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The best things to do in Mindo, Ecuador

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Kathy and Lewis on zipline Mindo

Kathy and Lewis on zipline Mindo

Mindo, just 80 km from Quito is a small, friendly and fun town, popular with tourists and packed with fabulous things to do. It is easy to get to Mindo as it is just 80km from Quito and it’s beautifully located in the wildlife rich cloud forest on the western slopes of Ecuador’s Andes. Mindo lies at the heart of the Mindo Nambillo Ecological Reserve, just where the highly biodiverse Choco lowlands and tropical Andes meet.

The Cloudforest of Mindo is home to a diverse range of birds as well as some more elusive animals such as the agouti, jaguarundi, deer, paca, coati, sloth, squirrel, tayra, the spectacled bear, pumas and Capuchin monkeys.
As well as being the best place for birding in Ecuador, Mindo also offers wonderful walks through intact virgin cloud forest, slow travel activities such as taking a chairlift over the cloud-forest canopy to high adrenaline activities such as zip-lining, biking, and dips in waterfalls.

I recommend 3 or 4 days to take in the delights of Mindo, giving some time to relax in a hammock as well as experience the best of Mindo’s activities.

Read on for our Mindo travel guide with our suggested list of the top ten best things to do in Mindo.

Kathy and Lewis at zipline Mindo

Zip-lining Mindo

For an hour or so of high adrenaline fun take to the sky. There are two zipline centres just outside Mindo. Choose to take 3, 5 or more lines as you zip across the forest. It is a lot of fun, good for all the family.

Mindo birding

Birdwatching in Mindo

Mindo is 1,300 meters above sea level, so midway between the coast and the highlands. Over 400 species of birds have been seen around Mindo.

Opt for an early morning (0500 start) guided birding visit to see the impressive courtship ritual of the Cock of the Rock (Gallo de la Peña). Even non-birders will be impressed by this wildlife sight of dancing birds – so do make the effort to get up and go. This emblematic bird is bright red with back wings and a crest. Early each morning the males gather, and you could expect to see around 10 males displaying at the lek. As well as the Cock of the Rock lek there are numerous trails to explore through Mindo’s cloud forest, whether on your own or with a local guide. You’ll see an amazing array of humming-birds, toucans, fly catchers, trogons, colourful tangers, quetzals, antpittas, woodcreepers and many more. Don’t forget good binoculars and insect repellent.

Mindo butterflies

Butterfly centre

For a relaxed hour or so wander through the Butterfly Farm. An impressive array of butterflies flit around this large warm greenhouse. Good labelling helps with identification.

Mindo waterfalls walks

Waterfalls and walks 

The chair lift that starts on the edge of town connects to the cable car rides that take you to the start of a series of trails between waterfalls. There is one fall known as Nambilla waterfall and a series of five in the Santuario de Cascadas, plus the larger fall (50m) known as Reina. You can walk on the trails to get back to town or cycle or take a taxi to the start of the trails. Spend anything from one hour to 6 hours wandering the trails between the falls – take good shoes, a picnic, water, insect repellent and a towel if you fancy a dip and spend the day. Don’t forget binoculars.

A guided night walk will introduce you to some of the areas diverse range of reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

 

Go cycling, mountain biking, in and around Mindo

Rent a bike to get around town and to get you to the zip lines, chair lift and cable car, or trail heads for walking. Alternatively book yourself onto a full day biking trip – mountain biking in Ecuador is fabulous. You can bike from Quito to Mindo through the forest – what a superb downhill route.

 

Take the Mindo chair lift and cable car (tarabito)

The slow journey by cable car, for 20 minutes over the cloud-forest canopy, is relaxing and gives a bird’s eye view of the forest. Jump off the chair lift and walk across to the cable car (tarabito) that then whisks you across the valley to the far side where you can start the walking route round the waterfalls.

Mindo tubing on river Mindo

Tubing on the river Mindo

Tubing, on inflated inner tubes knotted together into a raft, is a fun and rather wet way to enjoy the rapids – it’s a 45 min run in low water (July-December), faster if the river level Is high (Jan-April) good if you need to cool down don’t forget a towel and change of clothes. (Helmet, lifejacket and guide provided.)

Mindo chocolate bars

Chocolate making in Mindo

For chocolate lovers Ecuador is heaven. Ecuador has its own distinct and high quality cacao bean known as Arriba, which is made into the world’s best dark chocolate. Arriba cacao was originally from the Amazon, with evidence to suggest it has been consumed there for over 5,000 years. It is now grown widely across Ecuador. Mindo is home to two small chocolate factories, that both offer tastings and tours. This is a tasty, informative hour, very well spent, a golden opportunity to learn about chocolate production and taste some amazing chocolate.

Mindo chocolate tasting

Mindo Coffee tour

If you are a coffee fan there are a number of places where you can learn about the stages of coffee production, roast your own coffee and drink it too.

Mindo orchids

Orchid Garden of Mindo

Visit this small but packed garden just a few minutes walk from the centre of Mindo. The owners have over 250 species of orchids, many of which they have rescued from the wild where they have been under threat. One of the family will show you around and tell you about the different plants. The garden has a seating area and bird feeders also and attracts 9 different species of hummingbirds.

relaxing in a hammock

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