Mindo. Cloud Forest of Ecuador

Mindo is a little town situated in the Cloud Forest, just 2 hours by bus from Quito.
It attract nature lovers, hikers, bird watchers and adventure seekers. It is truly one of Ecuador’s most beautiful natural sights!

I’ve been in the rainforest before, in Kenya, and it was raining there 24 hours a day. In Mindo, on the contrary, it was shiny and sunny almost all the time I’ve stayed there. What is a difference between rainforest and cloudforest? 

Rainforest vs. Cloudforest

The main difference between this two kinds of forest is the elevation of the forest itself above sea level. Cloud forests are located at higher elevations, climate there way colder and more humid.  On the other hand, rainforests are located at lower elevations and they tend to be warmer.

Rainforests cover large territory without big difference in elevation.  Cloud forests, on the other hand, can have all the altitudes between high peaks and the valleys.

Rainforests tend to have larger calmer rivers, while the rivers of cloud forests tend to be faster and smaller. That what make clouds in the cloud forest: moisture of this hectic rivers and cool temperatures in high altitude creating lots of fog and mist came from the condensation.

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Explore Mindo Cloud Forest!

1. See tiny hummingbirds, colorful tucans or cock-of-the-rock.
2. Hike to the 6 different waterfalls in Sanctuario de las Cascadas.
3. Walk in the jungle at night, listen frog concert in the fluorescent forest.
4. Fly above the jungle or learn how to make a chocolate from a bean to a bar.

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Birdwatching in Mindo.

The main reason for me to come to Mindo was birdwatching. Here they have impressive population of hummingbirds!
It is easy to see them in the town, in you hostel, on the hikes – everywhere, but not that easy to catch on the photo. For those who are willing to see this little creatures at arm’s length, there is a ‘Hummingbird garden’ (Casa del Colibri),  situated in the hostel with the same name. You should pay 4$ to go inside the garden (or enjoy in for free if you are their customer).

It’s totally worth the visit. This birds are most wonderful creatures I’ve ever seen before!

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However, hummingbirds are not only birds you can see in Mindo.  There are more than 450 species of birds in Mindo. It ranks within the top three highest bird counts in the world! On the hike to waterfalls I saw tucans and few golden headed quetzals.

Lots of companies in the town organize birdwatching tours to the Paz de Las Aves Refuge. There, far from the town you can see more shy and rare birds like cock of the rock, golden headed quetzal, club-winged manakin, giant antpitta,  toucans, etc.

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What does birdwatching mean and why should you try it – in my post here.

Hike to the waterfalls in Santuario de las Cascadas.

It is a longest and most picturesque hike in Mindo. In total it takes about 10km+ 2-3 in the reserve. I spent about 3 or 4 hours in total and missed the last bus to Quito 🙂
You will need to hike all the hill and you will be rewarded with stunning views and wonderful silence of the forest. To save time you can take a taxi that will bring you to the ‘tarabita’.
Tarabita is a cable car 150m above the trees, which will take you 500m across the jungle sea to the hiking trails. You will fly above the jungle!
It cost 5$, but you hardly will regret about it when you will hang above the deep endless forest.
The hike to the waterfalls signated perfectly, you won’t get lost. You can hike to 6 different falls, which are not big and you surely have seen more impressive falls elsewhere, but all the walk in green lush vegetation is very beautiful and relaxing.

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Explore jungle at night!

Organized by Mindo Lago lodge, it is not a concert by itself but more an introduction to the diverse flora and fauna of the cloud forest. Few years ago they started a project of conservation and reproduction population of frogs in the area.
We were welcomed by glass of wine, put on funny orange plastic Chinese ponchos and went for two hours hike.
Night time changing everything. Animals that were hiding all day went out to hunt.
Night jungles are full of spiders, frogs and sounds. You don’t know what will appeared next in the light of your torch. It keeps you in suspense all the tour.

However, there was not a very big diversity of animals. We spotted some little frogs, few calm spiders, lots of insects. THE experience wasn’t about animals. At one point, all of us, dirty and wet, were stopped by the guide and asked to turn of all lights and keep silence. Few seconds eyes were getting used to the darkness, people slowly stopped talking and… miracle appeared! All the forest flamed with sparkles in the total darkness, and through murmuring of rain drops the jungle music began. Unknown insects and frogs filled the air with harmony of sound. Forest in the night doesn’t have any second of silence, it is very loud.

The price is honest – 5$.

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What else?

I didn’t participate this activities because they are quite expensive for backpacker’s budget, but they are very popular in Mindo.

  • Adventure! Mindo is known as adventure’s center. Canopy, zip lines are offered everywhere. 1,5 hour zipline trough the jungle observing panoramic views of the forest and birds cost about 15$ and seems like very fun experience.
  • Butterfly farm (Mariposario) will allow you to observe butterflies different in shape, colors and sizes. Price is 8$.
  • Chocolate tour at El Quetzal where they will explain you process of making chocolate from bean to bar. And of course, you will eat A LOT of chocolate! 10$

How to get to Mindo?

You can get a public bus from Terminal La Ofelia in Quito with the company “Flor de Valle”. It will cost you 2,5$  and take about 2.5 hours.

Where to stay?

For backpackers I can recommend Hostal Melyang, it was the cheapest one and very nice. They have lovely terrace on the second floor with hammock and hummingbirds, good wifi, kitchen and good vibe.

Couchsurfing also works in Mindo, there are 3-4 hosts in the town (who are active).

Where to eat?

-Local market not far for the main square.
-Restaurant El Chef offers lunches for 3$ and very tasty steak  prepared on the hot stone (loma de piedra)

Where to drink

Mindo is a very little town with night life. However, near the main square we found two primitive sketchy bars with cheap cold beer and this popular reggaeton songs that you will learn by heart after few weeks in South America. They were open until 1 or 2 a.m.

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