How to Visit Remote Communities in Peru
Everyone wants those photos of people and places in the most remote areas of Peru, but to try to seek these cultures out requires a lot of planning and, most of all, respect for the communities you visit. You’ll have the experience of a lifetime and memories forever, just make sure they do not come at the expense of the local people. Enjoy the experience and respect the environment and people you meet. Here is our guide to visiting remote communities in the Amazon and Andean regions of Peru.
This is the most important aspect of the entire process. Within more remote places in Peru, such as Iquitos, the Amazon and the Andean mountains, you’ll find companies and hotels offering their tours and, maybe, home-stays with remote communities. While this is convenient for the traveler, it may not be so for the community. Make sure to do plenty of research before going to make sure that the company or hotel you choose to go through is respecting the communities in Peru and making sure that the communities benefit from the interaction.
Where to go
In the main cities near the more remote areas in Peru you’ll find companies offering trips to Peru’s most isolated areas and communities. Here are the three most important places for this sort of tourism.
Iquitos is right in the middle of the Amazon jungle and is the world’s largest city not connected by roads. This means that it can offer visits to the far corners of the Amazon and other adventures that other places in Peru just can’t offer.
While the experience may leave you feeling somewhat ambivalent – the men, and particularly the women, only discard Western clothes for the performances – it’s a preferable situation to the times when visits were imposed on communities by unscrupulous tour companies. Visitors are now these Indians’ major source of income, and the Bora and Yaguar alike have found a niche within the local tourist industry.
Once in Iquitos there are plenty of tour companies that can offer different packages for exploring la selva. Some good independent contacts can help you find or organize the right trip: the Iquitos tourist office has a list of registered freelance guides and is usually helpful in providing up-to-date contacts.
Cusco, the former capital of the Inca empire, is still the hub of everything cultural in the Andes. From Cusco you’ll find plenty of opportunities to explore both the jungle and other areas in the Andes. Because Cusco is such a large and popular city, there’ll be more than enough interesting options and companies to choose to take your adventure with.
The Sacred Valley region itself, formed by the Rio Urubamba, stretches roughly from Cusco to Machu Picchu and includes the former Inca strongholds of Urubamba, Pisac, Chinchero and Ollantaytambo. Travelers that venture out into the surrounding foothills will also find a glimpse of rural village life, along with excellent trekking on lesser-known Inca trails.
Most travelers spend at least a couple of days exploring the Sacred Valley’s main sites and attractions before visiting Machu Picchu.
On Lake Titicaca, located in Puno, ancient people live on islands made of living reeds that float around the lake. The people that live on the water, the Uros, Aimaras and Quechuas, share the ecosystem and, in recent years, have adapted to modern needs.
The “Uros”, an ethnic group that was distributed over the Collao Plateau, up until some decades ago. Today, their descendants have conserved and adapted the traditions and survival mechanisms of their ancient forebearers. They carry out various projects related to sustainable tourism that allow visitors to get to know their customs and to spend a few days in an island lodge. These lodges offer basic comforts and one can spend the day fishing for trout, silverside fish and the local carachi, among other activities.
Eight communities live on Amantani. They are the Pueblo, Santa Rosa, Lampayuni, Sancayuni, Occosuyo, Incatiana, Villa Orenojón and Colqui Chaqui. For overnight visits, the communities of Incatiana and Lampayuni are good options. Here the islanders transform their homes into accommodations with basic services, allowing tourists to stay and take part in daily activities as well as enjoy typical gastronomy and boat trips on the lake.
Taquile, just like Amantaní, is a place where the culture of its people is what most attracts visitors. Nowadays, the community of Taquile has its own tourism company called Munay Taquile, whose profits are invested in the community and allow visitors to get a deep understanding of the population who live there. Through cultural exchange and shared learning, the people of Taquile guide visitors through their lands, telling them their story and allowing them to take part of their daily life.
These areas, because of how remote they are, won’t be easy or convenient to get to. In the jungle, you’ll be traveling through swamps, along rivers and through thick jungle foliage. Communities in Peru don’t offer the comforts of modern day living so brace yourself for the experience. You’ll find issues with running water, if it is even an option, and toilets will always be difficult to find and not the most pleasant to use. You’ll also be dependent on the locals for your food, so sanitation questions always arise. If you choose to take a tour, make sure to bring all medications and any other prescriptions you may have. There won’t be any pharmacies in sight.
There are many things that can become problematic when interacting with these cultures – like are they dressing up for you, are they benefiting from this interaction and is this a form of colonialism? These questions are too broad and wide ranging to fully flesh out here, but are definitely worth asking yourself before visiting and interacting with remote communities in Peru. Most of all it is best to have respect for their traditions, customs and beliefs. You are a visitor and should treat the environment and the people with the utmost respect.