In light of Responsible Travel Week 2011, we at Gunyah – specialists in short-duration experiential packages for independent travellers eager to connect with local people – have selected our favourite local travel experiences. We want to inspire travellers to seek out more meaningful travel experiences, the kinds that can only come through real contact with locals and genuine enjoyment of local culture and tradition.
Llama Caravans in Argentina
Stretch your legs by trekking with llamas in the Jujuy Province of Northern Argentina. No, you don’t actually ride these long-necked beasts of burden; you trek alongside them in the traditional style of the ancient Andeans. Guided by Santos Manfredi and his wife Eva, you discover the rugged beauty of the Quebrada de Humahuaca, a narrow mountain valley bordered by the Altiplano of the Andes. On the way, you stop for a picnic accompanied by delicious local wine; an optional overnight stay with a local family provides a chance to engage with the people of the village and learn about their way of life. At every step, the views are spectacular and an opportunity to experience a place that is inaccessible by car. You should be wary of one pesky issue, however: the llamas are prone to spitting!
Give a Little on a Tour in Vietnam
Responsible travel in its truest form, Bloom Microventures in Hanoi, Vietnam, allows you to really get off the beaten track and interact with local community members who who have benefited from microfinance loans from the Microfinance and Community Development Institute (MACDI). You are driven out to a remote rural community where you spend the day with the locals – hear their stories and participate in daily activities like preparing lunch or harvesting crops. In the afternoon, you are encouraged to borrow a bicycle and explore the village, meet the local people and savour the countryside of northern Vietnam.
Yakkity Yak in the Himalayas
After a very bumpy and long bus journey to the north of bustling Kathmandu, Nepal, and a further four days of trekking along a yak trail through misty valleys, you arrive at Kyanjin Gompa, a tiny village in the remote Himalayan foothills. This village is home to mostly Tibetans who, while they live in Nepal, still follow ancient Tibetan traditions and customs. The views are incredible as this is the end of the ‘road,’ if there were roads… but what also makes this village different is the tiny cheese factory where two locals make delicious yak cheese as good as if transported from the slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe. It doesn’t get much more local than this and there is also a monastery that you can explore!
Smile for a Week at Crocodile Creek
Watch out for the elephants as you drive along the dusty road to the Crocodile Creek Community Village, an accommodation and community project in Livingstone, Zambia. The village was built by and for the people, and provides a sustainable income for local families involved in assisting guests. Located on the banks of the Zambezi River, four bungalows welcome visitors interested in the world-famous Victoria Falls, located just downstream, as well as the social development of the local people. Crocodile Creek is a prime example of how things should be done, with all materials used in building the village found in or around the area. Even the the camp-style bathrooms – a product of local innovation – are built into the natural surroundings. All food is prepared using vegetables from the on-site garden, as long as the elephants haven’t eaten them first! Stay for a few days – or a few weeks! – to lend a hand in in adjoining village.
Aboriginal Cave Paintings Rock!
Discover one of the oldest cultures in the world in tropical North Queensland, Australia, on a walk with a Nugal-warra elder, Willie Gordan. Willie started his company, Guurrbi Tours, in 2003, and the his tours are already listed as one of Australia’s must-do experiences.
Just outside of Cooktown, you walk to rock art sites where Aboriginal people recorded stories that have been passed down to Willie, who gives insight into the life and spirituality of his people. Learn about the traditional Aboriginal way of life whilst devouring delicious ‘bush tucker‘ (native food) and learning about bush medicine and ancient survival methods. With an infectious laugh and admirable passion, Willie is unforgettable.
Real Local Culture in the Mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina
High in the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the village of Lukomir lies far removed from the rapidly developing city of Sarajevo, just a few hours away. The people of Lukomir – the Bjelašnica highlanders – maintain a very traditional way of life, and you are invited to experience it with Green Visions.
This responsible travel company delivers the very best local travel experiences in Bosnia and Herzegovina and is committed to several projects that encourage the sustainable development of tourism in the region. The area around Lukomir is ideal if you’re after real travel adventures and traditional villages, not to mention old water mills, stunning views and high mountain terrain. Visit Bosnia and Herzegovina and travel like a local!