Imagine a better way of travelling. Not a mass-produced, hermetically sealed series of airport and hotel transfers and excursions that make you feel you are ‘doing’ a country, rather than actually visiting it. Imagine instead travel that is smaller scale, much more human, and therefore much more enjoyable and unique. You will see astonishing landscapes, take part in exhilarating experiences, learn about amazing cultures, and enjoy many magical moments. But you will be doing that with, rather than against the grain of the local people, their communities, and customs. You will in fact be the guest of the locals and that means your whole perspective will be different. Our absolute priority is to make certain that you have an outstanding and unforgettable holiday.
Sumak Travel is a platform featuring tours and sustainable tourism destinations in Latin America. We use our expertise to connect you with one (or several) of the trusted local partners of our extensive network. They will create travel itineraries tailor-made to suit your individual tastes and preferences, making sure you travel like a local and get an incredible tour bringing together otherwise hard-to-combine elements. You can browse all the sustainable tourism destinations that are covered by our network, and enquire directly so our trusted local partner(s) can start creating your ideal holiday. Alternatively, you can see the authentic, eco-friendly tours we have created, using our great knowledge of Latin America. We’ve chosen our favourite places, the ‘must sees’ and a few hidden gems to create these tours, which are examples of the itineraries our local partners can create for you.
One way of ensuring that your travel experience is different and better is to be different and better ourselves. Sumak Kawsay means “good living” in Quechua: for us, it embodies the idea of caring for people, cultures and nature – principles that are key to true, sustainable development. So we want Sumak Travel to embody ‘good sustainable travel’.
Our social business model
Our focus is on delivering a high quality, exceptional travel experience. We are a social enterprise that puts people and the environment at the centre of its model. Our mission is to contribute to the empowerment of local communities in Latin America by running an ethical business that provides rewarding and authentic experiences for discerning travellers.
A fair-trade logic applies: you book with a local tour operator and pay a fair price for the high quality and unique products and services you get. You encounter local traditions, get involved in cultural activities and see unspoilt nature and eco-systems. The host communities on the other hand benefit from ecotourism that directly creates revenue and decent jobs in a manageable way. To know more about our ethos and story, you can read our Responsible Tourism Policy, which is in fact followed by all of our trusted local partners.
We belong to Tourism Concern’s Ethical Tour Operators Group (ETOG) and are active members of the International Ecotourism Society, Social Enterprise UK, MuchBetter Adventures and The Travel Foundation. We are also official supporters of WTM World Responsible Tourism Day. All of our profits are reinvested to increase the number of communities and destinations we work with.
We work alongside Sustainable Pangea, a web platform that features community-based tourism destinations, and promotes the best work that social entrepreneurs do in other areas. It highlights how communities innovate to promote sustainable change in Latin America.
Why are these tours unique?
We are a platform of Latin American specialists in cultural and ecotourism. By travelling with our local partners you get an incredible tour bringing together otherwise hard-to-combine elements. They offer you many ways of getting to know this awe-inspiring continent. You can explore its epic landscapes by hiking, swimming, horse riding or relaxed sightseeing. You can learn about its rich cultural heritage by experiencing indigenous rituals, listening to traditional storytelling, eating delicious local food, and a lot else besides. Right at the heart of our hand-picked tours are unique visits to rural communities where you are hosted by local people and families. They also take you to the main cities and sights of each country, from the spectacular beaches of Brazil to the luxuriant jungles of Colombia, the urban sophistication of Buenos Aires, or the imposing isolation of the Atacama desert. And for those interested in social innovation and sustainable development, guided visits to a range of projects (microfinance, social inclusion, and fair-trade to name a few) can be included, where you’ll have the opportunity to talk with the founders or project leaders, see the positive impact, learn from their experience and be part of the solution.
To find out more, see all of our sustainable tourism destinations or check out our blog section which includes posts on responsible tourism, local initiatives and photos from our past customers (aka Happy Travellers). Many of our destinations have also been featured in the Guardian – check out the links below for these excellent articles and photos to match:
- Homestays in Argentina: how ethical holidays are protecting a way of life
- Traditional music in Argentina’s wild north west – audio slideshow
- Crossing the Andes by bus: one of the world’s greatest journeys – in pictures
- The high road: Argentina to Chile by bus
- Strictly tango and taxi in Buenos Aires – video
- Can tourism help save Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta nature reserve? – audio slideshow
- Colombia’s Lost City: lore of the jungle
- Cycling in the hills of Colombia where Nairo Quintana learned to ride
- Colombia is full of beans: coffee regions open for tourism
- Rock of ages: Chile’s Quezala canyon
- Chimborazo peak, Ecuador: the closest place to space on Earth
- Ecuador’s Yasuni park: where oil vies with tourism for the rainforest
- Meet the Mayans: a tour of the real Yucatán, Mexico
Fair Trade Adventures
From the very beginning, fair trade principles have been at the core of our social business model. Our Fair Trade Adventures campaign launched in January 2016, and took these fair trade principles one-step further. In partnership with Cafedirect Producers Foundation, we designed four small group tours to unique destinations in Peru, Colombia and Costa Rica, to give travellers a rare opportunity to meet the farmers and artisans behind popular fair trade products such as coffee, chocolate and handicrafts, whilst also visiting some of Latin America’s most iconic sights and natural wonders. Currently, these Fair Trade Adventures are only available on a tailor-made basis (follow the link for more details and to download the brochure).
About Community-based Ecotourism
What you find on this platform are once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences that support local communities in a way that is socially, financially and environmentally sustainable.
Mass tourism can be an incredibly destructive activity with wide reaching consequences. However, local communities across the developing world are setting up their own ecotourism projects, a truly viable solution to some of the most urgent problems faced by humankind today, such as global warming, deforestation and land speculation. And better still: discerning travellers can be part of this solution. By local community we mean a group of people living in the same place and having something in common, be it culture, economic activity or simply the land and its eco-systems. In most cases they are farmers, fishermen, indigenous peoples, artisans or quilombolas, living in remote, beautiful and well-preserved rural areas.
You know it is truly rural community tourism if it:
- Combines natural beauty and the daily life of rural communities;
- Promotes productive and sustainable practices;
- Adapts to rural life and preserves the welcoming, relaxed, and rustic atmosphere of the countryside;
- Is kept going by local initiatives and local people and strengthens local organisations;
- Employs local people, distributes benefits even-handedly and supplements farming income
- Promotes land ownership by the local population
* Adapted from the Costa Rican Association of Community-based Rural Tourism