We took a side-trip to Hosteria Izhcayluma in Vilcabamba, Ecuador based on the recommendation of a fellow traveler who we met in Montanita.
She raved about the beauty and tranquility of the place and so, after three busy days in Cuenca, we decided to go check it out – even though, let the truth be told, it’s a trek to find and get to Vilcabamba. We took the bus from Cuenca to Loja (5 hours) and then another bus from Loja to Vilcabamba (1.5 hours).
The hosteria is nestled in the hills above Vilcabamba. Supposedly it’s only a 2km walk into the village, but it’s all uphill so we took taxis back and forth when necessary. Taxis leave from the main square in Vilcabamba.
The hotel is arranged around a central building containing the registration desk and the dining room (pictured above). There’s a bar which doubles as a games room during the day with a pool table, ping-ping and floor chess. There’s also a pool and spa on site.
Izhcayluma is owned and operated by two German brothers, Peter and Dieter, and seems to have an army of staff who keep the place sparkling – to German standards – and the grounds in perfect order. Each of the buildings, including the rooms, is designed using natural materials such as stone floors and walls – even in the showers – with tile accents where appropriate. The result is a calm sense of welcoming the outside in while at the same time using materials that withstand heavy use very well and look good over time.
The rooms are fairly small and simply decorated but the bathrooms are spacious. Staying exclusively in budget accommodation it hasn’t taken me long to become pretty darn selective about bathrooms and bathroom standards and Izhcayluma is head and shoulders above anywhere else we’ve stayed to date.
My kids, of course, could care less about bathrooms. One of the first things they noticed after we arrived at Izhcayluma was the stack of board games – including multiple versions of the Settlers of Catan game. The fact that the games were in German and they were still able to play daily is a great testament to this game. I’m not sure the owners of Izhcayluma had previously had any guests who were quite so excited about the availability of these board games as my two boys were. Not to mention that they (the owners) were fascinated as to how two American boys were able to figure out to play these German games so easily – when we were checking out, they finally asked and we shared that we have the English language versions of the games at home.
There are many hiking trails in the hills around Vilcabamba and it is also close to Podocarpus National Park. The owners of the hosteria provide hiking maps and trail descriptions to encourage guests to get outside and enjoy the scenery. Packed lunches are available from the kitchen and there’s plenty of information on hand about tours and activites in the town including horseback tours of the national park.
My favorite part of our visit to Izhcayluma was the spa where available treatments included full-body massages and Reiki with prices starting at $12 for a 45-minute back, neck and shoulders massage. It was just heavenly.