Community homestays in Salta, Argentina

Carolina Canto, of social enterprise and responsible travel company Sumak Travel, reports on a new homestay initiative in Argentina…

rural living in Salta, Argentina (c) Sumak TravelAs a part of a rural travel experience in Argentina, the co-operative ‘Red de Turismo Campesino’ (Rural Tourism Network) in the Calchaquíes valleys of Salta offers a great opportunity to enjoy local culture, share in their daily lives and to be a guest in their homes.

To improve their livelihoods and provide opportunities for authentic cultural exchange, these rural communities decided to offer their homes to tourists. Part of this income benefits the host family directly while the rest is invested in a common fund for the community.

Accommodation: There are various houses along the valleys that offer accommodation to visitors. Each of them has one to three double bedrooms that are especially allocated for visitors. Beds, mattress, blankets and bathrooms have been recently renewed or improved in order to guarantee a comfortable stay. The capacity of each house generally varies between two to four guests, with six being the maximum.

Around Salta (c) Sumak TravelFood: Traditional Andean dishes are cooked by family members as a part of the experience. Guests have the opportunity to either join in preparing the meal or to sit down, relax and observe the cooking process. In addition, visitors are invited to join them during their farming tasks growing several types of seeds, fruits and vegetables. Do try their delicious Andean cuisine made from fresh ingredients from the region and discover their different techniques of organic wine making.

Activities: Visitors can take guided walks along the valleys through the croplands and vineyards enjoying the beautiful landscapes of Salta. From growing onions or cattle breeding to horse riding and ceramic adobe craftsmanship, the community of Salta offer the traveller a great opportunity to enjoy a ‘living’ experience of rural life in the valley.

Recommended for… Those who are looking for a respectful and authentic cultural exchange with the community in Salta, and real interaction with nature. The activities are not physically challenging and distances are short so that anyone is able to join in and enjoy them.

Be aware that… This is a traditional homestay with welcoming hosts – but if you need a hotel-style experience this may not be for you…

Good credentials: mountains of Salta, Argentina (c) Sumak Travel

  • The ‘Red de Turismo Campesino’ of Salta, Argentina is an active member of the Argentinian Network of Rural Community Tourism
  • By winning the contest of the ‘Citizen fund of Argentina’, the community was awarded funds to support their expenses and continue with the strengthening of their touristic offer
  • The co-operative and network are self-managed by 50 rural families from Salta, in the north of Argentina
  • They work under the framework of fair-trade, responsible tourism and cooperative work with local identity
  • They have designed a rotating working system in which each family has the same opportunity to provide services and sell their handcrafts to tourists, so that the benefits from tourism are equally distributed within the network
  • The cooperative aims to make tourism a complementary activity that allows them to improve their livelihoods while preserving their traditional lifestyle

homestays in Salta, Argentina (c) Sumak Travel

About the author: Carolina is a staff member of the recently launched ethical travel company and social enterprise Sumak Sustainable Travel. Sumak offers responsible travel experiences connecting people with local life in Latin America and opening the door for travellers to meet and exchange with inspiring people and projects in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Ecuador. For more information, including other eco-travel tours, visit


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Hieu Liem Community Travel Tours, Vietnam

Hiếu Liêm Commune, Vĩnh Cửu District, Đồng Nai Province, Vietnam

T: +84 948 409 265 / E:


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The Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve (also known as Cat Tien National Park) is one of the most ecologically beautiful areas of Vietnam – and Nguyen Dinh Hieu, founder of a brand new community tourism company, wants you to come and discover it for yourself.

After graduating from university in Ho Chi Min City, Dinh Hieu returned to his rural homeland with a desire to create something of benefit to the local community and environment. After working as a guide in the incredible Dong Nai nature reserve, Dinh Hieu decided to start Hieu Liem Community Travel & Homestay with responsible tourism at its core. With a chance to get to know the real Vietnam, most tours offer homestays with local people (so you can share cultures, traditions, langugages with your hosts) and activities are led by local people with intimate knowledge of the jungle, lakes and community at large. Still in its early days Dinh Hieu and his team of experienced guides have already hosted a number of adventurous and open-minded tourists and have created a number of tailored tours (and volunteering projects – see Good Work for more soon) for those who want to experience the real Vietnam – its wildlife, landscapes and people.

Tours are flexible and prices are dependent on group sizes and time of year – you can also request a bespoke tour itinerary which may be possible (contact direct for more details). Tours include:

Fisherman Tour on Tri An Lake (1/2 day or 1 day): Experience the life of a local fisherman from managing the boat, learning to spread nets and catching fish, to cooking your catch of the day for a delicious meal! In the growing season, guests can also join in with other farming activities such as planting and harvesting rice. Transport includes a bus from Ho Chi Minh, then cycling to Tri An Lake.

Community Homestay Tour (1 night, 2 days): Experience life for the local inhabitants of this rural part of Vietnam. Tourists will be collected from Ho Chi Minh City and take to Hieu Liem to meet and stay with local people. Activities include learning Vietnamese, helping tend to plants in the gardens while discovering more about their culinary and medicinal uses, shopping in the food market, cooking with your host family and hearing all about their way of life. Bicycles are available for those who want to explore the area and visit local restaurants.

Bird Watching: For those who love wildlife and walking, treks of varying lengths can be arranged, usually with an early start so you can catch sight of the amazing bird life of Dong Nai! Your experienced guide will point out bird species as well as any  interesting plant and insect life you may encounter.

For more tour itineraries, visit the Hieu Liem Community Travel website or email for more details.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Dedication to low-impact, environmentally-friendly, responsible tourism
  • Supporting local communities and employing local people as guides, tutors, homestay hosts and more
  • Promoting rural Vietnamese life – its people and wildlife
  • Encouraging exchange of knowledge (languages, traditions)
  • Also runs a volunteer programme (teaching school children English, teaching farmers sustainable practices)

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Boats, Elephants and Community Work in Kerala, India

Fort Kochi, Kerala, India

Through i to i Volunteering

E: / T: +44(0)1892 886123

(Review by Rachel Watson)

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The Boats, Elephants and Community Work two-week tour does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a jam packed two weeks in South India’s beautiful Kerala, with boat trips, elephant interaction and eight days of community volunteering with delightful children in a special needs school.

You’ll be met at the airport and transferred to the homestay accommodation which will be your base for the two weeks. First up it’s a full orientation and “get to know each other” session with the rest of the group and co-ordinator Rakhi, a local lady who knows everything there is to know about Kerala and will bend over backwards to help you enjoy your time in her home state. Then it’s time to get stuck into the itinerary – starting with a full tour of Fort Kochi, taking in St Francis’ church, the Presidential palace, ornate Jewish synagogue and traditional Chinese fishing nets. The nets are still in full working order, and you can stand by and watch the fishermen at work. If you’re lucky (like I was) they will invite you to lend a hand, and you can help reel in a catch – mine was sent off to market to be sold!

The journey to school is made by bus – it’s a hot and cramped 20 minute trip by bus (a crazy experience not to be missed in India!) then a lovely ten minute stroll along the sea front, past the fishing nets (and once during my stay, a Bollywood film set) and through the front gates to school. The first time you make the journey (and more if you need it) you’ll be accompanied by a member of Rakhi’s team, and introduced to the teachers. The school is based at a convent and run by dedicated, hardworking and loving sisters who will make you feel very welcome at their school, and the children are beautiful – very fun loving, playful and trusting, and willing to work (and play) hard at any games, lessons or songs you introduce.

The weekends are no time for relaxing after a busy time at school – there’s a traditional Kerala arts show to enjoy, and trips to the famous Backwaters, an elephant village and the stunning Arirapally Waterfalls. I was most excited by the elephant trip, as I’ve always loved the majestic animals and was looking forward to getting up close with them. I wasn’t disappointed – invited by the mahouts to help with the bath I waded into the river to help scrub the elephants and was able to chat to the mahouts about their lives, and stroke the animals as much as I liked. We then headed straight off to the awe-inspiring waterfalls – you can get so close to them, and enjoy cooling off in smaller pools as well. Our trip also included lunch at a fantastic restaurant, with an infinity pool and fabulous views – the perfect end to an amazing day.

The trip includes two fantastic backwater cruises. The Kerala Backwaters are one of the natural wonders of the world, and – cruising through the lush green plants and trees, waving at local children running alongside your boat – it’s not hard to see why. Our first day on the Backwaters was spent on two different boats – a larger one with a sun deck for relaxing, and a much smaller boat, which was able to cruise down the smaller, less populated backwaters and take in even more of this gorgeous part of the world.

The second Backwater trip is an overnight stay on a houseboat, and was for me the perfect end to a perfect two weeks. My group – by now firm friends – spent a fantastic night cruising through the riverside villages, exotic birdlife and stunning scenery. We drank, laughed and reminisced about the fantastic, chock full two weeks we’ll remember for a lifetime.

Work: You’ll be spending eight days volunteering in a special needs school run by the sisters of the convent the school is based in. The children age from around 7-years upwards, and there are also adult students who participate in life skills classes and help the nuns with the smaller children. Activities are varied and very much down to the individual – you’ll need to use your initiative and get stuck in, there’s no place for wallflowers so come prepared with ideas for songs, games, lessons and activities you can do with the students. If you’ve got a particular skill or interest, use it!

Accommodation: It’s homestay accommodation here, staying in volunteer quarters of a family home. Rooms are based on twin share, and there’s a western-style toilet and warm water shower. Facilities include a microwave, kettle, toaster, fridge and television, and there’s a hand wash laundry service available for a (very) small fee. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Food: All meals are included and most of them are home cooked by the homestay family’s cook. Meals are amazing – traditional South Indian fare (fish curries are a speciality) but different tastes and requirements can be catered for easily – just ask.

Recommended for… People who want to do and see the best Kerala has to offer in a short period of time, while giving something back with volunteer work alongside the “touristy” activities. Also great for solo travellers, as you’re part of a group of like-minded people.

Be aware that… This is a fully supported trip with a planned itinerary in place for you. I loved that I could leave the organisation to someone else and know everything was planned for me to get the most out of my two weeks’ annual leave – but if you’re the sort of person who prefers more independent, “do it yourself” trips, it may not be to your taste.

Remember too, that if you don’t get stuck in right away at school, you could leave feeling that you’ve not achieved as much as you (or the kids) would like. Preparation is key – hit the ground running with ideas and a plan for what you want to do in your short time (I planned “In The Jungle” and “Under The Sea” arts and crafts projects – one for each week – and also swotted up on the kids in my class by reading through the journal left by previous volunteers).

‘Good’ credentials

  • All the accommodation, food, trips and in country staff are locally sourced – boosting the local economy and providing jobs
  • The children at the school benefit from one-on-one attention from volunteers, and the extra pairs of hands allow the permanent staff more time to concentrate on physiotherapy and speech therapy sessions for children who need them


Date of Visit: January 2011


About the author: Rachel Watson caught the travel bug during her gap year in 2002, and has no plans to stop exploring! She works in Customer Operations and blogs about her travel experiences in her spare time. Visit Rachel’s blog at or follow her on Twitter @RacheyRoo183




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