Travelers and tourists venture to Tandayapa for bird watching, extreme biking, and hiking in pristine, high-altitude cloud forests. Few people venture into the town itself. Rather, they stay in lodges that dot the broader area, known as the Tandayapa Valley.
Where is Tandayapa, Ecuador?
Tandayapa is 37 miles (60 km) outside of Quito if you travel the dirt and gravel road known as the Paseo del Quinde. This= route passes other locations you might like to visit, like the Eco-Lodge San Jorge de Quito, the striking cloud forest, hummingbird reserve at Yanacocha, and the rural town of Nono.
But most people take the faster, paved highway past Mitad del Mundo, the Incan-Caranqui ruins at Rumicucho, the Pululahua Crater, the El Pahuma orchid reserve, and the Alambí hummingbird garden. In fact, the same turn off for Alambí is the road that leads to the Tandayapa Valley. This route is slightly longer, about 44 miles (70 km) but is normally much faster by a couple of hours.
We choose the route that most fits our mood. Lots of birdwatching and back country adventure? Then definitely the Paseo del Quinde. Want to get their fast to put our feet up near the hummingbird feeders? Then definitely the E-28. Of course, you may want to chose your route based on the places you have yet to see!
Why Visit The Tandayapa VAlley?
Reason number one to visit the Tandayapa Valley: birds! While Tandayapa does not rank as high on the eBird lists of species identified, its biodiversity is as prolific as its more famous neighbor, Mindo. It’s only that there are has fewer visitors to record sightings. That’s not a bad thing for a bird watcher, especially as Mindo creates more tourism opportunities for the adventure-seeking crowd with zip-lines and tubing.
But birds aren’t the only reason to visit Tandayapa. Trees literally drip with their own micro-habitats, hosting epiphytes like orchids and bromeliads and a myriad of small critters that mostly go unnoticed to the average observer. While still not a common sight, it’s possible to see an Andean Spectacled Bear. In the evenings, olinguitos and kinkajous come to snack on left-over plantains at the bird feeders.
So What AbouT The Birds?
The truth is, you don’t have to be a birdwatcher to enjoy the birds. While many species require a set of binoculars, others flock to the feeding stations set up at each and every lodge in the area. Hummingbirds are an obvious highlight. During the rainiest days, they mob the sugar feeders, fighting for their favorite spots and perching nearby to protect their territory. Even when flowers in the forest are in bloom, some hummingbirds come to the feeders.
While there is no single best time of the year to arrive, arriving when the trees are fruiting makes it easier to see other iconic species. For example, the Plate-billed Mountain Toucan refuses to come to plantain feeders. However, they love to eat wild avocados, a doll-housed sized variety of the Haas. We’ve had good luck seeing them close-by in the month of July. Some of the migratory species are best seen during the North American winter. While sunny days are a possibility year round, this is the cloud forest. We recommend that visitors come prepared for rainy days. In fact, we travel with a large umbrella to better protect our camera gear.
And The Orchids!
Orchids begin to bloom a few weeks after the rains start in November. Different species bloom at different times. However, from about February to May, you are practically guaranteed multiple orchid sightings in the wild and even more if you visit some of the local orchid gardens, like the one at San Jorge de Tandayapa.
While it is possible to make a visit to Tandayapa in a single day, we don’t recommend it. Better to stay a couple of nights! We have stayed in three locations and written about our experiences, the San Jorge Eco-Lodge in Tandayapa, The Bellavista Eco-Lodge, and Bellavista’s Research Station Facility. We have also placed the Tandayapa Lodge on the map as well as the smaller Alambi Hummingbird Garden. The house at the latter is available to rent though we do not know anyone who has used it.
Information For Your Trip
Tandayapa is only accesible by dirt roads. During the rainy season, even the short road leading from E-28 up to Tandayapa can be washed out. If you are driving yourself to a local lodge, please contact them for the latest road conditions. Otherwise, the driver hired to transport you from Quito will be aware of the best route.
- Direction by Car, use WAZE and look for Tandayapa, Ecuador or the name of the lodge where you will be visiting.
- Direction by Public Transportation There are no public buses to Tandayapa. If you need to travel using public transportation, it is possible to take a bus from La Ofelia Terminal in Quito to Nanegalito and hire a taxi for the remainder of the trip.