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You are here:2.1.3 The Mindo Valley

2.1.3 The Mindo Valley

The Mindo Valley is one of the best known birding sites in Ecuador. Birding in the Mindo area was a major focus for all the pioneering birding trips to Ecuador.  Today it is a premier spot for many ecotourism activities.

Here a range of habitats holds more than 330 species.   This avian richness has been preserved thanks to the enthusiastic conservation efforts from Mindo citizens and the proximity to the 19.200 hectare Bosque Protector Mindo-Nambillo.   The Mindo-Nambillo can be visited using the town of Mindo as your base camp.   Additionally, there are so many private reserves in the area that enduring the long walk to the “Bosque Protector” is actually unnecessary, and few do it. The village of Mindo provides excellent opportunities to bird within easy walking distance, making this area the most accessible Pacific slope Lower Montane forest in Ecuador.  The continuous and persistent mist creates a profusion of moss, orchids and bromeliad-covered trees adding a special interest to the region.


Lower Montane Forest.


The Mindo Valley

The Mindo valley can be accessed continuing along the Quito –Nono-Mindo road continuing from the Tandayapa Valley,  or can be visited by taking the Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway. There are many places to stay and eat in the valley, and while you in Mindo you can visit several areas located along the Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway within a short driving distance. The village is especially lively on weekends when it  is crowded with all sorts of tourists.  There is public bus service from Quito to Mindo and back.

The Cooperativa Flor de Valle/Cayambe bus company is located at the Terminal Terrestre Norte, LA OFELIA.  The Northern Bus Terminal is in “La Ofelia” neighborhood located in the north side of the city.

The Bus schedule as per January 2009

Bus Schedule:

Quito to Mindo

Mon. thru Fri.              8:20AM                       4:00PM

Sat                           7, 8 & 9:20AM                4:00PM

Sun & holidays     7:20, 8:20, 9:20AM                      2:00PM, 5:00PM

Mindo to Quito

Mon. thru Fri.              6:30AM                  2:00, 3:30, 5:00PM

Sat.                              6:30AM                  2:00, 3:30, 5:00PM

Sun.                             6:30AM                2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00PM

The buses heading to the coast also go along the Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway without entering the Mindo Valley itself.

These buses start fromCumanda Bus Station South of Quito at the"Terminal Terrestre del Cumandá".  From this bus station, buses leave for Mindo about every 2 hours. The buses that go through Mindo are Cooperativa Kennedy, Cooperativa San Pedro, and Cooperativa Aloag. Make sure that the bus you are taking goes to the coast by way of Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway. If your bus doesn’t have Mindo as its final destination you must ask the driver to let you off at the top of the road that leads down to Mindo named “La Y de Mindo”.   At the Mindo road junction with the Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway there are pickup trucks and cars that take people down to the town and the lodges for only US $1 per person.   If you are a very low budget traveler you can start walking down the town and bird on your way to town which is 6.3 km away.

The Mindo valley has quite a few good of places to stay.  Well worth mentioning is Sachatamia Lodge / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..   Charming and cozy, is a great hotel with good food and helpful staff.   Attached to the hotel is a 120 hectare private reserve of tall, well kept and well managed second-growth.   It is a fine place to bird, and the hummingbird feeders rank among the top 5 places to watch hummingbirds in Ecuador.   The fruit feeders are quite active as well.   If you are only planning a day visit to Sachatamia, there is a charge a US $5 a piece entrance fee to visit the feeders and trails.  

Another lodge, Septimo Paraiso, / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  has a well preserved private reserve of 420 hectare with a great deal of PrimaryForest.  Here they also have hummingbird feeders and a good system of trails.  Septimo Paraiso also has a charge US $5 per person to visit their trails and feeders.

No matter which means of transportation your are planning for your visit to Mindo, a stay of several nights is recommended.  If planning to visit the Milpe and Silanche reserves and the Refugio Paz de las Aves, a minimum 4 nights stay is essential.

If you are driving from Quito taking the Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway see the description for those sites.

Other well known birding areas in the MindoValley also include the Yellow House trail, the Mindo-El Cinto road and the road to Rio Nambillo Waterfall.


The Mindo Valley

Once you exit the old Quito-Nono-Mindo road after coming from Bellavista Lodge, you will be on the Quito-Calacali-La Independencia highway.  We shall call this point 0.0 km at 1700 m. in elevation.  Turn left on this highway toward the coast.  After only 1.0 km along the road you will see the Sachatamia Lodge entrance on the right hand side.   The lodge itself is only 0.2 km from the road entrance at 1680 m.  At Sachatamia Lodge, the Toucan Barbet and Pale-mandible Araçari visit the fruit feeders regularly, and the forest trails are good for Rufescent Screech-Owl, Club-winged Manakin, and the hard to see Tawny-throated Leaftosser.  A long walk can also take you to the Long-wattled Umbrellabird lek.

(Click here to download Map. Mindo Valley).

Back on the main highway, drive another 400 m to the right toward the coast and downhill.  On the left side is the road entrance to Mindo, which is 1.4 km from the end of the Quito-Nono-Mindo old road at 1650 meters.  This turn off is widely known as the “Mindo turn off”, or “La Y de Mindo” in Spanish.   I will use this spot as a point of reference 0.0 km to give instructions to other sites in the region.

The “Mindo turn off” street light attracts so many insects during the night that an early morning stop, especially after a drizzly night, is mandatory.  More than 20 species of birds can be seen in less than an hour and a Black-and-white Owl is often present at night.   The first kilometer along the road heading down to Mindo is quite birdy as well.   The rare White-faced Nunbird has been seen a few times along this stretch.  This part of the road is also good for Black-chinned Mountain-Tanager, Toucan Barbet and Golden-headed Quetzal.

The entrance to the Septimo Paraiso Hotel and private reserve is 2.0 km from the “Mindo turn off” down toward the town of Mindo.   It will be on the right hand side, at 1500 meters, when going downhill after a sharp bend to the left.   From the well signed entrance you will drive 0.6 km along a dirt road to reach the comfortable hotel.  Séptimo Paraiso is probably the best place to look for the Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl, Ochre-breasted Antpitta and Blue Seedeater.

Further down the Mindo road, at around 5.1 km from the “Mindo Turn off”, you will reach second-growth habitat where you can find several species not recorded from the better forest conditions elsewhere in the area.   I recommended looking for species in this habitat in the late afternoon when the forest activity has stopped, look for Yellow Tyrannulet, Pacific Antwren, Golden-rumped Euphonia, and with some luck you can look for the elusive White-throated Crake by some ponds or the wet Pastures.

The town of Mindo itself at 1220 m is located only 6.3 km away from the “Mindo turn off”. There are several places to look for hummingbirds and fruit feeders in town or close to town. You can visit Hotel “El Descanso” which is a nice and cheap place to stay. One of its great assets are the fruit feeders where at times you can see Ecuadorian Thrush, Silver-throated Tanager, Black-winged Saltator and in the hummingbird feeders White-whiskered Hermit, Stripe-throated Hermit, Black-throated Mango, Green-crowned Woodnymph, Green-crowned Brilliant and Purple-crowned Fairy.

Shortly after entering the town and crossing over a short bridge on the main street reset your odometer to 0.0 km.  Only after 0.1 km turn to the right at the second block heading to El Cinto and Lloa. After only 0.3 km or 0.4 km from the Mindo bridge you turn to the right at the end of the soccer field. Go to the end of this street and you will reach to Hotel “El Descanso”

Continuing along the El Cinto-Lloa road for further 0.6 km or 1.0 km from Mindo you will arrive to bridge over the Mindo River. Look over the bridge for the White-capped Dipper. The open country from the Mindo soccer field to this bridge can be quite rewarding with common species during the rainy afternoons. Continuing for further 0.2 km or 1.2 km from Mindo you will get to a second-growth on your right. Look here for Little Cuckoo, Olivaceous Piculet, Yellow Tyrannulet, Bay Wren and other common birds. One of the fairly common bird species of this habitat is the Lesser Elaenia. Further study on this elaenia might clarify the true identity of this taxon revealing a new species to science.

Continue birding along the road for further 0.7 km to the end of the forest or 1.9 km from Mindo. Drive for a further 0.8 km or 2.7 km from Mindo. Here on your left side there is an abandoned quarry, the site to look for the female Lyre-tailed Nightjar which hunts from the exposed rocks. This female can be seen almost every night right after dusk. Continue driving for further 0.7 km or 3.4 km from Mindo to a steep wall on your left just after a pronounced bend to the left. Stop here and at dusk look for the displaying male Lyre-tailed Nighjars. Continue along the road for further 0.9 km or 4.3 km from Mindo you can stop along the bridge to look again for White-capped Dipper and Torrent Duck. Further 0.4 km along the road or 4.7 km from Mindo there will be a gate on your left. This gate is the driveway to a farm house only after 0.4 km where you can start your walk up along an inside forest trail heading to an Andean-Cock-of-the-Rock lek. Here along this trail look also for the Broad-billed Motmot, Immaculate Antbird, Ochre-breasted Antpitta and other forest species. Slightly after only 0.1 km the gate on the El Cinto-Lloa Road there is another steep wall to look for the Lyre-tailed Nightjar.

The road toward the Nambillo waterfall and Mindo Gardens starts at the Mindo’s main square on the South-East corner of the park.   There take the road heading to the south by staying on your right hand side.  You will cross over a small stream only 0.8 km from the Mindo town square. Drive another 0.3 km from this bridge or 1.1 km from the town square.   You will arrive at a road fork.  Here at the fork reset your odometer to 0.0 km for future references. The left road goes to Mindo Gardens Lodge at 1320 m. You can take the right hand road over the bridge across the Mindo River.   This road will take you to some wonderful forest beyond the entrance to the Nambillo Waterfall.

If continuing to Mindo Gardens lodge on your left for 1.5 km there will be an area to look on the river on your right. Here look for the Sunbittern and White-capped Dipper. Continue for a further 0.8 km or 2.3 km from the Mindo River Bridge. At this point you will reach to tall second-growth in both sides of the road. There is excellent birding along here, look for Immaculate Antbird, Scaled Antpitta, Fulvous-breasted Flatbill, Black-and-White becard and White-winged Tanager. Continue for 0.3 km birding along the forest and you will reach the Mindo Gardens parking place, also a gated bridge over the Mindo River. Here you can look for the Dipper and the Torrent Duck again. The dipper was nesting below the bridge in July 2009.

Returning to where we last reset the odometer to 0.0 km on the bridge over the Mindo River. The road to the Nambillo waterfall start here heading across the bridge and up the mountain. This road is also known as the San Lorenzo Ridge Road.

You must avoid this road on the weekends or special holidays as the area will be crowded with people and vehicles heading and returning to the swing and the waterfall. This is a wonderful birding site with lots of good forest right on the road where Wattled Guan, Red-headed Barbet, Rufous-rumped Antwren, Rufous-throated and Glistening-green Tanagers, Club-winged Manakin and Scaled Fruiteater can be seen.

After driving only for 0.2 km from the bridge there will be a fork. Take the right road heading up the mountain. Drive for further 2.1 km or 2.3 km from the bridge. Here the forest starts getting taller. Drive for further 1.2 km or 3.5 km from the bridge. Here is the start of the swing and the trail heading to the Nambillo Waterfal. Continue for further 1.4 km or 4.9 km from the bridge. Here on your left there is the start of a steep trail that eventually ends up by the Mindo Gardens. This trail should be only visited after paying your entrance fee at the CEA “Centro de Interpretación Ambiental” Center for the Environmental Interpretation close to Mindo Gardens. From this point the road cuts through wonderful forest where the above mentioned specialties can be seen.


Birds to look for


Second-growth   (2GF), Forest (F), Hummingbird feeders   (hf)

Common: Barred Hawk (F), Brown Violetear (hf), Purple-bibbed   Whitetip (hf), Fawn-breasted Brilliant (hf), Brown Inca (hf), Collared Inca   (hf), Velvet-purple Coronet (hf), Booted Racket-tail (hf), Violet-tailed   Sylph (HF), Golden-headed Quetzal (2GF,F), Toucan Barbet (2GF,F), Pale-mandibled   Araçari (2GF,F), Scaly-throated Foliage-gleaner (2GF,F), Buff-fronted   Foliage-gleaner (2GF, F), Ornate Flycatcher (2GF, F), Blue-winged   Mountain-Tanager (2GF, F).

Uncommon: Crested Guan (F), Rufous-bellied Nighthawk (2GF,   F), Empress Brilliant (hf), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (F), Club-winged Manakin   (F), Flame-faced Tanager (2GF, F), Metallic-green Tanager (2GF, F), Black-winged   Saltator (2GF).

Rare: Plumbeous Hawk (F), Blue-fronted Parrotlet (2GF), Barred   Parakeet (2GF, F), Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl (F), White-tailed Hillstar (hf), Tawny-throated   Leaftosser (F), Long-wattled Umbrellabird (F).


Septimo Paraiso

Second-growth   (2GF), Forest (F), Hummingbird feeders   (hf)

Common: Barred Hawk (F), Red-billed Parrot (2GF,F),   Purple-bibbed Whitetip (hf), Fawn-breasted Brilliant (hf), Collared Inca   (hf), Booted Racket-tail (hf), Violet-tailed Sylph (hf), Golden-headed   Quetzal (hf), Lineated Foliage-gleaner (2GF,F), Scaly-throated   Foliage-gleaner (2GF,F), Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner (2GF, F), Ornate   Flycatcher (2GF, F), Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager (2GF, F), Black-winged   Saltator (2GF,F).

Uncommon: Wattled Guan (F), Cloud-forest Pygmy-Owl (F), Green-crowned   Brilliant (hf), Velvet-purple Coronet (hf), Red-headed Barbet (2GF, F), Crimson-rumped   Toucanet (2GF, F), Powerful Woodpecker (F),  Streak-capped Treehunter (2GF, F), Esmeraldas   Antbird (F), Ochre-breasted Antpitta (2GF, F), Scaled Fruiteater (F), Andean   Cock-of-the-rock (F), Golden-winged Manakin (F), Club-winged Manakin (F), Yellow-collared   Chlorophonia (2GF, F), Flame-faced Tanager (2GF, F), Metallic-green Tanager (2GF,   F), Blue Seedeater (2GF, F).

Rare: Barred Parakeet (2GF, F), Rufous-rumped Antwren (2GF,   F).

For a complete bird list go to at their   birdwatching section



The Mindo valley Second-growth near town (1200-1300 meters)

Pastures   (P) Second-growth  (2GF), Forest (F),   Rivers (R), hummingbird feeders (hf)

Common: Red-billed Parrot (2GF,F), Bronze-winged Parrot (2GF,F),   White-whiskered Hermit (hf), Green-crowned Brilliant (hf), Lesser Elaenia (P),   Yellow-faced Grassquit (P), Dull-colored Grassquit (P, 2GF).

Uncommon: White-throated Crake (P), Little Cuckoo (2GF),   Mottled Owl (F), Common Potoo (2GF,F), Lyre-tailed Nightjar (2GF,F), Green-crowned   Woodnymph (hf),Green-fronted Lancebill (R), Green-crowned Woodnymph (hf), Purple-crowned   Fairy (hf), Olivaceous Piculet (2GF), Scarlet-backed Woodpecker (2GF), Orange-crowned   Euphonia (2GF,F).

Rare: Fasciated Tiger-Heron (R), Stripe-throated Hermit (2GF)   (hf) , Black-throated Mango (hf).


The Road to Rio Nambillo waterfall

Pastures   (P), Second-growth  (2GF), Forest (F),

Common: Golden-headed Quetzal (F), Barred Puffbird (F), Crimson-rumped   Toucanet (2GF, F), Pale-mandibled Araçari (2GF,(F), Scaly-throated   Foliage-gleaner (2GF, F), Buff-fronted Foliage-gleaner (2GF, F), Chocó   Tyrannulet (2GF, F), White-tailed Tyrannulet (2GF, F), Slaty-capped   Flycatcher (2GF, F), Beryl-spangled Tanager (2GF, F), Rufous-throated Tanager   (2GF, F), Black-winged Saltator (2GF, F).

Uncommon: Broad-billed Motmot (F), Rufous Motmot (F), Red-headed Barbet (2GF, F), Toucan   Barbet (2GF), (F), Lineated Foliage-gleaner (2GF, F), Strong-billed   Woodcreeper (F), Uniform Antshrike   (2GF), (F), Rufous-breasted Antthrush (F), Marble-faced Bristle-Tyrant   (2GF, F), Bright-rumped Attila (2GF, F), Andean Cock-of-the-rock (F), Club-winged   Manakin (2GF, F), Yellow-collared Chlorophonia (2GF, F), Fawn-breasted   Tanager (2GF, F), Golden naped Tanager (2GF, F), White-winged Tanager (2GF, F),   Glistening-green Tanager (2GF), F).

Rare: Dark-backed Wood-Quail (2GF, F), Wattled Guan (F).   Ruddy Foliage-gleaner (2GF, F), Tyrannine Woodcreeper (F), Rufous-rumped   Antwren (2GF, F), Scaled Fruiteater (2GF, F), Golden-winged Manakin (2GF, F),   Thrush-like Schiffornis (2GF, F).

Copyright © 2010 by Lelis Navarrete

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Meet the Author

Lelis Navarrete – Birding tour leader. Lelis has 19 years of experience as a birding guide and naturalist in the field. He has led groups of birders throughout most of Latin America, guiding frequently in countries like his native country of Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Panama. A Biology B.Sc. graduate from Universidad Católica in Quito, Lelis has supported Jocotoco Foundation since its founding in 1998 and was an active Board Member until 2010 supporting Ecuadorian bird and wildlife conservation. Lelis divides his time between his two great passions in life: birding and spending time with his wife Solange and son Fabian with whom he lives in Quito.


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