Community tourism in Latin America

Incorporating a visit to indigenous communities can provide an authentic travel experience whilst making a positive difference, says Jessica Pook

Peru

On the shores of Peru’s Lake Titicaca is Titilaka, a luxury lodge with social sustainability at its heart. A percentage of the property’s revenue is earmarked for social projects that benefit the local community. It places particular importance on youth empowerment and education, offering free English lessons and paid internships for local students. Profits also go towards supporting local Taquile families. Guests are encouraged to visit the local communities and artisans. andean-experience.com

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Ecuador

Masphi Lodge, a centre for conservation in the heart of the Ecuadorian cloud forest, has partnered with Rainforest Connection to introduce ten ‘Forest Guardians’ – solar-powered mobile recording systems – to monitor endangered species in the reserve and detect sounds of illegal deforestation and poaching. From spring 2022, guests will have the chance to join Mashpi’s team of local conservationists in the lab and head out on nature walks . metropolitan-touring.com

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Argentina

A new seven-night Estancia Los Potreros’ tour from The Ultimate Travel Company offers an insight into the traditional gaucho culture ingrained within Argentine history. Clients will learn the ways of a gaucho horseman, from cooking lessons to perfecting the lasso. They will ride under wide-open Argentine skies before retreating to a family owned and run working estancia (cattle ranch). theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk.

Guyana

The local Makushi community in Surama, a village in the North Rupununi area of Guyana, offers activities for guests that includes multi-day hikes and camping expeditions, river canoe trips, wildlife-watching, visits to community school centres and traditional celebrations. The Surama eco-lodge provides comfortable accommodation built by local craftsmen while the Makushi tribe also has two camps on the Burro Burro River, offering a base for expeditions. Roughly 60% of the community’s income is sustainably generated through tourism-related activities. suramaecolodge.com

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Costa Rica

Guests staying at Nayara Gardens in the Costa Rican rainforest can support the local community with an organised visit to browse the handmade arts and crafts of the Maleko indigenous population. Foodies can get a taste of the country’s locally-grown produce with a trip to a coffee plantation combined with visiting a family-run chocolate farm. There’s also an option to visit the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge to see crocodiles, toucans and iguana. nayaragardens.com

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Ecuadorian Amazon

Guests looking for a really unique experience can live amongst the indigenous Kichwa Anangu community deep in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Set within the Yasuni National Park, the Napo Cultural Centre is a community-run lodge built on a sustainable eco-tourism model with all profits reinvested in renewable energy, education and health care for the local community. There is also an interpretative centre, where visitors can spend time with the women of the community, learning about customs, rituals and traditions including dance and cooking. rainbowtours.co.uk 

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Mexico

Get to know the indigenous people who work and live in Puebla whilst enjoying some authentic Mexican cooking on this traditional Puebla Street food tour by Tours by Locals. Guided by Alejandra, a Puebla state local and accredited guide, groups will make their way through numerous local eats and family-run restaurants, sampling the food that put the city on the map – such as Taco Arabe, Cemita and Molote. Every mouthful comes with a history lesson and each group leaves with a secret recipe to make the best mole and chiles en nogada. toursbylocals.com

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Colombia

Colombian-based Wiwa tours invites travellers to explore The Lost City of Teyuna, the archaeological ruins of a sacred civilisation in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada region. The four-day trek is led by an indigenous guide. Guests learn about the flora and fauna and are offered insights into the native people’s roles as custodians of the earth, as well as learning local community practices such as energy cleansing. wiwatour.com

Costa Rica

The 14-day Ultimate Osa Peninsula trip from Pura Adventura invites visitors to join the conservationists, farmers, naturalists and native Ticos of Costa Rica, staying at the remote La Sirena Ranger station in the Corcavado National Park. The tour contributes to the Peninsula’s conservation efforts by joining a team at Matapalo, a vitally important breeding ground for sea turtles. pura-aventura.com

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Chile

Located on an organic farm in southern Chile’s Lake District – which is the heart of the Mapuche people’s indigenous homeland – andBeyond Vira Vira supports the nearby Quelhue Elementary School by providing essential supplies and hosting conservation classes for the children. Guests visit a traditional Ruka house for a home-cooked meal, followed by the opportunity to learn about the region’s unique methods of weaving on a wooden loom.  staybeyondgreen.com