Travellers wanting to escape the crush of tourists starting the classic Inca Trail are being offered an ‘alternative Inca Trail’ from Tourism Concern’s ETOG member, Dragoman. Tarpuy Yachay (“Growing Knowledge” in local Quechua language) is the name of the flagship community-based tourism project in South America.
Dragoman celebrated its 30 year anniversary last year and it continues to create ethically and environmentally sustainable trips as it has done since its inception.
Dragoman offer adventurous holidays that inspire and enrich the lives of all that encounter the company. They are dedicated to ensuring a responsible attitude to the areas the travel through. Adopting a key aim to maximise the positive benefits tourism can deliver whilst minimising the impact of any potentially damaging social, cultural or environmental consequences.
Peru’s biggest tourist draw is unquestionably Machu Picchu, ‘the Lost City of the Incas’. It’s an amazing, take-your-breath-away place and quite rightly designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. However, in recent years, the Inca Trail has become rather overcrowded, with up to 500 people trekking the trail each day. As well as the obvious negative environmental impact such popularity is causing, such as erosion and deforestation, for the local communities of the Valley, it has also meant an imbalance of wealth that such mass-tourism generates. To redress this balance, Dragoman have been running a ‘Community Inca Trail’ for the past six years. It’s a route totally unique to Dragoman, and allows the travellers to stay with and learn about Quechua Indian life in a way they never could on the ‘Classic’ Inca trail
The Community Inca Trek is a 3 day trek included as standard in all Dragoman trips which pass through Cusco in Peru. On the trek, groups trek through spectacular scenery, on remote trails used only by local villagers and Dragoman travellers, camping as guests within the communities they pass through. Dragoman’s ‘Community Inca Trek’ is a unique trekking route that not only involves trekking through pristine mountains along ancient Inca trails but also allows travellers to stay within local communities and get involved with the company’s pioneering community-based tourism project, ‘Tarpuy Yachay’.
“This trek is all about getting away from the overcrowded thoroughfare of the classic Inca Trail and exploring the real, unspoiled Andes,” says Charlie Hopkinson, Dragoman’s Managing Director. “Rather than starting the trail with 500 others each day, travellers will only encounter a trail used by locals and Dragoman – most groups see no other westerners during the entire trek. It also gives travellers a unique opportunity to directly benefit the host communities we travel through by supporting education, income generation and environmental sustainability projects.”
The ‘Alternative’ Inca Trail has already proved a big hit. Although travellers have the choice between choosing between the ‘classic’ Inca Trail and the Community Trek, 70% of Dragoman’s Peru travellers now choose to participate in the Community Inca Trek. As a result, Dragoman and passenger donations now amount to approximately US$10,000 per year.