Mindo is a beautiful small town located just north of Quito, Ecuador. Nestled in the Andean foothills and surrounded by the Mindo-Nambillo Cloud Forest, it’s the perfect destination for a peaceful getaway. Plus, it’s only a 90 minute $3.10 bus ride from the northern bus terminal in Quito making it quite accessible.
I spent one night in town with four of my new friends from the city. Eager to get away from the hustle and bustle for a bit, we rented a house off the beaten path and brought supplies to make dinner and drinks.
We started the day walking around the enormous property. There was a river, waterfall, natural pool, and various trails. I felt lucky to have been invited to such a beautiful place! If you don’t have a hookup with the locals, you can stay cheaply for around $10/night in one of the many hostels near the center of town, and there is no shortage of public hiking and waterfalls.
I immediately got a hippie vibe upon arrival. There were women selling homemade jewelry and families singing in the streets and restaurants for money. Everywhere I looked I saw a sign for a vegetarian restaurant and signs for quinoa this, and quinoa that. Could this be my heaven?
After we spent time enjoying nature, we ate and drank at the house before deciding to head into town to check out the “nightlife”. Sadly, this is when I was attacked by a bug…a red ant with very large pincers! When I saw a creature stuck inside my middle toe, I FREAKED OUT. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t wear sneakers.) I started jumping up and down on one foot, yelling “get it off me! get it off me!” I kept pulling on the invader, but it was stuck in between the toe and toenail. I probably looked like such a site to the taxi driver who was not so patiently waiting for us to get inside his pickup truck. Screaming, I straddled my new friend Steve and made him carry me to the truck. He couldn’t pull the ant off my toe either. Finally, Kevin saved the day with his tweezers and pulled the ant sideways out of my bleeding toe. Lovely. Once I was safe from the ants, I laughed hysterically about this for several hours. Mindo has bugs. Many, many bugs. #nature
After that debacle, we arrived in town and scoped out a few bars with a mix of locals and tourists. Mindo doesn’t exactly “go off”, but plenty of people are ready to enjoy a cocktail and dance to Latin music. We had a drink, bought yummy late night cake off a street vendor, and enjoyed some tasty thin crust pizza before trying to find a ride back up to our property.
I was pretty set on finding a 4×4 that could take us all the way up to the house, away from the crazy ants. The girls agreed. We’d rather sleep on the streets of Mindo than go through that again! No cabs or trucks to be found, we wandered the streets for nearly an hour trying to find a ride back to our property. (Small town.) A local who worked at one of the bars walked around with us for at least 30 minutes, talking to strangers on the street, telling us which doors to knock on of the unsuspecting sleeping Ecuadorians to see who might have a truck and be willing to drive us back. Yelling into sleeping strangers’ houses in the middle of the night was so foreign to me. These people would actually wake up and have a conversation with you…a stranger, begging for a ride. (Side note: This is also how we bought our vodka in northern Quito at 930am. Keep yelling/pestering/knocking, and eventually someone will open the door.)
In the end, we decided to pay a stranger hanging around outside the bar to stand in the back of his truck that normally transports cattle. We knew it wouldn’t make it all the way to the top of the hill, but it would have to do. I didn’t get attacked by ants again, but a large bat did fly into my bedroom and cause me to start shrieking and dive under the covers. Did I mention that Mindo is home to hundreds of species of birds and other wildlife? The animals were just ready to play with me I guess.
Sunday was a bit more low key, with no cocktails and no animal attacks. It mostly consisted of brunch, butterflies, and brownies. Perfect!
The butterfly farm was definitely a highlight. Normally I’d think twice about spending $6 on an activity, but this just felt right. The butterflies were so beautiful! I was like a giddy kid trying to feed them mashed banana on my finger.
On our way out, we grabbed the best chocolate brownie I’ve ever had in my life. Seriously, the best. It’s gooey and perfect. If you ever travel to Mindo, do not miss out on this brownie and head to the restaurant El Quetzal. They also have chocolate tours there and tons of vegetarian food options if you really want a treat. I even took brownie to-go orders for the other volunteers in Quito and brought back several extras! Also, the fresh yuca bread from the street vendors is a must try. Delicious.
I’ve been to both Mindo and Baños one time each so far, and my initial impression is that Mindo is more laid-back and slightly less touristy than Baños, but both are definitely worth visiting. I hope to return one day!
What is one of your favorite under the radar spots?