Vilcabamba Survival Guide

An online travel guide to Vilcabamba and the Loja province in southern Ecuador with maps, restaurants, shops, hotels, services, activities and much more...

When I first came to Vilcabamba I found it hard to find information about the town, what facilities were available: medical, food, accommodation, activities, etc. I found that the establishments that were run by ‘gringos’ were well reviewed on the internet, but a lot of the businesses run by locals and the services provided were not found online. So, one of my primary objectives (in order to make this guide as comprehensive as possible) is to include as many of the local businesses I can as well as the ones run by expats.

The best time to visit depends on you and your needs: whether you want to party hard or have peace and quiet, whether you love or hate the rain etc..

  • New Years Eve sees the town packed to celebrate bringing in the New Year. What they do here is create dummies from old clothes, plastic etc and set them on fire on New Years Eve, which is all good bar the smell of burning plastic.

  • February is carnival time! Carnival generally occurs around mid Feb. It lasts for about a week starting around Wednesday. By Saturday Vilcabamba Parque Central has become a big mosh pit. With people dancing shoulder to shoulder and covering each other with foam, flour and eggs. The week after carnival finds the town in clean up and recovery mode.

  • Easter the celebrations are more religious focused and last for the weekend of Easter.
  • July to the second week of September is the summer holidays in Ecuador. Schools are closed and people take vacations. Vilcabamba is a ‘vacation town'. This sees it growing to bursting point on the weekends during the holidays especially if something is on. Last weekend (31 Jul/1 Aug 2010) there was a football event at the local stadium and the town was packed, though by no means as packed as at Carnival time. There are festivals celebrating the anniversary of each pueblo during these months too.

  • July and August: there are festivals celebrating the anniversary of each pueblo during these months. For Vilca given it is the biggest in the area the festival runs for two weeks and incorporates local arts, dance, a rodeo and local football competition

High Season – Low Season

High Season runs from August to February and Low Season from March to July, or so I have been told.
By the way, there are only 2 seasons in Ecuador: the dry season and the rainy season. When it rains here, it rains a lot and the kids love it (see below)!

However, as wet as 2009 was, 2010 on the other hand hardly saw any rain at all.

Ecuador rainy season

Public Holidays in Ecuador


Ecuador's public holidays mostly celebrate historic events and religious festivals.  Some public holidays are national and apply to the whole of Ecuador, some are local to a particular city.  A public or bank holiday may be applied on a Friday if the actual date falls at the weekend or midweek.  In this case it is common for festivities to happen on the actual date and then people have the day off on the official date anyway, thus getting two holidays for the price of one. 

Some celebrations are not actually public holidays, but the public stop working and celebrate anyway and there is very little that the government can do about it.  In general, if there is an excuse for a party, people in Ecuador will celebrate it.

National Public Holidays in Ecuador

  • Regional Public Holidays, or Festivals not officially Public Holidays but widely celebrated anyway
  • February/March - Carnival (Carnaval, just before Lent) Dates vary, in 2010 Carnival public holidays are 15 & 16 February, but workers must compensate by working 2 Saturdays in March.  Carnaval involves flinging water and/or flour at everyone, including total strangers and tourists with expensive cameras - be warned.  Throwing water in through the windows of moving vehicles is not outside the rules either.
  • March/April - Easter (Semana Santa, literally Holy Week).  Dates vary, Good Friday is 2 April in 2010. Holy (Maundy) Thursday (Jueves Santo) is widely celebrated, but the official public holiday is Good Friday (Viernes Santo).  The parade in Quito´s Old Town attracts large crowds as the cross is carried past the old colonial churches.
  • 1 May - Labour Day (Dia del Trabajo)
  • 24 May - Battle of Pichincha (Batalla del Pichincha)
  • 24 July Birthday of Simón Bolivar (Nacimiento de Bolívar)
  • 10 August - Independence Day (Primer Grito de Independencia)
  • 9 October - Independence of Guayaquil (Guayaquil only) (Independencia de Guayaquil) Usually celebrated in Guayaquil with a parade.
  • 2 November - Day of the Dead, or All Souls´Day (Día de los Difuntos) Families visit cemeteries and leave offerings of bread figurines for deceased relatives.  The traditional food at this time is bread babies (guaguas de pan) and a purple drink (colada morada).
  • 3 November - Independence of Cuenca (Independencia de Cuenca)
  • 6 December - Foundation of Quito (Quito only) (known as "las fiestas de Quito") with parades, parties and bullfights in Quito.  Effectively marks the beginning of Christmas for most Quiteños, many of whom put up Christmas trees as well as the Quito flag.
  • 25 December - Christmas Day (Navidad) The present-giving and Christmas dinner actually take place at midnight on 24th December (the "noche buena" or good night, so the 25th is usually spent recovering.
  • 31 December - New Year´s Eve (Nochevieja, literally "old night", or Fin de Año, end of year) when symbolic figures of the old year are burnt to signify a fresh start to the new year.  Also expect lots of fireworks.
  • 1 January - New Year (Año Nuevo)
    Public holidays in Ecuador are often celebrated with family, which for many people means travelling back to their home town or village.  Consequently buses are often packed around these dates, so either try to avoid travelling around public holiday dates, if possible, or else reserve a ticket ahead of time.