Culture, Critters, and Canopy Adventures – Mashpi Lodge and Tulipe Archaeological Site, Ecuador

Whether you’re into culture or critters (or both), adventure awaits in the cloud forest around Quito, Ecuador.

Mashpi Cloud Forest Ecuador

Ecuadorean cloud forest as far as the eye can see.

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.
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Mashpi Lodge Ecuador

We have no idea how they got those huge panes of glass, and many other amazing architectural elements, through the cloud forest to the remote Mashpi site.

Check out the beauty of Mashpi Lodge in our drone travel video, below.

room Mashpi Lodge

The rooms and suites at Mashpi Lodge have all the creature comforts (and then some), but our favorite feature was the automated window blinds.

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.

Tyayra Mashpi Lodge mammals

Mashpi mammals (clockwise from top left) include coati, pacas, and tayras.

Toucan barbet, Crimson-rumped toucanet, Pale-mandibled aracari Mashpi

Just some of the bird species we saw at Mashpi including (left to right) a Toucan Barbet, a Crimson-rumped Toucanet, and a Pale-mandibled Aracari.

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.

Mashpi sky bike

Karen on the Sky Bike at Mashpi Lodge.

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.

Treefrogs Mashpi Lodge Ecuador

Treefrogs love the cloud forest around Mashpi Lodge.

Colubrid snake Mashpi Lodge

A colubrid snake seen around Mashpi Lodge.

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).

Birds of Mashpi Lodge Ecuador

More birds spotted at Mashpi including (clockwise from top left) two types of trogans, Mot Mots, a hard-to-spot Wire-tailed Manakin, and a Moss-backed Tanager.

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.

Mashpi Lodge cloudforest views

Karen scanning the canopy at Mashpi Lodge.

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.

You will be surrounded by butterflies in the special enclosure that was built for them at Mashpi Lodge.

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).

Tulipe petroglyphs

This snail-like design was a favorite of the Yumbo people.

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.

Tulipe site Yumbo culture

You can see eight stone-lined pools like this one at the Tulipe archaeological site in Ecuador.

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.

Tulipe archaeological ruins Ecuador

Tulipe is the only known Yumbo site where stone-lined pools like these have been found.

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.

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