Oh, Vilcabamba: where mountains soar alluringly above town, where the balmy air is synonymous with longevity (it shot to fame for its high number of centenarians after Reader’s Digest did stories on them in 1955), where those who encounter it simply get waylaid – sometimes for months, sometimes years…

The area’s beautiful scenery, mild weather and laid-back vibe attract waves of visitors: backpackers as well as North American and European retirees. Hiking, horseback riding and meditation are popular activities. The hills are dotted with big new houses, and the town plaza with expat-owned businesses. Gringo-ization has created tension about the cost of land and living, but the flip side is that jobs in tourism and construction are more plentiful than ever, and Vilcabamba is the rare Ecuadorian pueblo where young people have little ambition to leave for the big city.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Vilcabamba.