Vilcabamba

From Loja the road climbs past the entrance to Parque Nacional Podocarpus to a pass at 2390 m and then gradually descends to
Malacatos
, which has an impressive blue-domed church, and then continues one valley over to Vilcabamba. Once an isolated village, Vilcabamba has become increasingly popular with Lojanos on a weekend excursion as well as foreign visitors and expats. It is a 'must' along the gringo trail from Ecuador to Peru or vice versa. There are many excellent places to stay and several good restaurants. The town has a pleasant well-kept plaza where you can find orchids on the trees. Around it are the church, which has an attractive wooden interior, several open-air cafés and restaurants and well-stocked shops. The area around Vilcabamba is very beautiful and tranquil, with an agreeable climate. There are many great day-walks and longer treks throughout the area, as well as ample opportunities for horse riding. A number of lovely private nature reserves are situated east of Vilcabamba, towards Parque Nacional Podocarpus. Above all, Vilcabamba is a great place to relax, pamper yourself and enjoy nature.

Tourist information

General information from www.vilcabamba.org and www.vivavilcabamba.com.

Best time to visit

Vilcabamba enjoys spring-like temperatures year-round. The rainy season is November to April, when the surrounding valley is at its greenest; July and August can be very dry and windy.

Walks around Vilcabamba

The area around Vilcabamba is splendid for excursions, with crystal-clear rivers that invite you in for a dip. Follow any of the roads out of town and discover how the locals stay young in their sugarcane fields, coffee plantations or fruit orchards. You will be rewarded with lovely views and you might stumble onto a working
trapiche
, where you can sample the freshly-squeezed cane juice.
Hostería Izhcayluma
has a set of hiking maps and route descriptions. Various operators offer horse riding or walking tours to lookouts and waterfalls near town as well as longer trips to private reserves in the foothills to the east. Trekkers can continue on foot through orchid-clad cloud forests to the high cold
páramos
of
Parque Nacional Podocarpus
;
Reserva Solomaco
welcomes independent trekkers.

Rumi Wilco
.
This 40-ha private nature reserve has several signed trails. Many of the trees and shrubs are labelled with their scientific and common names. There are great views of town from the higher trails, and it is a very good place to go for a walk. Over 100 species of bird have been identified here. Volunteers are welcome.

Climbing
Mandango
,
the 'sleeping woman', is a popular and very scenic half-day walk. Access is signed along the highway, 250 m south of the bus terminal. Do not take valuables and be careful on the higher sections when it is windy.

Towards Parque Nacional Podocarpus

The following private reserves abut Parque Nacional Podocarpus and provide access to it. They all have shelters, but you must make advance arrangements to use them. From north to south they are:
Solomaco
, above Quebrada de Solomaco, contact
Hostal Le
Rendez-Vous
or
Restaurant El Otro Lado
;
Las Palmas
, between Quebrada de Solomaco and Quebrada Las Palmas, run by
Cabañas Río Yambala
;
Los Helechos
, at Cerro Los Helechos on the Capamaco side, run by
La Tasca Tours
, and
Gavin's
, along the Río Capamaco, run by
Caballos Gavilán
.

Alternative lifestyle projects

In several out-of-the-way locations around Vilcabamba are permaculture, environmental conservation and alternative lifestyle projects that welcome visitors and volunteers. These include
Neverland Farm
, www.neverlandfarm.org
and
Sacred Sueños
, www.sacredsuenos.com
. Arrange in advance, these places are difficult to find.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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