Author: Natalie Siereveld
Are you craving for adventure and looking for experiences different than those offered by traditional tourism? Then consider choosing for community based tourism which offers you exotic and authentic experiences that favor personal growth.
Community based tourism developed in the 1980’s, a period in which the international debate emerged regarding the preservation of natural resources and indigenous cultures. Subsequently, in the beginning of the 21st century, a gradual change took place in the preferences amongst generally European and North-American tourists. With the arrival of globalisation and expansion of internet, new tourist destinations where discovered around the world. A movement was observed in which the customs of local inhabitants were valued more by tourists, same as the historical value and culture in particular. Currently, this form of travelling – based on the principles of sustainability (in most cases taking place in small communities) – is offered by small travel agencies operating on a local level. Besides staying with the locals, tourists can participate with different activities. Think of enjoying a cooking workshop or participating with a religious ceremony. Travelers can also sleep at the house of a local family and stay for supper to taste the local dishes of the region. By doing all these activities, foreigners get in touch with the natives and learn about their customs and traditions firsthand.
In South America, community based tourism has expanded continuously over the last decades. It is still fully developing. From the perspective of the traveler, his interest for the preservation of the planet has grown. Tourists wish to have enriching experiences and learn about the country they visit. Gábor Margés, director of Pure Latin America and MeetJune, recognizes many opportunities with regard to travelling through Peru. “The Peruvian culture is based on hospitality. Peruvian people are social human beings who enjoy sharing their food with their guests. They are also very proud of their culture, the Peruvian gastronomy and traditions. For these reasons, I believe that community based tourism would not only work in rural communities. In fact, it would perfectly function in popular Peruvian cities like Lima or Cusco. There are so many ways to exchange experiences and the demand is already there (who doesn’t like to meet with locals?). We only have to connect the demand with the offer”, Gábor explains.
Guido van Es, director at Responsible Travel Peru, identifies the profile of the adventurous traveler who chooses for local experiences. “This type of travelers do not distinguish themselves by geographic characteristics. They rather share a similar lifestyle and visit the same travel websites and forums. The majority are couples work, they have older children or their children already left the parental home. They are well educated and have a good income. These people are conscious of the value of nature and have a considerable interest in learning about other cultures.”
Recommended destinations in Peru – Stay with the locals top 5
1. Explore the coffee Route in Cusco
A multithemed route which lasts for 3 three days. The trip starts in the jungle where you learn everything about the production of coffee. Discover the sacred Inca trails and pass by incredible ruins until you reach the houses of local coffee farmers and their families. They welcome you into their homes with a delicious homemade meal prepared with typical products of the region. Finally, you’ll reach Aguas Calientes where you enjoy the splendid views over Machu Picchu.
2. Memorable activities in Colca Cañon
Experience an authentic stay with local families in the magnificent Colca Valley (Arequipa). You’ll enjoy various activities in the region: walks through vegetable gardens, artisanal fishing, gathering firewood and learn how to weave garments. In addition, you get to explore the most scenic villages of the valley.
3. Breathtaking nature in the jungle of Tambopata
Tambopata is a national reserve in southeastern Peru, near Puerto Maldonado. Local families welcome you to teach you about their culture and habitat. The locals from Tampobata (Madre de Dios) are very passionate about the preservation of nature and they watch over their own private areas which are protected. Tip: Stay in one of the eco-lodges close to Puerto Maldonado. Sign up for a yoga session in the middle of nature. There’s also the opportunity to learn about the traditional use of medicinal plants and observe the most exotic flowers of the Amazon.
4. Vicos’ glorious mountains
Vicos is located in Peru’s Ancash region, the mountainous department north of Lima. This region houses the largest tropical glacier chain in the world. In Vicos you can help preparing food and participate with the Pachamanca Feast (traditional way of cooking food). Experience the typical customs of local families while staying in a beautiful mountainous surrounding. Your visit includes a visit to the thermal baths in Chanchos.
5. Eco-tourism in Tingana jungle
Located in the high jungle of Peru (north-east) in San Martin, Tingana is the perfect place to experience eco-tourism. This region has a protected area for flora and fauna. What to do? Memorable canoe trips, visits to ecological farms and learning about medicinal plants.
*This article appeared in Livin Magazine (edition 9, June 2015, a magazine about lifestyle and health). Published in Trujillo, Peru. Translated from Spanish