Welcome to Northern Highlands


High-altitude landscapes surrender to steamy lowlands in the west, a rich transitional zone where coffee plantations flourish in the spectacular but politically-contested Intag Valley. Further south, laid-back Mindo is a base for bird-watching, hiking and river romps. Remote jungle lodges are scattered around the region for those looking to retreat deeper into nature. Wherever you go, off-the-beaten-path adventures, sustainable community tourism initiatives and volunteering opportunities are close by.


Top experiences in Northern Highlands

Travel guides

Starting at $32.49

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Northern Highlands activities

$1998 Multi-day & Extended Tours

9-Day Andes Highlights and Upper Amazon Basin Adventure

Day 1: Quito City Tour + Mitad del Mundo + TelefericoThe Panecillo Hill, la  Basilica Church,  Independence Plaza, the Government’s Palace and a Ronda Street. The Company Church, the Sagrario Church and San Francisco Church. In Mitad del Mundo, Intiñan Museum  and Pululahua Crater and Teleferico of Quito. Overnight in Quito Hotel Fuente de Piedra IDay 2: Otavalo Market & surroundingsSan Pablo´s Lake, Otavalo Market, Peguche Village and Cuicocha LakeOvernight in Quito Hotel Fuente de Piedra IDay 3: Cotopaxi Volcano National ParkHiking up to refuge (4800 meters)  or glazier (4985 meters) , Andes landscape mountains, visit to interpretation center, Limpiopungo LagoonOvernight in Chugchilan Mama Hilda LodgeDay 4: Quilotoa LagoonVisit an ingenious family house, Tigua gallery painting, Quilotoa lagoon, hiking and kayac in the lakeOvernight in Baños Hotel La FlorestaDay 5: Baños de Agua Santa VillageHike to Pailon del Diablo and Manto de la Novia waterfalls, Casa del árbol and optional activities like bungee jumping, rafting, bikes, termal water etc...Overnight in Baños Hotel La FlorestaDay 6: Upper Amazon Basin / Suchipakari LodgeHike in the jungle, swimming in the river/tubingOvernight in Suchipakari Lodge in TenaDay 7: Upper Amazon Basin / Suchipakari LodgeExcursion to the waterfall, visit to an indigenous community, oatzines watchingOvernight in Suchipakari Lodge in TenaDay 8: Upper Amazon Basin / Suchipakari LodgeChocolate elaboration and process, Termas Papallacta Spa, Hummingbird GardenOvernight in Termas de Papallacta SpaDay 9: Papallacta Hot SpringsHiking 1 - 2 hours in a private reserve, visit to Sacha Roses farm, Termas de Papallacta Spa, transportaion to QuitoEnd of services.

$59 Food, Wine & Nightlife

Dinner and Chocolate Tour PLUS La Leyenda de Chocolate Tour

Starts at El Quetzal de Mindo in Mindo, Ecuador Trek back in time about 5,600 years where cocoa originated in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. While Ecuadorian drummers play local music. Participants are invited to pick up an instrument and play, if they like.  We will all pitch in and roast cocoa beans over a wood fire, hand shell the cocoa beans and hand grind the warm beans with a stone grinder. We add spices and flavorings that were used 3,000 years ago to flavor our beverage. You will get a chance to mix the beverage until frothy and serve the beverage to the participants to enjoy an authentic chocolate. After we drink our beverage we are invited to hang out, dance, sing and enjoy. Food and beverages are available for purchase. Free parking available

$14 Food, Wine & Nightlife

Mindo Chocolate Tour

Starts at El Quetzal de Mindo in Mindo, Ecuador Welcome to our popular chocolate tour. We see more than 2,000 people come to our tours per month. We began making chocolate in 2008 and sell chocolate bars in Mindo and in the US. First we will congregate at El Quetzal, a well-known restaurant-cafe in Mindo we have where a small chocolate factory where we make small batches of chocolate by hand. We also have cocoa trees and you will taste fresh fruit and see the entire processing of cocoa beans from fermentation, drying, roasting, winnowing, grinding, and making batches of chocolate to finished and wrapped bars. You will finish with a tasting of a sampling of chocolate bars made at El Quetzal. Parking Available

$285 Multi-day & Extended Tours

3-Day Private Sightseeing Tour Otavalo and Mindo

Your guide will be happy to meet you at your hotel at 8 AM and take you on this 3-day private mini trip to two of the most popular tourist attractions. On our first day we will visit Otavalo, located about 2 hours from Quito. On our way we will stop at the San Pablo Lake where you will have an incredible view over the San Pablo Lake and the very fertile Imbabura volcano.  We continue our journey to Otavalo, an indigenous town especially known for their people who still wear their traditional clothing style. Besides they are known for their great capacity to weave textiles which are sold among musical instruments, leather golds and jewelry on their famous artisan handicraft market.  Just 10 minutes outside of Otavalo we will visit the beautiful Peguche waterfall. This 18 meter high waterfall is also considered an Indigenous Ceremonial Site.  Also we will visit Cotocachi where you will see for yourself why this artisan town is so famous for its leather goods and handricrafts. In the afternoon we will return to Otavalo where we will spend the night in a comfortable tourist class hotel.   On the second day we will head towards Mindo and witness the transformation of a dry and rocky environment into a lush cloud forest. But before getting there we will first make a stop at the Middle of the World Museum, where the unique characteristics of being on the Equator are demonstrated in several exciting experiments. Besides we will make a stop at one of the most important archaeological sites of Ecuador; the Tulipe Museum. This open-air museum exhibits the amazing remains of the Yumbo people; a very important and advanced tribe that lived between 800 and 1660 in the valleys surrounding Quito. (This museum is only open from Wednesday till Sunday). At night we will stay in a comfortable tourist class accommodation in Mindo. On our third and final day we will explore one of the most biologically diverse ecoregions in the world and a true Paradise for nature lovers and birdwatchers. We are able to observe several species of butterflies and hummingbirds during our visit at the butterfly farm. True chocolate fanatics will love our second stop at the chocolate Factory, where you can observe the entire process of making chocolate from scratch and taste some delicious chocolate flavours as well! After lunch your guide will provide you with some great options for the last activity before heading back to Quito, which will take us about 2 hours approximately. Upon arrival you will be left at your hotel. 

$60 Private & Custom Tours

Private Sightseeing Tour Otavalo and Surroundings

Your guide will be happy to meet you at your hotel at 8 AM and take you on this exciting excursion. Our first stop will be at the San Pablo Lake, located about one hour and a half from Quito. At this point you will have an incredible view of the San Pablo Lake and the very fertile Imbabura volcano.  We continue our journey to Otavalo, where we will arrive after just a half hour drive. This indigenous town is especially known for the people who still wear their traditional clothing style. Besides they are known for their great capacity to weave textiles, which are sold among musical instruments, leather golds and jewelry on their famous artisan handicraft market.  Just 10 minutes outside of Otavalo we will visit the beautiful Peguche waterfall. This 18 meter high waterfall is also considered an Indigenous Ceremonial Site. During our visit in Cotocachi you will see for yourself why this artisan town is so famous for its leather goods and handricrafts.  On our way back to Quito we will make a last stop in Cayambe, where you can try some of their famous local biscuits 'biscochos'.  Once arrived back in Quito the guide will leave you at your hotel. 

$36 Sightseeing Tickets & Passes

Mindo's Top Attractions Pass

Save 25% off the combined vendor price at each attraction with Mindo's Top Attractions Pass. This pass makes traveling faster, cheaper and simpler by using one single ticket to enter all attractions. Upon purchase, you will immediately receive a voucher with a QR Code (one per person) allowing for direct entry into the four attractions of your choice (no need to carry cash).Mindo's Top Attractions Pass includes entrance to your choice of 4 of the the following attractions: Mindo Canopy: Zip line above the scenic forest on the best, safest, original canopy tour in Mindo (includes 10 lines). Waterfall Sanctuary on a Cable Car: Ride a cable car through the forests of Mindo, stopping to explore 7 waterfalls on the way. Butterfly Garden: Enter the interactive garden to observe more than 1,200 butterflies and learn about their life stages. Yumbo's Chocolate Tour: Ecuador is famous for its chocolate. Learn about is production and do it yourself. Mindo Biking: Rent a bike to get to each of the attractions or ride around the beautiful town of Mindo (24 hour rental). Mindo's Top Attractions Pass does not include a tour guide and transportation to all of the attractions; however, you can get to each attraction with your bike, with a cab and at the majority of the attractions, guided tours are offered in English and Spanish. The pass is valid for six months, but you can easily visit all of the attractions in one day. At each attraction, simply present your voucher (either paper or mobile) along with your ID and your pass will be scanned for entrance.You should only scan your ticket once at each attraction so you will have access to the 4 attractions of your choice.