Ecuador – Mindo Cloud Forest, Full-Day with Lunch, Daily from Quito
The Valley of Mindo is within the protected Mindo-Nambillo forest, located a short two-hour drive to the northwest of Quito. The 48,000-acre (19,200 hectares) Forest stretches over the slopes of Pichincha Volcano and covers diverse ecosystems ranging from the cloud-high, treeless plateau or ” paramo” through subtropical forest to tropical jungle.
The Valley of Mindo is within the protected Mindo-Nambillo forest, located a short two-hour drive to the northwest of Quito. The 48,000-acre (19,200 hectares) Forest stretches over the slopes of Pichincha Volcano and covers diverse ecosystems ranging from the cloud-high, treeless plateau or “paramo” through subtropical forest to tropical jungle. A first short stop is made at the rim of the crater of the extinct Pululahua Volcano, before descending into the Valley of Mindo.
Specially trained guides introduce visitors to the mysteries of the Cloud Forest, pointing out the unique flora and fauna. Visit the El Pahuma Orquid Reserve and its Orchid Botanical Garden with flowering orchids mounted on the trees and placed in the vegetation along the trail, consistent with each species’ habitat. Labels identify each specimen. Then, a hike on a trail through lush, epiphyte-laden cloud forest, alongside a lively, sparkling creek to the 50 meter (165 foot) Pacaya waterfall. The El Pahuma Orchid Reserve is a privately owned forest of an Ecuadorian family who is searching for a viable economic alternative to destructive activities such as logging or cattle raising, and it protects over 600 hectares (over 1500 acres) of tropical montane forest. Over 170 species of orchids have been identified within the reserve, which lies in a region with some of the highest rates of plant endemism in the world. Orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, ferns, vines, mosses and lichens grow in abundance here.
Continue to the quaint little village of Mindo, at an altitude of 1300 meters, observing the bird life along the way. BirdLife International has designated Mindo as an IBA (Important Bird Area), the first such site in South America. Then, a visit to the Butterfly Vivarium, housing 25 varieties of butterflies. Flight areas simulate the outside forest with water streams, mineral deposits, and a wide range of wild flowers. Hundreds of caterpillars feed on their host plants in their natural environment to assure the best development of pupae and butterflies. Lunch is served at a restaurant of the area. Time for a short stroll in the surroundings before return to Quito.
Dress in layers (T-shirt, blouse, sweater, coat). Take rain protection. This tour includes walking at altitudes between 2,700 to 1,400 meters, (8,800 to 4,600 feet). Sun protection (SPF 40). Hat or cap. Good walking shoes and an extra pair of socks.
Temperature: Day, average 15° to 28° C / 59° to 82° F