Rumi Wilco, Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Lots of places call themselves “ecolodges”, but many fail to live up to the label. Rumi Wilco is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind exception that delivers on that promise. Hiking and natural surroundings are right on the doorstep at this special, environmentally conscientious place.

Encompassing 40 hectares, Rumi Wilco is the smallest protected area in Ecuador, but is quite vast in biodiversity, featuring several different micro-habitats. The small reserve is unique in that it is right on the edge of a major tourist town (only a 15-minute walk from the center of Vilcabamba), is open to the public for hiking/nature trails and features private, affordable lodging within its boundaries.

Argentinean co-owners and founders, Orlando (naturalized Ecuadorian) and Alicia (a biologist) Falco, are former Galápagos naturalist guides who have been here since 1991.

They live on the property and were able to obtain protected, reserve status from the government in 2000, piecing together their property with adjacent ones owned by a few other people. The lodgings on the reserve are made from sustainable materials, including wood, adobe and tiles.

Responsible tourism is expected, and guests are asked to minimize their production of non-organic waste (i.e., plastic bottles, bags, etc.). To this end, safe drinking water is provided free of charge from a well that is tapped from the same water table as the bottled Vilcabamba water sold in town. By drinking it you can save money and the environment at the same time. During your time here, you can be as active or relaxed as you want in the incredibly lush setting. Hammocks are always close at hand, or you can venture out on the 11 hiking trails that range in difficulty from easy to moderate. Along the trails, there are interpretation signs, as well as some 400 plaques identifying plant species. For serious nature buffs, checklists are available that identify the various species found in the reserve, including birds (137) and butterflies (90). The trails are available to guests for free, but non-guests can use them too, for a fee of $2.

In addition to the fantastic environment, you can know your money is well spent, as one-third of the lodging costs go toward various management programs of the protected area, including reforestation with native species, riverbank repair, trail maintenance, scientific research and community services.
There are many types of accommodation available at Rumi Wilco, from shared rooms and private cabins to camping.When you enter the reserve, you immediately come to five adobe shared houses, one of which is a mini-apartment. The mini-apartment has a kitchen, sleeps 1-3 people and costs $19/2 persons or $27/3 persons. The other four adobe houses have either a double bed or 2-3 single beds and cost $8 per person. All of the adobe houses make use of shared bathrooms, kitchen and common outdoor areas. Special requests for sleeping arrangements (such as private rooms for couples) may be accommodated if available.

The pride and joy at Rumi Wilco is the Pole House, a private cabin set about 10-feet high up on stilts next to the Rio Chamba. It features a queen size bed and two bunk beds, sleeping 1-4 people, as well as a private fully equipped kitchen, bathroom and outdoor hot shower. Prices are: $32 for one or two people, $12 each for three people or $10 each for four people.The newest structures at Rumi Wilco are the 3 River Cabins, which have the same layout and features as the Pole House. They are set deeper into the reserve, back from the river and next to the camping area. Prices are $28 for one or two people, $33 for three or $36 for four people.

Monthly rates apply to all lodgings within Rumi Wilco.

If you have your own tent, the large camping area is available for $ 4 per person. It includes access to a shared kitchen, bathroom and a natural/warm shower. Shared rooms, cabins and camping include fire ring, hammocks, drinking water, access to trails, herb garden and fruit trees.

Rumi Wilco also invites scientists and students interested in tropical ecology to perform research activities (under pertinent norms) on the reserve. Special discounts may apply in these cases, so please make contact for proposals and information.

There is a gift shop, where hand- made souvenirs are sold, in addition to home-made organic coffee, granola and marmalade. These products are also presented to our guests.
How to get there...
Walking to Rumi Wilco from Vilcabamba is encouraged. It is only a 15-minute walk from the center of town (add ten minutes from the bus station with heavy packs). From Bolivar and Agua de Hierro streets, walk about 400 meters northeast along Agua de Hierro street before turning left at a road with a sign pointing toward Rumi Wilco. Follow the ensuing path until you reach a metal footbridge over the Rio Chamba. Cross it and keep following the trail for another 60 meters uphill until you see the entrance to Rumi Wilco, on your left. If you get confused or would like a map, check out their website or visit the Vilcabamba Tourist Information Office on the main square in town.

Local taxis can be hired next to the bus terminal or in the village´s central plaza.
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Report & Photos by: Rob Hodges & Kate Ellis
Contact Info...
Rumi Wilco
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