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In Vilcabamba you can do as much or as little as you like, it is all up to you ! Find a hammock somewhere and watch life go by or go crazy doing millions of things
In Vilcabamba you can do as much or as little as you like, it is all up to you !
Find a hammock somewhere and watch life go by like the locals do
This is a skill that my son Michael (21) has acquired promptly and naturally
Prepare for an action packed day !
Click on one of the tabs above for some suggestions or click
Okay, so there is shopping and restaurants and massage places in Vilca.
But what if you want something more? You come to live here and for the first time
in your life maybe you have time for you. What, of more depth, is there to do here?
There is a barrage of talented people calling Vilca home both locals and us foreigners.
I myself have found Lee Stice
living here. For the first time I have the time, the means and the teacher to do
something I’ve always wanted to do and that is paint
with oils and work with pottery
and ceramics. Lee runs a weekly ceramic class for adults (and one for kids) as well
as a weekly painting class.
If you have dreamed of learning Reiki then
you can take classes with Donna.
A friend’s son takes guitar lessons and
another friend teaches the young lads karate.
Catalina is a renowned Spanish teacher a
must to learn if you plan on living here and really living here.
Caroline runs several Yoga and meditation classes for all levels.
During the school holidays the Community Centre
runs art classes and a lot more for the kids. They also have community gardens that
you can volunteer in or become part of and the seed exchange initiative (every last
Saturday of the month).
There are craft shops in Loja that sell lots of ‘hobby’ things to paint as well
as bead shops if you are into beading. There are shops that run crochet and macramé
classes in Loja. There is a very good oil painting supply shop too.
You could help out with a local horse tour group and learn all the ins and outs
about horses if that is what you want to do.
If you have a gift you can take a class and pass on your knowledge too. You can
volunteer to teach English at a local school.
None of this is ‘advertised’. It is through word of mouth that you find out. So
your best bet is to come here, settle and mingle.
Why not take advantage of your stay in Vilcabamba to just look after yourself a
Below are a few options that we reviewd in 2009 in the field of massage, energy therapies, beauty care.
They may not be up-to-date.
I have had sessions with Jan, she knows her stuff, she is lovely and she is dedicated.
Once my neck was so stiff and sore and she spent almost two hours on me.
She is trained in a variety of massage techniques, including Swedish Massage, Shiatsu/Acupressure,
Reflexology, Sports Massage, Lymphatic Drainage Massage, Trigger Point Therapy,
Deep Tissue, and Pregnancy Massage. She has 30 years experience in this field
and has even worked with famous celebrities in Southern California. Massages
are offered in 1, 1 ½, and 2 hour lengths.
Additionally, Jan is one of a select few individuals in the world who practices
Bio Energy Therapy. Bio Energy Therapy is a non-invasive treatment that can help
with may chronic problems that are often considered incurable. This therapy has
been scientifically researched and validated, and has shown to be effective on ailments
ranging from Pain to Parkinsons.
Jan also is a practitioner of Psych-K. This is an energetic balancing of the
subconscious. Since the subconscious controls 90% of how we behave (habits,
tendencies, fears), then removing old beliefs that no longer serve us and replacing
them with healthy beliefs can be life-changing. Rebalancing each belief takes
only 5 minutes and is permanent.
Piedad advertises as having 9 years experience in relaxation.
One of my friends who no longer lives in V used to frequent this massage facility
for her regular massage and said that it was the best in Vilcabamba.
Beauty care offers full body, back and foot massages, facials, hair treatment, body
exfoliating, waxing and Reiki.
Biking is an excellent way to get around here. Remember there is no car rental here,
so if you want independence in being able to get around, a bike is a good option.
Well, it's your only option! If you hire a horse it comes with a guide and a taxi
comes with a taxi driver. First and foremost when it comes to bicycle hire
here in Vilcabamba you must understand that bicycles are very expensive to buy in
Ecuador. Chino does an excellent job with what is available to him. He takes a lot
of pride in his work. You are not going to get a mountain bike with suspension back
and front and top of the line gears etc. (if you want that then don't come to a
3rd world country).
Chino also does bicycle repair. So if you bring your bicycle over with you this
is the place to get it maintained in Vilcabamba. During the windy season there are
a lot of tire punctures here. There is a tree that grows everywhere that has nasty
long needles on it, sharp and strong enough to puncture a bicycle tire. We have
had a number of punctures repaired here and have always had good service and results.
Aron Marsh on Wilson's horse Picaflor (paso puro)
Emily 1 with horse in Podocarpus and Emily 2 with Wilson in
And by the way, riding horses is great but grooming them can be fun too!
Anita grooming Wilson's horses at Caballos Gavilan
Horseback riding is popular in Vilcabamba, due mostly to the quality of local horses
and the absolutely stunning natural beauty of the valley. There are rides for all
levels: beginner riders will want to try the four-hour ride around the city. This
is pretty easy, and four hours isn't long enough to get too sore.
For more advanced riders, there are trips up to Podocarpus Park
outside of town.
If you go horseback riding in Vilcabamba, wear long sleeves, sunscreen and a hat.
Your guide should bring water, but having a small bottle along isn't a bad idea.
Carry as little as possible as when the horse starts to run, any cameras, backpacks,
fanny packs, etc. will start to bounce up and down, which is very uncomfortable
and irritating. Most outfitters will provide rubber boots for you to use while riding,
however, if you have very small or very large feet, you might want to bring your
There are several small agencies offering horseback rides in Vilcabamba, just have
a look around the main square area and you'll see at least three or four.
Christopher Minister - Source: Internet
Providers of horse riding in Vilcabamba all offer riding from 2 hours upwards. Some
have horses that are ‘paso fino’. They have a nice smooth way to trot, which means
that you don’t bump up and down in the saddle so much. This is great when you are
traveling on long flat trails or on the road. However, these horses are generally
not the best in precarious mountain trial as the ‘paso’ trot means that they are
not as sturdy on their feet. A paso horse will cost you more than a non paso horse
to hire. Most places are run by experienced people who can take beginners to advanced
riders. Some have better saddle than others.
Look around when you want to go riding. Ask what type of horses they use, paso or
not. Consider the horse trek that you want to do. A non mountain trek would probably
be more comfortable on a paso horse for example. Make it very clear when you tell
the operator your level of experience. BE CONSERVATIVE on this one. It’s better
to be safe than sorry. You don’t want to come off nor does the operator want you
to come off! There are some serious, challenging trails around Vilcabamba. This
is serious riding country not some manicured, fancy man made trail like we have
in western country’s that the horses follow blindly.
Be warned that if you are not an experienced, harden rider and you put yourself
on a 4 hour our longer ride you will more than likely come out of it with a very
sore bottom and other body parts. Don’t blame the operator or the saddle; blame
yourself for putting your poor soft bottom and thighs through torture. If you are
not an experienced seasoned runner you wouldn't go on a marathon, would you?? Don’t
get me wrong, a good saddle will help with reducing the after riding pain but that
is because we “gringos” are a bit soft :-)
One more point to talk about regarding horse treks to the Podocarpus National Park.
During my interviews with horse riding businesses, it became apparent that most
places don’t take you into the National Park. They take you on a property that ‘borders’
the national park. So it is a little miss leading. To enter the national park, you
have to pay and entrance fee and to truly get into the park takes at least a full
day’s ride from Vilcabamba. Properties bordering the national park may have similar
fauna as the park but I would tend to think that they have not been regenerating
as long as the national park has. So if you want to go into the ‘true’ national
park, your operator should be buying park passes for you and it’s going to take
3+ days of riding. I know from my research writing this site that there is park
warden but I don’t know what the fine is if you go into the park without a pass.
Caballos Gavilan is run by Wilson Carpio. We have gone for a number of treks with
Wilson, including a long one on our finca in Sacapo where the horses do not know
the way. The horses have responded well to the riders requests and been even tempered.
Caballos Gavilan also offers horses for sale. A friend of ours who is an experienced
rider has purchased horses here and been very happy with them. We have also gone
for a 1 hour ride with young children on our horses (ages 3 to 6). My only gripe
and I must say it as I’m being honest here is that the saddles aren’t the best (editor's
note: reading Anita's article above, it must be that she is a bit "soft" too :-)).
We have taken the horses out without the guide for a trek and again they have responded
well to the riders requests and been very even tempered.
Julio is a local guide who can tell you a lot about the fauna and history of the
area. With his wife Beatrice, he runs Monta Tours and offers different options from
a few hours to a few days. We took the 2 day tour in the Podocarpus National park
with them and it was a fantastic experience. We stayed in a refuge called Solomaco.
Nearby (2 hour walk), there is a beautiful waterfall that we went to see in the
afternoon of the first day. The food was all prepared for us and it was delicious.
We ate by the candlelight, then Julio played card tricks and told us stories. The
horses were good and Julio runs the expeditions with a spirit of adventure and fun
but also with the maturity and responsibility required to make sure that we all
come back in one piece and with no broken bits. The Podocarpus can be quite wet,
with slippery trails and low lying branches, so it pays to be careful, watch your
head and have a guide who knows what he's doing.
The Pony Club is run by our friend Roman. The Pony Club takes you on tours of Vilcabamba
in a horse drawn carriage. Carriage rides range from 20 minutes to 6 and half hours.
Rides can be for one to five persons. This is a unique and exciting way to see Vilcabamba
and its surrounding areas. It’s a great birthday party event or a very romantic
way to propose. The two of you in a horse drawn carriage riding up the hill
to a lookout point over the Vilcabamba at night. Taking in the lights on a warm
summers evening. And you pop the question! The carriage is also available for weddings,
fiestas, funerals etc.
Offer tours from a couple of hours to several days.
Holger Horses offers comfortable saddles. They have a local guide who can tell you
about the fauna and history of the area.
This is a small zoo with local animals (mountain tapirs, pumas, condors, parrot),
with a swimming pool and BBQ areas and play ground.
The condor (below) is a really cool bird !
This park is a natural wonder that covers the provinces of Loja and Zamora. It owes
its name to the Podocarpus indigenous tree, the most well known tree from this rain
forest. This unique conifer tree from southern Ecuador can be found from 1200 to
4000 meters above sea level in an area of over 146,000 hectares, extending from
the Amazon to the Andean heights. The park is home of one of the most bio-diverse
displays of birds and fauna in the world. A complex of more than 100 lagoons are
located in the park as well.
The park was created in 1982, with the priority to preserve the unique flora and
fauna of the land, the diverse indigenous species in danger of extinction. Once
it was declared as a protected area, many research projects took place that allowed
for ecological and community development in the region.
Regarding the fauna, some land species that are most representative of the area
have been found, such as: jaguars, pumas, tapirs and spectacled bear. The beauty
and diversity are endless as there are more than 560 bird species representing 40%
of all bird species found in Ecuador. During certain seasons, some migratory birds
can be observed, as well.
Due to its geological formation, the Podocarpus gives birth to rivers Catamayo,
Chinchipe, Zamora and Nangaritza.
The climate in the Podocarpus park varies depending on the area. On the east side
(known as The Orient), it rains from March to July while October, November and December
are the dry months. On the west side (known as The Sierra), it only rains from February
to April. The temperature varies depending on altitude; 12 degrees Celsius (54 F)
for higher altitudes and 18 degrees Celsius (65 F) for lower altitudes.
A shelter has been built in the park for tourists use. It offers a video room, a
center for environmental workshops and hostelling at the shelter or the cabins for
$3 per person per night. There's also a dining room and a kitchen so that tourists
can cook for themselves. Note: although the place offers some beds and mats, it
is suggested to take your own sleeping bags.
Information sourced from: http://www.vivavilcabamba.com/content/view/25/114/lang,es/
Additional information available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podocarpus
You can definitely spend a day shopping in Vilcabamba. Take in the jewelers in the
morning, stop for a spot of lunch at one of the many restaurants, then continue
with the Souvenir shops; another rest for refreshments and then some more shopping.
Remember that most places do not accept credit cards. There is no shopping mall
here (thank God!). Nearly all the shops are locally operated. Many operators manufacture
their products which makes them unique to Vilcabamba. So, if you like something
here and hesitate, you may not be able to find it anywhere else once you leave Vilcabamba.
There are a number of manufacturing jewelers in Vilcabamba. All have their unique
designs and styles. Most make jewelry to order or you can purchase a readymade piece.
If you are looking for jewelry I recommend that you take the time to visit them
all and find that one that appeals to your tastes the best.
On the weekends there are a number of stalls set up opposite the church at the top
of the square that sells locally made jewelry as well. So, one could say that as
with the restaurants here in Vilcabamba we are spoilt for choice with jewelry too.
They sell handmade Jewelry, handcrafts and musical instruments.
The beautiful jewelry in this shop is made by Cristobal Anguita Gamboa. They sell
jewelry and handicrafts. Jewelry can be made to order in size and design.
Arte Nomade has creative displays like the one shown below
jewelry on rice and corn
Arte Nomade accepts all major credit cards, which is not something you will find
in many places in Ecuador, let alone in Vilcabamba.
Santiago, jeweler by trade, can craft a unique masterpiece for you, or yoiu can
buy a beautiful piece already constructed.
As with the jewelry there are a number of souvenir shops here in Vilcabamba. They
sell a wide variety of souvenirs from trinkets and clothing to colorful fabrics
and weavings. Again, if you are looking for that perfect souvenir I recommend
that you take the time to visit them all and find that ‘one’ (or two or more) thing
that catches your eye.
Another well presented shop. They sell handcrafts, traditional Ecuadorian souvenirs.
This shop sells traditional Ecuadorian clothes and pottery. I have purchased a number
of pieces of clothes from here and they have washed and worn well.
Prima Vera specialises in selling crafts that are made locally. They are also the
drop of point if you want to send some post home. They take bookings for the Rumi Wilco Ecolodge and Nature Reserve.
They have some specialist natural beauty products including mud packs, soaps and
propolis cream, as well as organic coffee and salt with herbs. One of my favourites
is the salt and the homemade jams – yummy.
They also have local tobacco, souvenir T-shirts, as well as a range of post cards
and products from the San Pedro recycling paper facility.
I recommend for anyone wanting to know more about the area called Vilcabamba (a
must for folks planning on living here) and the local fauna and history of the area
you buy a copy of the booklet on Vilcabamba that Prima Vera stocks.