Loja and Vilcabamba, Ecuador: Destinations for health-conscious people

Thursday, June 24, 2010
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
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Tags: Vilcabamba, Ecuador, health news

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(NaturalNews) Are you a health-conscious person looking to visit the Valley of Longevity in Ecuador? The small town of Vilcabamba sits in that valley, just 45km South of the city of Loja. For people who are new to the area, it's sometimes difficult to know where to find healthy foods and products, so here's a quick guide for visitors:

In Loja, you'll want to stop at the health food store called Alivinatu. Located just half a block East of the Southeast corner of the Loja town square, Alivinatu offers fresh juices, soy burgers for lunch, nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, vitamins and even a health spa on the second floor.

It's not quite a Whole Foods, but it's the closest thing you'll find in Loja. The owners and staff are friendly, too. Prices are a bit on the steep side for Ecuador, but they aren't terrible.

Just 1-2 blocks down the street to the East of Alivinatu, you'll find another juice store with much better pricing (and no crowds). I don't recall the name, but it's on the same side of the street as Alivinatu and has a large yellow sign with a sun symbol on it. They offer fresh fruit juices, carrot juice and other medicinal juices. Service is frustratingly slow, even when it's not busy, but the owners are friendly and you can chat with them while they're working on your order.

Looking for fresh fruit and nuts? You'll want to visit the Frutaria on 18 de Noviembre. No, that's not a date, it's a street name. Ecuadorians often name their streets after famous holidays. I don't know what happened on the 18th of November, but it was a significant date in Ecuador's history.

In any case, if you head South from the main town square on 18 de Noviembre, you'll pass a street market area on your right. A few blocks later (to the South), you'll reach the furniture district. On the left side of the street, look for a small green awning and the word "Frutaria." Inside, you'll find a tiny shop that's jam packed with fresh fruits and nuts. The owner is talkative, and once he realizes you're actually spending some money there, he'll treat you to all sorts of free samples. Here are some of the amazing items you can find in this store:

• Organically grown hydroponic tomatoes from a local grower in Loja.
• Pitahaya cactus fruit grown on the owner's own farm in Vilcabamba.
• Almonds, macadamia nuts and pistachios.
• Pineapples, papayas, babaco fruits, mangos and berries.
• Flax seeds, flour, corn meal and other staples.
• Dried figs, dates and other fruits.

It's a wonderful shop with an impressive variety of foods considering how small it is. Service isn't speedy, but the selection is fantastic, and visiting this shop gives you a chance to practice more Spanish, too.

The local grocery store

Continuing South on 18 de Noviembre, you'll shortly arrive at Super Maxi on your left. This is the main grocery store for the town. While it's not a health food store, there are nonetheless many items you can find there that are quite healthy.

In the fresh produce section, of course, you can find everything from cactus fruit to blackberries. They usually have a good selection of avocados, citrus fruit and vegetables. You'll pay a lot for apples (because they're imported from Chile), and you can find avocados at half the price in Vilcabamba, but if you want the convenience of everything in one place, check out Super Maxi.

Near the cereal section, you can also find quinoa flakes. In the peanut butter section, check out the local, Ecuadorian-made peanut butter. It's non-hydrogenated.

Raw, local honey

In Malecatos, the town just North of Vilcabamba, you can find raw local honey! It's not easy, though: You have to ask around. Just ask for "miel de abejas" which means "honey of bees." People can point you in the right direction. Eventually, you'll end up at a house where a guy is selling small plastic containers of honey out of his living room. I paid something around $3.50 per pint container, I believe. It seemed like a reasonable price, but prices always vary depending on how good your Spanish is.

Healthy food in Vilcabamba

Virtually every restaurant around Vilcabamba serves fresh, raw fruit juices. You can also get Tomate de Arbol, which is a "tree tomato" fruit that's actually not a tomato, but it sort of tastes like one. (I like this juice a lot.)

There are several good restaurants around town, too. Sambuca Cafe is right on the town square, and you can get some good salads there. Papaya's Cafe, owned by an American, is a great destination for healthy food in a really fun atmosphere (nice decorations, too!). The La Roca restaurant, located two blocks North of the town square (next to the police station) is owned by an Ecuadorian family from Cuenca. They offer a nice Sunday brunch, and at times they have live music on Friday or Saturday nights.

Just one block to the East of the main square, you'll find a vegetarian restaurant, and a few miles South of town, you can enjoy the kitchen of the Hosteria Izhcayluma. On the other side of town, the North side on the way to Loja, you can find Madre Tierra which has a nice kitchen, too. In that same direction, you'll also find the Hosteria Vilcabamba which offers a very nice fruit plate and some fresh juices.

Sunday markets

And then, of course, you always have the Sunday markets, both in Vilcabamba and Malecatos. In these markets, you can often buy a huge quantity of fresh fruits like mangos, papaya, oranges, etc. My friend Matt likes to buy 40 - 50 mangoes, then he takes them home, dices them and freezes the chunks for use in smoothies.

You can also find fresh coconuts from time to time, depending on what's available. Ask around for fresh cocos and you might get lucky.

Now, all the fresh produce available at the Sunday markets is not necessarily organic (even if they tell you it is). Pesticides are used in Ecuador, and some local farmers in the Valley of Longevity are definitely using pesticides. So you have to be careful about your sources. Or better yet, grow your own...

Growing your own

The best way to get healthy food in the Valley of Longevity is to grow your own. That's what I've been doing for most of the past two years, and the food production capability of the region is downright legendary. I'm convinced it is among the very most land on the planet for producing large quantities of food year-round.

The really amazing thing about growing food in Vilcabamba is that you can plant garden veggies any day of the year. So you can grow and harvest carrots, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes and other similar plants every single day of the year. There are no cold seasons: It's Spring-like weather year round!

There are a few properties for sale right now in the deep topsoil area of the Hacienda San Joaquin, located just outside the town of Vilcabamba. One piece of land is 2.5 acres selling for five figures. Another piece is 20 acres selling for mid six figures (it has a house, a working well, massive gardens and a young orchard). A third piece is smaller but is a world-class estate with tennis courts, indoor pool, a 5,000 square foot house and more. It's selling in the low seven figures.

If you're interested in any of these, email us at and let us know what interests you. We'll forward your email to the correct party where you can see photos and a full description of various properties that might interest you. You can see some pictures of my own food production property here:

Growing your own food in Ecuador is ridiculously easy, and we used neem oil, tobacco juice and pepper juice as our organic pesticides. They worked great! The irrigation water is FREE (since it comes from your own well), and labor is extremely affordable, too. If you do visit Vilcabamba, be sure to check out the properties that are available -- and be sure to check the soils at each property, because soil quality varies widely throughout the valley. Some areas are mostly rocks, other are deep top soil. So you have to check before you buy.

Again, contact us at if you're interested in food production land there.

Enjoy Loja, Vilcabamba and the Valley of Longevity!

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About the author:Mike Adams (aka the "Health Ranger") is the founding editor of, the internet's No. 1 natural health news website, now reaching 7 million unique readers a month.

In late 2013, Adams launched the Natural News Forensic Food Lab, where he conducts atomic spectroscopy research into food contaminants using high-end ICP-MS instrumentation. With this research, Adams has made numerous food safety breakthroughs such as revealing rice protein products imported from Asia to be contaminated with toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium and tungsten. Adams was the first food science researcher to document high levels of tungsten in superfoods. He also discovered over 11 ppm lead in imported mangosteen powder, and led an industry-wide voluntary agreement to limit heavy metals in rice protein products to low levels by July 1, 2015.

In addition to his lab work, Adams is also the (non-paid) executive director of the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center (CWC), an organization that redirects 100% of its donations receipts to grant programs that teach children and women how to grow their own food or vastly improve their nutrition. Click here to see some of the CWC success stories.

With a background in science and software technology, Adams is the original founder of the email newsletter technology company known as Arial Software. Using his technical experience combined with his love for natural health, Adams developed and deployed the content management system currently driving He also engineered the high-level statistical algorithms that power, a massive research resource now featuring over 10 million scientific studies.

Adams is well known for his incredibly popular consumer activism video blowing the lid on fake blueberries used throughout the food supply. He has also exposed "strange fibers" found in Chicken McNuggets, fake academic credentials of so-called health "gurus," dangerous "detox" products imported as battery acid and sold for oral consumption, fake acai berry scams, the California raw milk raids, the vaccine research fraud revealed by industry whistleblowers and many other topics.

Adams has also helped defend the rights of home gardeners and protect the medical freedom rights of parents. Adams is widely recognized to have made a remarkable global impact on issues like GMOs, vaccines, nutrition therapies, human consciousness.

In addition to his activism, Adams is an accomplished musician who has released ten popular songs covering a variety of activism topics.

Click here to read a more detailed bio on Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, at

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