The cloud forest lodges of Ecuador sit in the midst of a symphony of nature. Within the lush hills and valleys of the region lie rivers and waterfalls, stunning green forests, and reserves that boast a lively array of birds, butterflies, and fauna.
Nearly 20 percent of the world’s birds are found here. In the annual Christmas Bird Count, held around the world by the Auburn Society since 1900, the area around Mindo continues to rank high on the list, with over 450 species of birds spotted in the recent year of the competition.
When visiting one of the cloud forest lodges listed below, be on the lookout for Cock-of-the-Rocks, Golden Headed Quetzals, and Plate-Billed Mountain Toucans. Some of the lodges have their own reserves and guides who are happy to share their expertise on a guided hike.
The cloud forest contains 400 species of orchids amidst avocado, walnut, alder, and cedar trees. Three-toed sloths hang from their branches and white-fronted capuchin monkeys are often seen high in the canopy. The forest is home to ocelots and the elusive spectacle bears-an endangered species that the reserves help protect.
Happy Gringo Travel works with lodges that have a commitment to conservation and preserving the cloud forests. Keep reading to find out more about the cloud forest lodges you can visit on a custom-made trip to Ecuador.
The beautiful Galapagos Red-billed Tropicbird often amazes visitors with it’s striking appearance – long elegant tail streamers, bright red beak, and black mask across the eyes.
It is the largest of the world’s Tropicbird species, and one of the most beautiful birds in appearance that you can spot at the Galapagos Islands.
Mashpi Lodge, a short three-hour drive from Quito, sits in the heart of the cloud forest on a 3,200 acre reserve that is brimming with wildlife.
The elegant, stylish main lodge is nestled into the trees high on top of a scenic vista, overlooking the rolling hills and valley on the horizon. Mashpi Lodge was started by Roque Sevilla, a passionate environmentalist and former mayor of Quito who wanted to show people the natural wonders of the country. Amphibian, reptile, and butterfly species number in the hundreds here, seen aside pumas and howler monkeys inside the reserve.
The lodge employees people from the surrounding community- Ecuador’s top naturalist guides, and biologists who are all passionate about the cloud forest and its creatures.
Activities include the sky bike, dragonfly ride, hiking the network of trails over rivers and through the fertile forest to waterfalls, and visiting towering observation platforms. The reserve’s Life center sits overlooking the forest and is a place to discover the life cycles of the reserve’s 300 species of butterflies. The wooden deck is the place to enjoy the view, spot hummingbirds, and relax before setting off again.
Mashpi has 22 stylish and spacious rooms with floor to ceiling windows that look out on the lush forest, bathrooms with freestanding bathtubs, WiFi, and a hip, modern décor.
The in-house restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The gourmet, seasonal menu features regional seafood, beef, and chicken dishes, as well as vegetarian options made with ingredients from the cloud forest. The wine list includes selected Chilean, Argentinean and Old World vintages.
Bellavista Lodge, outside of the charming town of Mindo, is a dream come true for the English-Colombian couple who started it. The duo bought the property and started the lodge in 1991 in order to make the land into a reserve, protecting the forest and its creatures from cattle that devastate the bio-diversity of the region.
Deep in the Tandayapa Valley, the 2000 acre reserve is home to an astounding medley of birds- it is the place to check many different species off your list! Early morning hikes through the robust forest with keen-eyed guides reveal hundreds of birds, feeding in the morning light.
Rustic, well-appointed cabins surround around the main lodge, where hearty meals, including locally sourced trout, are served while hummingbirds zip back and forth from the feeders outside the windows.
Hacienda La Alegria is located to the north of Quito, situated in the region of the Avenue of Volcanos. It’s a horseback riding farm in the northern Andes, where the cloud forest and the mountains meet.
La Alegria offers horseback riding tours with expert, local guides underneath the cloud forest’s canopy. Up hills and through valleys discovering the striking flora and brightly-colored creatures flying overhead.
The farmhouse has four spacious, well-appointed rooms and two family rooms with overstuffed beds, plush furniture, and large windows that look out over the nearby mountains. The décor is traditionally elegant, and the owners spared no expense to make sure their guests have the best accommodations of the region.
All of the staff are warm, welcoming, and friendly and the service is excellent. Ample portions of international and local dishes are served daily in the hacienda’s restaurant-a- a welcome site at the end of a big day of riding.