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Madre Tierra Resort and Spa - Vilcabamba Ecuador - Hotels, Vacation Rentals, Hosterias

Nominated for five consecutive years as

Best Hotel and SPA in Ecuador

by World Travel Awards, London

1.    About  Madre  Tierra  

Madre  Tierra  (meaning  “Mother  Earth”)  – one of the first tourist hotels in Vilcabamba – opened to new management in 2010. But we’re more than a hotel: we’re a family, we’re the warmest welcome one could wish for, and we’re a spa and integrated health resource dedicated to helping you relax and heal.

 

We operate year round,  and  are  committed  to  the  values  of  peace,  community,  art,  health,  and sustainability.    (Approximately 90%  of  our  income  goes  to  supporting  our  local  Ecuadorian  staff and  other  operating  and  overhead  costs.)  

 

Over  the past few years,  this  inspiring,  artistic  and  tranquil  setting  has attracted  thousands  of guests  from  every  corner  of the globe.    Many  of these turn  out to be  kindred  spirits  ranging from students  and  teachers  of  the  arts,  new  science,  deep  ecological and  environmental  activism  to ones  who seek  to lead  a  more  peaceful  and  sustainable  lifestyle  free  from  the  pressures  of life in  North  America,  Europe or  Australia.    Our  website www.madretierra.com.ec gives further details and  updates about all of our  ongoing  services  and  activities.  

 

2.    How  do  I  get  there?  

Your  international  flight  should  arrive  in  either  Quito  or  Guayaquil. There  are  

several daily nonstop  flights  from  cities  in  the  U.S.,  South  America  and  Europe.    You’d  then connect  on  a  domestic  flight  to  our  closest  city  Loja (LOH),  sometimes overnighting in Quito or Guayaquil. Prices for hotels and taxis are reasonable. The flights from Quito are on comfortable jets operated by Tame airlines. Reservations can be made on www.tame.com.ec.

 

On  weekdays,  Tame  has two  flights  from  Quito or Guayaquil  to  Loja: one in the early morning and the other around 4:00pm. Holidays and weekends have a variable schedule.

on  weekends.  

   

When  you’ve purchased  your  domestic  air  tickets,  write  us  again  and  we’ll  send  out  a  taxi  to pick  you  up  at  Loja  baggage  claim  for  the  ninety-­‐minute $40 scenic  ride  to  here  through  the Andean  foothills.    The  driver  will  be  holding  a  Madre  Tierra  sign,  probably  with  your  name  on it.    We  recommend  you  use  these  prearranged  Vilcabamba taxis because they  are  larger,  safe and economical, and they know our location.

 

Cuenca  has  many  flights  daily  from  Quito  and  Guayaquil,  and  is  a  four-­‐hour  ride  

from  Vilcabamba  on  an  excellent  new  highway  over  the  Andean  foothills.    There’s  a

$12,  3-­‐hour  van  service  three  times  daily  from  Cuenca  to  Loja.    Cuenca  itself  is  a

beautiful  old  colonial  city,  well  worth  visiting.  

 

3.    Is  it  better  to  fly  to  Quito  or  Guayaquil?  

It’s  your  choice.    All  other  things  being  about  equal,  we  prefer  Quito:  the  road  and  

flight  connections  are  better,  and  it’s  generally  safer  downtown.    Quito  has  an  interesting  historic  area  and  is  nestled  in  a  scenic  green  Andean  valley.    The  altitude  is  9200  ft.    (2,800 meters),  so  we  suggest  taking  it  easy  if  you’re  sensitive  to  altitude  (see  travel  tips  at  #6 below).    It’s  a  bit  cooler  in  Quito  than  here,  with  no  indoor  heating  –  so  we  recommend  you bring  a  sweater,  jacket  and  long  pants,  which  will be  useful  here  as  well.  

 

4.    Do  I  need  any  vaccinations  or  special  visas  to  enter  Ecuador?  

No,  a  passport  is  all  you’ll  need.    Entering  Ecuador  is  easy,  and  immigration  and  

customs are typically a rapid welcome. They will issue a 90-­‐day visitor visa and stamp

your  passport. Since we are not in the jungle, and mosquitoes are practically unknown in this pleasant temperate climate, vaccinations are not recommended for Quito,  Guayaquil  or  Vilcabamba.    

 

5.    What  should I pack to bring with me?

Dress is casual  for  almost  everyone  in  Vilcabamba.    We  recommend  you  bring lightweight, long pants  and  walking  shoes  for  during  the  day;  a  sweater,  jacket,  flashlight  and  warmer pants for evenings. You will need the usual toiletries,  health  products, and any snacks you may wish to enjoy after  our  restaurant  is  closed.      

Life  is  simple  here,  so it is not  necessary  to  bring an exhaustive wardrobe.    We provide laundry service  at  the  hotel.  

 

Here’s  a  suggested  packing  list:

Light  sweater,  jacket  or  sweatshirt  for  cooler  evenings/mornings  

Shoes  suitable  for  walking/hiking  

Swimsuit  

Insect  repellent. We have natural locally made repellent here for purchase. 

Flashlights  &  cameras.    Flashlights  for  walking  at  night  are  a  great  idea. (The sun  sets  every evening  at  around  7pm)

Battery  rechargers  

Umbrella  or  rain  poncho  

Binoculars  (you  can  consider  these  mandatory  if  you’re  excited  about  bird  

watching  and  spotting  wildlife)  

A refillable  water  bottle  with  some  type  of  carbon  filtration  is  ideal.    However,  

inexpensive  bottled  water  is  readily  available.  

 

Money:  you’ll  need  cash  for  souvenir  shopping  and  any  spa  therapies  you  might  wish  to  have.  Ecuador's  official  currency  is  the  US  dollar.    ATMs  are  available  in  the  cities,  and  there  are four in  Vilcabamba  itself  (though  these  sometimes  run  out  of  cash).    Bring  bills  of  $20  and  under for use throughout Ecuador as  $50  and  $100  bills  are  sometimes  not  accepted,  or  the  vendor will  not  have  change. Large bills are accepted at Madre Tierra.  (If  you  bring  with  you  a  bunch  of $5s  we’ll  gladly  buy  these  from  you  at  the  hotel  front  desk)  

 

Most  importantly  don't  forget  to  bring  these....    a  Positive  Attitude,  Flexibility  

and  Good  Energy!  

 

PRE-­‐DEPARTURE  CHECKLIST  

 

Prior  to  departing  on  your  adventure,  it’s  essential  that  you  have  the  

following:  

Currently  valid  passport(s)  

Proof  of  Medical  Insurance  (if  you  have  it)  

Airline  tickets,  e-­‐tickets  or  confirmation  numbers  

Emergency  cash  (separate  from  any  obvious  place  such  as  your  wallet)  

 

5.   Credit  cards/Debit  cards.  

Be  sure  to  make  backup  documents  or  copies  for  each  person  of:  

Passport  

Driver’s  license  

Credit  cards  +  customer  service  numbers  in  case  you  need  to  report  them  

lost  or  stolen  

Debit  card  pin  numbers  

Your  travel  itinerary  to  leave  with  someone  at  home  and/or  the  hotel  All your  travel  documents to  leave  with  someone  at  home  in  case  of  emergency  

Emergency  contact  phone  numbers  to  leave  with  someone  at  home.  

A good  strategy  for  backup  copies  is  to  scan  and  email  them  to  yourself  so  you  can have access  to  them  from  any  internet  connection  (very  available  and  inexpensive  in  Ecuador  in hotels  or  internet  cafes).  

 

6.    Do  you  have  any  other  general  travel  tips?  

We’d  recommend  that  you  regularly  back  up  digital  photos  or  videos  you  may  be  

taking.    There  are  easy-­‐to-­‐use  free  services  such  as    DropBox.com  available  online  –  and  if you  were  to  lose  your  camera,  at  least  you’d  still  have  most  of  your  memories.    We  can recommend  Carbonite.com  for  computer  backup  if  you  carry  a  laptop:  for  less  than  $60  per year  you  can  have  peace  of  mind  at  home  and  on  the road.      

 

Drink  lots  of  water  when  you  travel  in  Ecuador,  as  altitude  sickness  is  occasionally

experienced  –  especially  in  Quito,  which  is  almost  2,800  meters  (9,200  feet)  above  sea  level.   If  you’re  arriving  in  Quito  from  much  nearer  sea  level,  it  may  be  a  good  idea  to  abstain  from alcohol!  (It’s  dehydrating,  and  good  hydration  is  helpful  in  avoiding  altitude  headaches.)  

 

Negotiate  and  agree on  taxi  rates  before  you  get  in  the  car.    You  might  ask a  local  how much

it  should  cost  to  a  certain  destination  before  hailing  a  taxi.

At the Quito or Guayaquil  Airport all the taxis outside the baggage claim area should be “trusted” as they are required to have a permit to operate there.  If  you  choose  to  tip  the  driver,  that’s  up  to  you. In  many  hostels  and  hotels  in  Ecuador  it’s  necessary  to  ask  for  hot  water  in  advance. Unlike Madre  Tierra,  it’s  not  necessarily  automatic  everywhere.  Sewage  systems  in  Latin  America  are not  as  tolerant  to  extra  content  as  in  the  West.   Most  bathrooms  have  a  waste  basket  for  toilet paper  disposal.  Using  the  basket  will identify you  as  a  savvy  traveler!  

 

Believe  it  or  not,  99%  of  the  salt  in  restaurants  and  stores  in  Ecuador  contains  

fluoride.    If  you  plan  to  eat  in  restaurants  other  than  Madre  Tierra,  it’s  wise  to  bring  your  own salt.    If  you  are  ordering  anything  that  the  cook  would  salt,  ask  them  to  prepare  it  without  if you’re  concerned  about  fluoride.    (Editorial  note:  If  you  haven’t  read  a  fluoride  toothpaste  label lately,  check  it  out.    Why  are  governments  and  “health”  organizations  around  the  world determined  to  put  this  in  our  water  and  salt  for  ingestion?)    

 

7.    How  safe  is  it  to  travel  in  Ecuador?  

Travel in  Latin  America  is  an  exciting  and  sometimes  challenging  experience.    While  we  step out  of  our  own  countries  and  travel  through  new  ones,  we  experience  new  cultural  encounters and  meet  many  people  from  all  walks  of  life.    While  common  sense  is  the  surest  approach  to dealing  with  daily  situations,  we  offer  the  following  guidelines  to  think  about  while  traveling:  

 

*  THEFT  OF  BAGS  OR  LUGGAGE  

Don’t  leave  your  bags  alone  in  airports  or  bus  stations.    Bags  are  generally  safe  underneath the  buses:  the  driver  will  have  a  way  to  lock  all  the  luggage  bays  from  inside  the  bus.    Keep your  valuables  in  your  daypack  or  in  a  money  belt  on  your  person  (credit  cards,  bank  card, money  and  passport).    This  daypack  should  stay  on  your  lap  when  using  public  buses.    Be very  careful  indeed  if  you  are  considering  using  a  night  bus  (e.g.    from  Quito  to  Loja).    A number  of  thefts  have  been  reported  from  passengers  who  have  fallen  asleep.  

 

ATM  (CASH  MACHINE)  PRECAUTIONS  

As  in  any  city,  insure  that  nobody  is  watching  you  while  you  take  money  out  of  the  

cash  machine,  or  looking  at  you  while  you  enter  your  pin  number.  

 

PEACE  OF  MIND  

For  the  most  part,  Vilcabamba  is  a  very  safe  community  and  exists  in  a  bit  of  a  “bubble”  – especially  while  staying  at  Madre  Tierra.    However,  while  most  Ecuadorians  are  polite, respectable,  honest,  respectful  and  appreciative  of  visitors  (foreigners  or  ‘gringos’),  we  offer  this advice:  

It’s  a  good  idea  not  to  bring  anything  of  great  value  with  you.    Dress  modestly,  and  don’t  flash fancy  jewelry,  wads  of  cash,  or  expensive  electronics.    This  may  well  invite  a  situation  that could  easily  have  been  avoided.  

 

You’re  guests  in  a  foreign  country.    Even  though  Ecuador  uses  the  US  Dollar  as  their  currency, this  is  not  the 51st State (for  those  from  the  USA). Efficiency  and  organization  are  sometimes optional  here!  Humility  is  a  great  quality  that  will  serve  you  well  as  you  set  aside  preconceived expectations  of  a  new  culture.    The  pace  here  is  substantially  slower  than  in  the  west  –  so relax,  savor  the  new  experiences,  and  enjoy the pace.    As  the  locals  say,  “tranquilo”!  

 

MISCELLANEOUS  ADVICE:  It’s  good  to  have  a  card  that  has  the  Madre  Tierra  hotel  address and  telephone  number  on  it  with  you  at  all  times.  

Upon  request,  we  can  email  a  list  of  Spanish  phrases  that  may  be  helpful  in  travel  situations.  We  also  have  luggage  tags  that  could  be  printed  and  attached  to  your  baggage.    All  you  need to  do  is  type  in  your  personal  information  to  make  it  a  customized  tag.  

 

We’d  recommend  traveling  with  homeopathic  remedies,  and  a  high  potency  

Probiotic  such  as  Dr.    Ohhira's  Probiotics  12Plus.  It’s  not  uncommon  for  your  intestinal  flora  to need  an  “adjustment”  when  traveling  in  another  country  or  continent.    Although  you  can  expect western  standards  at  Madre  Tierra,  you  will  

also  be  traveling  or  maybe  staying  elsewhere  while  on  your  trip  here.  

 

If  someone  doesn’t  speak  your  language,  it  doesn’t  help  to  raise  your  voice!  This  

does  not  help  the  other  person  to  understand  the  words  you  are  saying.  

The  banks  in  Ecuador  charge  exorbitant fees  to  merchants  who  take  credit  cards  

(6%  or  more).    As  a  result  of  this,  most  vendors  don’t  accept  cards.    If  they  do,  they  may  well charge  more  for  credit  card  transactions.    Cash  is  king.    And  as  a  reminder,  the  prices  quoted for  your  Madre  Tierra  room  are  cash  prices.  

 

For  the  reason  above,  many  of  our  guests  prepay  for  meals,  spa  services,  tours,  

airport  transfers,  etc.    by  making  a  deposit  along  with  the  room  payment.    Please  let  us  know if  you’d  like  to  take  advantage  of  this  option.    It  can  be  easily  done  in  exactly  the  same  way you’re  paying  for  your  room.  

 

If  you  have  a  jigsaw  puzzle,  spare  board  game,  chess  set  and/or  good  novel  or  

resource  book  that  you’d  like  to  contribute  to  our  library,  we  will  gladly  receive  it.    Occasionally guests  enjoy  some  down  time,  or  fellowship  around  a  puzzle  or  game.    There  are  also  times when  the  balcony  and  hammock  require  a  good  book  from  our  little  library.      

 

9.    How  far  is  Madre  Tierra  from  Vilcabamba?  

We’re  a  15  minute  walk  into  town  along  the  main  road  –  or  a  quick  $1.25  taxi  ride  (the  last taxis  run  at  about  9  pm,  or  a  little  later for  weekends).    Vilcabamba  has  quite  a  number  of restaurants,  small  food  stores,  shops  containing  a  surprising  number  of  different  items,  and internet  cafés.    We’re  always  willing  to  call  a  cab  for  you  to  take  you  wherever  you  need  to  go from  here,  including  your  return  ride  to  the  airport.  

 

10.    What  can  I  do  in  and  around  Vilcabamba?  

There  are  many  things  to  do  here.    It’s  a  mecca  for  getting  into  nature.    While  you  get  to experience  all  this  right  here  at  Madre  Tierra,  there  are  numerous  trails  going  through  the  river valleys  and  up  the  nearby  peaks,  either  on  foot  or  by  horseback.    Those  arrangements  can  be made  after  you  get  here  along  with  any  other  plans  for  touring,  your  return  taxi  to  the  airport, etc.      

 

There’s  also  an  active  growing  expat  community  in  Vilcabamba  with  lots  of  activities  and spontaneous  friendly  gatherings  at  the  cafés  and  parks.      

One  can  also  take  excursions  to  the  high  jungle  near  Zamora  –  about  two  and  a  half  hours’ drive  away  from  us  with  good  overnight  accommodations.  

 

Cuenca  is  a  beautiful  historic  city,  with  a  number  of  modern  shops,  restaurants,  

movie  theaters  and  malls,  4-­‐5  hours  drive  on  an  excellent  highway  going  to  the  north  of  here. Some  of  our  guests  go  there  for  a  few  days  either  before  or  after  they  visit  Madre  Tierra.   There’s  frequent  air  service  between  Cuenca  and  Quito  or  Guayaquil.  

 

11.    How  about  real  estate?  

For  a  number  of  reasons,  we  are  not  giving  recommendations  other  than  to  say  “let  the  buyer beware.”  We’d  advise  NOT  rushing  to  buy,  but  renting  first  while  searching  carefully.    Madre Tierra  is  a  great  initial  landing  place  for  those  seeking  residency,  seasonal  stays,  and educational  vision  quests  as  well  as  a  relaxing  retreat  to  get  away  from  it  all.    As  such,  we’re quite  independent  from  any  commercial  interests  although  we  could  talk  about  it  after  you  get here.      

 

12.    How  is  the  weather  in  Vilcabamba?  

At  about  a  5,000  feet  (1,700  meter)  elevation,  we  enjoy  an  ideal  year-­‐round  climate:  about  75 to 84˚F  (24 to 29˚C)  by  day  and  60˚F  (15˚C)  by  night.    The  drier  season  is  July  to  November, and  the  wetter  season  is  February  through  April  –  but  this  does  vary  from  year  to  year.    We enjoy  the ”rainy”  season  because  everything  is  so  green,  fresh  and  spring-like.    Almost  every day  has  some  sunshine  with  rain  only  in  the  afternoons  and/or  nighttime,  and  picturesque misty  mountains  in  the  mornings,  a  haze  that  lifts  to  make  way  for  later  sunshine.      

There are many  microclimates  in  the  region.   To  our  East  is  the  continental  divide  of

the  Andes  with  cloud  forests,  descending  further  East  into  one  of  the  most  bio diverse rainforests  of  the  Amazon  basin.    To  our  West  is  the  sacred  mountain  Mandango,  beyond which  there  are  deserts  and  more  mountains  and  valleys.    

Sunsets  can  be  a  photographer’s  paradise,  especially  when  rainbows  appear  over  Podocarpus National  Park  toward  the  rainy  East.    We  feel  very  blessed  to  be  at  such  a  special  spot  on Earth,  always  comfortable  and  with  no  special  requirements  to  “brave  the  elements”  or  to prove anything  besides  to  enjoy  the  unique  ambiance  of  Madre  Tierra.  

 

13.    What  about  mosquitoes  and  other  insects?  

We  are  blessed  by  being  almost  completely  mosquito-­‐free.    There’s  a  surprising  

(and  welcome)  lack  of  unpleasant  insects although they exist here.  

 

14.    What  kinds  of  conferences  and  workshops  are  held  at  Madre  Tierra?  

Madre Tierra  has  a  well-­‐equipped  and  large  conference  hall,  holding  over  100  

people:  a  locally  much  appreciated  venue  for  events  ranging  from  seminars  on  contemporary subjects  to  choral  music,  art,  dance,  and  theater  –  some  events  being  valuable  experiments  in designing  a  sustainable  future,  expressing  the  arts,  or  

presenting alternative  and  creative  ways of eating,  growing,  and healing.  

In  all,  we  expect  to  have  more  and  more  guests  coming  here  for  transformational  

education  far,  far  away  from  the  crazy  world  up  North.      

Keep  checking  www.madretierra.com.ec  for  announcements  of  future  conferences,  

workshops,  seminars,  and  events  celebrating  the  arts.    Part  of  the  vision  of  Madre  Tierra  is  to support  the  co-­‐creation  a  peaceful,  sustainable  and  just  new  world  through  innovation  and compassion  for  all  of  nature  and  humanity.  

 

15.    What  is  your  carbon  footprint  here?  

We  have  one  of  the  lowest  carbon  footprints on  the  planet: (although the plants appreciate any CO2 that you bring)  no  need  to  heat  or  cool.

 

16.    How  do  I  keep  connected  with  the other world?  

Madre Tierra  can  provide  you  with  good  wireless  internet,  and  the  cellphone  

coverage throughout  the  area  is  excellent.    You can  enjoy  being  thousands  of  miles  

from  home and  still  keep  in  close  touch  with  friends,  family  or  business  colleagues.  

 

17.    How  well  can  you  cater  for  guests  who  like  to  live  and  eat  healthily?  

Excellently  –  and  with  great  pride  and  pleasure.    The  Madre  Tierra  restaurant  has  

become  famous  in  Vilcabamba  for  its  creative  cooking,  specialty  meals,  and  high  quality  salads  and  other  raw  food.    To  supplement  the  restaurant  menu,  we  have  our  own  juice  bar which  provides  deeply  nourishing,  whole-­‐fruit,  sugar-­‐free  smoothies  that  are  the  equal  of those  found  anywhere.    Combine  our  wide-­‐ranging  restaurant  fare  with  the  deeply  relaxing massages  and  other  therapies  available  at  the  spa,  and  you  will  find  yourself  pampered, contented  –  and  more  than  ready  to  return  for  

more.  

 

Madre  Tierra Resort & Spa  

Vilcabamba  (meaning  "Sacred  Valley")  is  

known  for  its  equable  climate,  its  tranquil  lifestyle,  and  its  steadily  growing  international  community  of  visionary  artists,  writers,  

healers and  entrepreneurs  who  have  chosen  to  

lead changed  lives  here.  

Many  new  arrivals  come  to  Madre  Tierra  first.  

Join  them  here.    Let  us  take  care  of  you.  

 

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