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Cultural Travel in Peru: A Complete Guide

When we go traveling, we have access to a seemingly endless array of possibilities and activities to choose from, to adapt our experience to our personal preferences. Some people are highly active and prefer to go on Adventure Tours, whereas others prefer taking it easy. Then there are travelers fascinated about the particularities of urban locations, who will be more interested in our City Tours. But no matter what type of traveler you are, the one thing that will almost certainly be omnipresent during your trip, is Culture. 

From the moment we first set foot on foreign territory, to the moment we make our way back home, we are indulged in the host country’s culture. The latter is reflected in the way a country is organized for example, but also, and above all, in its people, and the way they speak, dress, behave. Knowing that, we are intrigued to travel to new places and witness cultural tendencies first-hand.

If you are among the people whose hearts beat for far-away cultures, and who are not afraid of getting to know ways of living we can only imagine, read on! We will reveal to you what Cultural Travel means to us at RESPONS and will give you some examples of tours that might just be the perfect fit for you. Of course, we also invite you to have a look at our other Cultural Tours to get a complete overview. Should you identify more with other ways of traveling, don´t worry. We have a whole range of other Travel Styles up our sleeve that are waiting to be discovered by you! 

Locals from Jayujayuni dancing on traditional music - RESPONSible Travel Peru

What is Cultural Travel?

How would you describe the concept of culture? If you think about it for a while, you will soon realize that this question can’t be answered so easily. That is because it is indeed a somewhat intangible concept including many different aspects. 

Nevertheless, culture certainly means something to every single one of us. Or better said: it means everything to us. Culture is what defines us, surrounds us at all times and helps us identify who we are. It is a feeling, rather than something we can easily fathom. 

Of course, in the same way that culture shows us where we come from and where we belong, it also distinguishes us from one another. Over time, people all over the world have developed different values they hold on to. And these differences are exactly what travelers are so interested in. Irresistibly drawn in by otherness, they are itching to discover foreign cultures and reveal all of their secrets.

But the whole idea of “Cultural Travel” might still remain a bit vague to you. So, to take away some of the mystery and let you see more clearly, we have identified four aspects that this type of travel means to us: 1. Getting to know different customs and traditions, often passed on from generation to generation; 2. Trying out the country´s gastronomy (Peru has been the culinary winner of the World Travel Awards a total of nine times); 3. Going back in time to understand the origins of culture; 4. Exchanging ideas and learning from one another. 

In what follows, we will further elaborate on these four ideas, giving you some ideas for possible tours to do, as well. Should the perfect excursion for you not be among our suggestions, know that we also offer a Peru Trip Planner & Custom Itineraries service. Please, don’t hesitate to make use of it, if you would like us to craft your very own and unique itinerary, taking all the work from you.

Locals in traditional clothing

Getting to know Customs and Traditions 

What comes up most often when people think about cultural travel, is probably the variety of customs and traditions that characterize different countries. This can include everything from arts and music, architecture, dress codes, family life, to religion and festivities. In Peru, one very important festivity is for example the so-called Corpus Christi. This colorful religious spectacle can be witnessed at the beginning of June.

When it comes to music, Peru is famous for its melodies coming from the Andes mountains. Andean music is produced using different types of panpipes and flutes and is thought to have its roots even before Inca times. 

It is also in the Andes that the colorful textile craft was born. Mats, cloths, bags and other items weaved by artisans show the beautiful nature of Peru’s mountains, testifying to the close relationship the Andes people have with their natural environment. 

A much less well-known tradition is placing a “Torito de Pucara” inside one’s house or on the roof of it. These toritos are small bull figures made of ceramics and often painted in a colorful way. The bull has started to become part of Peruvian culture with the arrival of the Spaniards. The Pucara people would decorate real bulls during festivities and later on, put spices on their noses. As a result, the bulls would go crazy, which is why they are nowadays depicted with their tongues out. 

If this story has intrigued you, and you want to know more about the Torito and the Pucara culture, we suggest you take part in our Art Workshop where you can Create a Torito de Pucara. During this experience, you will be given interesting information about Peruvian art and this beautiful tradition, before painting your very own little bull. We assure you that there is hardly any other souvenir that is more unique! 

Trying out the Country’s Gastronomy 

When we were talking about culture here-above, you may have noticed the absence of a very important aspect that should definitely be mentioned: gastronomy. We haven’t talked about it before, because we believe it has its very own special place when traveling. Without a doubt, many people love treating themselves to all kinds of delicious dishes when visiting foreign countries. They even try creations that they don’t enjoy at all, just for the sake of it. 

Are you a fan of culinary experiences when traveling? Then you will definitely be well-treated in Peru. The country offers great diversity when it comes to food, thanks to its different climate and territorial conditions. For example, it grows more than 3000 different types of potatoes on its land. You can also try alpaca meat here, as well as guinea pig (cuy), which is a very typical dish. 

While these eating habits are characteristic of the Andes region, Peru also has a very pronounced fishing culture. The Peruvian coast stretches along the Pacific ocean for around 2.400 km (1.500 miles), showing off beautiful landscapes and giving work to countless fishermen. Unlike the very industrial fishing industry that we know, the people here use traditional techniques to make their daily catch. By doing that, they bring the wonderful taste of Ceviche to our table, and we are more than grateful for that!

Are you still unaware of what this dish looks like and can’t wait to taste it? Then you should definitely not miss our tour about The Fishing Culture Of Lima. During this experience, you will not only try one of the freshest Ceviches you could probably get but also discover everything about the daily lives of Peru’s fishermen, their knowledge and challenges. 

Going back in Time 

Of course, culture is not something that is created from one day to the next. It is being formed over many years; a slow process that we wouldn’t be able to actively observe in our daily lives. Consequently, the biggest part of what we call our culture is actually inherited from our ancestors. 

Especially in Peru, the influence of ancient civilizations having inhabited this territory in the past is still highly visible to this date. The most famous of these civilizations are without any doubt the Incas. Their empire was so powerful that it spread from the south of Colombia all the way to Central Chile at the time of its peak (between 1438 and 1525). However, if you were to look at the entire history of the Incas, you’d have to start in the 8th century and end in the 16th. 

Despite the fact that the Inca culture dates back to such ancient times, remains from this civilisation can be found all over Peru. When going on the quest for these traces, be aware that they don’t necessarily have to be in their physical state. Yes, objects like archeaological sites or ceramics are obviously the easiest to find. But you will soon find out that traces of ancient civilizations are also reflected in today´s people´s mindset. In the mountains, for example, you will still come across many communities where the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Tayta Inti (Father Sun) are cherished as some of the main gods, instead of the Christian trinity imported by the Spaniards. 

And more importantly, try not to be blinded by the prevalence of the Inca culture. Because many other interesting civilizations characterize Peru and its history, as well. The Chimu, Moche, Nazca and Chachapoyas, for example, have left their traces in different parts of the country and laid the basis for the impressive Inca Empire and their knowledge. In our Route to the enigmatic aqueducts of Cantayoc on bicycle, we invite you to get to know different cultural expressions of the Nazca culture better: from agricultural engineering to the mysterious lines carved into the desert. Have a look at this trip if you are a history fanatic! 

Cahuachi Nazca

Exchanging Ideas and Learning from one other 

By now, you have probably realized that there are endless possibilities of getting to know Peru’s different cultures while traveling here. However, there is one very important thing that we need to remind ourselves of: Cultural travel is not only about learning from foreign cultures. It is also, and most importantly, about sharing!

As we are warmly welcomed by the people that we visit, invited to discover their ways of living or even participate in their daily activities, we should think about giving something back to them. And the best way of doing that is by sharing our culture with them likewise. Because what makes us think that these people are not equally interested in our lives as we are in theirs? Having worked with local communities for many years, we can assure you, THEY ARE! 

So don’t shy away from talking to them about yourself, your country, customs or whatever it may be that they want to know. You might even bring something typical from your home town for them to taste. In that way, you will enhance the experience for them as well and return home with a warm feeling in your guts. 

A great way of engaging in such cultural exchange is by taking part in our Lake Titicaca Homestay on Taquile Island. You will be able to get close to your host family and have interesting conversations with them. By the way, such tours are also perfect options if you plan on traveling with your kids, who can find play buddies in the local children. Have a look at all of our Family-Friendly Tours, if you want to check out more activities of this type. 

Guido's parents became the godparents of Coporaque's rebuilt homestay houses after the earthquake in 2016 | RESPONSible Travel Peru

What makes a RESPONSible Experience Unique? 

The concept of sustainability is commonly known to encompass three pillars: Social, environmental and economic. If we operate within a certain spectrum, not overstraining any of these pillars, we can reach sustainability. 

As RESPONSible Travel Peru is above all a Community-Based-Tourism company, the social pillar sometimes stands out in our work. We like to collaborate with local Peruvian communities and give value to the people of this country. And, as we have learned by now, there are no people without culture. All of us are defined by culture and live by it. 

Therefore, we prefer the concept of sustainability, where a fourth pillar is added, namely the cultural one. You can get more detailed information about that in our article on 4 things to know about Sustainable and Community-based tourism.

In our ideology, one should always stay curious about culture, value it and never underestimate its importance. In that way, we show our support to local communities and can work together with them to foster the social pillar of sustainability. And don’t we all agree anyways, that it is the cultural differences of the world that make this place so incredibly beautiful? 

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ABOUT RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU

RESPONS’ mission is to improve living conditions in Peru through developing and promoting sustainable tourism. We’ve implemented a business model in which all areas of human relations are respected, and - equally important - respect for the planet is incorporated.

Following this business model, we practice fair trade, foster cultural identity, promote equal opportunities, and we preserve the environment that surrounds us and other species.

Together with you we improve, day by day, on the always-demanding path towards sustainability.

Tours in Peru

Lake Morón in the desert by Ica is a true hidden gem and makes for a wonderful hike through the desert - RESPONSible Travel Peru

Quick magical desert experience

Butterfly Tambopata

Posada Amazonas Cultural Experience

Macaw clay lick

Tracing Wildlife in Tambopata National Reserve

Woman and man picking up tea leaves

The Peruvian Tea Experience

Lush cloud forest and river flowing down to Manu plains | RESPONSible Travel Peru

Manu Spirit, Nature and Culture

Hummingbird in Jardines de Mandor - Machu Picchu

The route of goodies to Machu Picchu

Woman standing on the Inca Trail among mountains, vegetation and clouds | RESPONSible Travel Peru

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu