FAQs (FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS)
ARE VACCINATIONS REQUIRED / RECOMMENDED FOR ECUADOR?
At present, no vaccinations are required for Ecuador, though some may be recommended depending on the regions and activities you plan on visiting. Current information is available from the websites of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the WHO (World Health Organization.) Another source you might wish to reference is Passport Health USA. https://www.passporthealthusa.com/destination-advice/ecuador/
HOW DO I GET TO MONTESUEÑOS / VILCABAMBA?
Fly to the capital city of Quito, or the port city of Guayaquil. From there, direct domestic flights to Loja are available on TAME airlines. https://tame.com.ec/index.php/es/ From the Loja airport, take a cab direct to Montesueños in Vilcabamba for $30 to $40. Montesueños is happy to arrange a driver for you with advance notification. Surface travel (buses, vans, private car) is also available, but be flexible. Land travel in Ecuador is gorgeous but the occasional landslide may close a road temporarily disrupting plans.
IS ECUADOR SAFE?
Yes, in general, Ecuador is amongst the safest, most stable countries in Latin America. But, at home, as elsewhere, common sense is your best travel companion. One should never flaunt cash or jewelry in developing countries. Every effort should be made to appear confident and assured. Be sensitive to local customs and respective of your host culture. Don’t leave valuables unattended and visible where the temptation to an impoverished person might be irresistible. Ask locals about areas best avoided, especially at night. Pack your savvy street smarts alongside your toothbrush and return home with a suitcase full of great memories.
WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT MONTESUEÑOS?
There is no bad time to visit Montesueños. Weather in Vilcabamba is perfect all year round with very little temperature variance, 70’s to 80’s, abundant sunny days, and daily rainbows. Humidity, unlike coastal regions, is unknown. There are two seasons. Dry season is July through October; rainy season, November through June. A rain shell or small collapsible umbrella will be your friend. Vilcabamba is south of the equator, in the southern hemisphere, thus the seasons are opposite what you’re used to in North America and Europe. You’ll be happy with a light jacket or sweater for cool evenings in higher altitudes. Vilcabamba sits in a valley at approximately 5,000 feet. Montesueños sits on a mountainside, under the watchful eye of Mandango, the reclining Incan god formed by a ridgeline, overlooking all. Locals believe it is Mandango that keeps the area safe from earthquakes, landslides, and other natural disasters. You may even be lucky enough to see the ubiquitous mysterious lights in the night, lights that may, or may not, be UFOs. You decide.
ARE MEALS INCLUDED?
Daily breakfast of fresh fruits, juice and coffee, cereal, yoghurts, and eggs, is included as part of your stay at Montesueños, except for Sundays when house staff is given the day off. On Sundays, you may fend for yourself with fruit and victuals onsite. Breakfast can be taken communally with other guests in the main house or in your room on those mornings when staying in your jammies and admiring the view from bed seems the thing to do.
All other meals can be taken in town. Town is an easy $3 cab ride away. Some guests enjoy walking into town, (a beautiful downhill walk,) then taking a cab from the town square back up the mountain. There are many restaurants on the plaza, or within a few blocks radiating from the square. It is possible to arrange for use of a kitchen, as well, if preparing your own lunch / dinner is desirable.
WHAT ABOUT SNAKES, BUGS, AND OTHER CRITTERS?
“Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!” Like Dorothy in the WIZARD OF OZ, you are no longer in Kansas when you step into the paradise of Montesueños. But it is a rustic setting in the very best of ways. Vilcabamba is high jungle / forest. When Meredith and Brian bought the property that was to become Montesueños, it was barren but for some sparse scrub. Over the ensuing years, Meredith’s vision for a tropical Garden of Eden has been realized under the hard work and loving care of master gardener, Ulices Macas. Today, trails weave through an incredible, lush garden traversing the mountainside. Vistas abound, it is literally impossible to look anywhere and not see an awe-inspiring view. But with a garden comes nature’s helpers. Abundant butterflies and birds share this natural eco-system in perfect balance. Yes, there are insects as well as the things that feed upon them. It is rare to encounter anything beyond a stray mosquito, (the altitude and gentle breezes keep them away,) or the “housekeeper” spider that also controls other insects. The staff at Montesueños does everything possible to assure your stay is free of any unpleasantness. Still, as in all travel away from city centers and chain hotels, it’s not a bad idea to shake your shoes out to avoid an extremely rare surprise.
DO I NEED TO SPEAK SPANISH?
Current estimates put the area’s population at 6,000, with about one in three being visiting or expat resident “gringos” from the US, Canada, and Western Europe. So there is a pretty good chance that you’ll sit next to an English-speaking person in your daily comings and goings. However, even a little Spanish goes a long way in enhancing your experience. Ecuadorans are gentle, sweet people. There is nothing like a “Buenas Dias” accompanied by a smile to make them open up to the traveler even more than they are naturally inclined to do. “Por favor” and “Gracias” are so appreciated.
IS THERE INTERNET AT MONTESUEÑOS?
For better, and for worse, yes. And it is very strong, consistent internet. If one must, (emphasis on IF) one can conduct business as if one were seated in the jungles of Manhattan.
ARE THERE PLANNED ACTIVITIES AT MONTESUEÑOS?
Montesueños is becoming an international retreat / conference destination for groups of all stripes. Art classes, yoga, natural medicine, business, women empowerment / goddess gatherings, and Buddhist monks have all been hosted at Montesueños. On occasion, a group might “block out” the facilities for brief periods. More often, private guests happily enjoy the space alongside them. Montesueños is happy to help arrange horseback trail rides, trips to the Amazon or coastal regions, lead by local adventure outfitters. Whether you come to write the long-promised great American novel, or to shed the weight from your world-weary shoulders, most visitors to Montesueños are happy to sit on the verandah’s rocking chairs, or swing in a hammock, watching the never-ending play of light on the mountains. Many come to Montesueños for a respite, returning yearly. Many decide to make Vilcabamba home.
ARE EXTENDED STAYS POSSIBLE?
Yes. Many come to Vilcabamba and Montesueños for a short retreat, extending a few days, then a week, a month, or even a year, while looking for land or a home of their own. Careful! It is that kind of place.
ONE MORE VITAL PIECE OF INFORMATION
Vilcabamba, until a decade ago had no paved road into it. One approached by horseback or donkey cart. This is part of its charm, and its secret, in holding onto a pace of life that has more in common with Victorian travel than modern madness. There is a very small consideration to be made to Pachamama, Earth Spirit Mother. It is this. Toilet paper cannot be flushed into the ground. It must be placed into lidded containers that are disposed of as trash. A very small price to pay for some of the cleanest waters and purest air left on our precious fragile planet. Honor this, and the gift of “beauty that burns the eyes” shall be your reward.