Nestled amid a cloud forest approximately 30 miles south of the equator Mindo is a small town in Ecuador that is not to be missed. Its proximity to the Nation’s Capital of Quito makes it easily accessible as a day or weekend trip.
There is an old west feeling as you enter the town, its short main drag lined with wooden buildings that you must step up to from the pot holed muddied street. This frontier though is in South America and treats its visitors to an array of activities from zip lining to bird watching. Following were our favorites.
- 1. Santuario de Cascades y Tarabita – Think part thrill ride, part physical adventure. Getting to the start is no easy task as one must travel down jungle roads for several kilometers. Once there the cost is $6 per person to take a ride hundreds of feet over the jungle canopy in an open air “Tarabita”, (tram car). On the other side of the gorge the hiking trail to the 4 waterfalls begins. The path is well marked, but somewhat strenuous. To reach all 4 takes about 2-2:30 hours and longer if you choose to bath or splash amid the falls. However, as each becomes more magnificent it is important to finish the hike.
- 2. Mariposa de Mindo – As if the area does not hold enough beauty, this butterfly sanctuary allows you to hold the beauty of the forest in your hand. Again the cost is $6 per person, but the tour comes with a guide who gives you a short lesson on the different stages of a butterfly’s life and on the species that inhabit the local forest. Without a doubt the highlight of the activity is watching the numerous spectacularly colored species fly around the enclosure. There are feeding dishes that if you dip your finger in butterflies will actually land on your hand.
- 3. Orrico Chocolate Factory – As if visiting Mindo is not sweet enough, low and behold it is also home to Orrico Chocolate. Tours occur on the hour. Small groups are treated to an in depth look at the chocolate making process. Complete from the cacao shell to the final candy bar all is well explained by your choice of an English or Spanish speaking guide. The culmination of the lesson is topped off with a taste test of the different flavors of chocolate.
Mindo holds treasures for all, and I encourage everyone to visit and experience its natural and abundant gems.