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This is the ideal trip for the person who wants to see Ecuador’s beauty outside of the big cities and away from big groups. This is about relaxation, peace, beauty, good food, and deep nature experiences. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy. The rest will be done for you. Enjoy most of your time in the cloud forests of the Mindo area to take in the scenery of this natural paradise. Enjoy a guided birding trip in one of the world’s top birding destinations. Dip your feet in the cool waters of the river rushing by your hotel. Take a day trip to soak in South America’s best hot springs, Papallacta, set high up in the Andes where the condor flies. Take in a Yoga class in a spectacular forest setting. Learn how artisanal chocolate is made, from bean to bar, with a delicious sampling at the end. Take in the exhilaration of butterflies flying all around you at the local butterfly gardens. Be astounded by the unique flora and fauna of this region on a deep nature hike with an expert naturalist through his private reserve, including spectacular hummingbird viewing and a hike through EarthTreks’ reforestation project. Traditional meals included in this package will be enjoyed among your kind Ecuadorian hosts, Paola and Marta, as well as some of the wonderful local eateries, such as el Quetzal, the chocolate factor. Take anything you do not want in the itinerary out. Many of our guests who have enjoyed this eight-day retreat say they feel and look years younger after just one week!
*Includes pretty much everything – all taxes, all daily activities, accommodations, most meals, full-time bilingual retreat leader, and transportation throughout (including airport transfers). See detailed inclusions below.
*$750 CAD single supplement
*A deposit of $300 CAD is required at time of booking
*Please advise us if you would like a quote if departing from a different location than Toronto or if you would prefer to book your own flights using points, noting that different dates may result in a fluctuation of price, based on flight availability.
*Nights in the beautiful capital city of Quito may also be booked on your behalf at a rate of $70 CAD per person.
Late afternoon or early evening (depending on when your flight arrives), our wonderful driver, Yaros, will whisk you away from the city life of Quito to enjoy some deep relaxation in the subtropical cloud forests of the Mindo region – all set at your pace. You will be welcomed into the natural paradise you will make your home for the next seven nights with a home-cooked meal. Then you may choose to take a walking tour of the village. Your hostel, although set back from the sounds of the village, is only a few minutes walk away. Sleep peacefully to the sound of the river running by. Accommodations: El Chaquiňan.
Sleep in if you want to – we will arrange a departure time for the butterfly gardens the night before – but you should know that butterflies tend to be most active in the morning (in other words, don’t leave it too late). After a delicious breakfast beside the river, you will head out to the Mariposario, where you will experience the exhilaration of butterflies flying all around you and see a variety of species at every stage of life. Butterflies are bred here because the Mindo valley provides the perfect habitat for them to flourish. Then return back to the village to enjoy lunch and relax at your own pace. When we drop you off, you can either choose to be picked up again or you can walk back to the village for lunch – it is about four kilometers, which takes about an hour, and there is lots of great nature viewing to take in along the way. When you get back to town, lunch will be ready for you. Then the afternoon is yours to take where you want it. Let us know what time you want to take the chocolate tour, as one leaves in English on the hour (every hour with the last one offered at 5:00 p.m.), but needs to be booked a little in advance. Enjoy dinner at the Quetzal (chocolate tour) – one of Mindo’s best restaurants. They also offer one of the best places to find a good glass of wine in town and are very close to the hostel. Accommodations: El Chaquiňan.
This morning, you can either choose to wake up early and hire a birding guide, or stay in bed and open your windows to take in the beauty of an incredible array of birds – they love the variety of fruit trees growing all around. Or you may choose to start the day sticking your feet in the river rushing by – that will be sure to wake you up. You will then begin your journey to deep relaxation in soaking in what is said to be the most beautiful natural hot springs in the country, Papallacta – thermal baths set high up in the Andes. It is about a two-and-a-half hour drive to arrive there, so we should try to leave as early as possible. When we get there, we will stop for the fresh trout lunch this little village is famous for before unwinding in the medicinal waters for a few hours. Dinner is on your own this evening – don’t hesitate to ask us for recommendations. Let us know when you would like to book your empenada-making lesson this evening with the family – a delicious treat either before, after or in place of dinner. You choose. Accommodations: El Chaquiňan.
For those who are up for an early start to the day, you can join a birding trip in one of the world’s top birding destinations, departing just after 5:30 a.m. You will have an opportunity to see the Cock-of-the-Rock (seen on the left), among other rare and beautiful feathered friends. You may also choose to forego the early morning, enjoying a leisurely breakfast beside the river. Then you will head out for your Yoga class in the forest. The studio is in a spectacular setting in the cloud forest, guided by an English-speaking teacher – perfect for any level, from beginner to advanced. After your one-hour class, sip a fresh fruit smoothie and take a short hike to a private waterfall. After your hike, you may choose to enjoy the ancient tradition of a Thai massage, after which you will feel deeply relaxed, yet amazingly energized. You will be transported back to town to enjoy lunch. The rest of the day is yours to take it wherever you choose – going through some of the artisan shops along main street, reading a good book in one of our hammocks, or booking something more adventurous. Wait to see what you feel up to and this can be arranged for you. Accommodations: El Chaquiňan.
This morning we head out on a hike to the beautiful Nambillo Waterfalls, starting as early as you are up for. This series of waterfalls is a popular spot on the weekend, and this activity can be changed with a different day if you would prefer to avoid the crowds. That’s one of many advantages to having this itinerary built around your specific interests and how you are feeling on a daily basis. The hike starts out with a truck ride to the “tarabita”, a quick cable card ride across the forest canopy. Choose to visit all of the waterfalls or just a few, based on how you are feeling You may even choose to forego the truck ride back to Mindo by walking – this direction is predominantly downhill. A delicious picnic lunch will be packed to enjoy when you’re feeling hungry. Upon return to the village, choose to just relax or walk through the many artisan shops lining the main streets of Mindo. Accommodations: El Chaquiňan.
There are lots of options to choose from today, as Mindo is a touristy little village. This is a great opportunity to hike up to the famous Nambillo waterfalls or choose from a variety of adrenaline pumping activities that can be arranged for you. You may also just choose to relax in a hammock and read by the river all day. Wait to see what you feel like, and then see how much you can fit in. Let us know if you want lunch on the go today, as we can have a delicious picnic packed for you. Accommodations: El Chaquiňan.
After breakfast this morning, you will explore a network of trails on a private nature reserve with a local naturalist who will be able to point out the tiniest orchid to the oldest tree species in the world, as well as any birds and other wildlife you happen to encounter along the way. You will learn about the flora and fauna of a cloud forest and be surrounded by a variety of hummingbird species swirling all around you. Then you continue on to see some of the over 13,500 trees now growing as part of EarthTreks’ reforestation project, along the trails of the educational arboretum that is being created there. Accommodations: El Chaquiňan.
This morning after breakfast, it is time to pack up again and head back to Quito for your flight home. If you want to leave a little early (based on when your flight is leaving), we can stop at the Equator to take your picture with a foot in each hemisphere en route.
Mindo is a small village of approximately 3,000 people, located in a valley in the foothills of the Ecuadorian Andes. This was the first Important Bird Area (IBA) established in all of South America, and has built its reputation as an ecotourism destination greatly upon its notoriety for excellent birding and biodiversity more broadly. There exists a tremendous amount of fresh water in the area, from a few major rivers to endless numbers of streams and waterfalls.
Mindo is a safe, small village that boasts what many describe as the ‘perfect climate’ – a subtropical climate that is warm year-found and rarely climbs above the mid-20s (C) or below the mid-teens (at night). The rainfall is significant, with precipitation throughout the year and an average annual rainfall of well over 2,000 mm, which is more highly concentrated during rainy season (January to May). The rain is quite predictable, however, generally not starting until mid to late afternoon, so it is easy to plan our daily activities around staying dry. Mindo is located in a cloud forest, and as such, is green and lush, offering the ideal climate for mosses, orchids, and ferns to thrive. As it is located right on the Equator (which we will cross a few times), the sun sets and rises just after 6:00 a.m & p.m. all year round.
Our accommodations are at the Casa de Cecilia, a small, simple yet beautiful hostal located on the banks of the Canchupi River. The three cabins that make up the hostal are quite removed from the village’s hustle and bustle, even though it is only a short walk (just a few minutes) to the village’s main square. Cecilia Perez was the first person in Mindo to host international guests – right in the house we will be staying in – starting early in the 1980s. Cecilia has since passed away, and her daughter, Paola Peňafiel is now the Owner and Host of Casa de Cecilia. It remains one of the tourist favourites for accommodations in the village. Cecilia was Alison’s mother-in-law and Paola is her sister-in-law. The beautiful Mot-Mot bird (seen to the left) will likely be a frequent visitor to the Riverside Studio, where our daily Tai Chi lessons will take place, as the studio is very close to her nest. Everyone says the same thing about this place – ‘it’s paradise’.