Visiting Quito and looking for a break from the big city, without the hassle of traveling long and far to get there? Or are you traveling through Ecuador and seeking a place to soak up a beautiful and unique natural environment? Or do you simply want a place to have some fun, and maybe a little adrenalin rush? Either way, Mindo is just what you’re looking for!
Mindo is a small pueblo (village) located about two hours west of Quito. It’s very quaint and feels kind of like it’s in the middle of nowhere, yet it’s incredibly easy to reach by bus, taxi or private vehicle. It can therefore be done as a daytrip from Quito, but I really don’t recommend this. The town is just so darn cute and the surrounding area so beautiful, you really should stay for at least a few days. I stayed for three nights when I visited and that felt just about right, although I liked the area so much I would have happily stayed longer.
Mindo is located in an area commonly referred to as a cloud forest, in the mid-altitude range between the Andean mountains and the coastal lowlands. Its climate is similar to a tropical rainforest, except a bit cooler – think warm but not hot, and extremely lush due to the relatively high humidity and plentiful rainfall. It’s basically a beautiful jungle without the oppressive heat.
The area has an incredible amount of biodiversity and is a bird lover’s paradise, but there’s also plenty to do in the area to get your heart pumping. Chocolate and coffee lovers will also love visiting here, and I found the food offering overall to be quite good for a village of this size. There was even a bit of nightlife, with one restaurant staging a concert during my visit, given by a group of very talented musicians from Venezuela.
I stayed in a small lodging called El Descanso, just a short walk from the main square in the village. The gentleman who operates it is a very friendly and hospitable host, and in the back he has built an incredible garden and veranda which attracts hundreds of birds and a few other small animals…non-guests pay a fee to access this area because it’s such a great spot to see birds up close, but of course access is free to guests.
El Descanso is a fairly basic, rustic guesthouse , but it’s clean and comfortable, and with the entire building made of wood plus all the trees surrounding it, you have the feeling of being in a forest rather than a town. A good breakfast is included, and enjoying it while watching hummingbirds buzz to and fro is a great way to start the day!
So, what activities does Mindo offer to visitors? Here’s a quick (though not exhaustive) rundown:
- Birdwatching (especially hummingbirds and the Andean cock-of-the-rock). I’ve never been much of a birdwatcher, but watching the hummingbirds buzzing and battling for feeder space (see video clip above) was great fun.
- Jungle trekking, varying in length and level of difficulty, often passing gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes.
- Tubing and/or rafting along nearby rivers, with mild to moderate rapids.
- Ziplining over the cloud forest canopy – highly recommended!
- Visit to a small artisanal chocolate factory, to learn how cacao is grown and converted from raw fruit into a favorite sweet indulgence. I recommend El Quetzal, located directly in town.
- Do a coffee plantation tour – Mindo Canopy Adventures (who also offer ziplining) offers visits to one nearby.
- Visit the Mariposario, home to hundreds of butterflies. Many visitors end up having one land on them!
As you can see, this little community offers a lot of activities for visitors. But don’t forget to slow down, chill and enjoy the relaxed pace of this friendly, safe and lovely little Ecuadorian pueblo!