smithsonian journeys

Vilcabamba, Ecuador, Is an Idyllic Little Town -- and That's Its Problem by Bear Guerra

Don Noé is a 95-year-old native of Vilcabamba, a dreamy little town in the mountains of southern Ecuador that has long been reputed to be home to many men and women as old as as he is—and older even. This distinction, coupled with a beautiful natural setting of fruit orchards, pines and tropical trees, has attracted tourists as well as American and European expatriates to Vilcabamba for four decades. Some 13,000 foreigners came here last year. Don Noé doesn’t like that one bit.

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Vilcabamba, Run by Foreigners Seeking Eternal Youth by Bear Guerra

Vilcabamba, the dreamy little town in the mountains of southern Ecuador, is run by foreigners seeking eternal youth -- Americans, Dutch, Israelis, French, Chileans, Argentineans. Young, long-haired, barefoot, vegan couples, well-to-do retirees, massage therapists, former cops who can live here on $600 a month. Then, there are the locals, and the old-timers, who've sold much of their land over to them and can't always make sense of their lifestyle. This was once part of the Inca trail; now I hear they call it the "Gringo Trail". This feature will be published by Smithsonian Journeys Magazine later this Spring, in collaboration with Ecuadorean photographer, Santiago Arcos.

Don Segundo Timoteo Arboleda. Photo by Ruxandra Guidi.

Don Segundo Timoteo Arboleda. Photo by Ruxandra Guidi.