I previously wrote about my visit to the Butterfly Garden in Mindo, but there is another beautiful garden worth visiting in this tiny tourist town. The Orchid Garden, or Jardín de Orquídeas, is a beautiful and tranquil garden located a few blocks away from downtown Mindo in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. Located on the grounds of the Cabanas Armonia hostel, this garden is a portal into another world, full of hundreds of colors and over 250 species of the most amazing orchids. Take a tour through this private collection of unique flora, experiencing this delicate ecosystem up close and personal.
The tour takes approximately 40 minutes, after which you can wander on your own, taking photos and viewing the elaborate planting and cultivating system that has been established. If you have the time, you can also request a bird tour, taking in even more of the natural color found throughout Ecuador.
Free to guests of the hostel, admission to the gardens is $3.00. Read more about the hostel, the gardens, and the available tours on the garden website, here.
The small town of Mindo, Ecuador is nestled tightly in the Andes Mountains cloud forest, one of the richest bio-diverse ecoregions in the world. Mindo is a well-kept secret and has no shortage of fascinating attractions, but its reputation and popularity as an adventure destination is growing rapidly.
Just a block or two off the main square, you will find a tall building looming over the trees. Featuring on-site chocolate making, a delicious cafe, locally roasted coffee, and rooms with a view, El Quetzal is THE destination for chocolate lovers and adventure seekers the world over.
After you grab a bite to eat at one of the many delicious cafes in town, you can check into your room at the chocolate factory! Located up a few flights of stairs, we choose the room that features a balcony, swinging hammock, and amazing views of Mindo and the surrounding mountains.
Because we were guests in the lodge, we were permitted free entrance into one of their world-famous tours. You can follow along as a guide walks you step by step through the bean-to-bar chocolate-making process. Starting with the cacoa bean, you will learn about the ins and out of how modern-day artisans have turned this amazing bean into one of the most lusted after flavors across the world. You'll even get to sample a batch of fresh chocolate brownies and experience for yourself the rich flavors grown right in the Ecuadorian valley!
Breakfast the next day was the cherry on top! We woke up and were treated to special seating on the veranda, surrounded by beautiful foliage and the sounds of the town waking up. Choose from a selection of cooked-to-order meals and fresh coffee-there's really no better way to start your day!
Staying at El Quetzal was more than just finding a room on Airbnb- we got to experience part of the amazing chocolate-making culture of Mindo. The secluded atmosphere allowed us to observe Mindo life from above, taking it all in.
Need to Know:
- Chocolate tours are offered 7 days a week, from starting each hour on the hour from 10:00am-5:00pm
- Cost $10/person (*Free entry if you are staying in one of their Airbnb suites!)
- You can book a stay in the lodge here
new to airbnb? use my referral code here and get $55 off your first booking
Do you ever find yourself in a situation when you have a friend coming to visit and you know you want to spend some time catching up, but all of a sudden you feel like you just moved to the city you’re in and can’t think of a SINGLE decent place to go for drinks? Or coffee or breakfast or dessert? You spend weeks or months making mental notes of all the new places you want to try but when the opportunity arises to go somewhere, it’s as if everywhere you’ve ever heard of vanishes, leaving you panicked as your quickly do a Google search of “good restaurants in…” or “best place to eat near me.” Maybe it’s just me, but I have started keeping a written list of those such places so that I don’t keep finding myself in that situation.
The most recent example is when a friend was coming into town for a few hours, and while we both knew we wanted to grab some drinks, dessert was mentioned, and I quickly found myself falling down the rabbit hole of local instagram foodies, trying to find something visually appealing that caught my eye and met the criteria established.
This time, it manifested in the form of Barcelona Wine Bar. I’d heard of it. I’d seen pics of it. I knew they had alcohol. So far so good. A little more scrolling and voila, dessert was spotted. This was the place.
Upon entering said place, my initial feelings were validated. With shelves of books, antique knick knacks, and a few scattered plants, I immediately felt as though I was entering into a cozy cellar that featured warm lighting and delicious smells.
After a round of sangria, we decided to throw some tapas into the mix before moving on to dessert. The abondigas, spiced meatballs in a tomato-based sauce paired great with the complimentary bread that we couldn’t get enough of. The pork belly with almond slivers was so extremely tender it almost melted in your mouth. And the garlic aioli topping the patatas bravas was worth licking the plate for. Of course we didn’t…
We allowed the savory goodness of meat and bread, sauces and spices, to almost dissuade us from ordering dessert. But alas, we came here for a reason and we could not leave without fulfilling our quest.
The crepas allowed us to complete our mission. Stuffed with the lightest, yet creamiest coffee filling, drizzled with chocolate sauce, and sprinkled with whole hazelnuts, the rich flavors were so smooth and airy with just the right amount of crunch.
The next time I need to find the perfect spot in a pinch, there will be no hesitation.
One of the things I love about Asheville is the overwhelming sense of comfortableness that this city exudes. Everyone is simply comfortable being themselves, and expressing it in a way that suits them. One very noticeable way this can be seen is through the city's prominent street art. Every street, every corner, and every alley is guaranteed to feature a work of art, and if you walk the streets long enough, you will start to recognize an artist's work by the style you see repeated throughout.
The best place to view a highly concentrated amount of street art without the worry of potentially getting hit by a car is in a quiet corner of the River Arts District. This patch of land, located on Old Lyman Street, is known as the Foundation Walls Project. Property owner Brent Starck began the project when he couldn't face tearing down the falls that had been covered primarily in graffiti tags. Instead he worked with the Asheville Legal Department and the Graffiti Appeal Committee to come up with a plan for allowing artists to put their work out there in an organized and inclusive manner. As long as artists follow the rules (no racist, hateful, or inappropriate content), they can obtain a permit and are free to let their designs come to life.
Foundation Walls is a great place to see a lot of the city's artists in one area. The artists respect the work of others and work to support each other, rather than compete for the best wall space. The inclusive and collaborative approach makes unique park a noteworthy destination during your stay in Asheville.
What's your favorite street art destination? Share in the comments below!
I like hidden gems, hole-in-the-walls, and offbeat destinations