Visit Mindo, Otavalo and Mitad del Mundo

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Discover the North of Ecuador with family, it’s thinking outside the box. Yet the towns of Mindo, Mitad del Mundo and Otavalo are in all travel guides! But it is not easy to include them in the program of a circuit of a few weeks in Ecuador, starting from Quito.

Often, families who visit this area with their children are long term travelers! This is our case, since we had been traveling for a year in 4 × 4 and roof tent with our children aged 7 and 14. We have spent 5 days in this region Ecuadorian in May 2019.



  • Mitad del Mundo : the tourist site par excellence, but very interesting with children
  • Pululahua crater
  • Mindo : nature getaway in the Ecuadorian mountains
  • Laguna Cuicocha
  • Otavalo : see your markets … or not
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del Mundo with the family: the unmissable tourist visit

We reached the north of Ecuador after
a 3-day stay in Quito. We initially had to go
directly to Mindo, a village that all travelers come across in
route recommended us!

The visit of Mitad del Mundo center was not planned at all at the start! Indeed, it seemed far too touristy for our tastes. But the kids wanted to take a souvenir photo on the equator line, dividing the world into 2 hemispheres!

suddenly, let’s go for a break in Mitad del Mundo! And
we were not at all disappointed with our visit. Indeed, this site
“amusement park” style of
offers many
cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops, but also
many very interesting museums
to learn more about Ecuador.

First of all, climb the tower striking
crossing the half-world line. Photo souvenir
mandatory ! The descent into the tower allows discover
the different regions of Ecuador,
allowing us to
revisit our month-long trip on the fast track. Several experiences
physical are to be tried like weighing yourself! since it is on the
line of the equator that we weigh the least (well I think!).

Then direction the cocoa museum ! First initiation for us in South America on this local plant (We had already visited a cocoa museum in the Basque Country). The museum is well done, with a nice staging, then small workshops at the end.

let’s go on
our discovery
places with
the Museum of
the geodesic mission
by Charles Marie de la Condamine. This
from 1735 to 1743, to calculate 3 ° of the meridian and thus find out more
on the shape of the Earth.

last visit was that of the ancient city of Quito in model !
Mini traveler loves it.

We conclude this morning with a break at the restaurant where we discovered Cuy, this guinea pig eaten in Ecuador. We found no interest in it! Maybe we should have eaten this dish at a traditional celebration rather than at a tourist restaurant!

Mitad del Mundo Info Mitad del Mundo Info
  • How to get there: by car, good paved road, in about 1 hour
  • Duration of the visit: approximately 3 hours, depending on the number of visits made
  • Price: US $ 18 for 4, now $ 5 / adult
  • Where to sleep: better to have slept on Quito

Pululahua crater

very far from Mitad del Mundo, near the village of Calacali, find Pululahua crater. The
peculiarity of this crater
300m and wide
of 4km of
diameter, is that it is inhabited
A small village is located on the cap of the crater. The splendid
view from the mirador allows you to admire Cerro El Chivo and el
Cerro Pondona. It could also be the occasion of a beautiful
hiking in
family in this geo-botanical reserve!

To visit Mindo :qeu
to do with family?

family journey takes us to Mindo at the end of the day! This
little paradise lost in the middle of the tropical forest is located at 1250m
(like with us in France), but it is much warmer there. This is
really a little paradise that can be well attended depending on the
seasons and weekends because of Ecuadorians escaping from
Quito! We were there in May, at the start of the tourist season,
so we met very few travelers!

1 – Bird watching: a missed encounter

corner is especially famous for
bird watching
But budget requires, we did not take a guide, and therefore have
counted only on our chance to see amazing birds!
And too bad, we only saw very few of them (our
hike taking place in the rain!). Of
many hummingbirds flutter around, but as often in
South America (this is the downside
of a long trip on the same continent, certain aspects
become less spectacular!)

2 – Survive the Tarabita to hike the waterfall park

tarabita, that’s it
funny “zip line”
where you find yourself in a large metal crate (with
benches anyway) and where a car engine placed on the same
allows this “cable car” to propel you to good

> Book your crossing here (opens in a new tab) “href =” “target =” _ blank “>>> Book your tarabita crossing here

The hike begins with this strange way to
locomotion. Then, you will have the choice of several routes for
discover the park of the waterfalls:

  • Nambillo waterfall with children : This is the shortest route, we access the waterfall in about 15 minutes. It’s one of the smaller waterfalls, but the bridge over the river is quite impressive! The difference in height is important, extending the duration of the return walk.
  • Reina waterfall : It’s a 50 min hike approximately, according to the information panel. We did not do this walk, preferring the 5 waterfalls walk.
  • The 5 waterfalls : this beautiful route of approximately 12 km for a height difference of 800 m allows you to occupy a few hours! We couldn’t go to the last waterfall because the path was degraded (end of the rainy season)! The bravest can swim in almost every waterfall. No one had the courage, because it was raining on our family walk.

3 – Visit the butterfly farms

Around Mindo, the butterfly farms
abound! I can’t find the name of the one we had
visited, but the car was necessary to access it, given its
distance from the city center.

There, the greenhouse of the “incubators” is
visit, with a guide
to explain the life of butterflies to you. The
magnificent cocoons are incredible (see
photos). Then, we carry out the rest of the visit freely
in another greenhouse, where we have total freedom to see and
photograph Mindo’s butterflies!

4 – Dive into the secrets of chocolate and feast in Mindo with the family

favorite activity on Mindo! We
sought a more artisanal visit for the
cocoa factory. We were advised Cacao
Mindo and it was perfect! The
visit was private, so the
owner of the premises took the time to answer / and ask
questions to the children. She showed us the plant, the
fermentation (which stinks according to mini Voyageur!). Then Miss
Traveler roasted the beans
cocoa, then they were ground! Finally,
place for tasting for

Mindo Info
  • How to get there: by car, good paved road, in 2h30 for approximately 110km
  • Duration on site: 2 nights
  • Bivouac: on a square outside the village – bare ground for all to see! The opportunity to chat often with the locals!
  • Recommended hotels

After Mindo, we leave on the roads with our 4 × 4. We take a detour to reach via the slopes, the pretty L’Intag valley ! We cross superb agricultural landscapes, lush forests, all invaded by mist. Magic! The link between the 2 valleys is a track (one of the few that we have walked in Ecuador)

Laguna Cuicocha – unmissable visit to North Ecuador

A small regret that this lake! Indeed, a nice walk around the lake takes about 5 hours ! Unfortunately, we arrive too late in the afternoon to go hiking. We admire the place only, and take the road to find a quieter laguna to sleep! Indeed, in South America, you quickly learn to avoid tourist places to sleep. Otherwise you will spend half the night with the neighbors’ music blaring!

Bivouac at 3750m! More than 2500m of vertical drop
during the day… oops!

find our happiness at
Laguna Mojanda, at 3,750 m! During the day we are
went from 1250m to 3750m! All of a sudden we get scared
to feel bad; we didn’t think we were so high in
altitude ! The pluienous joined, a curious fox cheers up
our meal time in the car! We lie within us
already preparing to urgently descend to the most
close. But it’s not mountain sickness that assails us
in this peaceful corner! It’s a group of Ecuadorians who
pitch his tent at midnight! Big stress, but
fortunately, as often more fear than harm

Mindo – Laguna Mojanda: 180 km

Visiting Otavalo: what to do with the family?

1- Otavalo craft market : disappointment

The next day, direction Otavalo for its famous
market ! Alas, what a disappointment! We imagined a
real food market! Here it’s just a market
tourist: craft market where the surrounding tribes
sell their productions! It’s not at all that we
were looking for! We will find our “true happiness”
market ”in Silvia
in Colombia, a few weeks later.

The other
known market of Otavalo, it is the cattle market!
Alas, this is the wrong day for
attend, only
the Saturday !

2 – El Lechero: Recollection at the Magic Tree

looking quickly
other areas of interest
on google map for
flee this market,
we find the GPS point of a “thousand-year-old tree
and magic ”.
The 4 × 4 takes us by a very twisted track in front of this El tree
Lechero. This tree has been revered for centuries by
indigenous Kichwas (tribe
largest in Ecuador!).
This place was surely
an astrological observatory but also a children’s cemetery

strange peace reigned on this site
sacred to the natives
and moved us. With view from
this natural viewpoint sure
Lake San Pablo, the volcano

By writing this article and searching for the name
tree, I see that it is uprooted following a
storm in January 2020! How sad ! But another
tree, resulting from this one has just been replanted there!

3 – PeGuche waterfall park for a family walk in Otavalo

a place we love them! Far from tourist circuits
Europeans, this place, on this holiday, was full of families
Ecuadorian from
the middle class.
The park provides access to the Cascade, at a price
moderate. You can picnic on site, or
go eat in a hut of the indigenous Pucara Alto tribe, who live
the ! We didn’t go, because it really looks like a zoo!

Several trails allow you to do the
round, and hot water terms allow swimming!

San Gabriel Lake: Beautiful nocturnal fear

At the end of the day, we continue our journey
towards the border to Colombia. We cross from numerous
Venezuelan exiles on the side of the road,
with just one
blanket on the shoulders! Knowing that it rains a lot in
that moment and that we brought out the hat and down jacket. What

from evening to Laguna El Salado ! While we
let’s prepare our meal in this peaceful place, a family comes
see us and talk to us. As always, it ends in
eternal photo shoot from them!

when they say goodbye, they learn that we are sleeping here
night! Horror! The family that lives on the border
with Colombia explains to us that we cannot sleep there:
that Venezuelan migrants are ready to do anything for
survive to kill us, slaughter us!
All in Spanish!
We thank them for their advice, tell them we eat
the !

we know it is impossible for us to leave: he does
night, the next big city with a secure bivouac in a
campsite is 2 hours away! So we decide to stay! Except
only children who understand everything that is said in Spanish
are scared, want to leave at all costs! It is true that,
even we parents do not lead off!

police car, as often in South America, passes and
inspects around the lake. We challenge them and ask if this
“feared” place in terms of safety! They we
reassure, we are going to see the cars of other Ecuadorians, they
tell us that it’s okay here! The lake is distant
from the main road where Venezuelans could be seen walking.

The continuation with my post the next day on Instagram!

See this post on Instagram

Last bivouac in Ecuador… And migrants… After this suspended moment of fruitless fishing, we have the visit of an Ecuadorian family who wanted to know more about our trip… Knowing that we were going to sleep there, they scared us by saying that the Venezuelan migrants were ready for anything… Big stress! The other camps were 2 hours away, it was dark… Despite the great fear of Miss Voyageuse who understands everything in Spanish, we decide to stay there! The night ended up going well! And the next day at the border, we saw the hundreds of Venezuelans in the unicef ​​tents, ready to do anything to survive and see their children live: leave their families with only one small backpack, some have nothing in all. and for all that a blanket! I had tears in my eyes! At noon, while we were eating, other Venezuelans came near the 4 × 4; we distributed food, blankets and above all we talked with them, to show the children that they are people like us, just suffering the consequences of an irresponsible state, forcing them to become vagrants, homeless, while they were doing studies … Just so as not to die of hunger … A poignant moment of our trip, which greatly unsettled us! Reminding us that we must no longer be afraid of the other, and go to him to extend a hand …… # Ecuador #ecuador #ipiales #AmSudEnFamille #VoyageEnFamille # 4 × 4 #voyage #voyagesetenfants #familytravel #Travelwithkids #familytrip #Tmom #travel #neverstopexploring #familytrails #mothernature #passionpassport #love #beautifuldestination #liveauthentic #nature #outdoor #landscape #vanlife #openroad

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Sanctuary of the Cave of the Virgin of Peace

A little unusual detour to go to this sanctuary carved into the rock! Located in the town of Carchi, this cave has statues of the Virgin and rock formations such as stalagtites and stalagmites!

There you go, I hope this long article on Northern Ecuador with the family will make you want to discover another Ecuador, with splendid roads and landscapes. An Ecuador off the beaten track, without falling into the excess of indigenous villages, whose customs survive only for tourist folklore as on the Quilotoa loop!

For further
  • All our articles on Ecuador
  • Our year-long trip to South America
  • All our tested accommodations

Ideas for family tours in Ecuador