Ecuador’s rich culture and biodiversity appeal to many types of travelers. Among these are travelers that are increasingly more conscious about their impact on the environment and local communities. If you identify with this group, what you’re looking for could very well be a community-based tourism in Ecuador.
Unlike other forms of responsible travel like sustainable tourism and ecotourism, community-based tourism is led by local community members for their communities. They are the key stakeholders; they own and manage the enterprise, provide tourists with accommodations and tours, and are the primary beneficiaries of your contribution.
As part of our commitment to local communities, Wanderbus leads various initiatives aimed at raising awareness around environmental protection. We work with strategic partners to promote community-based tourism, to underscore the urgency to protect the planet and develop sustainable practices that are genuinely beneficial to the environment, communities, and travelers. One of these key partners is Deutsche Geseelschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), an international organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development around the globe.
In the following blog, we’ll provide a few reasons why you should invest in community-based tourism in Ecuador and, if you do, consider traveling with Wanderbus, a Certified B Corporation that prioritizes the long-term success of its local partners and the environment.
Travel with a Purpose
Conventional travel aims to introduce you, the traveler, to places, food, and people you would otherwise never see at home. Community-based tourism takes your experience to the next level by embedding you in your host community and their environment. It’s more than an introduction; it’s an authentic exchange and a memorable one at that!
The best part: you get to support the people and families you meet directly. Many community-based tourism projects in Ecuador involve all members of the community in different ways. Some members may be in charge of preparing your accommodations and meals, while others improve existing infrastructure and build new spaces or train as expert guides to take you on a day tour.
They’re all working together to provide a high-quality travel experience and, by supporting their project, you’re contributing to the capital they use to send their children to school, expand their businesses, and create wealth for their community on the whole.
Alternative Experiential Tours
There’s a reason why Airbnb Experiences have grown in popularity; travelers today want more than the usual superficial snapshots and selfies of their travel destination. They want to genuinely experience the place and learn about local culture, if only for a few hours.
Community-based tourism in Ecuador encourages travelers to engage with the communities they visit and experience destinations through a local lens. Fortunately, host communities are usually more than happy to provide this type of experience!
Rather than heading to a popular tourist destination readily found on Google Maps, hire a local guide that wants to take you along a less trodden path. You might be amazed to discover a place that carries symbolism and meaning in the community and where you won’t have to crop out other tourists from your photos.
Ecuador is made up of 14 indigenous nationalities, the majority of which continue to practice traditional medicine (also known as indigenous medicine) and healing rituals. By choosing community-based tourism in Ecuador, you’ll have the opportunity to witness or even experience some of these healing rituals, which vary between indigenous groups and regions.
Some of these healing rituals include:
Energetic cleansing rituals or limpias – A limpia is a traditional method of diagnosis and purification. During a limpia, a healer, or curandero/a, may use elements like tobacco smoke, songs, stones, and other medicinal plants to cleanse you of physical, mental, and spiritual impurities.
Baño de cajón – A baño de cajón is essentially a steam bath, but instead of using an entire room, you’re placed in a box that conceals your entire body except for your head. Though it may sound odd at first, this is an efficient and personalized alternative to a steam room.
The process usually involves two 15-minute rounds in the baño de cajon, followed by a quick rinse of cold or warm water under the shower. The steam bath is often prepared with medicinal plants to enhance its medicinal qualities.
Temazcal – Another ancestral healing ritual practiced across Latin America, the temazcal, takes place in a circular, dome-like structure that is heated internally by red-hot stones—similar to a sweat lodge but not as hot. The heat of the rocks causes participants to sweat and detox, and the ritual is often accompanied by rhythmic drumming and singing and the use of medicinal plants.
Learning About Medicinal Plants
Ecuador has a rich tradition in medicinal plants, and it isn’t uncommon to see them in use daily in most households. Even in the modern cities of Quito and Cuenca, entire sections of their respective mercado(s) central (central markets) are allocated to medicinal plants and ritualistic items.
As you meander through the stalls, you’ll find that the vendors are quite knowledgeable in the properties and functions of the plants they sell and the remedies in which they are utilized. Some of these plants include uña de gato (cat’s claw), hortiga (nettle leaf), and ruda (rue, also herb-of-grace).
If you’re on an inner quest and would like to experience the hallucinogenic effects of spiritual, medicinal plants like ayahuasca and San Pedro, you’ll find those too. For instance, numerous community-based tourism projects in Ecuador’s Pastaza Province offer travelers the chance to participate in local ayahuasca ceremonies. Keep in mind that this is not an everyday experience. Those interested should research it in advance and understand the extent of the mental, physical, and spiritual preparation involved before deciding whether to try it.
Experience Unexpected Activities
An understated draw to community-based tourism in Ecuador is that it leaves more room for the unexpected, which is especially attractive for travelers seeking authentic experiences and interactions.
By putting away your well-thought-out 2-day itinerary, you’re leaving room for the possibility of adventure or perhaps much-needed relaxation. Engage with your local hosts, ask questions, be silly, play with the children, and you may end up experiencing one of the best adventures of your life.