Southern Bound! - Getting to Vilcabamba


All options assume you enter Ecuador on an international flight. One day I hope to talk to someone that comes to Ecuador by boat, but that day has not yet arrived.

You have 2 options of airports to land in that receive flights from outside the country. Quito, the capital city high in the Andes Mountains in the north, or Guayaquil the countries largest city located on the Pacific Ocean in the southwest. Quito's airport code is UIO and Guayaquil's is GYE. From either of those exciting metropolises, you are wanting to get to the southern most tip of the country. Take a look at this map from World Atlas. See that yellow square near the bottom for Podocarpus National Park? Vilca is another 45 minutes south of that. We are only 4 hours by vehicle from the border with Peru.



  • PRO: Many decent hotels across the street/within a short taxi ride
  • PRO: Many restaurants within walking/short ride from said hotels
  • CON: Hot and humid climate
  • CON: Biggest city in the country also has the highest crime (same as NYC)


  • PRO: Seattle like mild weather most of the year
  • PRO: The city has a softer/gentler feel to it (highly subjective but common sentiment)
  • CON: The first hotel is a 10 min ride from the airport
  • CON: The next 5 hotels are 20-30 minutes away
  • CON: In the middle of the night it takes 45 mins to downtown, with traffic an hour and a half is common


I personally prefer Guayaquil because: I don't mind the fast-paced hustle and bustle for a few days. I prefer to overheat before freezing. I prefer to walk from the airport to my hotel if it's a daytime arrival and I also prefer to walk to restaurants over taxis. I see more, I experience more. If UIO was near downtown Quito, for me it would be a tossup.


International Origin to GYE or UIO
  • Carriers: United, American, Virgin, Avianca
  • Coming from SEA, we've paid from $690 to $970 RT
GYE or UIO to LOH (Catamayo)
  • is the only airline
  • Coming from either we've paid from $65 to $105 RT
  • 12 to 3 weeks out yields best pricing
Taxi from Catamayo to Vilca
  • We've paid between $25 to $40. Depends on season, vehicle and even price of gas
  • Estimate: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours
  • Either via El Tambo (preferred as it's faster) or via Loja
  • We can recommend several trusted drivers



By Taxi
  • Tame doesn't allow large dogs on board. We have a friend that took a taxi from UIO to Vilcabamba
  • $500 in July 2017
  • The trip took 12 hours
  • We can recommend several trusted drivers
By Express Bus
  • Once I took an overnight bus from Vilca to Quito
  • $22 in June 2016
  • The trip took 14 hours
  • Do not expect to get much sleep however
By Bus
  • We've never done this
  • Estimate: $15 to $20 pp
  • Estimate: The trip would take at least 20 hours
  • Heavily dependent on times between bus changes in major cities


By Shuttle
  • From downtown Cuenca you can catch a hotel shuttle direct
  • $16 pp in Sept 2017
  • We've experienced a range of times from 3:45 to 5 hours
  • Call us to schedule this for you
By Bus
  • Take a taxi to the Cuenca bus station ("Terminal Terrestre")
  • We hear it's $8 pp in Oct 2017
  • We've never taken this bus route, but expect 4 to 6 hours


By Bus
  • $1.75 pp in Sept 2017
  • We've experienced a range of times from 1 to 1.5 hours
  • From the bus station/terminal terestre
By Taxi
  • $20 in June 2017
  • Estimate: 45 minutes
  • From the bus station/terminal terestre, taxis are out front


By Taxi (there is no bus from Catamayo to Vilca fyi)
  • $25 to $40 in Nov 2017
  • Estimate: 45 minutes to 1 hour
  • We can recommend several trusted drivers or schedule a pickup for you


By Bus

- Get to the bus station / terminal terestre

  • GYE via taxi to 'Terminal Terestre'
  • $3 to a hotel 5 mins away (DC Suites) in Sept 2017
  • Any taxi in front of the airport
  • Ask for a price before you leave, more than $3 seems high

- Bus to Machala

  • ~$6 pp in Sept 2017
  • We've experienced it takes between 3 and 3:45 hours

- Bus to Loja

  • ~$6 pp in Sept 2017
  • We've experienced it takes between 5 and 6 hours
  • Sometimes they stop for a meal, sometimes they don't
  • If a break is important to you, verify BEFORE you pay for the ticket

- Bus to Vilca

  • See "LOJA TO VILCA" section


By Air
  • GYE to CUE
    • $94 pp in Sept 2017
    • Took around 1 hour
    • Only flies this route


By Bus
  • $.125 in Nov 2017
  • We've experienced it takes between 1:10 and an 1:30
  • There are 2 companies
  • Vilcabambaturis - Burgundy buses
  • Tur Sur - Blue buses
  • Aside from the names there is little difference between them
By Private Taxi
  • $20 in Nov 2017
  • We've experienced a range of times from 45 minutes to an hour
  • We can recommend several trusted drivers or schedule a pickup for you
By Shared Taxi
  • In Spanish this option is called "Taxi Ruta"
  • $2.50 pp in Nov 2017
  • We've experienced a range of times from 45 mins to an hour
  • Find a regular yellow taxi in Loja and ask them to take you to 'Taxi Ruta'
  • Warning: They drive like bats out of hell. If you are in the middle seat, it will not be comfortable. YMMV


  • If you aren't flexible on time, don't take this option
  • EC buses are comfy but can be quite loud at time, or the bus itself will play music or a movie in Spanish. Bring earplugs and bring a book or headphones to listen to music
  • Put luggage below, but keep electronics in a bag with you. They don't like bags in the cabin, so you may have to show them your electronics to get 'permission'. We keep electronics on us not for security, but to protect them from bumps and the like.
  • The front seats are reserved for elderly, disabled and pregnant mothers. If you are seated in the front when such a rider gets on, they may ask you to give up your seat.