At first glance, Mindo doesn’t look like much. It certainly doesn’t appear to be a highlight of South America. In fact, the wooden shelters in the main street give it the appearance of a bus station. Topped with corrugated iron roofs, the overall first impression screams ramshackle. For tourists lured to Ecuador by the promise of the Galapagos or the colonial architecture of Quito or Cuenca, it may be more than a let down. However, despite the negative first impressions, travellers who give it more time may change their minds.
So, what are its charms? Are they enough to justify a detour from Quito?
The Frog’s Chorus
Actually called the concert of the frogs, the name accurately describes the experience. From the moment you receive your complimentary drink on arrival, the night will come alive to the tune of frogs and toads. The location on Mindo Lake was originally a pasture for cows, but over a decade ago they decided to recreate a habitat for amphibians. Apparently, frogs and toads thrive in a healthy ecosystem, so the founders of the project seem to have achieved their original aims.
The evening observation tour is both educational and entertaining. Guides provide interesting information in English and Spanish. Also, the tour can be either a gentle introduction to Mindo or a relaxing activity after a day of physical exertion in the cloud forest.
Mindo is a delight for foodies. Gourmet Avenue may be little more than a dirt track, but the food is genuinely good. There are plenty of places to sit outside to enjoy the refreshing breeze while admiring the views of the mist on the surrounding hills.
Vegetarians should definitely check out Mishqui Quinde, a restaurant specialising in quinoa, the food of the Incas. Basically, they serve everything as long as it’s quinoa. Expect to be met with a quinoa ker on arrival. This drink is a mix of pineapple, passionfruit, tamarind and, most surprisingly, quinoa. Let’s say that it’s a palate cleanser with a tangy taste. There is a vegan soup, which consists of vegetables and quinoa. The main courses are a selection of quinoa burgers. I’d recommend trying one with cocoa barbecue sauce- it has a bite. For dessert, you can have your quinoa pudding with fruit or traditional ice cream. It must be the healthiest meal in Mindo. Quinoa lovers- this is your earthly paradise.
More Foodie Treats in Mindo
Perched on the rise as you climb Avenida 9 de Octubre, the seats outside El Quetzal provide appealing views across to the dense forest surrounding the village. Kickstart the day with a cup of local coffee. Its full-bodied citrus taste lingers in the mouth. In addition to this, the café is better known for its chocolate tours. Who doesn’t like chocolate?
The Beehive, right beside the river, is another place that does a great coffee. Unlike El Quetzal, they source their coffee from Loja in the south of the country. Yet, it’s their chocolate brownies that truly tease the taste buds. The crusts are crunchy while the composition is soft and smooth. As for the taste, think rich chocolate and fragrant vanilla ice cream. Chocolate heaven…
Mindo Cloud Forest
Needless to say, the forest is the primary attraction that brings visitors to Mindo in the first place. An elementary cable car called a tarabita provides an adrenaline rush as it zips across the cloud forest. Once across the 530m chasm, it’s possible to follow a path through the forest to visit a series of waterfalls. The trail ascends and descends sharply, so visitors should expect a workout. Due to its hard-to-reach location, Colibries is perhaps the most charming of the falls. It’s necessary to jump across stepping stones just to get there. Nestled deep in the rocks, water seems to fall from all sides. Other falls such as Madre have deep pools that bubble and churn. The hike along the path is a real return to nature.
Adventures and coffee!
Mindo Cloud Forest is a mecca for adrenaline junkies. Zip lining is a popular activity in the area. In addition to this, Mindo Canopy Adventures offer coffee tours in both English and Spanish. Their tour will take visitors from the coffee tree through to brewing fresh coffee. Manuel, a Tico based in Mindo, loves to share his passion for coffee with travellers. His enthusiasm alone is almost a reason for taking the tour. Coffee lovers should note that their are plenty of opportunities to savour and learn more about their favourite drink throughout northern Ecuador.
Which travellers will like Mindo?
Visiting a cloud forest is a singular experience. It’s an opportunity to get outside, enjoy nature and appreciate the natural diversity of our planet. Adventure travellers and those who like the great outdoors will thoroughly enjoy Mindo. In a similar vein, the village has a quiet and secluded feel. If you’ve reached the point in your trip where you just want to relax, then Mindo could be the place for you.
What travellers may not like in Mindo?
The town can have the feel of a place that lives off tourism. In that sense, it may not appeal to those who are searching for ‘off-the-beaten-track’ authentic experiences in South America. Also, due to the downturn in tourist arrivals after the most recent earthquake, it can have the strange feel of a tourist trap without the tourists! Similarly, those who have already visited cloud forests in Central America may be underwhelmed. After all, if you’ve already seen one cloud forest, how many more do you need to visit?
There are direct buses from Quito’s Ofelia Bus Station to Mindo. Buses from Carcelen to Esmeralda are another option. In this case, you must ask to be dropped off at La Y de Mindo. There are a range of accommodation options in the town. The sprawling Bio Hostal Mindo Cloud Forest is an excellent choice for travellers on a budget. A double room here costs approximately $20 per night.
According to the Bio Hostal website, these are the times of the buses from Ofelia Bus Terminal in Quito to Mindo:
Quito – Mindo
08:30 – 09:00 – 11:00 – 13:00 – 16:00
07:40 – 08:20 – 09:20 – 11:00 – 13:00 – 14:00 – 16:00
07:40 – 08:20 – 09:20 – 11:00 – 13:00 – 14:00 – 17:00
Have you travelled to Ecuador? Have you got tips or experiences to share? If so, share them here! Leave a comment below or send your story to me by email at Unlatinoverde@gmail.com.
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