Green Path: How to trek responsibly
From the iconic Inca Trail to the stunning Cordillera Blanca mountain range in the north, Peru is a wonderland of endless trekking opportunities. Yet, with the increasing number of tourists visiting these areas every season, there’s a real risk that the natural beauty and indigenous culture of these regions could be irrevocably damaged.
The question is, how to keep the natural and culture beauty intact? The heart of the answer lies in the decisions that travelers make during their time abroad. Our tips outline some easy, yet important, ways for you to be a conscientious trekker. These steps help keep the natural landscapes and native culture of Peru as immaculate as you find it.
Respect Mother Nature: Keep the environment looking good
Andean waterways and lakes are fragile ecosystems and sources of drinking water for local people, so don’t be tempted to bathe or wash clothes en route. Most guided treks provide you with warm water at the start and end of each day to wash with; just make sure you dispose of used water carefully – again, at least 20m from any natural source. After all, part of the experience of an adventurous trek is to go a few days without a proper shower!
Stick to marked paths to avoid more erosion – tempting as shortcuts might look, trampling boots damage the fabric of the hillside.
The Cusco region is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site famous for its species of flora and fauna – so leave them where they look best – in their natural homes.
Into the Wild
Be considerate when camping: leave no sign you were there. Don’t camp in ruins as ancient walls could get damaged. Campfires are too risky so stick to camping stoves for cooking and extra jumpers for keeping warm.
Carry all waste off the mountain: if you’re on a guided trek, don’t just hand your litter to guides or porters – some unscrupulous ones may not dispose of it properly. Keep an eye on other members of your group and ensure they do the same.
Take plenty of waste bags in preparation to carry any trash home; or even better, minimize the amount of waste you’ll produce by taking your food and drink in reusable containers.
Pay a fair price for a fair service to ensure the welfare of your porters and guides.
Learn about the cultures and customs of the area before you go so you know what to expect and know how to respect them. Always ask before taking someone’s photo and respect that the costumed locals with their llamas may ask for money in return for a snap – remember this might be a livelihood for them.
Make donations to an official organization who can distribute items fairly rather than giving to people on the streets. This type of giving only perpetrates a cycle of dependency. Avoid taking sweets or gifts for children you might meet along the way – remember that there is an absence of dental care in the region as well.
Use expensive gadgets and flashes of cash with discretion – they represent a few months’ wages to some Peruvians.
Learn at least a few words of Spanish so that you can communicate with locals you encounter.
At the very least, always be sure to say “hello” and smile to locals you pass. Show that you are enjoying their beautiful country!
Rachel lives and breathes travel. She has become particularly fond of Peru as she loves big mountains and ancient cultures, so she ended up living there for six months. She likes the challenge of traveling on a budget and she makes a point of really getting to know places inside-out.