Experiential Tourism in Peru
Experiential tourism, where travelers go beyond mere sightseeing and engage with local communities in a meaningful way, is a fast-growing global movement with many forms in Peru. The best experiential tourism operators have built long-term relationships that benefit communities in concrete ways, such as improving quality of local schools or health clinics.
Here are some great opportunities for homestays, volunteering, and cultural immersion in Peru, broken down by region.
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Peru’s most reputable trekking agencies have forged long-term bonds with Andean communities and offer cultural treks and other well-designed, off-the-beaten-path experiences. These agencies include Peruvian Andean Treks (www.andeantreks.com), ExplorAndes (www.explorandes.com), and Tambo Treks (www.tambotreks.net). In Ollantaytambo, an NGO we recommend is Awamaki, which helps weavers in the highlands community of Patacancha recover ancient weaving techniques and bring their weavings to overseas markets. Awamaki sets up a range of volunteer placements and homestays in both Ollantaytambo and Patacancha.
There are many experiential travel opportunities in Puerto Maldonado and Manu, where most agencies and lodges have built relationships with local communities. In Puerto Maldonado, Rainforest Expeditions operates the gorgeous Posada Amazonas lodge in conjunction with the mestizo Ese Eja community of Infierno. The award-winning lodge is designed to offer guests an intimate experience with Ese Eja culture. In Manu, Pantiacolla Tours operates the Yine Project, a lodge built and operated with the Yine Indians in the community of Diamante. Guests spend time with villagers, participate in traditional art workshops, and learn how to canoe with the expert Yine boatsmen.
Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca
We highly recommend Respons Sustainable Tourism Center (www.respons.org), which can arrange homestays and work experiences in Vicos and other communities around Huaraz. This organization also offers treks on a remote and recently restored section of the Inca Trail, the Inka Naani, near the central highlands town of Huánuco. Another option in Huaraz is Andean Alliance (www.thelazydoginn.com), a nonprofit run by the Canadian owners of the Lazy Dog Inn. They can match your skills with local work projects and also set up homestays.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition