How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru: The Best Destinations, Tours and Hotels for Making an Impact through Social Enterprise

Peru is abounding in travel potential. From the marvels of innovation that is Machu Picchu, to simple lake life on Titicaca, the country has cultural and natural beauty in abundance. With a growing tourism industry, you would think that the average Peruvian worker within tourism zones would benefit equally from this relationship. Yet this is far from the truth. Most tourism dollars are sucked away by international tour operators or hospitality hotel chains. And although they do provide employment to the local community beyond farming, the game is not fair. Through social enterprise, Peru’s locals will begin to benefit more equally from the growing tourism industry, making sustainable tourism a win for the local people and the traveler.

The great part about traveling with a social enterprise is that you will be connected directly to the community. You will not be shuffled through places like cattle as you peer into local life as it were a fish in a fishbowl. You will meet and assist the communities in a much more mutually rewarding way.

Let’s take a look at the best places in Peru for an authentic cultural experience and who you can partner with to make sure that your trip is both impactful on you and on the community that you are enjoying.

 

Lake Titicaca

Sitting high up at 12,000 feet (3,800 meters), Lake Titicaca has blue waters, floating islands and a distinctive local culture bred from one of South America’s oldest communities. It is not only the highest navigable lake in the world, it is also the birthplace of the Incas. Explore the Uros Islands made entirely of bundled totora reeds; hike along portions of the ancient Inca roadway; visit the local market of the Altiplano people; and explore Puno, the Peruvian Capital of Folklore.  From the Bolivian side, the Islands of the Sun and the Moon are filled with Incan remains of temples and palaces.

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

Where to Stay:

Eco Lodge La Estancia – the only one of its kind, this eco and social project was built near the Estancia community on the Island of the Sun in 1998. 15 cottages provide a great location for exploring with the local people. The lodge employs only locals from the island and works to enhance their involvement and inclusion into the tourism sector. They offer several outings around the island and the lake focusing on the community and the environment.

Qhantati Uros Hotel – Uros Q’Hantati is an island owned by Cristina Suaña and her family, and together with five families, they run a hotel and sustainable tourism coop. The hotel is extremely unique as it is made entirely of totora reeds, just like the island itself. Booking a stay on this local island is possible through the social enterprise RESPONSible Travel Peru introduced below.

How to Meet and Impact Locals:

RESPONSible Travel Peru is a little social enterprise that is having BIG impact in Peru. They work to develop the local indigenous groups to benefit from cross-cultural tourism where travelers can learn from them while also supporting their traditional ways of life. Their Lake Titicaca programs spend time with several communities on the lake and surrounding regions.

All Ways Travel  is a Peruvian company started with the purpose of developing a more socially responsible kind of tourism. They provide travelers with an active roles through the implementation of creative and fun educational activities that are also shared with indigenous leaders, teachers, parents, mother associations and children. On their website that have a section for traditional tours, but also “non-touristy tours” like Remote Taquile: Lake Titicaca’s Living Heritage where travelers stay overnight with locals in their homes.

 

Arequipa

Known as the White City, Arequipa lies at the foot of ice-capped volcano El Misti, as well as four other volcanoes. It acquired its nickname from the color of the volcanic stone used to construct is many colonial-style mansions. Beginning at Lake Titicaca, Arequipa is easily visited as a stop on the way to the Colca Canyon and Cusco.

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

Where to Stay:

There are plenty of places to stay in town ranging from luxury to budget. Unfortunately there are no formal social enterprises at the time of this article. Airbnb has several options to stay in local homes.

How to Meet and Impact Locals:

Ai Travel is a socially-focused business, owned by sociologist Miguel Fernandez, who designed the “Reality Tour” to appreciate not only the beauty of his country, but to understand their everyday reality through the perspective of the poorest people. The proceeds from the outing go toward the city’s soup kitchen and nursery.

 

Colca Canyon

Claimed to be the deepest canyon in the world, Colca’s sides are so steep that it is impossible to see the valley bottom. Most visitors don’t venture down into the canyon, stopping only at the ridge to view condors…don’t be this type of traveler. Craggy mountains, pre-Incan terraces, huge herds of llamas and traditionally-dressed Andeans are all a part of the scenery here as you descent to the river bed far below.

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

Where to Stay:

Sangalle Oasis lies at the canyon floor with lush vegetation and bungalows for overnight guests, helping you to more easily plan your descent without worry of overnight lodging and food!

How to Meet and Impact Locals:

RESPONSible Travel Peru has a few options for trekking the canyon and staying overnight with host families with convenient departures from both Puno (on Lake Titicaca) and Arequipa.

 

Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu  

Cusco (or Cuzco), conquered and rebuilt by the Spaniards, is the Peruvian center for tourism and the gateway to Machu Picchu. With over one million travelers making their way each year to snap a selfie with the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu, it’s more important than ever to make wise choices before planning your visit to the ancient site. Trekking the famous Inca Trail, a four-day hike that leads to Machu Picchu, provides a more authentic, raw experience; yet, it is limited to just 500 people per day (booking up over eight months in advance) leaving the majority out of this coveted experience.

Pre and post Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley provides a glimpse of history and local life. But there are certainly good and better ways of doing it as well. Like your visit to Machu Picchu, you will want to plan carefully and rely on people with the right local know-how and connections to support sustainable development projects.

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

Where to Stay:

Ninos Hotel is a social enterprise hotel that gives proceeds to their project to support neglected youth in Cusco. They have a hotel in the center of city – the courtyard is adorable and the restaurant has great reviews. They also have a hacienda located in an ancient village outside of the city.  While you stay, make sure to sign-up for a visit to one of their children restaurants to see their projects in action.

Llama Pack  is a backpacker hostel that is owned by two mountaineers who assist with llama reintroduction projects in the surrounding hills. It’s a great place from which to explore the Sacred Valley.They have simple but clean amenities, and travelers rave about their stays here – noting that hikes and outings with the owners were unforgettable!

How to Meet and Impact Locals:

RESPONSible Travel Peru has hands-down the best trekking programs to and around Machu Picchu. They range from 10 days to 1 day and have everything from homestays to coffee and chocolate plantation visits. Their RESPONSible Inca Trail Experience is a great way to do the traditional route for first timers. Within Cusco and the Sacred Valley, they also have great ways to interact with locals as well – from visiting the Amaru community to the Awamaki project, a local women’s weaving cooperative and social enterprise.

 

 

Nasca

Deep in the desert of Peru lies one of the most mystifying monuments of the known world—the massive-scale geoglyphs known as the Nasca Lines. These intricate ancient drawings are massive, with the largest figures over 656 feet (200 meters) long and ranging in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, llamas and lizards. The ancient lines can only be clearly understood from high in the air, leaving generations mystified as to how these precise works could’ve been completed long before the invention of aircraft.

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

Where to Stay:

B&B El Jardin – There are no formal social enterprise options in Nasca at the time of writing this article, so I prefer the B&B El Jardin, located in a quiet setting five minutes from the Plaza. There is a garden with fruit trees and a terrace with hammocks to relax in. It’s available on Airbnb so you can speak with the host.

How to Meet and Impact Locals:

Alas Peruanas – There are several options for viewing the Nasca Lines, none of which are social enterprises. However, Alas Peruanas offers smaller crafts and more in-depth options with local guides giving you that personal connection. Several of the more budget options are large crafts with audio recordings during the flight.

 

The Capital of Lima

Lima is the only South American capital city which faces the exquisite Pacific Ocean. Lima is now a hub for different and varied issues making it economically, socio-culturally and ecologically key to the country, its citizens and its visitors.  Most likely your international flight will arrive into or depart out of Lima, so make use of the time to explore its diverse and vibrant neighborhoods.

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

Where to Stay:

Second Home Peru  is a great recommendation if  you don’t chose to do a home stay. The old Tudor home was once owned by Peruvian sculptor Victor Delfin and is nestled conveniently in the heart of Barranco, Lima’s arts district. Staying here helps promote art and culture, all while enjoy the cozy setting.

Hotel Antiqua Miraflores is a more upscale boutique hotel option but nonetheless, the hotel is one of great values. Self-proclaimed as a promoter of Peru’s Heritage, they partner with Best Buddies Lima as well as Pack for a Purpose to give back to the community.

How to Meet and Impact Locals:

Haku Tours  is a Lima-focused social enterprise striving to help families who live in its shanty towns. They offer a Shanty Town tour, along with a wide-array of other options including homestays with local families.

Again in Lima, RESPONSible Travel Peru has several great unique options. I like their outing with a local fisherman to learn about his daily life and the nearby sea lion and penguin colony by boat!  They also have a fashion outing, visiting several designers with responsible missions that reflect the local culture and fashion scene in Lima, as well as a trip into the countryside to pick organic produce, prepare a home-cooked Peruvian meal and visit the host family’s pottery studio.

 

Trujillo and the North

Trujillo is a green oasis lying in an irrigate valley amidst the arid desert at the foothills of the Andes Mountain Range. Within the city, step inside brightly colored colonial mansions or venture into the desert to explore the ancient civilization of the Moche’s. Check out an ornately tattooed 1,600 year-old-mummy at El Brujo complex; and walk through the largest pre-Columbian city in South American at Chan Chan.  For a more laid back vibe, the beach of Huanchaco is a traditional seaside town of fishermen and surfers from around the globe.

How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru – the best destinations, tours and hotels for making an impact through social enterprise

Where to Stay:

Chaparrí is a beautiful eco lodge situated in a private nature reserve, in close contact with nature. The community originally constructed the lodge as a way to protect their land, and still today is maintained as a community-led conservation project. There are many nature activities on the reserve, but the lodge is also very near to important archeological sites such as Huaca Rajada (Sipan) and Lambayeque, as well as museums like Tumbas Reales, Túcume and Sican.

How to Meet and Impact Locals:

Wind Aid Institute builds wind turbines to provide power to the poorest of communities in Peru. They have a four-week volunteer program that people from all walks of life can participate in!

Sumak Travel  is a UK-based social enterprise that partners with local providers to help maintain sustainable tourism projects. I usually like going direct to companies based within their own country, but Sumak Travel’s values line up to provide great impact. Their Northern Peru program also happens to be the best out there right now as well.


So that wraps it up! As you plan your travel to Peru, remember to dig deeper as a tourist. Meet the locals, understand their challenges and embrace their unique ways of life. And most of all, always partner with sustainable companies and social enterprises that are making a positive impact on the local community. If you do, you will walk away with a much more rewarding and adventurous experience!

 


Photo Credits:
Feature Photo – Flickr, Roderick Eime, Attribution 2.0 Generic
Lake Titicaca – Flickr, Alex Zanuccoli, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Arequipa – Flickr, Derk Preston, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Colca Canyon – Flickr, Boris G, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Machu Picchu  – Flickr, Boris G, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Nasca Lines – Flickr, Christian Haugen, Attribution 2.0 Generic
Lima – Flickr, McKay SavageAttribution 2.0 Generic
Chan Chan (left) – Flickr, Richard Mortel, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Chan Chan (right) – Fickr, Tyler Bell, Attribution 2.0 Generic  

 

2 thoughts on “How to Journey Beyond the Bucket List in Peru: The Best Destinations, Tours and Hotels for Making an Impact through Social Enterprise

  1. Hi Nick! It is so nice to hear from you! Thank you so much for reaching out. My name is Kari and I am the founder and author of Global Commute. I love Social Enterprise and what you are doing at Wind Aid. I am not a past volunteer, but would love to stop by your project when I am in Peru in 2016! Can I email you to learn more? I would love to get more information about your various projects around Peru and to continue to support you in any way that I can.

    Look forward to chatting!

  2. Hi!

    My name is Nick, from WindAid. I just think it’s really cool that you posted about us (thank you!). I would love to know who the author of this article is, and how you found out about us? We are based out of Trujillo Peru, and have projects all over the north of Peru on the coast and in the mountains educating about renewable energy, climate change, and especially installing wind turbines for people without electricity. If you have’t come yet (are you a past volunteer?) we would love to invite you to participate in a project, or at the very least see what it is what we do in person!

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