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
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Visiting the Mariposario de Mindo, or butterfly gardens, is a must-do activity during your time in Mindo, Ecuador.
Located on the grounds of Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo, a full-service hotel, the gardens offer a highly interactive and vibrant experience for visitors. Whether you're interested in learning more about the lifecycle of butterfly species native to the region, or you simply want to witness nature's beautiful kaleidoscope, a visit is well worth your time.
Be sure to check out the rest of the grounds, including the observation tower and hummingbird feeding platform. Take in great views of the surrounding cloud forest and enjoy up close and personal experiences with some of Ecuador's amazing flying species.
Need to know:
Hours: Monday- Sunday 9:00am-4:00pm
Address: Mindo Sector La Yaguira- 2km from town of Mindo
Best time to visit: 10:00am-12:00pm- the butterflies are most active during this time
Don't use insect repellant before entering
Check out their website for more information:
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