The slow life in Mindo, Ecuador

by Kim on September 16, 2012 · 23 comments

After our unbelievable week in the Galapagos Islands Brian and I needed a few days to relax, lie low and catch up on work.

We took a 1.5 hour bus ride from Quito to Mindo, a tiny village tucked into the cloud forest in Ecuador’s northern Andes. Mindo is a laid-back town on the backpacker trail, most famous for it’s excellent bird watching and adventure sports like tubing, zip-lining and canyoning.

We booked a room at The Yellow House Lodge a place that came highly recommended but was a bit outside of our backpacker budget at $19.50 per person per night. (Oh, how my perspective has changed. It cost us almost that much to camp at some of the U.S. National Parks this summer).

When I asked the owner via email how to find the Yellow house she told me to exit the bus, walk across the city park to an internet cafe, turn right, then walk up a dirt road until we saw the entrance to the lodge. I love visiting small towns that have no need for street signs. There’s one market, one park, one pharmacy. Perfect for navigating via landmark.

The road to the Yellow House

At the end of a long dirt road we found Yellow House Lodge and were instantly happy with our choice. We were shown to a big, beautiful room with our own private bathroom and a balcony with a hammock and views of the mountains. The homemade breakfast was fresh and delicious. Best of all, we had access to hiking trails on which visitors can meander for hours through lush vegetation, spotting birds and dodging spiders.

One of the buildings on Yellow House Lodge property. Our room was on the top floor.

The grounds of Yellow House Lodge

We didn’t do much in Mindo, but it’s the perfect place to not do much. We spent hours reading in the hammock and even more hours on the balcony in the main house watching the hummingbirds fly by. We’d hike in the early afternoon and then walk the five minutes into town to grab some food and helado (I need to add a line item for ice cream into our budget). At night we would lay in bed reading, listening to the cows and roosters moo and crow with such rambunctiousness that they sounded like they were attending a wild party.

The slow life in Mindo, Ecuador

When we’d finally had our fill of laziness we dropped into a local company and booked a canyoning trip for the following morning. Canyoning, we’d learned, is popular in Ecuador and is essentially rappelling over a waterfall.

The next day we were greeted by our guide, a guy of about nineteen who shook our hands and ushered us into the back of a pickup truck. After a bumpy, dusty, ten-minute ride we were deposited on the side of the road outside of Mindo. We hiked through rocky terrain, past cows and a picturesque river, before stopping at the top of a rocky ledge.

Our guide did a series of things with carabiners, threw a frayed rope over the edge of the cliff, then spoke to us in Spanish as he gestured instructions while Brian and I both stood with blank looks on our faces, nodding.

Do you think this is safe?” I asked Brian, gesturing towards the frayed rope.

Sure,” he said, but his tone wasn’t too convincing.

But they haven’t even given us helmets.” I pointed to a banner strung up in a tree with a photo of two happy gringos in the midst of canyoning, solid green helmets strapped to their heads.

Just don’t think about it,” Brian said, and then he clipped into the rope and hopped over the edge.

We survived canyoning in Mindo

We were only in Mindo for three days but I could have easily stayed longer. I liked that the ex-pat hippy community exists here but doesn’t detract from the authentic feel of being in small-town Ecuador. There’s not a (working) ATM in Mindo, but there is a handcrafted chocolate shop. Children sell fresh juice on the street and a bohemian foreigner sells homemade, organic coffee in her tiny shop.

Children sell fresh juice on the street

There’s one main road, paved, and a dozen of other smaller roads in the process of being paved. There’s no heavy equipment here, things happen in Mindo one brick at a time. 

Mindo’s main road

A hummingbird statue in Mindo’s town square

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Tracey September 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Mindo sounds awesome! Love the pic of your feet in the hammock, it totally captured the breath taking beauty of the landscape and the bohemian feeling you talked about in your post. Mindo is now charted on my trip to Ecuador! Thanks for the peek into this slow paced paradise:)

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Kim September 17, 2012 at 9:29 am

It’s a great place to visit. There are A TON of cheap hostels in the center of town- you’ll love it. Also, if you’re thinking of ziplining, google for information about a recent death at one of the ziplining companies in town– don’t go to that company!

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Sarah Somewhere September 17, 2012 at 5:10 am

Looks lovely! I totally get having a budget for ice cream, I think its one of our biggest expenses! I love that Brian was like ‘dont think about it,’ not sure why but I do! Looks like a beautiful, natural place to retreat and chill out. Hope you are both enjoying wherever you are now and I cant wait to read more.

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Kim September 17, 2012 at 9:31 am

I know, I’m embarrassed to think about how much we spend on ice cream… but the calories don’t count when you’re eating in a different country, don’t you know? ;)

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Ali September 17, 2012 at 5:14 am

I *finally* caught up on your blog, loved the Galapagos posts! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of Mindo but it sounds like a relaxing place. I’m glad you’re enjoying Ecuador!

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Kim September 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

Mindo is a great stop while winding your way through Ecuador!!

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Bama September 17, 2012 at 7:44 am

Mindo sounds like a perfect place to repose after some physically-challenging activities. I remember when I was in Laos it felt so peaceful and laid-back. Sometimes I forget how such unlikely places are the ones which recharge my energy.

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Kim September 17, 2012 at 9:35 am

Ohhh, I can’t wait to get to Laos someday! Yes, sometimes you do just need to go somewhere and recharge. Mindo is perfect for that.

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Rhonda September 18, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Kim & Brian
That looks so amazing! What we have found on our travels is, that as much as we love and are in awe of some of the “must see” sites, our favorite memories are nearly always of this type of experience. Really removing yourself from your old life to get into the groove of a new place. I can’t wait to check out Yellowhouse Lodge!

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Kim September 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I bet you guys will love it! They even have a dog so I bet that your new pup could stay (assuming you come through on your trip). Hope you guys are well.

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Carmel September 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Glad you rested up a bit. Is it hard adjusting to a slower pace?

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Kim September 18, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Hello! You know, it was hard while we are in the U.S. I’m not sure if it’s because we were in the U.S. or just because it was the start of our trip. Now, I don’t have any trouble slowing down at all. Actually, we’re currently volunteering and it’s hard to have so many hours of the day eaten up by one thing- I kind of miss my freedom. I like the slower pace :)

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Hannah September 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm

Oh, how I LONG for days like that! With all the madness of last minute travel preparations, I never have a minute to relax. I’m dreaming of hammocks and books and hummingbirds :)

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Kim September 20, 2012 at 5:41 am

I know how you feel Hannah but SO SOON you will be relaxing in India. Hang in there my dear.

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Jeremy September 25, 2012 at 4:15 am

Looks like a great place to kick it for a little while!

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Kim September 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm

It’s a very relaxing place with a slow pace of life… it was great.

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Arianwen September 25, 2012 at 6:58 pm

I loved Mindo too! I only had one full day there, but I checked out the butterfly garden, birds at Mindo Lindo and canopy tour, before coming back into town just in time for a festival and beauty queen parade! I love it when everything comes together like that!

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Kim September 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Dang, you fit a lot into one day! I wish I would have gone to the butterfly gardens.

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Adam at GettingStamped November 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I came across your site while looking for some ideas for ecuador while on our RTW trip. I am looking for a town to stop in for a few days between Montanita and Quito, Mindo looks like it might fit that bill. Was there good public transport to Mindo? Any other recommendation you might have would be great. I like your site, great name, Thanks.

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Diana Uriguen November 24, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Loved your post! I lived in Mindo for 2 years, I have to tell you they were the best years of my life! So relaxed and calm, I disconnected from the world it was paradise :)

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Jen Farrell March 2, 2013 at 7:47 pm

My husband and I lived in Quito, Ecuador for several years; while we were teaching Science in a local school. We would escape to Mindo as often as we could. Mindo holds a special place in my heart. I’m so happy to see your photos and experiences.

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