Ecuador is one of South America’s smaller countries, but there is much more to do and see here than the famous Galapagos Islands. From the Amazon Rainforest to beautiful beaches, mountains, and cloud forests, Ecuador has all the outdoor activities you could imagine. Wildlife watching, action sports, and cultural heritage all link up to provide a unique experience. Ecuador is one of the most affordable destinations on the continent, and with short distances to travel getting around is easy. The US dollar is the main form of currency, and no visa is required for many nationalities for stays under 90 days.
Mindo, the cloud forest just outside of Quito, is a very peaceful, relaxing place. Set in the mountainous hilltops, there is plenty of bird-watching and hiking in the great outdoors. This sleepy little town offers an array of activities, from zip lining over the canopy, tubing down the calm Río Mindo, and riding on the tarabita (an open-air cable car over the river basin) to hike around the waterfalls of the Bosque Protector Mindo-Nambillo. Mariposas de Mindo, the Butterfly Farm, allows visitors to learn more about these winged creatures while feeding and holding them. Another unique activity is the Night Walking Tour for $12 USD. During the tour you are able to see many nocturnal animals, as well as a wide variety of bugs and insects! For those with a sweet tooth, the artisanal chocolate factory El Quetzal offers tours (and free samples!) for $6 USD.
There are many lovely budget accommodations in this town. A favorite is La Casa de Cecilia, which consists of little log buildings and cabins next to the river. The open-air restaurant provides amazing breakfast, and the staff are always more than helpful in recommending activities, restaurants, and onward travel. To check reviews and availability, click here. With such proximity to Quito, Mindo makes a quick and easy weekend getaway, but you can always spend more time in this little cloud forest heaven. The drive alone through the winding hilltops and clouds is worth it!
Photo Credit: Author’s Own