No doubt, the place to find the best people in South America is Vilcabamba, Ecuador. Located right at the equator, but at a mild 6,000 or so feet in elevation, the place is lazy and lush, and I mean lush: stick your thumb in the ground and watch your fingernails grow. The truth is, you’d be hard pressed to find a more chilled out spot on the continent, and it seems like just the right people know that, because everyone there is a contender for the coolest person that you’ve met traveling.
For starters, you couldn’t hope for better hosts because the locals are easy-breezy-as-you-pleasey, dancing and singing long into the night. Town also offers a smattering of kooky ex-pats from the States who’ve retired beyond the land of the newly-wed and nearly-dead in Florida to give you some colorful commentary about life on the equator. Even the tourists that go there aren’t your usual knuckleheads looking to contract STD’s in exotic locales (so be warned knuckleheads!) And the kicker: artisans from all over the continent pass through there on a regular basis to peddle their hand made jewelry while taking a bit of a vacation from big city selling themselves. These are the most copacetic people on planet Earth and they bring raw life into an already invigorated small town. In sum, Vilcabamba is a United Nations of cool characters, so be cool if you go there.