Vilcabamba: Discover This Hidden Paradise in Ecuador

Vilcabamba is a small, sleepy town in Southern Ecuador, with a hidden magic to it. Residents here have been reported to live as long as 134 years old. With one of the highest average ages for a town in the entire world, locals point to a few reasons. There is endless lush nature here, with excellent soil and fresh air being attributed for excellent plant growth. The beauty of the town snuggled in the valley is undeniable, even by the most committed city dweller. The town is also known for its excellent climate which is consistently pleasant year-round owing to its proximity to the equator. Discover this interesting off-the-beaten-track destination for yourself! Read more below.

vilcabamba church sunshine and plants

Vilcabamba Old Age: The Valley of Longevity

In 1973, the people of Vilcabamba appeared on the front cover of the National Geographic magazine. With locals reporting ages to frequently exceed 100 years, even climbing as high as 134 years of age, the town has become known as ‘The Valley of Longevity’. In fact, even the name was given to the town by the Incas- ‘Hilco Pamba’ means ‘healer valley’!

There are several different reasons attributed to the age of the residents in Vilcabamba. The lifestyle of those who grow up there typically involves more physical labor and less stress than the average life. The altitude (1500 meters above sea level) some argue play a factor. It’s undeniable that with the pleasant climate, the air is better, the soil is better, and the water, which is full of natural magnesium and iron, is also better. In fact, water is one of the biggest exports from the town. It’s not just that life is long here, here, life is loved. Surrounded by handsome valleys and mountains, the natural beauty of this area is incomparable.

It’s not just nature that supports the average age of this town is one of the highest in the world. The people here respect the elders a lot. Rooted in tradition, the respect towards the older generation is wonderfully surprising.

What Else is Vilcabamba Known For?

Vilcabamba has been the subject of much scientific investigation thanks to the reported age of its residents. But there is more here as well. There are huge conservation efforts happening around the town, particularly in the Podocarpus National Park to the east. The locals work incredibly hard, there is a thriving sugarcane production that is worked hard by the local people. As well as all of this, there is a tobacco farm and production set that also keeps the locals employed. The tobacco is grown, dried and treated here.

Things to Do in Vilcabamba, Ecuador:

Vilcabamba is a quiet and rustic town in a peaceful valley and was previously known as the ‘Playground of the Inca’, because of its status as a retreat for Inca royalty. The town sits in the shadow of a mountain known as Cerro Mandango (“sleeping Inca”, or “God lying down” in the native Kichwa language), said to protect it from earthquakes and other natural disasters.

There are many foreign expats living here, and you will undoubtedly run into a few on your journey here. There’s also very little commercialization so you are unlikely to run into a cinema, and there is certainly no shopping mall. Instead you will find many lovely outdoor activities and traditional culture to enjoy. Here are some of the top things to do in Vilcabamba, Ecuador:

horse riding vilcabamba mountain trek

  • Hiking- Within these rolling valleys there is plenty to explore, with many different hiking trails and waterfalls to discover. Whichever way you walk out of the town, you will find a footpath.
  • The Cascada del Palto- This waterfall is over 30 meters tall. Follow the red markers along the trail for an invigorating shower when you get there!
  • Podocarpus National Park- This gorgeous protected natural area is just a few miles to the east, complete with its own cloud forest. This town is literally a hiker’s paradise.
  • Horseback Riding- Find a guide who will take you and your horse where you want to go, waterfalls or mountains, Vilcabamba is your oyster.
  • Mountain Biking- for if you want to hang up your walking boots for a bit. Find yourself a local guide who will help you out for a good price, mountain biking is a popular sport here in Vilcabamba.
  • Vilcabamba Market is full of handmade crafts and potential souvenirs for you, the locals work hard and transfer natural things into food, art and medicine. These handicrafts have been years of skill crafting in the making, and you can pick up some really original and cool items here.
  • Try Local Cuisine- in Vilcabamba is varied and delicious. Vegans, rejoyce! There is more than enough natural foods here to appease your pallet.
  • Health & Wellness Activities: The best reason to come to Vilcabamba is to relax. And is there a better way to relax than enjoying a yoga session or a spa treatment?
  • Visit the Big City- If you’re looking to escape the peace, the city of Loja is only 40 kilometers away and is the cultural capital for its music scene.

How to Get to Vilcabamba

If you are coming from Quito then you have the option to fly to Loja, then get a taxi from Loja to Vilcabamba. Or, once in Loja, you can get a bus to Catamayo, where you will be able to get another bus into the town. This process is not as complicated as it sounds! There are buses to Loja from Guayaquil and Quito every day, and buses from Loja to Vilcabamba also daily.

Where to Stay in Vilcabamba

Hosteria Paraiso Vilcabamba- Feel at home in this beautifully well kept slice of paradise. With saunas and steam rooms, there’s plenty of relaxation to be had. Everything in the town is in walking distance, and one of the staff will always be ready to help.

Madre Tierra Resort- A little further out of town than other places, if you want to truly immerse yourself in nature then this is a brilliant spot for it. With great staff, great views and delicious home cooked food, this is a place ideal for reconnecting with yourself. The resort is made up of a series of small bungalows to truly give you peace and quiet, as well as an on-site spa to help you to fully relax. Everything about this place is geared to get you calm.

Hosteria el Descanso de Ramses- roughly 100 meters from the center of the town, this place is right in the center of the action. With a pool and beautiful views, there is a restaurant on site which offers a discount on Sundays for ladies day. Gather your girls and enjoy a day of spa treatments, yoga sessions, fast wifi and breakfast included free.

La Rivera Chamba- What are holidays for if not enjoying a cheeky cocktail by the pool. Enjoy a moment of reflection in the luxurious villa, and recenter yourself with a yoga session. Rooms come with an ensuite to maintain your privacy and the owners work to accommodate your every need. All for a great price!

Vilcabamba Church, quiet peaceful town

Where To Eat in Vilcabamba

United Falafel Organization- With options for everyone from vegan to carnivore, everyone can leave happy. Take a seat inside or out and enjoy every meal of the day here. With daily specials and homemade desserts (vegan options available), there is a reason that this is the TripAdvisor top-rated restaurants in town. They also use exclusively brown sugar for rich yet healthy cakes and desserts. Enjoy authentic Turkish food with Syrian influences and daily specials. They even have regular deals and offers for the frugal amongst you!

Madre Tierra Resort Restaurant- Arriving on this list twice is the Madre Tierra Resort. With organic and healthy choices available and specifically geared to health, this is a win for you and your body. With not a microwave in site and sea salt, the food is made for nutrition and still manages to be delicious! Make sure you have some of their baked goods, their pastry chef has over 27 years of experience and is arguably the best in the town.

Rutas- A charming little restaurant serving Venezuelan style food with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options available alongside the meat options. With great cocktails, a good atmosphere, and open late, allow this rustic place to steal your heart away on your trip to Vilcabamba.

And now for something sweet…

The Gelato Shop- Tease your taste buds with a coffee and cake, gelato or both at this beautiful little spot. Need we say more?

With its endless blue skies, scorched red rocks, and luscious green landscapes, there are a few things that everyone says as they leave here. The scenery is unparalleled, the accommodation is cheap and the air is fresh. Disconnect with the world and connect yourself to the peaceful Ecuadorian valley.

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