Howdy! In honor of #MindfulMonday today we are giving you ideas for travel to destinations where you can delve deeper into the indigenous people that once – and in most cases still do – inhabit them.
Puerto Rico: Being that Puerto Rico was so fertile and rich in resources the Taíno people – an indigenous tribe – chose to settle here. The Taíno Indians were actually still there when Columbus arrived. Not only can you find artifacts and engravings from them – but you can also find a lot of things that pre-date them – thus there are plenty of archeological sites and museums that are worth visiting to learn more about pre-Taíno and the Taíno native Puerto Ricans.
Learn more about Puerto Rico in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Francisco Blanch the Director of Leisure Sales of Discover Puerto Rico here.
Guatemala: First – there are the Mayans which actually compose 60% of the population in Guatemala. To put that into some perspective for you – the total population is about 60 million and 60% them are part of the 22 Mayan groups that reside there. And Jose will actually take you right into the villages – these indigenous hamlets – where they’re living a life – that as Jose said – he actually envies. They have their own places in the forest or the mountains where they go and collect food and then they return to their home where they harvest their own crops such as corn, squash and beans – no waiting in supermarket lines for them! (Fun Fact: Did you know corn is a hybrid that doesn’t exist in nature and is believed to be created by Asian Mayans hundreds of thousands of years ago!)
Learn more about Guatemala in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Independent Tour Guide Jose Antonio Gonzalez here.
Panama: Because Panama is home to a number of different tribes there is plenty of opportunity for cultural immersion. For instance – a lot of visitors will fly into Panama City and stay there a few days then head out into the rainforest where you can find indigenous tribes and learn just how they live. The Emberá tribe – which is probably the most popular one – are located down near the Darien Gap and also in the Portabella region or the Colon region. They are incredibly proud people and happily welcome in visitors to let them see what day to day life, their culture and their food is like. It really turns out to be a life changing cultural experience – especially for families with children – when the kids see how little the children of the tribe have and how they live – but are still so very happy.
Learn more about Panama in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Aiden Mullen from NAMU Travel Group here.
Switzerland: They speak four different languages in Switzerland, and they are German, French, Italian and Romansh. Romansh is a minority language indigenous to Switzerland and only spoken by about ten thousand residents of the country. And yes – English is widely spoken so you don’t have to worry about translation issues.
Learn more about Switzerland in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Mirko Capodanno – Manager, Western USA Switzerland Tourism Board here.
Costa Rica: Costa Rica is home to indigenous tribes that keep their own culture, language, religions and legends. One such tribe is the Maleku people who reside on a reserve on the north side of the country near the Arenal Volcano. On this experience Stephanie’s team will take you into their little town where you will witness how they make masks out of wood, you will be able to go fishing with them and then return and cook the fish they caught over a fire and end the visit by lunching with them. Another authentic adventure!
Learn more about Costa Rica in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Stephanie Sheehy the owner of il Viaggio Travel and Jackie Roby – who oversees sales and marketing for The Retreat Costa Rica here.
Saskatchewan – Wanuskewin: This is where you are going to find Saskatchewan’s indigenous culture and it is on the list to become a designated UNESCO site. Right now, it is tentatively accepted so nothing official yet, but they are well on their way! So, dating back 6400 years- if you can believe that! – there’s an active archaeological dig site that people can visit and that is filled with history and just so many stories. It is located just five to 10 minutes outside of Saskatoon so it can definitely be a part of your city experience. In fact, you can even stay in teepee out there giving you a break from a hotel and giving the kids something to really look forward to in terms of accommodations! I mean staying in a teepee is an amazing memory – definitely something you will talk about for the rest of your life. Heidi also told us about an amazing experience you can have within the indigenous culture.
Learn more about Saskatchewan in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Heidi Wesling, Travel Trade Market Consultant at Tourism Saskatchewan here.
Ecuador – Otavalo and Avenue of the Volcanoes: Otavalo is a small town in the Andes located two hours north of Quito. The highlight here is the culture as the residents here are indigenous people who are also called Otavalos and are very happy to share their culture with the visitors. Here you will find one of the largest indigenous markets in South America – the colorful Otavalo Market – full of textiles and handicrafts. Bonus – Condor Travel offers have an experience called May I Introduce You where they will take you directly to the workshops of the artisans who are producing the textiles and handicrafts giving you a direct experience and contact with them. Moving south of Quito this area is amazing because when you are out on the open road you feel surrounded by the mountains and volcanos. This is why explorer Alexander von Humboldt named the area the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Diego recommends scheduling five days for this amazing journey from Quito to Cotopaxi National Park where you will head south and make stops at traditional haciendas and indigenous markets along the way. On this route you will also come across Chimborazo which is the land of the llamas – the highlands of Ecuador features lots of those oh so popular llamas and the communities near Chimborazo are famous for llamas and alpacas and most of the locals work with llamas doing textiles as well. There are also and some famous markets like the Guamote Market that you can visit on certain days. Fun Fact: Chimborazo Mountain – which is the highest mountain in Ecuador, and because of this it is often said that when you come to Ecuador you are closer to the sun. And per Diego they say that if you measure it from the center of the earth that it is the biggest mountain in the world – even bigger than the Everest.
Learn more about Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Diego Escobar – one of my partners in South America – from Condor Travel here.
Colombia – Guaviare and Choco: These are not well-known destinations in Colombia, and they are great because you can interact with the indigenous people – who are very happy to see the tourists and love to interact with them. Bonus – no over tourism here because they are not well-known areas. Guaviare is in the southern part of Colombia and lies between the Amazon and the flatlands. Because of this you will find great biodiversity. It is also filled with local community adventures. Here you can view indigenous mural paintings from ancient times, participate in hand crafts with the locals and even participate in their rituals. You will have a guide that will translate everything for you as the whole experience is with the local people. Choco has a lot of great traditional and cultural tours because of its roots and ancestral traditions. One of the most popular one is with the women of the area who are fabulous cooks. On this experience you will wake up early in the morning and accompany the men while they fish. You then bring back the catch of the day and the woman will prepare it for lunch – teaching you traditional cooking and showing you other traditions that they have as well. And it is a two-way cultural exchange as you are encouraged to teach them how to say English words like hello or other words to greet tourists with. This is a fabulous way that tourism is helping to improve the development of the communities – sustainable travel at is best as it gives them the opportunity to be independent as well! Learn more about Columbia in our Chief Travel Gurus video chat with Alejandra Guzman from TripMedia – Travel Colombia here.
These are just a handful of many, many options for you to enjoy plenty of cultural immersion. Contact your Travel Gurus today and let’s get some mindful travel booked for you!