Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Jan 13, 2023

Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Way back in the Inca years the royalty used this valley as their personal retreat area. It is also called the "valley of longevity" due to its long-living residents. Some say people commonly live to be 100 and more years old in this region. Whatever the reason for this reputation, it most likely comes down to these two facts: they are active, eat healthily, and take care of their elders. And a fairly large number of young people leave Vilcabamba to live in the larger cities. There has been some real research done here to determine if in fact there is any truth to the legend. The results? No. In fact, people here live no longer on average than people anywhere else.

Vilcabamba wasn't even known to the outside world until 1973 when a story was written in National Geographic Magazine. That was followed by two books that talked about Vilcabamba, one written in 1975 and the other in 1976. As for the town itself, it's very small. There is no supermarket, just the many small corner convenience stores. There are a few cash machines, and one bank of the coop type. There are many restaurants and because of the large number of foreigners, the prices are a little higher than is typical.

Vilcabamba is a favorite place for foreigners to relocate. I've seen websites touting numbers from 500 up to 1000 expatriates living here. Considering the population of the entire valley is less than 5000 one has to wonder about those numbers. I've seen and met more than a few in my short visit, and I found the majority are not friendly. That was the same in Colombia as well. Yes, there were a few I met and talked to, but the majority, no, they wouldn't so much as give me the time of day. One man I spoke to told me about a home invasion just last week. It was one of his neighbor's homes, another ex-pat. There were 5 men, armed, that broke into the house and robbed the family after beating them. The man told me this is a happening thing in their area outside of Vilcabamba. Then he told me about all the security measures he has gone set up at his own home, including a safe room. And just the day before yesterday I spoke with three women who live here, and they told me that just minutes before a man tried to pickpocket one of them. They caught him in the process, took a picture of him as he ran away, and they called the police, who arrived shortly afterward. There's no getting away from it, crime happens everywhere.

Vilcabamba has a mild Andean climate. The daytime average high of 20° C (68° F), and the night average low of 13° C (55° F). Vilcabamba receives an average of 1622 mm (64 inches) of rain per year. The elevation of the city is 1552 meters (5092 feet).

So, my impressions: Same as Loja—Too cold. Pretty town, though. So, it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live here. (That phrase dates back to 1907 in a New York Times article.) My impression, based on the people I met or tried to meet, and talked to, that are local people, is they don't really like all the foreigners. Yes, they like the money they bring, but not the higher crime and the higher prices. I get the impression many would like the town to return to the way it was before being "discovered". I met quite a few foreigners, many of whom speak little or no Spanish. I don't understand that, you live in a foreign country so learn their language. You expect the same from people living in the US, after all. Anyway, it's a nice, very little, town in a beautiful valley, with a spring-like climate all year round.

This is my goal: to find a new place to live. So to reach that goal I am traveling most of South America, visiting the countries of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, passing through Argentina, visiting Paraguay, passing through a bit of Brazil, and finally visiting Uruguay. I have a list of towns, about 70 towns, that meet these qualifications: Cities with average day temperatures of 22-28° C (72-83° F) and night temps of 14° C (57° F) and higher; and a population between 28,000-300,000. I analyzed climate and population data of around 700 towns in the above-mentioned countries and then pulled out the ones that meet the previously mentioned criteria, which leaves about 70. My preference leans towards towns of less than 100,000 people. Of the 70 towns, about 20 have populations of 100,000 - 300,000. And, now that I have visited more than 25 towns/cities, I've decided I will probably want an inland town. I love the beach and walking in the warm water, but, getting sunburned is just too easy, even on a cloudy day. At least, here in Ecuador. I've also decided that any town with more than 100,000 population will be too big. I've decided that any small town that meets the temp specifications and has a supermarket and ATM is one worth considering to live in.

At this point in my journey I have one town on my top-20 list - Catamayo and Puyo. So far, in my travels of Ecuador, I have visited 29 towns/cities.

Next up: Catacocha.