The best fruits and vegetables are those locally grown and fresh off the farm. Aside from produce, however, farmers worldwide have something else to offer frazzled urban travellers: a valuable farmstay escape into traditional rural life.
Agritourism, as farm-based tourism has come to be called, is an antidote to stressful city life. The benefits of agritiourism reach well beyond the traveller, though; they also help small-scale farmers sustain their lifestyles and livelihoods.
Within the WHL Group network, we found seven great farm getaways through which you can get your hands dirty and immerse yourself in the real farming lifestyle of remote rural places.
Volunteering at the Nika Guesthouse Farm in Northern Albania
Splendid views of the Albanian Alps, together with warm and welcoming families, await travellers willing to embark on a volunteering experience at a guesthouse and farm in northern Albania. There is no better way to understand and approach local people than by lending a hand to support their daily duties and routines.
Sample a whole range of farm activities when staying with the local family at Nika Guesthouse. Help grandma prepare a traditional Albanian dinner with the freshly caught fish. Spend a day walking sheep in the picturesque valleys of the Albanian Alps. Fix fences or collect corn and beans to work up an appetite for a good healthy lunch. With Nika’s special arrangements for working guests, once you put in five hours a day, you can take the other half of the day for yourself to explore the surroundings, hike, read a book or just sunbathe by a beautiful pond.
~ Elena Zanevskaya-Cela of Outdoor Albania
Tropical Farming in Panama
For a great farm tour in Panama, we recommend La Granja Alternativa, where you can participate in tropical farming. Try your hand at harvesting fruit and making jam. Grind sugar cane to prepare a natural drink, knead bread, feed animals, fish in a small artificial lake, walk trails, practice on the zipline or just take in the lush green vegetation surrounding you. It’s all in a day’s work at the farm.
~ Yariseth Acevedo of Tucaya Panama, the whl.travel local partner in Panama City
Plucking Tea at Tathagata Farm in Darjeeling, India
Hidden away, about an hour from the town of Darjeeling in the northeastern Himalayan part of India, is the verdant land of Mineral Spring, a certified organic and Fair Trade village known for its quality production of tea, ginger, turmeric, cardamom and oranges. Nestled in the bosom of the village are the modest huts of Tathagata Farm, a place where you can just relax and feel refreshed indulging in the green and rich biodiversity whilst sipping the finest tea of the world. If you’re feeling industrious, try tea plucking in the mornings with the locals and learn about the simple manufacturing process of the greatest tea, or stroll in the garden and pluck fresh vegetables for dinner.
Navin Tamang, Director of Tathagata Journeys, has been greatly involved in developing permaculture and agritourism in the village since 1996 and has been the herald of Fair Trade into the village. Tathagata Journeys has also initiated a Mineral Spring homestay project with many participating families.
~ Yogita Ranapaheli of Tathagata Journeys, the whl.travel local partner in Darjeeling, India
Tracing Coffee to Its Roots in Quindio, Colombia
Quindio is the heart of the coffee-growing region in Colombia. Here, you’ll find local criollo culture still alive and well, with its long traditions of faith, family and hospitality. This is life in rural Colombia. Why not immerse yourself in its endless pastures, its leafy green plantations of coffee, bamboo and plantain, and its colourful towns and villages?
A Quindio coffee tour is your chance to get your hands dirty with highly interactive visits with local families and farms. Get behind the scenes, under the skin and into the heart of Quindio, and you’ll never look at your mug of coffee in the same way again.
~ Juan Pena, local travel specialist in Colombia
Visiting Vintage Wineries and Villages in Bosnia and Herzegovina
If you venture onto the small side roads of Bosnia and Herzegovina, you’ll reach old-fashioned towns that barely show up on maps. In this rugged landscape, there are people devoted to a traditional way of life. They will make you feel welcome and happily open their doors to you.
These families pass down recipes from generation to generation, celebrating simple flavours. You’ll find freshly grilled meats, baked beans, stewed vegetables and fantastic fresh fish caught in the local rivers. Try braised meats cooked in earthenware pots with only the best quality local vegetables that are in season. A “must” is the famous organic spit-roasted suckling lamb, which is the most delicious and tender meat you will ever taste. Many of the best wines in southern Europe are produced in the small vineyards of this area but the real beauty is in the simple hillside villages and the people who work this special land.
~ Zana R-Bilal, the whl.travel local connection in Medjugorje, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Riding Yaks on the High Plateau of Tibet
In the rural area of the Lhasa and Shannan prefectures in Tibet are small villages that play host to visitors from near and far who want to experience the farming lifestyle of the high plateau. You can sit under trees to taste local traditional food and fresh fruits, walk into the Tibetan farmyards, ride horses or yaks at the riverside or try archery at the playground.
It’s a good moment to connect with local people. Most villages have a band that can play local music and perform a Tibetan dancing and singing show for guests. A journey into rural Tibet is the perfect way to frame your visit to the classic beauty of Tibet’s snowy mountains and valleys.
~ Sherry Jia of Tibet Travel Professionals, the whl.travel local connection in Tibet
Enjoying the Harvest at a Naxi Homestay in Lijiang, China
In the Lashi Lake area of Lijiang in Yunnan, China, you’ll find a unique opportunity to experience a Naxi homestay. The homestay is located in a traditional Naxi village, which is surrounded by mountains and farmlands. In the morning you wake up to the sounds of roosters and birds. In the background you can hear a stream running through the courtyard.
Autumn is harvest season for the crops in Lijiang. You can go with owners of the homestay to harvest fruit and vegetables in the morning. During your stay, you taste very fresh local products from the garden behind the house, and learn from your host how to cook a few local dishes. You also have chance to go up to mountains to collect mushrooms and cook them to eat.
~ Lily Zhang of Lijiang Xintuo Ecotourism Company, the whl.travel local connection in Lijiang, China