Category Archives: Indigenous culture

Tierra Del Volcan ¡n Ecuador

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The more places like Tierra del Volcan I discover in this world, the more optimistic I am about the future. continues to find and showcase projects such as Tierra del Volcan because without them, the world of travel would not have such a bright future.

Tierra del Volcan is doing so many great things in Ecuador, it’s hard to list them all. But I’d like to take the opportunity here to describe some of the services for the community, some of the creative and innovative green building technologies they are using, and just how well they are embodying the philosophy of ecotourism.

Tierra del Volcan

A little about Tierra del Volcan:

Tierra del Volcan (Volcano Land) High Adventure, operates three working haciendas or farms: Hacienda El Porvenir, Hacienda El Tambo Quilindana and Hacienda Santa Rita Ecological Reserve, in the region surrounding the Cotopaxi Volcano, each one with its charm, ecosystem and distinctive touch. This area is known as the land of the four corners due to the four surrounding volcanoes: A  Rumiahui 4,712 m (15,455 ft), Pasochoa 4200 m (13,776 ft), Sincholagua 4893 m (16049 ft) and Quilindana 4878 m (16000 ft), with snow capped Cotopaxi at it’s center.

A broad range of activities are available on the haciendas, from horseback riding while experiencing the culture of the Chagra (the Ecuadorian highland cowboy), dining in traditional straw-roofed farmhouses, camping in small valleys hidden between mountain folds, trekking around the premises taking in the magnificent scenery, climbing impressive peaks immersed in awe-inspiring landscapes. At the farmhouses they provide the chance to participate in the daily life of the haciendas or relax in front of a crackling fire.

Tierra Del Volcan views

Their philosophy “Mi casa es su casa” encompasses not only the service they provide, but their goals of protecting the surrounding natural environment and investing in social and educational development of their local communities.

Tierra del Volcan has been recognized for their initiatives by United Nations World Tourism Organization as a company committed to sustainable practices, they have partnered with the Nature Conservancy in the conservation of the Condor Bio Reserve- a conservation corridor that links several protected areas of the SNAP (Ecuadorian National Park and Preserved Areas System) and are certified for their ecotourism practices by the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism and Smart Voyager 2008.

Tierra del Volcan has been very active over the past decade in the conservation of the Paramos, native threatened vegetation, by commissioning studies, contributing volunteers, training local people, creating monitoring programs and conducting large scale reforestation.

Maybe most impressive are the construction and operations of their haciendas.

Tierra del Volcan Santa RitaHacienda El Porvenir is their main center of operation. It is a traditional hacienda house build 20 years ago in traditional constructive methods such as earth bricks (adobe), hay roof and wood. This house was initially built to lodge the family, but in 1999 was adapted for tourism needs. Since opening their doors to guests form all over the world, they have learned about sustainable development, better ecotourism practices and strong community relations and much more.

Carbon reduction

“We are a  forward- looking company committed to the preservation of Natural Resources, therefore we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and compensate them 100% by 2015. Some of the actions taken to fulfil this goal are:

•    Waste management (reduce, reuse and recycle, plus composting organic wate)
•    Reduce energy consumption ( by replacing light bulbs with saving bulbs, training staff and increasing awareness of tourists about energy consumption,  building strategies to save electricity by taking advantage of natural light, building strategies to isolate cold weather and minimize the heat loss, drying clothes and hotel implements with wind and sun.
•    House temperature and heating – chimneys are one of the heating mechanisms used for the house. Our commitment is that we only burn eucalyptus wood (an introduced tree specie that is highly efficient) that we bring from plantations of timber from the valleys. Also we have planted 200 hectares of native trees to give back to the land, something we are using.

•    Purchasing policies to buy less contaminating and more energy saving products.
•    Eradicate “slash and burn” traditional practices at the three haciendas we run.”

Community support and education  programs

Ecology club: The ecology club was founded to improve the scientific knowledge of the students from the Loreto and Pedregal schools nearby.

Tierra Del Volcan school programIn the Club children of different ages can discuss themes as geology, biology, ecology, chemistry and geography among others. The Club’s activities also focus on waste management, cleaning of natural environments and pollution. All those activities are backed with experiments, artistic expressions and field trips.

This program is funded by volunteers who come to the participate in the program for at least one month. 35 per cent of the total value that each volunteer contributes is used for the acquisition of materials.

Volunteers for the school program:  The volunteers’ project for the schools is an initiative that was deemed necessary by the schools and its teachers. The volunteers assist the classes and help the teachers with the school management and lesson preparation. They also teach English, arts, theatre and sports.

Informal meetings and motivating courses for sustainable development:
Various informal meetings with the Loreto and Pedregal communities about: The importance of a conservation policy for all of us and the future generations.

Adaptation of the schools and installations
:Volunteers paint the schools, update the installations, make sure that the hygienic services work well and assess the overall needs of the schools so that they can be provided. Programs have been worked out with the schools located in the central area of the National Park of Cotopaxi.

: With support from international volunteers more than 2000 species of native trees have been bought and planted; raised at the community’s green house in 2008. This program will help to recover eroded land on the wetlands of Pita River, one of the water reservoirs of Quito.

Cotopaxi: an active volcano:
The volcano “Cotopaxi” is considered a volcano with a moderate to high risk to explode. Therefore it is of significant importance to take certain measurements against the risks involved in case of an eruption. This program evaluated the present situation of the inhabitants of the Cotopaxi area regarding the knowledge they possess about the risks a volcano eruption can cause. It was found that the inhabitants of the area had little knowledge of such risks.

Tierra del Volcan

The project “Cotopaxi; An active volcano” has as first objective to find solutions to future risks regarding the activity of the Cotopaxi volcano. It works with the different actors who are in the risk zone, educating the people in order to prevent human disasters and to minimize loss of materials.

They try to achieve integration between the different actors; communities, haciendas, farmers, tour operators etc. in order to work together on themes like healthiness, evacuation, education and others.

The project has evolved since it was born (2003) and since 2006 Tierra del Volcan is promoting Semana del Volcan ( Week of the Volcano) working with local school and presenting this new knowledge to the community in Open Houses; working with the women and young members of the community in Volcanic Hand Crafts, as an economic solution and for people living in high risk areas.

For further information about these projects please contact:  or visit Tierra del Volcan at:

A Panama Indigenous Experience

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By Irene Edwards & Kelly Galaski

Our venture into indigenous culture began when our guide picked us up from our hotel in Panama City and it took about 30 minutes to get to the dock on the Chagres river in order to take a boat to the Embera village.

Embera Canoes Entrance to village

Men dressed in loincloths waited in canoes to take people across the river to the village.  The boat ride takes about 20 minutes – depending if you are in a motorized canoe called a “piragua,” or more traditional one. 

Embera arts & craftsThe women were waiting in the village, where there were people playing drums and other instruments. The area has several small villages, with about six families each.  There are small artisan shops to buy the colorful fabrics and jewelry made by the women. Their food comes from the surrounding river and forests and their own farms, such as fresh fish, plantains, and yucca (yummy!).  
Their houses are small thatched-roof open huts. The men were in charge of the music while the women performed a traditional dance.  The delicious lunch was fried tilapia and “Patacones” which are fried flattened plantains, all served on banana leaves.  Tourism here is managed by a community association that works with tour operators to bring visitors to the community to boost their income. Sometimes travelers stay with villagers for a night or two to really get the experience.   
The website for the community association, Embera Drua describes the history of how they began inviting people to their community, how they first received assistance from the Panama Tourism Board, the World Bank and local NGOs with training and to be connected with tour operators. Most of the adult members of the village are part of the association/NGO and they have elected a board of directors to work with the tour operators. They speak of the benefits tourism brings so that they can send their children to secondary school, pay for healthcare, and purchase cooking equipment and supplies. 

Embera dancing and music Embera kids

It has become pretty popular with lots of buses around at the docks. Some people argue that this type of tourism is exploitative, and others argue that it supports the communities. Depending on how the association manages the income and how the village residents feel, both sides could have some truth. We would like to pose the question to our readers.  Do you think that communities such as the Embera Drua are benefiting from having visitors to their villages and homes?

Embera home top

EcoCamp: Adventure in Patagonia

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Suite Domes

Have you ever dreamt of sleeping in an igloo or a traditional native hut?  Imagine a clear dome where you can see out to the stars, feel like you are sleeping in the wilderness but have the comfort and luxury of a hotel room.  This is EcoCamp. Probably the most intriguing feature is that the hotel is portable. Each winter the domes are removed. Now that is a small environmental footprint!

Daniel Sanhueza shares the vision of EcoCamp Patagonia and how it came to be the most ecologically sustainable and unique experience south of the Amazon:

“At the tip of the South American continent, in the heart of Patagonia in Torres del Paine National Park (Chile), we created the EcoCamp, the 1st sustainable lodging south of the Amazon, and the only one of its kind in Patagonia.

The Ecocamp, founded in 1998 and completed by January 2000, was conceived and engineered as an example of sustainable practices in wilderness areas. It hopes to inspire and motivate not only travelers but also the tourism industry towards the possibilities of lodging in wilderness areas with minimal human impact. In 2005 the entire establishment was moved to a new location. By 2008 we had gained enough experience in dealing with comfort in a sustainable manner, that we were able to create new Suite Domes at the Ecocamp.

Our commitment to sustainability through technology arose as our response to the destruction of the amazing Bio Bio river valley and the displacement of its aboriginal community in the years 1993 to 1996. The EcoCamp is still a prototype, but it is a modest contribution to creating new ideas and values during a period obsessed with “progress” that often brings massive destruction to our natural realms.

EcoCamp is a tribute to Kaweskar dwellings and way of life.

The basic premise in designing the EcoCamp was to maintain the nomadic spirit of Patagonia’s ancient inhabitants. These early peoples lived in harmony with “Mother Nature” and built their geodesic shaped huts from wood, fur, skins, and other organic materials which they hunted and gathered from their surroundings.

The Kaweskar, together with many other nomadic cultures, developed an environmentally responsible shelter. They made no demand on natural resources, stayed only a few nights in each place and placed very little importance on keeping material goods. The semicircular huts they built were simple and easy to install and dismantle and the fires built inside where enough to heat all occupants.

Communities had no hierarchy whatsoever and were formed by self- sufficient and independent families. They married for love, practiced monogamy, and had a very well established moral and ethical code involving a deep spiritual world with one god.
Their happiness relied not on possessing goods, but rather in moving about with complete freedom, counting on the individual as a source of self esteem, and nature was the source of well being.

Sadly, in a story repeated across much of Latin America, by 1880 the European settlers that had arrived in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in search of gold, furs, and wool displaced, slaughtered, and brought diseases to these people and by the 1920’s they were almost completely extinct.”


EcoCamp Patagonia is truly an inspiration to sustainable lodging and green travel. is saying keep up the good work!

A Green Travel Adventure to El Salvador

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What has towering volcanoes, canopy tours, great surfing and Mayan ruins? There may be a few countries that come to mind, but I bet it’s not El Salvador!

But it’s true! El Salvador has all that and more. It’s just a little country between Guatemala and Nicaragua, but never under-estimate the little guy!

Volcano IzalcoEcoExperiencias El Salvador showcases all the fun stuff to do there, and the fascinating cultural aspects such as Mayan ruins and indigenous villages way up in the mountains. There are snorkeling tours, boating trips to lagoons crawling with caimans, treks to volcanoes, visits to native peoples’ homes and tons of other ways to explore the country.

Caimans One of El Salvador’s best kept secrets is the surfing! Along the 320km of Pacific coastline there are at least 10 world class surf spots with long breaks, waiting to be ridden. And the best part for both pros and learners is that there are no crowds. It’s the best way to learn because you don’t feel like you’re encroaching on the surfers’ space, but also good for surfers who know what they’re doing and where to go to get the best waves with no one else in the way. There are good places for families to learn together that have smaller waves, and places with barrels and long double overhead waves that don’t close out for the best of you out there. Sunzal, one of the country’s best spots, is featured in’s El Salvador Volcanoes and Surf Adventure.

Nahuizalco Market If culture is more your thing, or you want to get out of the sun and up into the cool mountains for a couple of days, a truly undiscovered place awaits. Up in the highlands are indigenous villages with traditional mystical cultures.  Nahuizalco is an amazing glimpse of the past with ancient churches from the time of Spanish colonization, and one of the oldest art and craft markets where local vendors still wear traditional dress. You really feel transported to another world when you’re walking around a place like this.

There’s lots of different cool food to try like the “Pupusa.” It’s a handmade corn tortilla baked over a wood fire in an adobe oven, stuffed with things like cheese, pork, refried beans or squash or everything mixed together.  That maybe the best part of visiting a new country, giving your taste buds an adventure!

Everyone will have their own “The best part of the trip was…!” thing to say of course, but the best part of the trip to El Salvador really is knowing that you are contributing to the local livelihoods of the special people there that have made your trip so memorable. People are happy to tell you about working in the coffee fields or about their own history, even from their own home if you like. That kind of good feeling is what green travel is all about.

Learn more about green travel to El Salvador here.




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