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Ecotourism in Peru: Community-Based Tourism and Natural Wonders

Ecotourism is an integral part of the tourism industry in Peru. Considering the wealth of natural resources and historical attractions, it is critical that sustainable tourism is a focus of the industry. Ecotourism in Peru is a diverse segment of the industry, and includes conservation and preservation efforts of historical landmarks, nature, and communities, through economic and socio-cultural initiatives and dedicated tour operators.

Machu Picchu

You can't talk about Peru's tourism industry without discussing Machu Picchu. 2011 marks 100 years since American explorer Hiram Bingham was led to the former Inca settlement, and tourists have been flocking to the site ever since. Between hikers on the Inca Trail and the buses navigating the switchbacks up to the site, Machu Picchu and its environs are continually carrying a considerable number of tourists. Naturally, conservation and preservation efforts at this site are critical to the future of Machu Picchu and Peru's tourism industry.

Consistently recognised as a leading ecotourism destination, Machu Picchu is a destination focused on sustainability and cultural and environmental preservation. The site continues to be closely monitored for degradation and the effects of human influence, and access to the site is through highly controlled means. There are strict regulations on behaviour on the Inca Trail as well as in Machu Picchu, commanding respect and awareness of the fragility of the site due to human visitation. Additionally, Machu Picchu is home to a number of Peru's exceptional natural species, all of which require their natural environment to be considerate and undisturbed.

Nature: Flora and Fauna

Peru is home to some pretty spectacular natural attractions. Birdwatching is a treat in Peru, particularly because of the mighty condor, an iconic and mammoth bird often spotted in the Colca Canyon. With more bird species than North America and Europe combined, Peru is a haven for birdwatchers and nature lovers. Similarly, orchid lovers will thoroughly enjoy Peru and its approximately 3,000 species of orchids, scattered in plates like Huanuco, the Cordillera Blanca, Callejon de Huaylas valley, the Chanchamay valley, and Machu Picchu.

One of Peru's most famous animals is the llama, but it isn't the only Andean Camelid that can be found throughout the Peruvian Andes. Guanacos, vicu?as, and alpacas are also inhabitants of this region. These animals have formed an integral part of Peru's highland history, lifestyle, and culture, serving as sources of food, clothing, and workhorses. Alpacas are the most common of the camelids to be presented to tourists, in particular at weaving centres, like Mundo Alpaca in Arequipa. Alpacas and llamas can also be used to attract tourists attention, and to lure them in to purchase goods or crafts, so be wary of paying the adorable camelids too much attention, or you may be targeted.

Yet another species that is found in abundance in Peru is the butterfly, which can be found throughout Peruvian forests. Research estimates put the number of butterfly species in Peru at 4,200, which is more than six times the number of species in North America. In addition to butterflies, Peru is home to numerous species of primates and marine mammals, making Peru an ideal nation in which to explore nature and its flora and fauna.

Amazon Rainforest

A portion of the magnificent Amazon Rainforest resides in Peru, east of the Andes, encompassing approximately 60% of the country. Not only is it home to significant biodiversity, it is a popular destination with tourists. To ensure that your trip to the Peruvian Amazon is as eco-friendly as possible, ensure that you engage with ecotourism operators, and follow ecotourism principles while traveling.

Ecotourism in the Amazon is a huge industry for Peru, and has developed in this manner in conjunction with conservation efforts by the government. Ecotourism trips are in controlled areas, and guides are given specific preservation instructions to be passed on to the travelers. However, ecotourism in Peru has the ability to impact not only the natural environment, but the indigenous populations as well. It is critical, therefore, that any tourism undertaken in the Peruvian Amazon is of the ecotourism persuasion, and that the utmost care and consideration is taken when planning and visiting this fragile part of Peru.

With its extensive biodiversity, the Peruvian Amazon is lush, green, and alluring to many travelers. Ecotourism options exist for this part of Peru, and are highly recommended as the best way to experience this magnificent rainforest.

Community-Based Tourism

In addition to the environmental conservation efforts through tourism, there are a number of initiatives that have emerged in Peru's tourism industry that focus on nurturing local communities and their involvement in this burgeoning industry. The sustainability of any tourism industry relies on involving and benefiting locals, both socio-culturally and economically. Through community-based tourism initiatives, travelers can participate in this facet of ecotourism in Peru, which is designed to help people that can truly benefit from the tourism industry.

Community-based tourism businesses to look for include accommodation, tours, and experiences that are locally-owned, locally-managed, and locally-employed. Typically these types of organisations are extensively involved in supporting the nearby communities through job creation and financial injections. Additionally, they may be concerned with preserving the natural environment in the surrounding area, another integral aspect of ecotourism. With a steady influx of tourists, Peru's environment must be properly attended to in order to avoid severe damage.

Aside from contributing to the local economy by staying in local accommodations, travelers can participate in community-based tourism by experiencing customs, engaging in agriculture, and learning local traditions such as dances and songs. These kinds of cultural engagement not only enrich the traveler's experience of the local lifestyle, they assist in the cultural preservation of Peru's traditions and customs. Known for their iconic colourful knitwear, Peru's indigenous Quechua population are often involved in sharing weaving techniques and processes, as well as selling their beautiful handmade products.

Solidare Inca Tour

One such tour operator that is involved in community-based tourism is Solidare Inca Tour. A tour operator in Peru, Solidare Inca Tour is dedicated to sustainability, fair tourism, and benefiting local communities through economic ventures, cultural heritage preservation, and environmental conservation.

Solidare Inca Tour offers a number of tours in Peru, including adventure tours such as trekking, hiking, biking, horseback riding, and rafting. They also have fair-trade tours, green tours, and customisable options for a la carte tourism. Solidare Inca Tours can take travelers throughout most regions of Peru, including the jungle, coasts, highlands, and, of course, Machu Picchu. Their Route of Gold tour takes travelers from the capital city of Lima through to Arequipa and Cusco, with cultural and historical experiences along the way, including the Nasca Lines and Machu Picchu.

Solidare Inca Tour is the type of operator that is helping the tourism industry in Peru progress into an eco-conscious industry that considers the well-being of its environment and local communities, while focusing on the sustainable development of tourism. With continue support from operators such as Solidare Inca Tour, Peru can continue to be an increasingly sustainable ecotourism destination.

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