Mindo – A Well Kept Secret
A quest for the best in the cloud forests of Ecuador will bring you to Mindo, located on the western slopes of Pichincha. A tiny town about two and a half hours away from Quito, Mindo is surrounded by dairy farms in the midst of the lush vegetation of the cloud forests. At the foot of Mindo is a reserve that traverses the forest areas between 1400 m and 4780m. Part of the Premontane forest, it is known as the Bosque Protector Mindo- Nambillo.
The reserve is home to the Centro de Educacion Ambiental (“CEA”) that is run by the local group, Amigos de la Naturaleza de Mindo. This is a large buffer zone, a short distance away from the town which can accommodate about thirty people at a time. There is a research station here for the exclusive use of scientists. You can stay at CEA and even cook your own meals. All bookings have to be made prior to arrival through their office in Mindo, two blocks away from the plaza. There are well maintained trails around CEA and this is the best place to be to appreciate the rich variety of flora and fauna, native to the region. The guayaba orchards of the reserve are well known. It is also a veritable paradise for bird watchers. And offers excellent opportunities to sight the Golden headed Quetzel, Andean Cock of the Rock Lek and Toucan barbet.
Hiking in the area is an unforgettable experience. The more adventurous can take a ride with inner tire tubes down the numerous gushing waterfalls, which are known locally as La Isla. , La Cascada de Nambillo is the nearest to the town. More peaceful activities include a visit to the exotic Orchid Gardens and the nearby butterfly farm reserve, The Mariposas de Mindo, 3 km from Mindo.
Hostal El Descanco is a popular hostel in Mindo which offers reasonable accommodation from dormitories to independent bungalows. Descansar means calm and peaceful in Spanish and this is a peaceful retreat indeed. A German-Ecuadorian couple owns a part of the area up the slope from Mindo and run a small hotel called Mindo Lindo, which offers easy access to the forest.