Paseo del Quinde

With the steady growth of nature tourism in the area, the old Quito-Nono-Mindo road and its surroundings have been dubbed the
Ecoruta Paseo del Quinde
(eco-route of the hummingbird)
, indeed many hummingbirds can be seen in this area.


The first settlement reached along this route, Nono is just 18 km from Quito but seems like another world; a forgotten little village surrounded by lush pastures.
Cascada Guagrapamba
is 5 km from town. From Nono a side road goes to Calacalí while the main old road continues to the hamlet of
, around which many reserves are clustered, nearby is
Cascada Los Yumbos
, a waterfall. From Tandayapa, another side road goes to the Calacalí-La Independencia road, joining it at Km 52, east of Nanegalito. The old road continues to
San Tadeo
, another hamlet, and then on to the Calacalí-La Independencia road, joining it at Km 72, before the intersection for Mindo.

Nanegalito and around

Along the paved Calacalí-La Independencia road, at Km 56, is the town of Nanegalito, a small supply centre and transport hub for the region. The
tourist information office
run by the local community and Quito Visitors Bureau, also has a crafts and local produce shop, an orchid shop and offers guiding service. A road due north of Nanegalito goes to
(regional population 2300) and is the access to the Maquipucuína and Santa Luca reserves .

Northwest of Nanegalito, at Km 60 on the Calacalí-La Independencia road, a secondary road goes north towards the Río Guayllabamba.
Santa Elena
, 6 km from the turn-off, has a popular Sunday crafts market with reed and bamboo items. In
(1450m), 9 km from the turn-off, is the
Tulipe archaeological site
, a series of large stone-lined pools and feeder canals which are unique in Ecuador. They are believed to have been built by the
(AD 800-1690), traders between coast and highlands. The stonework in one area suggests a later Inca occupation, however the material recovered in excavations is pre-Inca. They could have been ceremonial pools, bathing pools, mirrors to study the stars, or perhaps even a well designed fish farm. A trail leads to a
overlooking the site as well as an orchidearium and a restaurant. Another path leads beside the Río Tulipe in about 50 minutes to a circular site amid trees. The on-site
has good exhibits about the Yumbos and
(contemporary settlers). The peculiar trails used by the Yumbos or Caminos de los Yumbos, also known as Coluncos, are tunnels through the vegetation, 1 m wide and 3 m deep, covered in greenery for coolness.

Just beyond Tulipe, an unfinished road branches to the left, 7 km ahead is the small community of
Las Tolas
where pre-Hispanic truncated pyramids, or
of up to 18 m in height can be seen. Some 1500
are spread throughout this region. The community produces tagua crafts and welcomes volunteers and visitors. There are a couple cloud forest reserves in the area.

Noroccidente nature reserves

With increased awareness of the need to conserve the cloud forests of the northwest slopes of Pichincha and of their potential for tourism, the number of reserves here is steadily growing. Keen birdwatchers are no longer the only visitors, and the region has much to offer all nature lovers. Infrastructure at reserves varies considerably. Some have comfortable upmarket lodges offering accommodation, meals, guides and transport. Others may require taking your own camping gear and food and obtaining a permit.

is part of a mosaic of private protected areas dedicated to conservation of one of the richest accessible areas of west slope cloud forest. The 700-ha Bellavista Reserve at 2200 m is the highest of these, and the easiest place to see the incredible plate-billed mountain-toucan. Over 300 species of bird have been seen in the Tandayapa Valley, including large numbers of hummingbirds drawn to the many feeders at the lodge. The area is also rich in orchids and other cloud forest plants.There is a nice lodge and 20 km of trails ranging from easy to suicidal. There are several access routes, the fastest is to take the Calacalí-La Independencia road to Km 52, from where it is 12 km uphill to Bellavista.

,, is a 100-ha reserve at 1700 m, with trails including a Camino de los Yumbos, 2150 m of canopy zip-lines and accommodation. They are involved with conservation projects and offer volunteer opportunities.

,, has 6000 ha, surrounded by an additional 14,000 ha of protected forest. The cloud forest at 1200-2800 m contains a tremendous diversity of flora and fauna, including over 325 species of bird. Especially noteworthy are the colourful tanager flocks, mountain toucans, parrots and quetzals. The reserve has 40 km of trails ranging in length from 15 minutes to all day. There is also a lodge, research station, experimental organic garden, organic coffee orchard and reforestation project. To get there, turn right at Nanegalito, follow the road to Nanegal for 12 km and turn right again (before Nanegal). Pass through the village of Marianitas and it's another 4 km to the reserve. Past the turn-off for Nanegal the road is poor, especially in the January-to-May wet season; 4WD vehicles are recommended.

Mindo Cloudforest Foundation
,, owns several bird-rich reserves which protect the habitat of important Chocó-endemic species.
Santuario de Aves Milpe
, 700 m north of the Calacalí-La Independencia road (turn-off at Km 91), is a 62-ha reserve (1020-1150 m) with basic facilities for four researchers.
Santuario de Aves Río Silanche
, 7 km from the Calacalí-La Independencia road (turn-off at Km 127) below Pedro Vicente Maldonado, is a 80-ha reserve in the low foothills (300-350 m); it has a canopy tower and walking trails.

, is a 120-ha reserve, 3 km north of the Calacalí-La Independencia road at Km 72. Bird-rich forest at 1600 m with 30 km of trails and a lodge.

Reserva Orquideológica El Pahuma
,, at Km 43 on the Calacalí-La Independencia road, is a 600-ha cloud forest reserve, less than one hour from Quito, with easy access. It is an interesting collaboration between a local landowner and the
Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation
. It features an orchid garden and an orchid propagation programme. Birds such as mountain toucans, torrent ducks and tanagers are present, and spectacled bears have been seen. There's a visitors' centre and hostel on the south side of the road, with parking and a
restaurant on the north side. To get there, take any bus for Nanegalito or points west.

Refugio Paz de las Aves
 4 km south of the Calacalí-La Independencia road along the road to Miraflores (turn-off at Km 66), is a 70-ha property with 40 ha of bird-rich forest. It has a cock-of-the-rock lek and is the best place to see the giant antpitta.

El Quinde
2 km east of Tandayapa on the Nono-Mindo road, is a 2200-ha reserve run by
Fundación Bosques para la Conservación
. About half the area is primary forest and has walking trails.

Río Guaycuyacu
. A 50-ha reserve between 500 and 700 m, with primary and secondary forest and an agricultural zone with over 500 species of tropical fruit trees. Scientists and fruit experts are welcome, also offer an agricultural apprenticeship. Access is from Pedro Vicente Maldonado.

San Jorge
runs a series of reserves in bird-rich areas. Just west of northern Quito, 4 km along the road to Nono is the 80-ha
Reserva Ecológica San Jorge
, a remnant of high-altitude native vegetation at 3100 m. It has a lodge.
San Jorge de Tandayapa
is a 40-ha cloud forest reserve at 1500 m, just below Tandayapa, along the Nono-Mindo road; it has good trails and a lodge.
San Jorge de Milpe
is a 55-ha upper lowland forest reserve at 900 m, to the north of the Calacalí-La Independencia road at Km 91. It has nice trails, waterfalls, and a lodge. They also have a reserve to the east of Quito in the Cosanga area.

Santa Lucía
is a successful community-based conservation and ecotourism project. It protects a beautiful 730-ha tract of cloud forest, between 1900 and 2500 m, to the east of Maquipucuna. The area is very rich in birds (there is a cock-of-the-rock lek) and other wildlife. There are waterfalls and walking trails, including the ancient Camino de los Yumbos and lodging. The British organization
Rainforest Concern
is involved with this reserve and offers volunteer programmes here . Access to the reserve is 30 minutes by car from Nanegal, next to Maquipucuna . Day tours combining Pululahua, Yunguilla and Santa Lucía and four-day walking tours from Yunguilla to Santa Lucía are available.

Tandayapa Lodge
on the Nono-Mindo road, is owned by dedicated birders who strive to keep track of all rarities on the property; they can reliably show you practically any of 318 species, even such rare birds as the white-faced nunbird or the lyre-tailed nightjar. Recommended for serious birders.

by Las Tolas, 7 km from Tulipe, a 80-ha cloudforest reserve surrounded by additional 480 ha of forest between 900 and 1600 m.

Urcu Puyujunda
. A 35-ha cloud forest reserve at 1800 m, with accommodation, near Las Tolas.

2.6 km from the Nono- Mindo road along a secondary road which branches off at La Sierra, 8.6 km west of Nono, is a 750-ha reserve at 2200-3480 m, run by
Fundación Nube Sierra
. They offer horse riding, cycling, llama trekking and volunteer opportunities.

10 km from the Nono-Mindo road along a secondary road which branches off at Km 8.7, is a 964-ha reserve run by the
Jocotoco Foundation
. It was created to protect a remnant of elfin polylepis forest at 3500 m. It is the home of the black-breasted pufflegg, Quito's emblematic hummingbird.

, 5.5 km north of the Calacalí- La Independencia road, turn-off at Km 3, 500 m west of toll booth, is a community-run ecotourism project with accommodation, located at the upper elevation border of Maquipucuna Reserve.

Suroccidente nature reserves

On the opposite side of Picihincha's massif, to south and west, are several more reserves. Some are difficult to access and, in general, this area sees less tourism than the noroccidente.

Bosque Protector Guajalito
,, at Km 59 on the Chiriboga road, is an 890-ha reserve two hours southwest of Quito. It has a wide variety of birds, the lodge, at 1900 m, is a good base for birdwatching along the road and for getting inside the forest, which is normally impossible elsewhere. It is accessible by bus from Control T Sur in Chillogallo.

Bosque Integral Otonga,,
is a 1500-ha private reserve between 1000 and 2300 m, run by
Fundación Otonga
, which works on conservation, community education and development. Much of the forest is virgin and rich in unusual orchids, gesneriads and birds. Access is south of the Alóag-Santo Domingo road, one section near Unión del Toachi, another higher by Las Pampas - call ahead to arrange a visit.

, near Santo Domingo, is one of the best places to see many species of birds with minimal effort.

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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