After being in Quito for about a week, we took a bus from terminal Ophelia to Mindo for $3.10. Mindo is a small (only one street) town to the north of Quito that is known for its natural beauty. The town is mostly owned by private entrepreneurs, so typically everything costs money. By western standards, everything is still cheap, but for those used to traveling in Latin America, the prices may come as a surprise.
One of the touristy things we did is go to the Mariposario, or the Butteryfly Farm. We walked from our Guesthouse on the main street and it was about 4km, and took us about 45-60 minutes. It was a nice flat walk, with occasional views of the Rio Mindo. We arrived around 11am, which is recommended. The butterflies are most active during the morning and more sleepy during the hot afternoon.
We paid $7 each to go in, but it was really great. I highly recommend it. After a 10 minutes talk about butterflies, (ours was in Spanish but you can get the talk in English), we were allowed into the room that was full of butterflies.
So you’re probably thinking, “well, I’ve been to butterfly houses in zoos, whatever.” It’s way better than that. There are butterflies everywhere and it’s much more personal than the butterfly exhibits in the zoos I’ve been to. There are bananas on feeding platforms that you can get up close and personal to watching the butterflies eat. You can also put some banana on your finger, nose, shoulder, tongue, whatever to try to attract a butterfly to land on you.
Or you can be Taylor, and be a natural butterfly attractant.
While walking around a room with a bazillion butterflies is truly magical and easily entertaining for hours (we stayed for about 3 hours) the thing that to me was unique and special was the phases of the life of a butterfly.
On one side of the room are four windows that show you the phases of life of the butterfly. Each window has pieces collected within the room by the butterfly farmers to be visible to the public. There are caterpillar eggs, finger sized caterpillars noming on leaves, fresh cocoons, and cocoons about to birth. I spent at least an hour watching butterflies emerge from their cocoons. I literally watched butterflies emerge in the world. It was amazing!
First, the cocoon starts to shake. Then, after a while, it will start to open. Then the fat body of the butterfly falls out, and then the wings follow. Then they uh, expelled, some fluid (removed from the animation). After that they sit still for a long while and the wings expand and stiffen. Once ready, they fly away.
This part of the mariposario is worth the $7 alone.
Also attached to the butterfly room is an outdoor space with beautiful plants and some bird life. We were able to watch a lot of hummingbirds, a popular attraction in Mindo, at the butterfly farm as well. Something truly lucky though was the toucan we saw hopping around in the trees. So if you go to the Mariposario in Mindo, don’t miss also going outside to the garden.
After spending a few hours at the butterfly farm, we headed back to our hostel in Mindo. Later that day Taylor and I went to learn about how chocolate was made, which will be a following post.
A lot of people told us that Baños was a better and cheaper city than Mindo. It’s further away from Quito though, and I don’t think I would have wanted to be in a bigger city. It’s unfortunate that doing touristy things in Mindo means putting money into the hands of the already wealthy (since they are the only ones who can afford land in this region) but at least they are putting it towards nature conservancy.