casa de Cecilia: This rustic spot in the center of town offers backpackers the option of staying in staying in either dorms or privates. Basic accommodations with a spectacular setting, right next to the river bed and a short five minute walk from town. This place seems to be the main backpacker hub at the time and will give you the most social scene (though don’t expect much) in Mindo.
- Birdwatchers House Lodge: Twenty minutes outside of town this place is for true twitchers. If you want to live smack dab in the middle of the clouds and dedicate your days to the birds (most likely this is why you’re here) then staying with owner Vinicio and his wealth of knowledge is a great option.
Things to Do:
- Birdwatchers breakfast: Start your day off right in more ways than one! Located up the road on the way to the zip lining tours is Birdwatchers Breakfast. Offering a grand English breakfast (toast, eggs, fried tomato, sausage, bacon, and unlimited coffee…) in one of the most pristine locations in town. Whilst you indulge your stomach it’s quite likely that you will spot hummingbirds, toucans, and a whole slew of other tropical birds!
We’re sorry, we didn’t mean to make you drool…
- Canyoning: A great beginner course only a ten minute drive outside of town ( the companies will arrange transport for you). The trip starts with an incredible hike, worth your money right from the get-go, after crossing an exhilarating three string bridge, you will repel down three good sized waterfalls. Nothing too scary, making it a great intro to the sport.
- Rent a bike: In the middle of town you can rent a mountain bike and then explore the area on your own for the day. The shop owners will be able to show you different routes based on your interest and ability level.
- Tubing: In the high season the route can get pretty swift, creating an adrenaline inducing trip. The setting is breathtaking as the river cuts through mist shrouded mountains. For only six dollars this makes for a cheap and fun way to spend part of your day.
- Chocolate Tour: From the delicious café El Quetzal you can organize tours of the nearby chocolate farms of Mindo. The owners will take you through the process of cultivation, production, and the best part consumption!
- Birdwatching Tours: Mindo was put on the map thanks to it’s abundance of birdwatching opportunities. There are tons of knowledgeable and bilingual guides around town. Tours and walks can be organized from almost any guesthouse, just know most are done early in the morning so prepare to rise with the sun!
- Hiking (waterfalls): It would be just plain silly to come to Mindo and not explore the diverse nature that the town is immersed in. Many trails can be reached by walking from the central plaza and simply heading towards the mountains. One popular trail is on the road towards the zip line companies where you will reach a simple cable car. For five dollars you can take the car on a thrilling ride across the gorge and from there hike to three impressive waterfalls.
- Ziplining: Can you believe you can experience the joy of flight for just 20 dollars? A course of ten different cables taking you a total of 3,500 meters throughout the forest, prepare to squeal with delight!
- Night Walking Tours: How many times have you donned a headlamp and tried to find the creatures of the night? Chances are you might get a bit scared, so why not hire a guide who will help you spot adorable possums, enormous spiders, exotic olingos, and creepy (but perfectly safe) snakes! Carl Worsley, English speaking expat who has lived in Mindo five years, runs a great tour which can be booked at Divina Lodge.
Getting there and away:
- From Quito Mindo is a quick two hour bus ride away. Simply head to the cities northern bus terminal- La Ofelia- and book a bus for $2.50 headed to Mindo.
- Buses also go from the coast to Mindo, the journey from Santo Domingo will take about four hours.
You can’t bike into Mindo, but you should rent a bike once you’re there!
Where to go next:
- Quito: The capital of Ecaudor is a mere two hours away. Head here for culture, impressive eateries, and a more happening nightlife scene.
- Canoa: Head onwards to the coast, Ecuador is so small that you are never far from surf, sun, and sand. The hippie town of Canoa is an interesting mix of local fisherman lifestyle and an influx of expat culture.
- Otavalo: The bustling market town of Otavalo is best visited on Saturdays (when the food and animal markets are also set up) but don’t be fooled artisanal crafts can be purchased any day of the week.