Mindo is a small town in the Andean foothills of Ecuador. Set in beautiful cloud-forest, it attracts birdwatchers first and foremost, but also has attractions for other tourists.
Mindo is located to the north west of Quito. This town was founded in 1861 and the current population is around 3000 inhabitants. Mindo is surrounded by the Mindo-Nambillo Cloud Forest; the forest is home to hundreds of species of birds many of them are in danger of extinction.
There are bus services from Santo Domingo and Quito. The bus is $3.10 each way from Quito and it is not possible to buy a roundtrip ticket in Quito, just a one-way.
Flor de Valle/Cayambe buses depart from Terminal Terrestre Norte, La Ofelia (look for the Terminal Microregional sign). It no longer departs from Mariscal. It is about a 30- to 40-minute taxi ride from Mariscal to the bus station which is in the north of Quito, or you can take the "Metrobus" bus rapid transit.
Flor de Valle (leaving from La Ofelia) bus timetable (March 2016) for buses from Quito to Mindo:
- M-F: 08:00, 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 16:00
- Sa: 07:40, 08:20, 09:20, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 16:00
- Su: 07:40, 08:20, 09:20, 14:00
You can purchase tickets from Quito to Mindo in advance through a local travel agency such as Andesconexion for a $10 fee and pay by credit card for about the cost of a $10 round-trip taxi ride from the Mariscal/new town in Quito to Ofelia. Seats on the right hand side of the bus to Mindo are more scenic. If you are going for a day trip, you should buy your return bus ticket immediately upon arrival in Mindo or you are at risk of not being able to return that day. If you are staying more than a day, buy your return trip at least one day in advance or first thing in the morning.
There are many more direct buses to and from Quito at weekends than during the week. As well as direct services, buses go fairly regularly from the Flor del Valle station to Los Bancos. Other bus lines are Kennedy, Aloag, and San Pedrito. These do not go into Mindo, but they pull over at the edge of the main road running along the top of the valley. From here it is usually easy to hop in a truck for $0.50-$3 depending on the number of passengers and go downhill into town. Similarly, you can return to Quito by getting a truck to take you up to the main road and catching a bus back. Just ask around in town.
If there are no seats left on the returning buses, it is possible to rent a car and a driver from the transportation company across the street and up the block for $40-50.
Another way for those travellers is to hire a private professional Tour Guide on a 4WD to and from Quito $100-120, 9 hours service. The tour has different stops on the way from Quito to Mindo: the first stop in Pululahua crater view, Pahuma orchid Reserve, hummingbirds balcony (chance for photos), butterfly farm in Mindo, tarabita (cable car) and optional zip line in Mindo, lunch and possible short stop at the Equator Line on the way back to Quito.
See the birds of Mindo. Mindo is home to over 450 species of birds, a great variety of butterflies, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, making Mindo a paradise for eco-tourism. There are ziplines to fly over the ravines, you can go tubing in the river, and hike in the rainforest with nature guides.
- El Escampadero Cultural space with restaurant based on vegetarian and local food. Don´t miss the local art, literature, handcrafts and music events.
- Birdwatching Tours In Mindo, birding tours of the local surrounding and interior cloud forest are available.
- Bird of Paradise Tours offers birding tours to see the Andean Cook of the Rock, the Long Wattle Umbrela Bird and others. You can also do the Lloa-Mindo trek, Rappelling, Canopy and more. email@example.com, +593 2 2 170 045
- At Reserva Ecologica Pachijal, an Eco & Bird Lodge, they offer birding guided tours inside the reserve and excursions to Yanacocha Reserve, Tandayapa Pass & Bellavista Reserve, Birds Sanctuaries of Milpe and Rio Silanche.
- Tours de Fotografia day and night photography tours for professionals or those who are interested in birds and nature.
- Visit one of the orchid farms.
- Visit the cascadas (waterfalls): it's a 7-km uphill walk to the entrance or a $1/person ride each way. You get in via a $5 aerial tram (terabita). There are trails to several waterfalls, some closer and some farther, and it would take about 5 hours to see all of them. Be sure to take some drinking water with you, and check with a guide at the resort before using the water-slide or (for the adventurous, but only when the river is at the right height) going over the fall.
- Try to entice tropical butterflies to eat banana from your hands at the Mindogarden butterfly farm. Don't try walking here from Mindo town as it is very far
- Travel downriver in an inner tube. This is called a regata and can be arranged in almost any shop. You can do a short trip (20 min or so) down the river near Mindo or you can go to Rio Blanco, which is a much longer (2 hr) and altogether faster and more furious experience! Ask around for prices, you may be able to bargain as well.
- Hire a local guide to take you birdwatching. On a budget? There are many roads leading out of town that offer splendid birding for free. Walk down the main road to the top of the hill as if to leave town. Follow the signs to Cunuco - you will have 5-6 km of surefire lifers before the roads ends at a hostel. You can also take the Rio Mindo (7 km) or San Lorenzo (2 km) roads - leading out towards the waterfalls.
- El Quetzal Chocolate Making Tour, El Quetzal de Mindo, 9 de Octubre (up the hill from the Parque Central). Mindo Chocolate Makers, Bean to Bar Chocolate making seven days a week at 16:00 (possibly more often: e.g. at 14:00, 16:00, and 18:00.) $5 at El Quetzal de Mindo. Learn about the history of chocolate and how chocolate is made from the fruit of the cacao plant. See cacao plants growing, experience the fermentation process, drying beds, roasting, grinding cocoa nibs, conching, bar molding, pressing cocoa powder and cocoa butter, learn how white chocolate is made. Chocolate samples included in tour. Coffee roasting on site too. Organic gardens tours are free but by appointment only.
- Drink artisan beer made in Mindo. Also at El Quetzal you can taste hand-crafted beer for the first time in Mindo. El Quetzal malts their own barley for this unique Ecuadorian beer. Don't miss the chocolate stout made with Mindo Chocolate Makers Chocolate made from the bean at El Quetzal.
freshly roasted coffee can also be purchased at the Quetzal restaurant, they feature coffee from the region. El Quetzal has their own collection of fine Ecuadorian crafts some made in Mindo. There is a T-shirt shop called Hyla which sells tourist t-shirts and postcards.
Street sellers sell some interesting jewelry most days, but more on weekends.
A Mindo chocolate bar.
- 1 El Quetzal, 9 de Octubre (Across the street from Amigos de La Naturaleza, Mindo, Ecuador). Daily 08:00-20:00. Serves fresh foods harvested from their own organic gardens. Delicious Ecuadorian dishes and typical American food is also served. There are always freshly made vegetarian options available. Fresh fish, chicken, beef and pork dishes, shrimp, ceviche and arroz con camaron are all on the menu. Delicious desserts include the world's best brownies. Home made ice cream in freshly made waffle cones are delicious! Also, Ecuadorian coffee is roasted on site. Espresso, cappuccino, lattes, mochaccino and cafe pasado are all offered. Coffee roasted on site is available by the pound. Food is carefully prepared and washed in purified water, so you can eat salads, fruits and vegetables here.
- Omarcito serves good food at reasonable prices.
- El Chef is rather unusual in being essentially a steakhouse. Slightly expensive by local standards, but worth it.
- Fuera de Babylonia is a secluded restaurant/bar/hostel near the center of town with excellent rustic atmosphere, reggae and other good tunes, healthy and delicious food, including a decent vegetarian selection. A bit pricey but worth the relaxing atmosphere. The locale was designed by the owner and his son and reportedly uses over 100 different types of wood from the surrounding area and amazon region.
- The pizzaria/bakery along the main strip does good pizza although it is a little overpriced.
- Los Colibries is a nice peaceful little restaurant which does good food. You can also watch lots of types of hummingbird visiting the feeders. Walk out of town past the volleyball courts and keep walking until you cross a bridge. Take the left turn uphill by some big gates and you will find the restaurant.
- 2 Dragonfly Inn.
- El Nómada is a pizzeria and bar which offers the best fresh handmade pizza and pasta of Mindo or maybe all over Ecuador which is worth its price!!. On weekends they have cocktails at the bar. Nice atmosphere. Run by an Ecuadorian family and an Italian co-owner. Very good indeed with large amounts. Recommended is the grill on the table
- Caskaffesu, ☏ , . With a fine dining feel, this place is a must, if nothing else, for its brownies made with two kinds of Ecuadorian chocolate. mains $5-8.
- Cafe Mindo. Try the Mexican burger, a well cooked beef patty with bacon, guacamole, cheese, tomato and beans.
- Las Cascadas de Mindo, Av. Quito y 9 de Octubre, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but the friendly and clean atmosphere and great food really make up for it. Breakfasts are not only reasonably priced but great portions and very delicious - try the Bolones de Verde (fried mashed green plantains with a cheesy centre). Mains $5-8.
There are a few nice bars in Mindo, but these only really get busy at the weekends.
- Out of Babylon/Fuera de Babylonia is a nice place to have a pint or two. If you would like to sip cocktails and have a little dance.
- Nomada, which is off the main plaza. It stays open fairly late. Cocktails are about $3-4 and are pretty strong.
- Drink Artisan Beer made in Mindo. Also at El Quetzal you can taste hand-crafted beer. El Quetzal malts their own barley for this unique Ecuadorian beer. Don't miss the chocolate stout made with Mindo Chocolate Makers Chocolate at El Quetzal.
There is a wide choice of accommodation in Mindo, in fact there are probably more hotel/hostel beds than actual residents in the town. Many of these are close to the main strip. There is a stadium in the village, and most locals don't mind if you plant your tent in there. Of course, you have to leave early in the morning to avoid disturbing their daily activities.
- El Quetzal de Mindo, Mindo chocolate factory, is located just up the hill from El Parque Central de Mindo across from Amigos de La Naturaleza. Quiet, yet only 1 block from the center of town. Beautiful large rooms, comfortable king and queen size beds, each with its own private bath. Beautiful views overlooking Mindo. Each room has its own unlimited supply of filtered water (reverse osmosis) from the tap.This is one of the few hotels that you will find in Ecuador that uses a hot water heater with a large tank for an uninterrupted supply of luscious hot water. Restaurant on site with organic foods harvested and served daily. $22 per person per night and includes a delicious breakfast and chocolate tour. Chocolate making tour from bean to chocolate bar includes chocolate samples. Contact email@example.com, Telephone +593 862-63805
- CasKaffeSu, at Sixto Bailen a/n and Av. Quito, a half block from the bus terminal, is the newest guesthouse and has a nice restaurant and can make arrangements for a birdwatching guide, hiking, rafting, etc.. info@casfaffesu, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.caskaffesu.com, +593 2 3900 400.
- Mindo Biohostal , 200 m from the central park, has a restaurant, cafe, bar, and 10 spacious rooms. Each room has a private bathroom and comfortable beds. There are plenty of social areas (and enough space on the first floor to hold a conference), hammocks, a small area upstairs for reading and relaxing, a public computer with internet access, and free wireless internet. Bedrooms are well-lit, well decorated, spacious, and very clean, and have new furniture including beds, tables and a desk. It's off the main road, away from the traffic of the village, but just a couple minutes' walk from the bus station and town park. Right next to a butterfly farm and they can arrange trips or advise on birdwatching, hikes, waterfall visits, etc. Price (usually $15, can be more or less depending on season) includes excellent hearty breakfast plus free coffee, tea and bottled water all day. English, Spanish and German spoken. Parking available. Email email@example.com or call +593 9 936 0801 or +593 2 223 2783. From the bus station, walk toward the park, turn right at the first street (with central park on the left) and walk about 200 m.
- Casa Divina Mindo Ecuador Cloudforest Retreat. Each room has a private porch with hammock, spacious living quarters and an elegant bathroom with full-size bathtub. Each room can accommodate 1 to 4 guests. Meals in the family style dining room. Short self-guided hikes that offer great lookout points. Birdwatching possible in forest. Tanagers, quetzals, toucans, hummingbirds are at your window making it possible to birdwatch even from bed!
- Cabañas Armonia Stay with the lovely Toapanta family in a beautiful orchid garden surrounded by hummingbirds and tranquility. +593 2 390043, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Birdwatcher´s House, ✉ email@example.com. Clean and comfortable rooms with private bathrooms and hot water available 24 hours. Jacuzzi, bird watching tours. A place to relax and enjoy the surrounding aromas of flowers as well as the sounds of singing birds. In the gardens of the Birdwatcher’s House it is possible to see up to 50 different species of birds. The hostel also offers: restaurant service, cafeteria, laundry service and expert bird watching guides. Contact Vinicio Perez via email.
- El Descanso (near the stadium), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Clean and comfortable rooms, hammocks, kolibris in the garden, excellent breakfast. $20pp private, $15 shared bathroom.
- Dragonfly Inn, Corner of Quito Avenue and Sucre St (entering town, first place on the left after crossing the Canchapi River), ☏ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:30. Offers clean rooms that are finished in wood, private baths, hot water, comfortable beds and outdoor balconies. Room rates include breakfast. Plants and hummingbirds abound from the restaurant balcony overlooking the garden patio along the river. Singles $25, doubles $43, triples $58, quadruples $77.
- La Casa de Cecilia, ☏ . Check-out: 11:00. Shared showers, hammock deck and communal kitchen overlooking the swimming area on the river. Delicious breakfast for $2.50 and free luggage storage if you are catching a bus after checkout time. None of the rooms are entirely closed off, so it gets quite loud if anybody is having a conversation. $6 per person or camping for $3 per person.
- El Carmelo de Mindo Lodge, Mindo (Via el Cinto), ☏ . Treehouse cabins, some of them equipped with jacuzzi. Also has its own butterfly farm, and 1.5 miles of pathways. Horse back riding. Canopy tours, and 65 acres where you will discover a great profusion of birds, animals and plants. Canopy, tubing and birdwatching are also available. $50.
- Rubby Hostal (a 5 minute walk from the main road), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Higly recommended for its clean, basic finished wooden rooms and hearty breakfasts. Shared bathrooms are clean and there is also a hammock balcony and water dispenser. The attic room is beautiful and can host up to 7 people. Owner Marcelo is a known bird watching guide, and the will even come to meet you at the bus stop. $8 incl breakfast.
- La Roulotte (at km 2 towards Butterfly farm), ☏ . 6 cabins in a nice garden, completed with an excellent restaurant. $35/single; $56/double; $89/4pers.
- Mindo Lago, Mindo, Ecuador (1 kilometer before the centre on the left), ☏ . Beautiful cabanas around a nice lake. Nice people and at night the concert of the frogs with a tour by local guides in the forest around the hotel
- El abrazo de arbol (long dirt road with 3 rivers to cross. Only for 4x4), ☏ . You need a 4x4 car.
- El Edén: Treehouse, Vía a las Cascadas, ☏ . Cloud forest-centered accommodation. Holding hands, etc. $10 pp..
- Hostal La Tranquilidad, Mindo (about 200m from the main road. Coming from uphill, turn right in the street after the bridge (when you see 'Dragonfly at your left hand). Otherwise, ask around, most people know it.), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: 12:00. A pretty chill and cheap place not too far from the action in Mindo (then again, Mindo is super small). Very tranquil, except for the neigbours' cocks that start to make noise early in the morning (though most people get up early when visiting Mindo). Includes towels, has wifi and a kitchen available, and has consistent hot water. They do have rooms with private bath available. Price was on a weekday in low-season, prices may vary during the weekend and in high season. $6 double with shared bath.
Flor de Valle's bus station is right on the main road. Bus times are displayed and tickets can be bought. It is also possible to get buses to Los Bancos and Santo Domingo from the main square. Flor de Valle bus timetable (March 2016) for buses from Mindo to Quito:
- M-F: 06:30, 11:00, 13:45, 15:00, 17:00
- Sa: 06:30, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00
- Su: 06:30, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00
Mindo is one of the most frequently visited rainforest destinations in Ecuador. It's fantastic birdwatching and high biodiversity, coupled with its close location to Quito means that it's a very popular destination. Alternative rainforest destinations in Ecuador include the Amazon region, the Esmeraldas region and San Luis de Pambil
Hitchhiking to Quito is very easy from the main road, and may be quicker than taking the bus.