Peru’s geography makes it one of the most beautiful countries in South America. The Amazon Rainforest covers over 60% of the country, and the Andes Mountains divide the jungle and coast.
Among these extreme terrains, Indigenous people have thrived for centuries. Such strenuous terrain makes a lot of the communities a challenge to access and helps in preserving sacred traditions.
When visitors hike the Inca Trail high in the Andes, visitors can travel from community to community. Visiting traditional communities untouched by modern society presents potential slipups for any traveler. Different traditions and customs exist from community to community, and visitors should strive to be an ally with the locals.
Read below about our top tips and insights for your next trip to Peru and how they will make you a better ally to the Indigenous peoples.
Choose Tour Companies Carefully
The first entry on the list might be the most important. The tour company you choose will shape a lot of your experience in Peru.
Visitors should always opt for companies that work exclusively with local guides. A local offers a vaster knowledge of the area, giving visitors a culturally immersive trip. Their insight will help you be a better ally to the Indigenous peoples when visiting.
However, companies present in the areas they operate often treat their workers with care. When you choose a local guide, you leave less guesswork about local customs. While researching ahead will help, having someone with lived experience is unmatched. Picking a local guide funnels more money back to the communities you hope to experience.
Peru’s tourism industry drives many of these local economies, and they all suffered greatly during the pandemic. During planning, look for companies supporting local initiatives in the areas where they operate. Volunteering in the communities you visit is a tangible way to show appreciation or gratitude.
Always Ask Permission Before Taking Photographs
A trip through Peru will present many photo opportunities. When photographing Peru’s natural landscapes, snap away. However, visitors must be respectful if they plan on taking pictures of Indigenous Peoples.
Traditional clothing and worn art make for beautiful pictures. But it is necessary to get permission from your subject first. Beyond being polite, there may be images and traditions locals do not want to be shared.
Many people are happy to share or pose for your photograph if asked. Shared images promote their culture and hopefully inspire more visitors. When photos get taken sneakily, it can feel exploitative to locals.
Research Local Customs and Holidays Before Booking Your Trip
When planning an excursion to Peru, ensure the booking months in advance. Time gives you and companies plenty of flexibility around the lives of the communities you visit.
It’s inconsiderate to visit during sacred customs and traditions. Visitors should plan to avoid these times. However, Peruvian cultures offer the chance for visitors to observe some of their popular holidays.
Inti Raymi takes place annually and is one of the biggest traditional festivals of the year. The “Festival of the Sun” centers around the winter solstice and is the symbolic birth of the Incan people. Colorful dances and processions highlight the celebration and are a great lesson in Quechua culture.
Shop and Eat Locally
The best way to be an ally in Peru is by genuinely engaging in the culture. Local food, artisans, and tours will be features of any trip throughout the country. Visitors should do their best to support them when they can.
Locally run tours will take visitors through a variety of communities. Here, visitors have the chance to sample local staples. Food is a significant way to connect with Indigenous People.
By eating their food, you do more than support them with your dollars. You’re allowed to learn about what has sustained them as a people for all these years.
Shopping locally extends to gift-giving. Coming in with something lavish from your world can be off-putting to many locals. Reciprocation is a part of Peruvian culture, so ensure any gifts are useful.
It’s much more meaningful to give a gift made by another Indigenous artisan on your trip. There will be no feeling of imbalance, and you will have supported another part of their community.
Stay on Homesteads and Homestays
Many locals rely on the revenue generated from homestays. Visitors should try to spend at least a few nights of their trip in a community they visit. With opportunities to buy clothing, art, and local fare, you will get to know the people the money impacts.
Visitors that opt to spend time at homestays gain an appreciation for life in such extreme conditions. The gained perspective should inform you of ways to respect and give back to the people.
In regards to bringing gifts, make sure it’s practical. As mentioned above, Peruvian culture makes a point of reciprocation. If you wish to express gratitude through gifts, buy from a local artisan. You’re not only supporting the seller, but you’re also giving back to the community itself.
In conclusion, there are many considerations when it comes to being an ally traveler in Peru.
For starters, always choose local tour companies to take you on a guided experience. As you prepare for the trip, take the time to do research. It’s highly recommended to keep track of local customs and holidays before heading to the destination.
When meeting with the locals, make sure to ask permission first before taking photographs. Then, take the opportunity to check out the wares and cuisine. And finally, spend a few nights on the homestead to learn more about the people and their lives.
As long as you follow these tips, you’re sure to have a culturally immersive experience. What’s more, as you take in the sights and sounds of your surroundings, you’re also actively contributing to its community, its culture, and most importantly, its Indigenous people.