From Loja the road climbs past the entrance to Parque Nacional Podocarpus to a pass at 2390 m and then gradually descends to Malacatos, which has an impressive blue-domed church, and then continues one valley over to Vilcabamba. Once an isolated village, Vilcabamba has become increasingly popular with Lojanos on a weekend excursion as well as foreign visitors and expats. It is a ‘must’ along the gringo trail from Ecuador to Peru or vice versa. There are many excellent places to stay and several good restaurants. The town has a pleasant well-kept plaza where you can find orchids on the trees. Around it are the church, which has an attractive wooden interior, several open-air cafés and restaurants and well-stocked shops. The area around Vilcabamba is very beautiful and tranquil, with an agreeable climate. There are many great day-walks and longer treks throughout the area, as well as ample opportunities for horse riding. A number of lovely private nature reserves are situated east of Vilcabamba, towards Parque Nacional Podocarpus. Above all, Vilcabamba is a great place to relax, pamper yourself and enjoy nature.
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