PHOTO ESSAY – Vilcabamba, a Relaxing Getaway

ISSUE 18
PAGE #9

By Keith & Tina Paul - Photographs by Keith Paul

One of the most popular restaurants - United Falafel Org (UFO). They only serve locally sourced products

The real beauty of Vilcabamba lies in the lush, green land that surrounds the town. It is a backpacker and outdoor enthusiast dream. At night, you hear the crickets and their friends enjoying the darkness. In my opinion, you go to Vilcabamba to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet, or you go there to hike or do some horseback riding. If you are looking for more than relaxation, or a chance to be one with nature then you will be disappointed. We stayed at the very popular Hosteria Izhcayluma and could not have been happier. The entire place is built to complement the natural setting that is its home. We opted for the best they had, a private cottage at $59. Our cottage had a stone floor, lots of big windows, a large terrace and an open stone shower. It is a treat just to walk the flower filled paths inside the resort. One evening on the way back to our cottage, we saw our first lemur in the wild climbing a tree. The hostel offers free yoga for every level at seven in the morning in a beautiful yoga studio with incredible views of the valley. Izcayluma also has a fantastic spa. While we were there we each had a 75-minute massage for $22 per person and a facial for $16.

We went to Vilcabamba to enjoy the natural beauty, spend some quality time with good friends and possibly have some of that magical longevity wear off on us.

We have lived in Cuenca for over a year and we love to take short trips that give us the chance to explore this diverse country that is Ecuador. Last week we decided to visit the “Valley of Longevity” or more precisely, Vilcabamba. I (Tina) am a naturopathic doctor and visiting Vilcabamba has been on my bucket list for quite some time. We decided to drive there ourselves instead of taking a bus so that we could stop in the town of Saraguro, have lunch, and take a look around. If you are able to stop off for lunch here, we recommend the chef’s tasting menu at Shamuico Espai Gastronomic. It’s pricey, but it rivals the culinary delights of a Michelin star restaurant.

Vilcabamba is nestled in a lush green valley, that is located about 4 hours south of Cuenca or about 28 miles past Loja. It is a small, quiet, legendary town where locals claim many inhabitants live to be centenarians. When we arrived, we found it to be a little warmer than Cuenca and a bit more humid. We also found it to be much quieter. After a few days, we almost missed the neighborhood house and car alarms. The vibe is very laid back. We saw many North Americans hanging at coffee shops and bars (I read that about 20% of the residents of Vilcabamba are North American or European Expats).

Quite often, we saw backpackers and cyclists coming into town. The town itself is tiny. There are a few restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, along with various tiendas that carry all the necessities the locals may need. A square park with a fountain at its center, much like Parque Calderon, marks the center of town. Across from the park is a large colorful Catholic church.

Keith Paul

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