Exploring Mindo, Ecuador


Mindo is well known for, as locals call it, “extreme sports.” This includes rafting, tubing, trekking, zip lines, mountain biking, and canyoning. We on the other hand went to enjoy its rich biodiversity.

Mindo was the first stop on a longer Northern Ecuador roadtrip. See our complete Northern Ecuador travel guide.

Jardín de Mariposas Nathaly

Our first stop was the Jardín de Mariposas Nathaly, which is a butterfly garden, only a block off the main street.  We were unable to spot any signs pointing to it from downtown, so we had to ask someone on the street for directions.

The Jardín de mariposas Nathaly might not look like much from the outside, but has much to offer inside!
The Jardín de mariposas Nathaly might not look like much from the outside, but has much to offer inside!

We were told at the front desk that it was not a great time to visit, due to the cloudy skies, as butterflies are only out when its sunny. So, we reluctantly paid the $5 per person entrance fee.

Upon entering there are some flower displays, so at least we thought we would get something out of the garden.

Then a guide came and led us to their butterfly egg and larvae room. It was very interesting to see the vast diversity in size, shape and design of the caterpillars.

We were then led to the butterfly room and were quite surprised on what we saw. What the business considers a bad day was perfect for us! No, we were not surrounded by fluttering butterflies, but resting butterflies are the best for photographs.

Besides butterflies, they had a section to view hummingbirds feeding. They have a little hut with hammocks, seats and carpet to watch the birds. You are required to take off your shoes at this point, as any noise can scare the hummingbirds away. If you are quiet, you can get in arms reach of the birds. It is the perfect spot to relax, while enjoying the sounds of nature.

We went around the corner to a tour company to get directions to some of Mindo’s waterfalls. It turns out the only one they said was worth it required a $6 tour and a 30 minute drive down a dirt road and an hour hike. Hiking in Mindo is a must to do activity, there are many different hiking trails that take you to different breathtaking waterfalls.

Los Armadillos Café

Los Armadillos Café, outside of Nanegalito, Ecuador
Los Armadillos Café, outside of Nanegalito, Ecuador

After leaving Mindo, we headed on towards Otavalo. Along route E28 we came upon Los Armadillos Café, outside of Nanegalito. The cafe has ample indoor and patio seating, with a handful of hummingbird feeders. There were so many hummingbirds of all sizes; small and smaller!

The cafe overlooks La Reserva Biologica Maquipucuna, a beautiful protected cloud forest. It is a breathtaking spot to enjoy a slightly overpriced snack in one of Ecuador’s most diverse landscapes. You almost drive past the cafe when going through the curvy mountainous road, so be careful when pulling in and out of this cafe.

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