It's no secret that living like a local – even if only for a moment – offers travelers a unique lens into a destination. By connecting directly with a local community, travelers have the opportunity to learn more about the nuances of a culture, make lifelong friendships and discover hidden gems. Below, some of our favorite trips to experience community life when traveling.
In Norway, travelers have the opportunity to connect with the local Sami community (the European Union's only indigenous people), and learn about their reindeer herding traditions through experiences with Visit Natives. An immersive experience, you'll be welcomed into Norway to live with a local Sami family, and have the option to stay in a traditional Sami lavvu tent overnight. Travelers can ride a sledpulled by reindeer, see the Northern Lights and learn to ice-fish.
Chiang Mai is known for its temples and elephant sanctuaries, but a less-known (and still incredibly worthwhile) experience is through Lisu Lodge, an ecolodge located just over an hour outside of the city. Travelers can connect with locals through an Akha village tour that focuses on cultural immersion and daily life, and includes an opportunity to chat with the village shaman. Other highlights include a cycling tour of the scenic countryside, white water rafting and a tour of a local tea plantation. Community engagement is a key part of the Lisu Lodge experience, and the local Akha community has been involved in the development of operations, are employed as staff and a portion of all proceeds made are shared directly with the village – so travelers can visit the lodge to learn more about the culture and book experiences in confidence that they're supporting the local community.
Located just off-the-beaten-path from popular tourist destinations in Puerto Vallerta is Bucerias, a charming and unique beach town in Mexico. Savvy travelers know to book an experience with Human Connections, a social enterprise that connects travelers, entrepreneurs and local artisans. Meet indigenous weavers, local bakers, hammock makers and more – and you'll be rewarded with a sense of the vibrant cultural diversity within the community.
"There's another Rainbow Mountain other than the exact same shot you see all over Instagram," Alden Wicker of Ecocult wrote on Instagram. Our local partners at CBC Tupay connect travelers to unique experiences with indigenous communities throughout the Sacred Valley, with the goal of supporting the preservation of Andean cultures. Travelers can connect with local communities to get to know the authentic Peru, immersing themselves in the country's culture and beauty in rural areas of Cusco.
"For the popular Rainbow Mountain, aka Vinicunca, you have to get up at 3:30 am to get there before it gets too crowded to get a good picture. When our guide from CBC Tupay told us about Palccoyo, and said almost no tourists go – and hence there is less trash and no corruption involved – I asked him to take us there instead. We woke up at 6 am, because we were doing a home stay nearby, and it’s only an hour hike as opposed to two (so I felt a bit guilty about taking the easier route) but there are four mountains instead of one, and we had the final lookout all to ourselves for 20 minutes, except for a shepherd’s dog who showed up! The colors are caused by minerals so thick, copper and iron, that nothing can grow."
Alden writes that they "never would have had this experience if Lokal hadn’t hooked us up with a private tour with the NGO CBC tupay, which allowed us the flexibility to change our plans and put us with an experienced local." You can book our experiences to hike Rainbow Mountain on Lokal.
Located in the depths of the Amazon rainforest is Uakari Lodge, an ecolodge and community-based tourism hybrid. The floating lodge is run by a coalition of eight local communities with a deep commitment to sustaining nature in the area. Travelers have the opportunity to go on a tour of the nearby village to learn more about day-to-day life for locals, as well as eat local cuisine, try their hand at fishing piranhas and hike through the Amazon to spot howler monkeys. The price of the program includes a portion that is delegated toward a fund to support community projects to improve the welfare of all residents. You can learn more about Uakari with our Q&A with the team on exploring the Brazilian Amazon.
Looking for more experiences to connect with locals? We've rounded up a collection of trips that will connect you directly with local communities.
She's the Marketing Maven at Lokal and a travel entrepreneur passionate about storytelling and social good - you can find more from Kelley over at The Culture Collective and Impact Travel Alliance where she's working to transform the travel industry.