One of top natural escapes from Quito is undoubtedly Mindo.
Just a 2-hour trip, Mindo is a valley and small village in the cloud forests of the Andes mountains.
For budget-minded travelers, the bus ride to Mindo will only cost you $2.50. The view from the bus is merely a tease, as you pass from the highland paramos of the andes into the lush cloud forests below spectacular views reign everywhere. But, it’s off of the main roads where the action in Mindo really is taking place.
Below are the top things to do when in visiting Mindo.
Hike up the mountain to the waterfalls
If you enjoy walking and exploring at a slower pace, then this hike is for you. A cable car will take you across the rain forest to the hiking trails (the cable car is also a great preview of the zip lines). Once you get off the cable car, an hour long trail to your left will lead you to a huge waterfall. On your right – a shorter, 15 minute trail will take you to a waterfall and river where you can swim and slide down the mountain into the river – a natural water park. Be sure to wear hiking sandals or boots and bring food and water.
Zip line above the rain forest
At the “canopy” (Ecuadorian term for a zip line) one of the most popular traveler’s spots in Mindo, you can zip line across ten different cables through the tropical rain forest. The cables are not very fast at first. If you are afraid of heights you’ll have plenty of time to warm up on the slower cables. Your fear will be overcome by the beauty of your surroundings.
At about the fourth cable, you will be able to test your adventurous side with different positions on the cables – superman and butterfly. The superman is a horizontal flying position and the butterfly is upside down.
Tube down Mindo river
At first glance, tubing appears to be quite risky because of the rocks jutting out of the fast-flowing whitewater. But the tube(s) frequently tied together to form a makeshift raft is designed to navigate over and through the rocks and are quite adequate for the Class II rapids. Keep your feet (and head!) above the tube to avoid injury. The guide will help maintain the tube’s trajectory all the way down the river.
Marisposario de Mindo
In this top-notch butterfly farm, change is a beautiful thing – the butterflies told me so. Here, you will witness firsthand the four stages in the life of a butterfly – egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. The butterfly pupae looks like a collection of gold and silver earrings because of the different colors necessary to blend in with the butterfly’s natural habitat.
Here, a Quetzal isn’t a bird, it’s even better, it’s chocolate! At 4:00 you can tour Mindo’s chocolate factory and see how chocolate is made from the cocoa bean to the bar. Afterwards, enjoy a taste test!
And the winner of the top thing to do in Mindo is… Birding
Mindo mixes the birds from the Andean highlands with birds the rainforest to create a spectacular cacophony of avian paradise!
According to the book “Birds of Ecuador”, by Ridgley and Greenfield, Mindo is home to the greatest number of endemic montane birds species of any place on the planet!
During the 2000 to 2005 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) sponsored by the Audubon Society, Mindo has been among the top 3 highest bird counts in the world over 6 years, with over 2,000 locations participating. Each location is a 25 kilometer radius, and the count lasts for 24 hours. Mindo had the highest count in 2000 with 350 bird species recorded, and in past years has exceeded the 400 bird species mark.
The highlight of birding in Mindo may be the Cock-of-the-Rock Lek. As Tom Quisenberry of El Monte Lodge in Mindo says:
“Sometimes described as a “singles bar”, a lek is a meeting place for male and female birds. The singles bar description seems even more appropriate when you consider that the males dance wildly and engage in all sorts of displaying behavior…
The Cock-of-the-Rocks in Mindo are bright red, with black wings and a bit of white on the rump and have a crazy pompadour-looking crest. The males come together at precisely 6:00 AM to dance, squawk, mock fight and sometimes to actually physically fight to maintain territory to impress the occasional female who may fly into the lek.
Males are able to spend all this energy and time (sometimes up to 6 hours a day!) to attract the females because they have no parental responsibilities at the nest. They don’t help build the nest, nor help feed the chicks… but prefer to hang out at the “bar” trying to pass on their genes.”
Stay a While
As you can see, there is so much to do, it’s difficult to fully appreciate Mindo in a single night or two stay. Many people stay a few nights in Mindo to have more time to see all that it has to offer. Take your time and savor the experience because it’s well-worth every minute.