Mindo, just a two hour bus ride from Ecuador’s capital, is situated on the tropical western side of the Andes and makes a popular weekend destination for Quiteños.
I went because we had been invited to the fantastic El Monte Ecolodge and I had a brilliant weekend.
Rafting, kayaking and all sorts of activities are on offer in the town, but being on a budget we chose to visit
1) the waterfalls
The Santuario de Cascadas (waterfall sanctuary) is the name given to a series of waterfalls set in dense tropical vegetation, connected by a network of pathways. The quickest and easiest way to arrive right among the waterfalls is to take the tarabita, or cable car, over the treetops. However, the tarabita costs $5 for a journey that lasts about 30 seconds. To the bargain-hunter in me that seemed a bit steep, and my travel buddy being of the same opinion, we instead opted to walk.
The paths were muddy but the route through the trees was just stunning! The forest is not technically classed as jungle but the humidity, the tropical trees and the insects contributed to a rainforest feel!
After a long trek, we finally arrived at the first of the waterfalls, and they were beautiful.
The water was freezing but I couldn’t resist going for a swim
and feeling the force of the falling water.
Tired after all the walking we went to the cable car to see if we could wangle a cheaper return journey, and travelled back free! I felt like I was flying during the ride above the trees.
2) The Mariposario (Butterfly Park)
Following the recommendation of our fellow guests, the next morning we checked out El Mariposario de Mindo
which is conveniently located just in front of where we were staying. This allowed us to get there early which is worth doing as the park gets busy later in the day.
There were a few too many over-excited 5 year olds for my liking but the variety of butterflies was impressive, their colourful wings were gorgeous and I saw some breaking out of their chrysalises.
The butterflies eat fruit and there were lots of ripe bananas out on plates. I put some on my finger so they would land on it!
Although there are lots of activities to choose from, Mindo itself is lovely. Brightly coloured birds and butterflies dart about and the paths are lined with huge tropical plants.
Our accommodation was a 3km walk outside of the town which made for a pleasant walk.
We spent the afternoons in the ecolodge (you will understand why once you read my review!) One afternoon it rained and I understood where the name cloud forest came from.
The clouds were breathtaking – how impressive was the view from my window!
If you plan to visit Mindo then beware – while the tropical climate attracts a variety of plant and wildlife, it is also home to all manner of biting insects that attack any exposed skin that they can find. I recommend a strong insect repellent alongside long sleeves and long socks under trousers!