Ethical, Cultural Tourism In Argentina
You can’t really go to Buenos Aires without seeing a couple dance the tango, that sensual, slinky mix of Latin, African, and European influences that was magically brewed up by immigrants and sailors in the bars and ports of the River Plate sometime in the 1890s. But to add something different, how about joining an ecotourism programme run by local people in the northern province of Salta? You will travel to the valleys of Lerma, Cafayate and Calchaquies, as well as to the breath-taking Shells Gorge. To improve their livelihoods and provide authentic cultural tourism in Argentina, the rural communities living there decided to create the Rural Tourism Network (Red de Turismo Campesino) and start offering their homes to travellers. There are various rural communities along the valleys that offer activities, excursions, food and accommodation to visitors, in groups of between two and six.
During your stay you’ll eat traditional Andean dishes, visit organic wine farms and take guided walks along the valleys through the croplands and vineyards enjoying the beautiful landscapes of Salta region. In Los Colorados you can walk along the Calchaqui River and discover the ancient cave paintings of the region. From growing onions or cattle breeding to horse riding and ceramic adobe craftsmanship, these communities offer the traveller a great opportunity to enjoy a ‘living’ experience of rural life in the valley. Be aware you’ll stay with welcoming hosts.
This form of cultural tourism is provided by the award-winning ‘Red de Turismo Campesino’ of Salta, which is an active member of the Argentine Network of Rural Community Tourism. The co-operative and network is self-managed by 50 rural families from Salta. They operate under a framework of fair-trade, responsible tourism and cooperative work with local identity. They ensure that the benefits from tourism are equally distributed within the network.
Last year, The Guardian writer Kevin Rushby travelled there with us. In his words, “community-based tourism is not a simple matter. In my experience, the goal of a balanced cultural exchange can easily be destroyed by too much emphasis on the tourist dollar, or by the local culture being too weak or uninteresting. Here in the Calchaquies valley they have got it about right, with strong local characters bringing energy and passion to the task. They were asking me almost as many questions as I did of them”. He also loved their award-winning organic wine! You can read his full article and watch his lovely audio-slide show here:
Among the great activities you can enjoy are bird-watching, horseback riding or trekking through gorgeous landscapes, farming, traditional cooking (did anybody say empanadas?), handicraft and ceramic workshops and wine making. And if one horseriding excursion is not enough for you, you can spend a few days in one of the lovely gaucho estancias (ranch) of the region, where you’ll find some of the finest horses of the country.
If this whets your appetite, you can see more details and pictures, plus a suggested itinerary, on our Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Rural Argentina Experience, or even combine it with the Atacama Desert in Chile, on the other side of the Andes.
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Special thanks to Red de Turismo Campesino and Origins Argentina for the first two pictures.