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Gateway to the Podocarpus National Park
Puerta del Parque Nacional Podocarpus
The city of Loja is located in the south of Ecuador at 6,200 feet above sea level in the Cuxibamba valley.
In September 2008, Travel and Leisure magazine said “The remote village of Loja
hidden in a small valley in the high Andes, looks very much like a South American
Shangri-la. This is one of the best preserved colonial cities in South America,
it remain off the beaten path, unlike Quito and Cuenca.”
This is a fairly accurate description of the lovely city of Loja. There are approximately
150,000 people living in this wonderful city. Because of its relative small size,
almost everything is within walking distance.
Cars are more a luxury than a real need. Taxis like in most Ecuadorean cities are
always available and the rate almost any place around the city is $1 US. Incredible!
Surrounded by magnificent mountains and two rivers, the city of Loja is considered
the Music Capital of Ecuador. Culture has always been a very important factor in
the life of its citizens. Loja has beautiful churches, museums, two universities,
the oldest highs school in Ecuador was founded in Loja. The music conservatory has
produced some of the most acclaimed musicians in Ecuador.
On weekends, the city comes alive with live music and dance in its many cafes and
For the last 20 years, Loja has been the pioneer city in Ecuador when it comes to
protecting the environment. Loja’s Municipality has a recycling program that has
been copied by other cities in Ecuador and South America. Loja is the cleanest city
in Ecuador and it was designated “Ciudad Ecologica” and received international awards
for its commitment to environmental protection.
Safety is a major concern for foreigners looking to retire in a foreign country.
Crime rate in Loja is extremely low. Citizens in Loja feel safe walking around the
city day and night.
With more than ten private clinics, and two large hospitals, Loja offers first class
medical facilities. Needles to say, medical expenses in Ecuador are extremely affordable.
As an example, an appendectomy and three nights at the best private clinic in Loja
in a private room costs $1,100 US. The same procedure and the same accommodations
at a medical facility in the United States will be above $12,000 dollars. Many doctors
in the city are educated abroad. Loja’s private clinics offer the latest equipment
and technology to treat almost every medical condition.
Moving to Loja and staying in contact with relatives and friends abroad is easy.
Loja offers excellent internet and telephone services. You can also have access
to Cable and Satellite TV with a variety of international TV stations.
Loja has plenty of stores with all sorts of merchandise and supplies. Supermarkets
are very well stocked with American and European brands. The green markets offer
fresh produce at incredibly low prices. You can walk to the markets and buy fresh
products every day. Or if you prefer, you can have your maid do it for you. Labor
is extremely affordable in Loja and most of Ecuador. Having a maid is not a luxury
while living in Ecuador. For $200 to $300 a month you can have a person come to
your home to cook and clean five or six days a week.
People are friendly and the majority of the young generation of citizens in Loja
speaks some English. People in Loja feel good about foreigners and are always willing
to help when needed.
After all these positive remarks about Loja you must be wondering about real estate
Loja offers a variety of properties for every budget. There are many new condos
and town houses as well as beautiful colonial homes that can be restored.
Prices are very low compared with other cities in Ecuador. As an example, a brand
new two bedroom condominium can cost between $40,000 and $60,000 depending on the
type of building and how close you are to downtown. A three bedroom apartment could
cost between $50 and $80,000. A luxury penthouse apartment with five bedrooms, 5
½ baths, two terraces, two parking spaces, a large storage room, two living
rooms, dining room, laundry room, kitchen and a bar is offered at $250,000.
Finally, with a fantastic mild weather all year round, there is no need for heat
or air conditioning. You will not find one single house with heaters or AC units.
It never gets too cold or too hot. During the day you can wear light shirts and
t-shirts and at night a light sweater or a comfortable jacket and you will be fine.
Loja enjoys a temperate spring-like climate all year long. Temperatures fluctuate
between 16° C (60° F) and 21° C (70° F), with an average daily temperature of 17°
C (63° F).
Visit Loja in your next trip to Ecuador and you will fall in love with this magic
city and its friendly people.
Dario Espinosa, Source: ecuadorliving.com Web: www.ecuadorvilla.com
Since this is a practical guide for people living in Vilcabamba as well as a touristic
guide for people visiting, I thought that it would be a good idea to describe a
typical non touristic day in Loja like I (with my husband) have had many in the
past 6 months that we have been living in Vilcabamba. Loja is such a diverse place
that each time we go, we keep finding out more jewels, so I am sure that if today
I was to re-read these paragraphs that I wrote a few months ago, I would want to
add more. However incomplete, this gives an idea on how to spend a great shopping
day in Loja.
Get the bus from Vilcabamba at 9 am or a cheap taxi. All going well you'll be in
Loja by 10 am. Walk down from the bus stop to Parque Central just in time to make
your appointment with the lawyer. Start the legal paperwork for the day. While the
paperwork is being prepared go to the printers if needed or the bank to get some
cash (be prepared to queue were ever you go) then to the health shop and maybe another
shop around the Parque Central. By now it's 12.30 and everything is closing
for siesta. So you go to the Chinese Restaurant for lunch. After lunch go to Diego's
fruit shop (across the road from the Chinese restaurant) for pitahayas (we call
it the fruit of the gods), chocolate coated macadamia nuts, fruit, nuts, olives
Then, time to go to the Central Commercial for ground coffee and general shopping,
then back to Parque central to Mimos for ice cream/cake (or both if the fancy takes
you) and an espresso coffee. Buy now, the shops should be opening up (3pm) so it's
back to the lawyer to keep going with the paperwork. Then maybe to the vet or optometrist
or to the computer shop etc. Then back to the lawyer to go to the notary to get
the paperwork witnessed and signed. After that is finished it is around 5 or 6 pm
you have walked about 5ks at least and you are tired. Grab a taxi to SuperMaxi where
you finish your day with 45 minutes in the Supermarket followed by dinner at the
food court. You head home to Vilcabamba either around 6 or 7 pm. Arriving home at
8pm all going well.
This is an average day for us in Loja. For most of our friends who go to Loja each
week they have a similar day. They have a day packed full of things that they need
to do, a day where they barely sit down. Be prepared, it's full on in Loja. I enjoy
it. I'm getting organized and my days there are getting more efficient. I know my
way around nearly like the back of my hand, which helps. I have spent hours exploring
the streets locating shops of interest that I may need in the future. The only thing
that still catches me out is that a lot of places are closed from 12.30 to 3 so
you are going for it getting things done on your list and wham down come the shutters
and you have to wait.
We like to finish our day at SuperMaxi. That way, you are not lugging a load of
groceries around with you all day while in Loja. Then you get a yellow cab with
all your bags back to Vilcabamba from SuperMaxi (cost is $15) to your door. Often
we share a cab and the cost.
If we haven't got a lot to take back and it's before 5pm (refer to the section on
Bus Service) then we walk to the bus stop/or go to the terminal and get the bus
Occasionally you will bump into a fellow Vilcabamba resident and get a nice lift
I'm sure there are other ways to get back but for now that's all I've tried. By
the time I've finished my day in Loja the yellow taxi at SuperMaxi is about as far
as I want to go looking for my transport home.
Be warned that they have parking wardens in Loja and they clamp wheels if you haven't
paid your parking or are overdue on your time on your parking ticket. For those
that don't know what a wheel clamp is it is a BIG yellow hunk of metal that is designed
to go around a cars wheel and stop you from driving away. You have to pay the fine
to have it removed. It is still better than your car being towed away as they do
in New Zealand.
When you park on the road you can buy your parking ticket from most tiendas or news
stands. I haven't parked in Loja yet so have no idea on cost etc.
There seem to be a lot of police patrolling cars driving on the roads in Loja so
wear your seat belt in Loja. If you are on a motorbike, wear your helmet in Loja
(I have seen some people wearing their helmet not on the head but on the arm, I
guess that there is a loophole in the law that forgot to explicitly state that the
helmet must be worn on the head) (*). Most motorbikes are parked around the
Parque Central. They don't seem to pay for parking here. I have no idea if they
are supposed to.
There are public car parks around Loja too that you can pay to park in.
If anyone has more information on parking in Loja please email me so I can add it
to the guide. Does anyone know what to do if you get clamped?
When you go into shops like Romar, SuperMaxi, TodoHojar, Tia (large shops) you will
have to leave all your bags at the bag counter. The only bag you can take
in is small hand bag. You must get a number from the bag person which you
give back to them to get your bags back. The number should be the same as the number
of the cubby hole your bags are in. DO check that your bags are put into a cubby
hole. Last week my friends' bag was left on the bag counter at Romar and anyone
could have grabbed it and taken off with it.
So far I have had no problems with this 'service'. I've had all my bags back and
nothing missing. However, I do advise you not leave valuables in your bags. Take
your money, camera, cell phone, wallet etc with you into the shop. Carry a small
hand bag with you or a pouch if you are a guy and do not want to carry a handbag.
The rest of this section covers our favorite places in Loja and the places that
we frequent often to meet day to day living needs.
Mimos is an ice cream and cafe shop. They serve a great selection of ice creams
and make a very good espresso coffee. They also do meals and deserts. We go here
every trip into Loja for a coffee and ice cream. The service is very good and the
premises are clean and modern. It's our daughter's favorite place in Loja. See our
Food section for details.
Ambar is a bead shop. They have a good selection of beads and accessories
needed to make your own jewelry.
Ambar is located on Miguel Riofrio entre 18 de Novembre and Universitaria
We have bought shoes at this shop in Loja for my husband. So far the shoes have
worn very well. They are located on the main road side of the Central Commercial
shopping center in Loja. I found their service and price to be good.
Located on Avenue Universitaria and Rocafuerte (Tel 2 579 154)
This is a low budget plastic/home-ware shop and small supermarket. They are pretty
cheap for plastic stuff when compared to SuperMaxi to TodoHajar. I've bought some
plasticware from here, a cutlery set and some glasses. Not the best stuff but they
do the job. Romar is located on 18 de Noviembre. Any taxi driver will know exactly
where it is.
Pots and pans, plasticware and all kind of things for the kitchen can also be purchased
at the smaller but friendly Ernesto Ludena shop on 10 de Agosto
And they do have the latest computerized equipment to manage their stocks and their
client accounts :-)
SuperMaxi is a 'western' styled supermarket just outside of the Loja Central. It
is laid out the same as a 'western' supermarket and carries the full range that
you'd expect. I have found that items sold here can be more expensive than other
shops. So it's not the cheapest place to shop. It is a kind of ' shopping mall'
where there are a number of clothing shops, electrical and a large pharmacy, as
well as a food court (see our food section for more on the food court) and toy shop.
The pharmacy stocks the homeopathic range called Heel. www.heel.com/Heel_com_Partners_Ecuador.homotox
. You won't find it on the shelves you have to ask for it. In the following paragraph
I explain through example how you buy goods in this pharmacy. I personally found
this process very strange, inefficient on both my time and the staff time.
Okay, you go in to the shop (after leaving any bags with the bag person at the front
door). You wonder around. You may find what you won't on one of the shelves in which
case just pick up the item as you would do any other shop. If you don't find the
item you want then you need to go to the long counter at the back of the shop and
wait and wait and wait. The first time I went into this shop I gave up waiting to
be served and left. The second time I had to wait as my family was sick and I wanted
a Heel product.
You get served at which point you can ask for what you want and they will look it
up on the computer. If they have it you will receive a white docket with the item
name and price. Take this docket and the off the shelf item you have to the check
out and pay. Then go to the dispensing counter which is situated directly behind
the check outs with your receipt of payment and your product will be there waiting
They generally do not have a lot of staff on so be prepared to wait at all three
The toy shop is probably the best in Loja. Their stock is well
presented. They have a pretty good variety of toys and are a little pricy.
There is a hairdresser which my friend and husband use and they
do good job and not too expensive.
TodoHojar is a homeware shop. They sell towels, kitchen stuff,
TV's, all sorts for the house. They have the best quality for these kinds of products
in Loja. They aren't cheap though. You will need your passport or Ecuadorian censo
card to buy anything in this shop. I've bought a few things for the kitchen and
some towels and tea towels from here and so far nothing has broken and the dyes
in the towels haven't run. The towels and tea towels are of reasonably good quality
(but not cheap). Electrical stuff can be found cheaper in other shops in Loja. I've
compared prices and TodoHojar is expensive for electrical.
The other shops that make up the SuperMaxi complex well presented, modern but again,
Address: Jump in a yellow cab in Loja and ask to go to SuperMaxi.
From Parque Central Loja to SuperMaxi is $1 one way.
The following describe the day my daughter (5) and I had exploring these two parks.
I had given us 3.50 hours to explore these two parks. We took the bus from Vilcabamba to the terminal in Loja...
There are so many shops in Loja that even attempting to list 5 % of them is out
of my reach. What I can do is share our experience, make a few suggestions and keep
adding as the site evolves and I receive feedback.
A way to make the task manageable is to focus on specialty shops and/or shops that
expats in particular would have a special interest in. There is no need listing
all the places where one can buy an iPod copy made in China, a cellular phone, a
Teflon coated frying pan or where one can get a cheap sugar fix. By the way, if
one needs a sugar fix without the side effects, just going upstairs in the market
building on 18 de Noviembre and looking at the shelves should be enough, no need
to buy anything. On the other hand, a little help with where to buy computer equipment
in confidence, where to find a top quality diner set or where to buy pitahayas or
chocolate coated macadamia nuts is probably welcome.
In a nutshell, as far as shopping goes, we go to Loja to do/get things that we cannot
do/get here in Vilcabamba (or are in limited supply) or to buy things that are much
cheaper in Loja.
In the first category we have banking, postage, lawyer/notary (Marco comes to V
once a week but his main office is in Loja and there is no notary in V at present,
see Services section), natural health products, computer equipment, cars and motorcycles,
professional services (engineers, land surveyers, geologists) ... and much more
In the second category, we have tools, building supplies, food (there are big markets
for meat and fish and veges in Loja), homeware/plasticware and probably just
about everything else.
Most things are cheaper in Loja but some things are now worth the trip and will
be just as good at the local dairy in Vilcabamba (e.g. toilet paper, common fruit
like papayas or pineapple). Tools will be a lot cheaper in Loja (we bought a quality
wheelbarrow for $40 in Loja and the same was $70 here). Some food items could actually
be cheaper in Vilcabamba (at the time of this writing, Richard on the square sells
the cartons of Clos wine for only $4 which is cheaper than at SuperMaxi in Loja).
Below are a few places worthwhile going to:
Diego's shop located on 18 de Noviembre y Mercadillo has an unbeatable selection
of fruits and nuts.
He is also the only place (with SuperMaxi but they are not as good) which sells
Pitahayas (dragon fruit) which, in my opinion, is a fruit imported directly from
the garden of Eden.
Diego's plantation in Vilcabamba
We love the pitahayas so much that we have planted 100 on our property in San Pedro.
Below is our Uchima team of workers preparing the plants for the next day and
Emily proudly holding one.
We thought that to buy quality ceramics we had to go to Cuenca and we were wrong!
On the campus of the "Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja" is a rather large
ceramic design and manufacturing facility which we visited under the guidance of
our Loja resident friend Dario. The place is truly impressive and the designs are
You can buy the ceramics directly from the factory. Prices are reasonable, for example,
we paid $35 for one of the water dispensers shows above.
You can also buy the products in town at Dario and Maria-Cecilia's shop on 8-73
calle Sucre. The shop is called Novedades. They only have a small selection of the
ceramics but they have other things as well and they are very friendly
Maria-Cecilia in front of Novedades
Loja is full of places to buy computer equipment from. Unfortunately, unless you
know exactly what you need, exactly how much you are supposed to pay for it and
can tell the difference between an item of brand XXX and a copy of an item of brand
XXX, you are looking for trouble.
At Master PC, my husband Pierre has spent some time befriending the boss Edison
Macas (gerente general) who is not normally downstairs serving customers but can
be called for help. He does not speak English but he will advise you of what is
what and won't try to rip you off. Pierre has purchased a product that he ended
up not liking and he was able to return it. He did not get his money back though.
Instead he got a credit note. Since the shop is good and it has got everything,
he was not too worried. We'll use the money for later purchases.
Below you see Edison performing surgery on a new memory card plastic package, you
know one of this packages that can hardly be opened without destroying the product
that is inside.
I would recommend that you just ask for Edison ("puedo hablar con Edison por favor?")
to come and help you and say that you have found this info on SeekVilcabamba.com
(mention Pierre's name) and he will know where you come from. If you buy a certain
amount ($50 or more) he has agreed to give a 10% discount (BTW, there is nothing
in it for us apart from the fact that we get the discount too)