Western slopes of Pichincha

Despite their proximity to the capital, the western slopes of Pichincha and surroundings are surprisingly wild, with fine opportunities for walking and especially birdwatching. This scenic area has lovely cloud forests and many nature reserves. Walking trails include portions of pre-Inca roads known as Caminos de los Yumbos. The main tourist town in this area is Mindo. To the west of Mindo is a warm subtropical area of clear rivers and waterfalls, where a growing number of tourist developments are springing up.

Ins and outs

Four roads drop into the western lowlands from Quito. In the
Noroccidente
(the northwest) the
Calacalí-La Independencia
road starts by the Mitad del Mundo monument, goes through Calacalí, Nanegalito, San Miguel de los Bancos, Pedro Vicente Maldonado and Puerto Quito, before joining the Santo Domingo-Esmeraldas road at La Independencia. This is the simplest of the four roads to drive, since it is fully paved and traffic is light. Note that markers along the road
refer to the distance from El Condado roundabout, on the way to Mitad del Mundo.

Parallel to this road is the much older and rougher, but very scenic,
Quito-Nono-Mindo
road famous for its excellent birdwatching. This road begins towards the northern end off Avenida Occidental, Quito's western ring road, at the intersection with Calle Machala. There are several connections between the paved Calacalí-La Independencia road and the Nono-Mindo road, so it is possible to drive on the paved road most of the way even if your destination is one of the lodges on the Nono-Mindo road. There is a regular bus service along the Calacalí-La Independencia road, which provides the most direct access to Mindo.

In the
Suroccidente
(the southwest) are two roads to the western lowlands, the unpaved Chiriboga road and the main Alóag-Santo Domingo road. The
Chiriboga
road
is little used, prone to landslides and complicated to find; it starts in Quito's southern neighbourhood San Juan de Chillogallo. There is irregular bus service on the first half of this road out of Quito; it is often muddy and difficult, especially November to April, when a 4WD is needed. The
Alóag-Santo Domingo
road is the main connection between Quito and Guayaquil and is served by buses from the Terminal Terrestre in Quito.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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