Category Archives: People-to-People Travel

BnBs with a Twist: Adventure Tour Operators Offer Opportunities to ‘Live Like a Local’

Trek through remote rural regions of North Vietnam on this 10 day Adventure Life Vietnam tour. Start your trek in White Hmong villages and continue through Red Dao and Co Lao minority communities for 6 days and 5 nights. Stay in the villages in tents or small guest houses and interact with the locals who rarely see foreign visitors.
Trek through remote rural regions of North Vietnam on this 10 day Adventure Life Vietnam tour. Start your trek in White Hmong villages and continue through Red Dao and Co Lao minority communities for 6 days and 5 nights. Stay in the villages in tents or small guest houses and interact with the locals who rarely see foreign visitors.

Bed n’ Breakfast and homestay accommodations like AirBnB has been garnering a lot of attention around the idea of living like a local when you travel, of experiencing a new place just as locals do. It’s a style of travel that engenders a sense of belonging rather than overshooting or just passing through. Being in a neighborhood, rather than a commercial district with other visitors also adds another special ingredient to the travel experience:  authenticity.

In fact, several travel companies have been offering this form of culturally immersive travel for years. Here’s a geographically diverse sampling of 8 “Live Like a Local” Trips, provided by travel expert Steve Snyders:

Homestay with the Aymara people in Peru –

On this Adventure Life trip, you’ll explore Lake Titicaca, a geographic landmark at the crossroads of the Andes and the Andean plateau and the world’s highest navigable and South America’s largest lake. You will also have the opportunity to interact with the local community whose roots date back to ancient cultures that settled in this area. Their hospitality opens a door to share with their families and allows a homestay opportunity on Amantani Island.

Homestay with Amazon Tribe 

With Gondwana EcoTours, venture deep into the rarely accessed Amazon Rainforest to meet the indigenous Achuar tribe of the Ecuador. Contact with this tribe was only made in the 1970s, and their culture is more intact than most of the world’s tribes.  Hike volcanoes, visit remote waterfalls, spot tropical birds and other exotic wildlife, learn about flora & fauna, kayak Amazon waters, and stay at one of the most remote, ecologically responsible ecolodges in the world. 

Camp in a Village Campground en route to Machu Picchu –

Along a less traveler route to Machu Picchu, immerse yourself in the village life while overnight in the Cachiccata community’s village campground. Ths Adventure Life trip includes a group service project in the Cachiccata community combined with visit of Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu. On this trip, you get to work, side-by-side with the family members cleaning, repairing, and restoring homes, planting native trees, and visiting school and supporting a healthy breakfast project. You will stay in the community campground each night to immerse ourselves in the village life.

Enjoy a “Slow Food” Adventure in Tuscany –

With Ciclismo Classico, join a family-run farm in the heart of Tuscany for an exciting cycling and epicurean adventure dedicated to the “Slow Food” movement.  This exclusive six-day Tuscany tour includes some of the most beautiful bike rides in Italy and a complete cultural immersion into the Tuscan lifestyle on an energy-independent Italian agriturismo.

Homestay with Nomads in Siberia and Mongolia 

Beautiful and exotic, Siberia and Mongolia are worlds away from the traditional beaten path. On this trip with MIR Coporation, explore the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar, then fly to the red sands of the Gobi Desert. Celebrate a country Naadam Festival, far from the glitz and ruckus of the capital. Wind your way through the remote Barguzin Valley to homestays in rural Ust-Barguzin. In Siberia, take to the waters of great Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on earth, and ride a section of the fabled Trans-Siberian Railway.

Stay in rural villages in Cambodia –

On this Adventure Life trip you get to explore a rarely-encountered slice of Southeast Asia on a circuit starting in Thailand and visiting Cambodia and southern Laos. Visit rural villages along the Mekong River, wander through jungle-covered ruins from the ancient Khmer Empire, and support local community-based tourism projects as you learn about rural lifestyles in northern Cambodia and southern Laos and the efforts to preserve national treasures and ruin sites. View wildlife in national parks, kayak through wetlands, and explore limestone caves as you visit lesser-known destinations in these heritage-rich countries during this Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos tour.

Camp with Inuit Dogsledders in Greenland 

Travel to West Greenland with Big Chill Adventures and explore and photograph fantastic landscapes of pristine beauty, exotic, arctic wildlife and northern lights. This all-inclusive seven day, eight night adventure will be a splendid introduction to the highlights that Greenland has to offer: calving glaciers, palatial icebergs, dogsledding on sea ice after spending the night in a hut with Inuit family. The wildlife and access to the giant Greenland Ice Sheet in Kangerlussuaq is unmatched.

Homestay in rural villages of Vietnam –

Trek through remote rural regions of North Vietnam on this 10 day Adventure Life Vietnam tour. Start your trek in White Hmong villages and continue through Red Dao and Co Lao minority communities for 6 days and 5 nights. Stay in the villages in tents or small guest houses and interact with the locals who rarely see foreign visitors. Learn about the North Vietnam culture and see firsthand what daily life is like for so many in these rural mountain areas. Enjoy breathtaking scenery from rocky landscape to lush green jungle and rice paddy farmlands as you hike to the furthermost northern point in Vietnam. This active Vietnam trip was designed for those wishing to experience the off-the-beaten-track side of Vietnam.


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Natural Habitat Adventures Unveils “Undiscovered Cuba” Showcasing Culture, Nature, Local Contacts

Natural Habitat Adventures' 12-day "Undiscovered Cuba" explores Cuba’s intriguing culture and stunning tropical ecosystems and facilitates people-to-people contacts.
Natural Habitat Adventures’ 12-day “Undiscovered Cuba” explores Cuba’s intriguing culture and stunning tropical ecosystems and facilitates people-to-people contacts.

Natural Habitat Adventures, a premier ecotourism company, has unveiled a new “Undiscovered Cuba” 12-day itinerary that explores Cuba’s intriguing culture and stunning tropical ecosystems on an educational exchange that promotes people-to-people contacts designed to provide a human perspective of this captivating Caribbean island nation that has long been inaccessible to American travelers.

Travelers will experience the vibrant cultural centers of Havana and Trinidad as well as virtually unknown national parks, rare botanical gardens, lush tropical ecosystems and fabulous birdlife, and have opportunities to interact with Cuban scientists, naturalists, park managers, academics, organic farmers, community activists, artists, business owners and others eager to share their stories.

“This is a rare opportunity to embrace the daily lives of citizens here. Cuba has been off-limits to American tourists for decades. We are among a select few companies to secure a special U.S. government permit through the newly established People-to-People program, allowing us to offer this exclusive travel opportunity to our privileged guests,” said Ben Bressler, Natural Habitat’s founder and president.

2015 departures, each for a maximum of 15 guests, are: Feb. 10, Feb. 27, and Apr. 18. The per-person double occupancy rate is $7,695, based on a group size of 10 or more. Both international and internal flight costs are in addition to the trip fee. Internal air is $550 (subject to change). Nat Hab books the international flight from Miami to Cienfuegos, Cuba, and the return from Havana to Miami. These flights are organized through a licensed charter company authorized to provide direct flights to Cuba. (See

In addition to Cuban culture and history, the trip also showcases Cuba’s natural resources and diversity. Highlights include World Heritage Sites and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and hosted visits to organic farms and community-run ecotourism projects, such as:

Zapata National Park. Situated on Cuba’s southern coast, this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve covers 1.5 million acres harboring some 1,000 plant species, of which 130 are endemic to Cuba, and showcasing a great diversity of habitats such as grasslands, mangroves, varied types of forest, coastal lagoons and coral reefs. “As far as we know, we are the only current People-to-People tour operator including it in their itinerary,” said Bressler.

Viñales National Park & the Viñales Valley embrace dramatic 250-million-year-old loaf-shaped limestone mountains laced with caves. These karst formations have been worn away by hundreds of years of erosion, becoming small islands that are self-contained ecosystems. The trip visits Cuevo del Indio (Cave of the Indians), the largest system of underground caves in Latin America.

Las Terrazas is an ecotourism center in which a sustainable rural economy has been developed based on the use of local natural resources and a strong focus on public environmental education.

“Accommodations are always the best available and extend an understanding of culture and history through their locations.”

The Grand Hotel Trinidad transports guests to the elegance of 16th-century Cuba under Spanish influence, with gracious archways and wrought-iron balconies. The colonial-style Hotel La Ermita offers magnificent views of the Viñales Valley, and in the heart of Havana the luxurious Parque Central is a mix of colonial and modern elements. Sunswept Playa Larga Beach on the southern coast along the Bay of Pigs is home to the Hotel Playa Larga, which offers basic accommodations with easy access to Zapata National Park.

Participants meet in Miami for an orientation and an overnight at Sofitel Miami Hotel. A chartered flight the next day makes the short hop to Cienfuegos where the group is joined by its local Cuban guide. The program includes a myriad of planned yet unscripted people-to-people exchanges enhanced by an exclusive immersion into Cuba’s rarely visited natural world.  Spend the first afternoon in Cienfuegos, which is recognized as an outstanding early example of urban planning in Latin America. At the Cienfuegos Botanical Garden, enjoy identifying tropical flora and fauna accompanied by botanist Roger Pazos.

Driving on to Trinidad, there will be opportunities to meet the local people through music and the arts, including dining at one the city’s best private restaurants where guests chat with owner Lazaro Orellana who talks about operating a small private business in Cuba. There’s a visit to a community library where the director discusses how books are selected and the role of government censorship, a invitation to a traditional pig roast, and a visit to a late 18th-century plantation house, the Trinidadian residence of Julio and Rosa Munoz (Julio is a photographer, business owner and esteemed horse trainer).

On ensuing days the route moves west to the Zapata Peninsula where there will be ample opportunities to discover the rich endemic plant and bird life – look for the Fernandina’s flicker, one of the rarest woodpeckers in the world. Cruise down the Rio Hatiguanico hoping to sight rarely seen crocodiles.

En route to Viñales, the group stops at Las Terrazas and lunches with restaurant owner Tito Ramos who explains the business opportunities of private restaurants called paladares.

Explore Viñales National Park accompanied by Emma Palacios Lemagne, who has worked in the park for 25+ years. She is the leading gastropoda biologist and conservationist in Cuba.

Four full days in Cuba’s vibrant capital of Havana conclude the journey, with highlights including a traditional Cuban lunch at the Hotel Nacional, a stroll through Old Havana with a prominent architectural historian and an invitation to the National Theater to watch a dance class at the Danza Contemporánea de Cuba.

For the complete itinerary see:

Natural Habitat Adventures has been a world leader in responsible adventure travel and nature-based ecotourism since 1985. Inspired and created from years of scouring the planet for the singular and extraordinary, Nat Hab’s trips appeal to travelers who seek more than the standard, done-before tour commonly found in today’s marketplace.  Itineraries are artfully crafted, one-of-a-kind experiences that are far from “typical.” Natural Habitat Adventures enjoys the reputation for employing some of the finest naturalist expedition leaders. Conservation is at the forefront of everything the company does, and its philosophy about environmentally responsible travel is simple: tourism must work with and benefit local communities, which will in turn find value in protecting precious natural resources. NHA is the travel partner of the World Wildlife Fund, sharing a commitment to travel as a means of helping to protect the planet’s wondrous natural places.

For trip information, descriptive itineraries, date availability and reservations call 800-543-8917 or visit


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