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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ecotourism in Mindo, Ecuador

Written by Scott Donaldson
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Mindo is a small town north of Quito, Ecuador but it feels like a different world from the hustle and bustle of big city life in Quito.  It is laidback and informal, but it hosts nature lovers from all over the world with amazing walks, waterfalls, animals, as well as more adventurous river and climbing activities all located closeby.  Mindo is a snapshot into only one of the faces, ecosystems and flavors of rural life in South America, but don’t forget to pack your gumboots and raincoat. 

We boarded a full bus from Quito to Mindo paying $2.50 for the two hour bus trip.  We should have booked in advance as we ended up standing in the aisle most of the way!

My first impression was how small, quiet and laidback Mindo was although some parts like our hostel could do with a spruce up.  There were dogs wandering the main street and people returning from riding the river in their saturated clothes.  Some of the tourist operators were so laid back that they couldn’t even give us details of where and when things were happening!

We had brought gumboots and given that it rained the entire time, my bright yellow gumboots were worth the ridicule, especially on the wet muddy roads.  It is worth preparing for the rain if you visit between December and May.   Because Mindo and surrounding areas are up to 4,000 metres above sea level which is higher than Quito it provides insight into the biodiversity rarely found anywhere else in the world.  There is cloud forest which is home to persistent rain during the rainy season and constant low lying cloud at the canopy level in the forest.

There was plenty of affordable accommodation available in Mindo if you don’t mind small self-contained cosy cabins. The service was friendly and I felt at home with family pets hanging around the restaurants.  

Our trip was determined by the times of different tourist activities.  We saw the same nature loving tourists at the various attractions around town, for example we saw some of the same people at the chocolate tasting at 4pm followed by the Frog Concert at 6:30pm.  

There are some great walks around Mindo which enable you to see the cloud forest, although our trip was limited by the weather.  It is still possible to go for walks when it is raining, but it sometimes isn’t as inviting.

Mindo opened my eyes to nature.  Not only does it have about 15 waterfalls, but these are located within walking distance to town if you enjoy an hour walk.  Most of the waterfalls including Nambillo Waterfalls are reachable by tour bus, walking and cable car.

Bird-watching is one of the main activities available in Mindo. There is an amazing variety of birds; an estimated 550 bird species including the Cock-of-the-Rock and Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan. 

There is also a hummingbird refuge with approximately 14 different breeds which provided an opportunity to take some amazing photos and audio of their different sounds.


Near the river and a decent walk from town there is place where you can view the most amazing butterflies.  They love bananas and any other sweet fruit and it was amazing having such colorful creatures on your fingers and flying around the enclosure.  


The Frog Concert is on the way into town and a long walk from the town itself at Mindo Lago Hostel.  You can stay there too, right beside the lake with its classy miniature boats that you can have a romantic dinner for two on.  The frogs didn’t play any Beethoven symphonies, but on the walk, we saw plenty of frogs, including some really tiny ones, and learnt that their “songs” were mainly their way to attract female frogs for mating, as well as their way of communication.

For those with a sweet tooth there is El Quetzal Mindo Chocolate Tour.  It costs $6 per person and is available in Spanish or English.  It was fascinating seeing some actual plants growing cacao and stevia (natural sweetener, originally from Paraguay).  We also tried 100 percent dark chocolate with no sugar added.  It wasn’t as bitter as I thought it would be. The sugarless hot chocolate made with 100% cacao paste was very tasty and soothing after a long walk in the cloud forest.


Cacoa Beans

For those with more of an adventurous streak there is canopying and tubing available for more affordable prices than you will find in western countries.  The tubing costs $6 and the instructor was so casual that he wore jeans and gumboots on the tube raft.  

Mindo is a world famous tourist town with plenty of nature and even adventure for those who want to enjoy the cloud forest. It is also very close to the capital city and reachable by bus or car, only around 2 hours from busy Quito. Come and discover the beautiful nature enclosed in this place!


© Scott Donaldson

Last modified on Wednesday, 30 April 2014