South America Living

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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.


  • 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.


  • 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.

27 to “Vilcabamba, Ecuador – Cheap Place To Live in South America”

  1. cruise says:

    sounds wonderful. is there internet? not high-speed, just basic?

    • Molly McHugh says:

      It’s a beautiful area, and Ecuador is easy to travel in. There are Internet cafes with service, and a lovely cafe on the main square that has good WiFi, buy a cup of coffee and you get the code :)

      And I should add thank you for asking, that info should have been put in the article above. Best, Molly

  2. Mumtaz Shah says:

    hi, i am an anesthesiologist , want to live in ecuador. wat are the possibilities? any other better place for doctors in southe america( i mean peaceful and calm)? thanks

  3. Miguel says:

    They dont want muslims there…….

    Que no quieren los pinche muslumanes en ecuador. Tampoco los quieremos en los eeuu.

  4. cruise says:

    who doesn’t want muslims there? you or the locals? that’s terribly terribly narrow-minded

    • Molly McHugh says:

      No more comments related to political/religous issues please. Any additional ones will be deleted.

      Have any information for folks wanting to live in Vilcabamba? That would be welcome.

      Thanks, Molly

  5. Marty Sherin says:

    Question – Medical facilities and pharmacies? Near by? Thanks

  6. Julie and Mike says:

    Does this News Letter come out often?

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi, I changed from a monthly to an ‘occassional’ format with the newsletter and instead focused on getting the free eBook done – I sent you a copy via email, if you want to sign-up for the newsletter you need to enter your email into the sign-up box on upper right-hand of page. cheers, Molly

  7. eli says:

    Need to find out more about homes for rental. We need a spaceous house but very simple, 4 bedrooms at 2 baths if possible. Any idea wjere I can look for it?

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi, the best thing to do is go to the area and find a place to stay for a week or so and then go to the real estate offices in town and ask about rentals – I wrote about this on this page, read above.

      Is the best way to not only get the best deal (there are real estate offices who advertise online for Vilcabamba but will put their higher priced listings on the website in general) but to know that the area you are renting in is in a good location for you. Best of luck, Molly


    I have liver in banos Ecuador for 3 years, and would like to move 2 a warmer place, I would like to rent a 3 bedroom house under $500 month, I do not want a apartment, and not 2 far from town, can come there on short notice .want long term

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Paul, I’m so jealous… we didn’t get to visit Banos but have heard how beautiful it is! We have been to Vilcabamba, is a really small town but lots of nice folks and you will find a rental for that price but need to arrive, visit the real estate offices at the town square (there are two of them with rental properties) and find somewhere that you will like. Do not rent online! Best of luck, Molly

  9. melissa c says:

    Hello. We are looking for a place abroad to spend a year with our three children. We don’t need a school because we plan to home school them during that day. Can anyone advise as to how cheaply we can rent a small house in Vilcabamba? Two bedrooms, one bathroom, very simply furnished, small kitchen, would be all we need. Or does anyone know of a renting company that we could call for current information?


    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Melissa, look at the article above again (re-read?)… I give links to two real estate companies that have rentals and to an apartment complex for someone who wants to land and spend a few weeks or month looking around. Best of luck, Molly

  10. Violet Stailey says:

    Looking for a house or apt. for a few months. Small, cheap but furnished

    • Molly McHugh says:

      Hi Violet, look above in the page for the two real estate companies I mention that have rentals – both with offices around the main square (or at least when we were there around 2 years ago). Also there is the temporary apartment place (look at page, has info and link to website) and a bunch of hostals you could stay at for a few weeks searching for a rental. best of luck, Molly

  11. Mark Pursley says:

    I was wondering if Correa is still the president of Ecuador. I like the idea of living in a progressive socialist state where the wealth of the nation is not auctioned and sold as it is in the US. Do they still have the project in the Amazon that they created with the UN to not drill in this area. Can you pass on any info about the Vilcabamba region. Any malaria in this part of the county. I will take your advice about rentals. While Vilcabamba is very interesting, they may be other places that catch my eye if the climate is right. You’re right about the religion thing. Politics too for that matter but I just watched a movie about Ecuador and wanted to check out the political climate. The reason I want to move is that I am tired of all of the political stupidity in the US.

    • Molly McHugh says:

      I think so :) Not sure how ‘progressive socialist’ he is when is against a free press. He sued La Hora newspaper in 2007 over an editorial written that was not favorable of him… editorials are ‘opinion’… that’s what the are suppose to be, someones opinion, not information subjected to libel.

      And sued El Universo newspaper in 2011 for an opinion piece, asking for an obscenely inappropriate settlement of 80 million dollars. Not exactly what I would call a ‘progressive’ president, and think his attacks on a free press in Ecuador are reprehensible.

      There are many beautiful areas in Ecuador, and much history – both positive and negative – to learn about, just have some fun researching online.

      Travel destinations we have covered are here, some with detailed travel guides that include places to stay & eat: Best of luck, Molly

  12. Robert westhoff says:

    Mainly interested in vilcabamba and La Jola

  13. patricio says:

    hi . i am an ecuadorian and we LOVE all races and all cultures in our planet . every one is welcome to live in peace and harmony . honoring one of our constitutional amendments that all plants , all animals , mother nature itself has the same right to life as humans beings . ecuador is a country where quality of life for humans is a priority over capital.

  14. dawn says:

    Is it possible to buy 5 or more acres with a home like structure already built on the property?

    • There is contact info on page for two real estate agencies – they would be the ones to ask and to research online. Best of luck, Molly (previous owner, helping out new owner Andy Alexander)

    • Hi Dawn, there are two real estate companies on the page, try contacting them or have to research online. best of luck, Molly (previous owner helping out Andy Alexander the new owner)

  15. Michael says:

    There are definitely cheap places to find in the area of Vilcabamba, though going into the luxury homes I’ve noticed people will pay a bit more, though that’s what it’s cost the builders and it’s not necessarily an owner trying to get rich on one sale.

    I just got note of a property that is just newly being listed in Vilcabamba within the 663 acre gated community with 2 full size houses within the lot… some of you may be interested. Staring price in the upper to mid $300,000 range the owner is actually willing to let go at cost of construction.

    I suppose cheap is subjective to what the buyer will be getting for their purchase price… 2 houses for that price seems to be a great deal, what do you guys think?

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