South America Living

Travel, Dine, Live… Like A Local


Vilcabamba, Ecuador – Cheap Place To Live in South America

Valley of Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Supposedly the longevity claims that made Vilcabamba famous - of folks lasting 110 years plus – have been debunked (National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD in 1978) yet that doesn’t seem to slow down the influx of foreigners wanting to relocate to the area and call it home.

“Valley of Longevity” or just lovely valley in a beautiful natural setting with a year-round temperate climate? Either way, Vilcabamba attracts full and part-time foreign residents from around the world and according to local realtors is growing at a rapid pace.

What’s There To Do in Vilcabamba?

Chill-out, have a leisurely lunch at one of the restaurants lining the main square or a few blocks away, visit with friends, chill-out some more, enjoy your home environment and maybe get an hour of gardening in… have an evening drink in town or dinner with friends, chill-out some more… if getting cold, put on a sweater. How about a poker game or dancing?

For those needing more structured playtime - or just in town for a short visit – there is the Parque Nacional Podocarpus (national park) nearby and one-day horseback riding tours of the park (9 a.m. to 4 p.m. lunch included) for $35 USD. Ask for Luis at Los Coqueiros at the plaza. He also offers 4 hour guided tours of the La Ruta del Sol, lunch included, for $25 USD.

Friendly Elderly Gentleman in Main Plaza of Vilcabamba.  How old?  Not Sure.

Friendly Elderly Gentleman in Main Plaza of Vilcabamba. How old? Not Sure And May Be Better Not To Ask!

Vilcabamba is not for ‘rushed souls’, but for those who can truly embrace having little on their plate in regards to important matters to attend to and yet be self-fulled just the same. Retirees and 40-somethings plus make up the bulk of non-Ecuadorians… single, married with or without children.

When visiting the town for three days (January, 2012), we met a lovely family that relocated from Northern Canada with their two sons and are currently opening up a new restaurant just off the main square. And a guy named Dusty who hails from New York, USA and doesn’t seem to be heading back ‘home’ anytime soon.

“Top 10 Pick-up Lines in Vilcabamba” as professed by Dusty, the authenticity of which I cannot claim to know…

  1. “You have the most beautiful third eye.”
  2. “You look positively radiant!” “Thanks, I´m on a 30 day juice fast and silent meditation.” “Wanna go get some juice and not have a chat?”
  3. “How about an antennae rub?”
  4. “Hey, remember me, Egypt 2,357 BC?”
  5. “Wanna grab a chai and discuss the conspiracy to quash conspiracy theories theory?”
  6. “Is that a crystal in your pocket?”
  7. “In what planetary system do you summer?”
  8. “Can I get your telepathic contact info (tmail?)”
  9. “Wanna take a walk on the astral plane.”
  10. “Como se llama?” “Suzy Starchild.” “Hola Suzy, me llamo es…StarDusty.”

You can practice any of the above, or those you invent, at the main watering hole (the only one really, I was told) in town, Shanty’s Bar located ‘over the bridge’ and open from around 3 p.m. to midnight… depending…

Are There Places to Shop in Vilcabamba?

Not many. There are a couple small shops selling basic grocery items with very few imported products (cheeses, wine, packaged goods): Supermercado Marisol (at main square) and Mini-Market El Sita (Fernando de La Vega street a block from square).

There are a couple of bakeries in town with the one rumored to have the best banana bread (you know how small towns are…) located a half block off the main square across from the elementary school on Calle Bolivar – Pasteleria Pacha Pan – open from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Cheap Eats & Restaurants in Vilcabamba

The Juice Factory on the main square has smoothies, peanut butter truffles and soup and salad at lunchtime. Restaurant Terraza, kitty corner on the other side of the square, has Filet Mignon in mushroom sauce, shrimp fajitas, greek and mexican salads plus a “Spaghetti a la Carbonara with Bacon (thick chunks)” that I can personally vouch ‘is to die for’ for only $5 USD.

Large plates (or take-out) of savory Rotisserie chicken plus french fries with homemade mayonaise and hot sauce can be found at the street side restaurant with no name… located two blocks from the bus terminal at Eterna Juventud and Juan Montalvo streets.

There is a Sunday brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at La Roca, one of the more upscale, pricier places in town. For around $8 USD you can feast on 6-7 types of salads, 3 types of gourmet meat dishes, fried rice, veggies, 2-3 desserts and includes a drink. Located around 4 blocks from the plaza near the police station.

Where and How to Find Cheap Rentals in Vilcabamba

There are rentals available for as low as $150 per month… basic, unfurnished small houses near town or 15 minutes away, as well as an apartment building that was created for foreigners looking to relocate to Vilcabamba – La Casa Armarilla. Click on the link to see photos of apartments and contact information for La Casa Armarilla (The Yellow House in English) that was opened by a Canadian couple who spent months trying to find an available rental years ago and now spend their time helping newcomers to the area settle comfortably.

Two real estate companies in town have rentals, both with offices at the main plaza – MCR Real Estate and VREC Real Estate. Properties listed online will be in the high-range over $350 USD per month but you can find older, fixer-upper type abodes for less if you visit the offices in person or email an inquiry.

How To Get Cash in Vilcabamba

There is an International LINK ATM in town to get cash off of your debit or credit card and many banks in Loja, just an hour away via bus, less if driving. The bus company Vilcabambaturis has departures to Loja every 15 minutes from the bus terminal.

Highlights

  • Serenity and peaceful living for those who like that kind of thing plus as a bonus – a low crime rate.
  • Lots of English-speakers to talk to and make friends with, including local Ecuadorians who speak some English.
  • The city of Loja an easy 1 hour bus ride away, with grocery stores, banks, etc. Busses leave the main bus terminal every 15 minutes, and from the terminal in Loja (heading back to Vilcabamba) every 1/2 hour.

Drawbacks

  • Money is flowing into the area by those who have it and are buying up real estate which may make the chasm between those who have and those who do not much greater in the years to come.
  • A fairly strong ‘casual drug use culture’ that may or may not apeal to a prospective relocatee. San Pedro is a native hallucinogenic plant abundant in the area that many take to faciliate spiritual growth, or simply for the fun of it.

Photograph of Elderly Gentleman by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.