Vilcabamba, meaning Sacred Valley, is a quiet, scenic, peaceful valley near the Podocarpus National Park in southern Ecuador.
It is a one hour bus ride from the City of Loja. There are international buses from Piura (10 hours $10) on Peru´s Panamerican Highway 3 times daily. Transportes Loja has buses from Loja throughout Ecuador. Access is also possible from Iquitos & Chachapoyas in Peru via the frontier at Balsas & Zumba
A camioneta cooperative is run from the main square. It is $1 to get around pretty much everywhere in the town.
- [dead link] Las Palmas cloud forest reserve.
- Rumi Wilco Nature Reserve. $2 per person, good for several visits.
- Self-guided treks or hire a guide into the surrounding mountains or the national park Podocarpus. Many hotels (including Cabanas Rio Yambala, Rendez-Vous, Rumi Wilco, and Izhcayluma) have trail maps. Or just pick a direction and walk the dirt roads going into the countryside. Beautiful. Don't take any valuables up the Mandango mountain - many armed robberies occurred there over the years, continuing into July 2011 when a group of tourists were robbed by men with machetes. All other trails appear to be safe.
- Rent a mountain bike at El Chino (corner of Diego Vaca de Vega & Jose David Toledo), $8 per day. Ask for a map of where to go. Recommended.
- Do a 2-hour, 4-hour, or 1-3-day horse-riding trips. There are quite a few reputable tour operations in town. Tours to Las Palmas cloud forest in the Podocarpus National Park can be arranged through Cabañas Rio Yambala, 4km out of town.
- Get a massage, manicure, pedicure or wax at a few locations in town or at Hosteria Izhcayluma, 2 km south of town. Massages at the salon next to Yogurt cafe (just off the main square) are good and cost $10 for one hour. The best massages in town, however, are done by Lola, of Shanta's restaurant/bar (10-minute walk from parque central, on road to Craig's Book Exchange). She only does two per day and appointments are hard to come by, but it's worth the effort. She starts by giving you an all-over assessment of what's needed, then proceeds to give a powerful manipulative massage, incorporating many modalities: chiropractic, Swedish, Eastern styles. She's very empathic and has 14 years experience plus lots of training. She uses hot oil, mmm... $14 for 80 minutes.
- Spend a bucolic afternoon at one of the restaurants around the main plaza.
- Yoga, Community Cultural Center (corner of Agua de Hierro and La Paz, 1 block behind Rendez-Vous hotel). Tu-F 10:00-12:00. Beginning-Intermediate yoga. Mats provided. Nice people, good class. $3 for 2 hours.
- Madre Tierra Spa (Just north of the river on the hill), 2 km north of Vilcabamba Center. 08:00-20:00. Full service spa including massage, colon hydrotherapy, reflexology, clay baths, steam baths, manicures, pedicures, facials and jacuzzi. See the website for photos of this very special Oasis in the Andes. Already nominated three times for the Best Spa Resort in Ecuador by World Travel Awards. varies.
- Blanca Toledo, Barrio Los Huilcos (Best to take a taxi), ☏ +593 86951907, +593 72640094. Blanca is an experienced masseuse with 20 years of practice in Vilcabamba. She specializes in body massage with a bit of reiki and reflexology. Also offers, colonic hydrotherapy, facial and hair treatments and waxing. Call her in advance for an appointment.
- Artesanal-Prima Vera-Handicrafts, Sucre st. 10-30 (in front of Hidden Garden Hotel). Offers locally made souvenirs, recycled paper books and upcycled hand bags and purses in fabric, organic shade-grown coffee, granola, marmalades, beauty products like propolis cream, natural soaps, horse mane gloves, clay, ballon balls, hand-made cards, postcards, mail service, stamps.
- La Terraza: Central Plaza (corner of Diego Vaca de Vega and Bolivar). Serves Mexican and Italian food. Excellent chicken fajitas and nachos. Mains are $3 to $6.
- Charlito's: (on Diego Vaca de Vega, above Sucre) Run by a friendly Virginian named Charlie, they have good cheap food and drinks. The veggie sandwich is especially recommended, inexpensive and filling.
- Shanta's Bar: Calle Diego Vaca de Vaga, past the bridge, 15 minute walk East of town. Cool atmosphere with a cowboy vibe. Bar seats are horse saddles and the walls are covered in international money, weird animal hides, and neat photos. Serves pizza, filet mignon, and pasta. Good food. Mains $3 to $6. Large menu of drinks, including their homemade Snake Drink moonshine.
- Vegetariano, Valle Sagrado (btwn Dego Vaca & Luis Fernando). Excellent and inexpensive veggie almuerzo.
- Madre Tierra Restaurant and Bakery, 2 km north of Vilcabamba Center (Just north of the river on the hill). 08:00-20:00. North American and Ecuadorian home-style cooking from scratch with unique ambiance and exceptional views of Mandango and the Valley of Longevity. Some Raw options as the new owners are health minded. They have thrown out the microwaves, aluminum, msg, flouride salt and brought in stainless steel and Vita Mix and Blend Tec blenders! Many ingredients are grown on site in small gardens including local herbs in the Garden of the Elders. Water here is pumped from their own well to insure a great experience inside and outside of your body. A good variety of vegetarian options are available. Featuring Ecuadorian beers, Argentinian and Chilean wines, herbal teas, horchata, local coffee, including simple espresso (European style). Pizza, homemade whole grain breads, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, fresh soups, and the best hamburgers in Southern Ecuador (as voted by Jeff, a local gringo)! This is one Ecuadorian kitchen that you can "inspect" as it is out in the open (nothing to hide here). Several salads on the menu that will delight your eyes and your taste buds as well. Experience this Oasis in the Andes just like Mike Adams the Health Ranger of NaturalNewsdotcom. $2 and up.
Drink the magic springwater that Vilcabamba is famous for.
- El Punto (corner of Sucre & Diego Vaca de Vega). A popular hang-out. Wednesday nights there is an informal poker game amongst the ex-pats who live here. Weekend nights a band usually plays.
- Charlito's (just up the block from El Punto). A friendly place to hang out and meet people. Gavin the Kiwi is often here and has many drunken stories to tell.
- Madre Tierra Smoothie and Pool Bar, 2 km north of Vilcabamba Center (Just north of the river on the hillside). 12:00-21:00. Wide variety of beverages available in the restaurant or beside the pool and fountains set in this beautiful garden setting . From herbal teas, local coffee, and espresso to fresh fruit juices, local beers, imported wines, and liquors, refreshment is experienced at Madre Tierra.
- El Agua de Hierro is under new management (same family as former owner, who was run out of town after sexually assaulting a guest), and it's actually a nice place to stay, with swimming pool, jacuzzis, sauna, steam room, bar, all the amenities. Dorm beds for $7, private rooms starting at $12. Long-term rentals available for $150/month.
- Cabañas Río Yambala. Simply the best spot in Vilacabamba, whether you are looking a place to relax for a few weeks during your travels; a retreat in paradise; a place to land, find your feet and get good advice while considering the possibility of settling here; or simply a few days adventure with the best trekking, birding, scenery and access to the Podocarpus National Park in Vilcabamba. Visit waterfalls in Ecuador's most biodiverse cloud forest, lakes in the alpine paramo and our unique Tree Canopy Adventure. Reasonable monthly rates are offered
- Hostel Le Rendez-Vous: Calle Diego Vaca de Vega 06-43. Owners are a French couple Isabelle and Serge. Beautiful cabanas around a garden. Very clean, very nice, and lots of hot water. Breakfast is included: home-made bread, eggs or fruit salad, fresh fruit juice, coffee, tea, hot chocolate. 1 person is $15 per night, 2 people are $12 per person per night, and 3 people are $11 per person per night. They have a large collection of DVDs with a portable TV/DVD player, hammocks, information booklets on Vilcabamba, Ecuador, and Peru, hiking maps of the area, and WiFi ($4/day). 
- Hostería Izhcayluma: Owners are 2 German brothers, Peter and Dieter. Located about 2 km south of town, overlooking the valley. Different kind of accommodation, surrounded by fantastic tropical gardens. Dormitory bed for $10, double room for $12-15 per person, single room for $19. Generous buffet breakfast is included: home-made bread, eggs or crepes, fruit salad with home made yogurt and granola, fresh fruit juice, coffee and tea as much as you like, etc. Private cabañas also available for more. A swimming pool and spa services (massages, facials, etc.) are available. Several self-guided hiking trails are offered in the Vilcabamba area with excellent maps based on air photos. The panorama restaurant with great views is also open for lunch and dinner. They have a large collection of DVDs which can be watched, last one starting at 17:00. On-site bar with a pool table and ping pong table opens at 19:00 (guests only). There's a community of international travelers to be found. Wi-Fi connection for free. This place is one of a kind and definitely worth a visit, even if only for a meal with the incredible view. However, service can often be on the slow side- you can wait half an hour for a drink from the bar.
- La FloridaLong-term rentals only. Basic but decent one-bedroom duplexes with private bathroom and kitchen for $150/month. Rooms with private bathroom and shared kitchen for $100/month. Room with shared bathroom and shared kitchen for $80/month. Located across the street from Agua de Hierro.
- Las Margaritas (one block south of Church). Probably the best value hotel in town. Nice modern rooms with cable TV and private hot water bathrooms, swimming pool and breakfast included, for only $8 (single) per night!
- Madre Tierra Resort and Spa, 2 km north of Vilcabamba Center (Just north of the river on the hillside). Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Beautiful, lush vegetation. At an elevation of 1500 m (5000 feet), a short distance south of the equator, the consistent Spring-like climate here is conducive to growing delicious organic fruits and vegetables year round. Many of the ingredients in Madre Tierra's lobby restaurant are harvested from gardens on site or just down the road. The kitchen does not use aluminum cookware, microwave ovens, fluoride salt and MSG. Free lobby internet and $4 per day WiFi in most rooms. $12 and up.
- Rumi Wilco. This is a protected forest area that can be visited for a walk during the day, and that also offer limited eco-lodging and camping possibilities. The entrance of the reserve is at a 15-minute walk from the village square (ask for directions). Run by a family of Argentinian biologists, this is a place for true lovers of nature. The camping area is 10 minutes away from the main entrance, by a forest path near the river: remember your torch. They also offer the opportunity of volunteering if you're really interested in getting to know better this magical place; in that case you would help them 4 hours per day and would get a 20% discount on the price of the lodge or camping. $3.50 per person for camping, $7 per person for the eco-lodges.
Shared taxis ($1.75 per person) run from the main bus stop to Ruta 11 Mayo taxi co-op in Loja, on Calle Universitad when there are 4 people to fill a car, takes 45-60 min. Buses ($1.25-1.30) run every hour, takes about 1-1½ hr to the bus station in Loja.