Whether you’re into culture or critters (or both), adventure awaits in the cloud forest around Quito, Ecuador.
Jungle Adventures at Mashpi Lodge
In July of 2018 the Andean Choco Region, northwest of Quito, was named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Deep in the cloud forest in this new reserve, you will find Mashpi Lodge. The lodge is remarkable for a number of reasons, including top luxury deep in the rainforest and breathtaking architecture.
Check out the beauty of Mashpi Lodge in our drone travel video, below.
The 23 swanky rooms and suites at Mashpi Lodge each have a massive remote-control operated curtain over a wall of windows. Upon check-in, the curtain is raised to reveal a stunning view of the rainforest (and its inhabitants) just outside your room including birds, insects, reptiles, and mammals of all sorts.
The property around Mashpi is full of trails (including one that ends with a Tarzan style rope swing) and there are also a few more unexpected ways to experience the cloud forest. First, there’s something called a Sky Bike which is an ingenious contraption that allows you to pedal your way across a taught line high above the ground. Think of it as horizontal zip lining on a bike.
At Mashpi they’ve installed their Sky Bike through a particularly lovely patch of cloud forest and a leisurely round trip between two platforms gives sky bikers eye-level views of the treetops and the flowers and critters that live there.
Then there’s the Dragonfly Gondola at Mashpi Lodge which offers open-air cars for up to four people (and your guide) which travel 1.2 miles (2 km) along a cable above the jungle canopy top. The 40-minute journey is slow and silent and offers the chance to see birds, flowers, lizards, butterflies, and more. Spot something cool? Your guide can stop the gondola so you can get a better look (or better picture).
You will certainly see many species of birds any time you look outside, but nothing matches the experience of visiting Mashpi’s hummingbird area where feeders attract dozens of species of hummingbirds and other species as well including Toucan Barbets.
A great option at sunrise and sunset is the 85 foot (26 meter) high Observation Tower at Mashpi which is a very serene way to observe jungle wildlife. And for a very calm encounter with wildlife, visit the butterfly enclosure in the Life Center at the lodge. Many species of butterflies are raised here and if you’re lucky you may even catch a brand new butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.
Watch a butterfly being born in the Mashpi Lodge butterfly enclosure our video, below.
Exploring the Tulipe archaeological site
About two hours from Quito and 45 minutes from Mindo you’ll find the Tulipe archaeological site (US$3 per person, including a guide and some speak English).
This site was created by the pre-Incan Yumbo people who lived between 800-1660 AD. More than 2,000 structures exist here and some have been excavated along with some curious stone-lined pools. The pools are thought to have had ceremonial significance, yet no other known Yumbo site has them.
The Yumbo people also developed a network of roads (called culuncos) long before the Incas, who ultimately incorporated some of the Yumbo roads into their own vast network of so-called Inca trails.
It’s unclear why the Yumbo abandoned this site, which may have been used as a control point to regulate trade between the Amazon and the Andes, but they may have been after destructive and terrifying eruptions of nearby volcanoes.
Here’s more about travel in Ecuador