Originally posted Feb 23, 2018 – Updated Feb 24, 2022
Oh Vilcabamba, I had a feeling you were going to be a special place and you did not disappoint!
I left Cuenca after a solid month spent working and just kind of doing normal stuff there. My friend Annie was down in Zamora visiting her boyfriend and I was ready to move on, so I packed up my things and headed several hours south to the general vicinity of Vilcabamba.
Zamora: First stop before exploring Vilcabamba was the former (or current?) gold mining town of Zamora. To get there I took a bus south from Cuenca around four hours to the town of Loja, then hopped on the next bus to Zamora. Both rides were pretty smooth and easy and I didn’t have to wait to transfer as the Zamora bus was pulling out as soon as I arrived – I ran and hopped on just in time.
We pulled into the dusty little riverside town of Zamora a couple of hours later and I was definitely feeling a little far from home. Here I was deep in the mountains of southern Ecuador. Zamora just felt very isolated to me. I took a 4×4 taxi to my friends’ house which sat above the river overlooking the rainforest. It was very peaceful and pretty. The next day, we enjoyed a nice Xmas dinner with some of their friends, and then the following morning Annie, her boyfriend, and I hit the road together to go check out Vilcabamba.
Vilcabamba, the sacred valley of longevity
I knew as the bus came over the small mountain into the valley where Vilcabamba sits that it was a special place. What do I mean by that? I mean that there was just a feeling of beauty and peacefulness that permeated the air. I felt it especially arriving into the little town center. Looking around, I felt happy to be there amongst the locals, the hippies, the new agers, and the UFO crowds.
Vilcabamba is surrounded by reddish mountains. To me, it looked and felt like a small Sedona, AZ pre-fame and fortune. The mountains form a protective cradle around the lush valley with the town center sitting in the middle and homes extending up the hillsides – perched for incredible views.
I spent two weeks in the town and I enjoyed taking nature walks along the river, trying the different local food options, and chitchatting with people like Charlie, the expat proprietor of a very relaxed eatery named Charlito’s. Charlie likes to talk to people and was a good source of local info as well as someone to speak English (as well as someone to carry on a very left-field conversation or two about conspiracy theories and whatnot.)
For most of my time in town, I stayed in the “hobbit room” at Madre Tierra resort just a 15 min walk north of the town center. It was a great place from which to relax and enjoy the valley. There is a nice little pool there and restaurant, although the food wasn’t real cheap by my standards so I didn’t eat there much. To get to town I would walk the mile (mostly uphill) or take the scenic nature route along one of the rivers. Either way was peaceful and beautiful. The mountains and nature here are stunning.
After two lovely weeks, my friend Annie decided to join me on the trip down through Peru to Lima so we packed up from Vilcabamba and headed back up to Cuenca where we would take the overnight bus down to the Peruvian beach town of Máncora. Before leaving Ecuador, I convinced Annie to join me on an afternoon hike through Cajas National Park. And, I’m so glad we were able to do that before leaving. It was amazing and definitely a highlight of my time in Ecuador.
Vilcabamba and ecuador – My thoughts:
If you’re planning a trip to southern Ecuador, I definitely recommend spending some time in Vilcabamba as it’s one of the cooler places I’ve been lately. It’s a funky little town full of unique people and gorgeous natural beauty. I’d also say to not miss Cajas Park! If you enjoy hiking at all, it is a truly awesome place. You can do short or long, multi-day hikes. We just did one of the shortest, couple-hour paths. We actually got semi-lost for a bit until I realized that the tiny specks of color a mile or so away were the other hikers on the proper trail. Oh, and Cuenca is a nice little city! Full of bus exhaust in the centro but still worth a visit or extended stay.
Stay tuned for my next posts where I’ll share some info on the northern Peru beach life as well as an awesome luxury bus experience we had and my newfound love of Lima!
Oh, I almost forgot, there is wifi at a few places in town and at the resorts (not super fast but effective for non-intensive purposes.) So, feel free to digital nomad it up while you’re in Vilcabamba!