With its abundance of cultural diversity and natural beauty, Brazil has fast become one of the leading destinations for Community Tourism, a strand of tourism that seeks to value and preserve the heritage of local communities and provide tourists with an immersive learning experience unlike any other
Everyone loves to travel, no surprise there. However, people’s motivation for travel varies. Some travel to shop, others to visit famous landmarks or to simply relax in the comfort of a hotel. For some, however, travel means something altogether different: a journey of self-knowledge and discovery. Those who identify more with the latter definition often opt for community tourism, a brand of travel that has seen exponential growth in recent years.
The concept is a relatively recent phenomenon. It dates back to the 1990s, but has gained increasing relevance over the last decade. It encourages tourists to experience a new place or region by staying with the local people and living as they do, whilst also volunteering in some sort of planned activity that aims to improve the community’s quality of life.
The idea is to promote travel that offers a deeper and more enrichening life experience than those garnered by holidays that cater for luxury and consumption. Community tourism is an alternative to traditional holidaying, and places a greater concern on the preservation of the environment and their local communities.
How about spending some time on a ranch in the Chapada do Araripe backcountry or bathing in one of the Amazon’s tributaries, or perhaps eating feijoada (meat stew) with quilombolas (descendants of Africa slaves) from Paraty or attending a pottery class with artisans from the Jequitinhonha Valley? These are just some of the unforgettable experiences on offer.
Whilst the emphasis is on simplicity, there’s no shortage of comfort – the tourist is ultimately treated like a long-lost friend and invited to share the local flavours, traditions and surroundings. There’s just one condition: that they remain open to learning new things and sharing the common values of respect.
These new experiences ensure that visitors return home feeling that they’ve been part of something profoundly meaningful and hence community tourism is able to achieve its ultimate goal – change the way that local communities are seen and treated, through genuine cultural exchange.
Here’s a look at some of the better known community tourism destinations:
Reserva Mamirauá, Amazonas – Pousada Uacari, which is a floating hotel, is the only accommodation in the reserve, which is also a Natural World Heritage Site. In addition to the various hiking trails – accessible only by canoe – guests learn about the riverside communities and interact with researchers who work in the area.
(More information: pousadauacari.com.br)
Projeto Saúde e Alegria, Pará – This NGO that was established in the region since 1987 and allows visitors to travel up the Amazon and visit various communities along the banks of the Tapajós-Arapiuns Reserve and Tapajós National Forest.
(More information: turiarteamazonia.wordpress.com)
Quilombo Campinho da Independência, Rio de Janeiro – Along this ethnic-ecological trail of this quilombola community, near Paraty, tourists are invited to spend time with the local families and participate in long-standing local traditions, such as drum-led dances and local banquets.
(More information: quilombocampinhodaindependencia.blogspot.com.br)
Rede Tucum, Ceará – This network of 13 communities was formed in 2008. Set on the Ceará coast, guests stay in community or family-run accommodation and have ample opportunity to explore the ecological trails, learn about local farming practices and participate in unique cultural events.
(More information: tucum.org)
Acolhida na Colônia, Santa Catarina – This association of 180 families invites visitors to experience authentic rural life and learn about organic farming, animal breeding, horseback riding and how to make delicious homemade breads and jams.
(More information: acolhida.com.br)
Do Barro à Arte no Vale do Jequitinhonha, Minas Gerais – Thanks to a local company that specialises in community tourism, volunteering projects and crafts, it’s possible to experience true cultural immersion and work with the ceramic masters of the region, as well as participate in special workshops led by a specialist curator.
(More information: raizesds.com.br)
Fundação Casa Grande, Ceará – This program seeks to benefit the education of children and teenagers in rural Cariri. Visitors can stay with local families and enjoy the cultural attractions of Chapada do Araripe, which include visits to farms, mills, archaeological sites and a museum dedicated to Luiz Gonzaga.
(More information: turismocomunitariofcg.wordpress.com)
Contact one of the BBMag’s travel agencies partners to plan your next trip. And don’t forget to mention BBMag to get special offers and conditions.