Children of Yakel Village, Tanna, Vanuatu


Vicuñas of Colca Canyon, Peru

Night on Kotor Harbour, Montenegro


Robust Roots: Indigenous Cultures and Travel

In honour of today’s celebration of International Day of the World's Indigenous People, The Travel Word is taking you to places’ roots: its original inhabitants. Indigenous people, commonly defined as the first residents of a land, increasingly find themselves at the intersection of the past and the future, of tradition and progress. Which made us wonder what happens when travellers meet them along the way?

We believe that, when done mindfully, cross-cultural encounters have a great deal to offer to both travellers and indigenous people. So we’ve picked our Top Five Indigenous Cultures Tours from the network. You can also find the best ways to learn about the ethnic groups of Laos; to stay in the longhouses of the Rungus people of Borneo, Malaysia; to feel the warmth of the Maori, thermal Whakarewarewa Village of New Zealand; to travel by reindeer with the indigenous Nutti Sámi people of Sweden; and to meet the shea-butter-producing women of northern Ghana.

Like every month, we’ve shared word from travellers: one tells of her indigenous encounter in Chamula, Mexico and another reveals how much she learned from an Aboriginal elder of the Guugu Yimithirr people of northeastern Australia.

Of course, for our regular monthly series, we’ve brought you the Inside Word on Siem Reap, Cambodia and helped you learn a little more about our partner in Lithuania through a fun interview.

Thanks for celebrating indigenous cultures with us!

Cynthia Ord, Editor, The Travel Word newsletter

Panama, Senegal, Thailand, Vanuatu, Venezuela, adventure travel, ecotours, festivals & events, indigenous culture, local knowledge, top five, waterfalls, world heritag

Top Five Indigenous Cultures Tours 2 August 2011

The theme “linking cultures” has been chosen for the 2011 World Tourism Day (to be celebrated on September 27). Often, in an area with indigenous populations, or people who are original to the land, one of the greatest assets is traditional culture. Through mindfully operated cultural tours, indigenous groups have something a great deal to offer – and to gain! – from exchanges with tourists. Here we share a roundup of some of our favourite indigenous culture tours.

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Australia, Australia & New Zealand, Oceania, ecotours, holy sites, indigenous culture, local knowledge, personal experience, traveller tal

Traveller Tale: Willie Gordon’s Guurrbi Tours in Australia

Karolyn Wrightson 1 August 2011

Willie Gordon is likely simply to ask a traveller on one of his Guurrbi Tours “When was the Beginning for you?” I’ve yet to hear someone able to answer him. It is quite humbling to be in the presence of someone who is still in touch with his Beginning. I’ve seen rock paintings of animals that have been extinct for thousands of years, but in far too many magnificent rock art sites, the full story has been lost. Willie, however, learned what he knows directly from his elders and grandparents.

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Europe, Northern Europe, Sweden, animal conservation, animal conservation, ecotours, indigenous culture, local knowledge, outdoors, personal experience

Nutti Sámi Siida Leads Indigenous Ecotourism in Swedish Sápmi

Katja Bechtloff 29 July 2011

My experience with Nutti Sámi Siida has been a dream come true. My interest in ecotourism began while I was enrolled in Scandinavian studies, geography and tourism at universities in Germany and Sweden. During my research, I observed that travellers today are ever-more fascinated by the uniqueness and distinctiveness of indigenous cultures, as well as by the often stunning natural environments where these cultures reside. This is what I found in Sweden!

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Australia & New Zealand, New Zealand, Oceania, architecture & landmarks, ecotours, festivals & events, fine arts, indigenous culture, local knowledge, personal experien

Maori Culture and Natural Warmth in Whakarewarewa Village, New Zealand

Raumati Wikaire 4 August 2011

Whakarewarewa Village is a living Maori village located in the thermal region of Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand. Its doors have been open to tourists since more than a century ago when an 1886 volcanic eruption destroyed the historic pink and white terraces at Lake Tarawera, New Zealand’s first tourist attraction. Whakarewarewa Village today is inhabited by 25 families who go about their daily lives but allow visitors to move amongst them and learn about their customs and culture.

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Asia, Laos, South-Eastern Asia, ecotours, fine arts, forests & jungles, handicrafts & shopping, indigenous culture, local knowledge, museums

Ethnology Museum in Laos Helps Travellers Understand Local Ethnic Groups

Cynthia Ord 5 August 2011

Living in the remote mountains around Luang Namtha in northern Laos, the most traditional ethnic groups in the country have for centuries cultivated rice and inhabited small rural villages. These tribes, however, are at a crossroads between traditional ways of life and the forces of modernity and tourism. In response, the Traditional Arts and Ethnography Centre (TAEC) provides information to travellers about Laos’ diversity of cultures and ethnic groups.

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Mexico, North America, architecture & landmarks, cities, holy sites, indigenous culture, local knowledge, personal experience, traveller tale

Traveller Tale: A Step Back in Time with the Tzotzil Indigenous People of Chamula, Mexico

Heather Rath 1 August 2011

An elderly woman wearing traditional dress accosts me as I focus my camera on the exterior of the church. She wags her bony finger at me and ominously hisses “No…no…no….” She unnerves me so much I quickly hide my camera. We are near San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, in a town called Chamula, where the indigenous Tzotzil people earnestly protect their society and way of life.

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Asia, Malaysia, South-Eastern Asia, architecture & landmarks, ecotours, fine arts, forests & jungles, indigenous culture, local knowledge, wome

The Indigenous Rungus Tribes of Northern Borneo, Malaysia

Mika Santos 3 August 2011

The Borneo Ecotourism Solutions and Technologies (BEST) Society focuses on the sustainable development of Borneo’s local communities, utilising the benefits of tourism to provide opportunities for employment and income. On a cultural safari tour to North Borneo, for example, travellers are brought to the heart of an indigenous Rungus village, where they can stay in a longhouse with a family for a night and truly immerse themselves in the fascinating culture.

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Europe, Lithuania, Northern Europe, architecture & landmarks, cities, interview, local knowledge, opinion, personal experience

Interview: Travel Banter with an Advocate of Local Travel in Lithuania 26 July 2011

Every month, we delve into the travel experiences of people in the extended WHL Group network. This month we talk to Kestas Lukoskinas, co-founder of The Beautiful Land of Nevermind, the local connection in Vilnius and Klaipeda, Lithuania.

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Africa, Ghana, Western Africa, agriculture, ecotours, forests & jungles, indigenous culture, local knowledge, national parks, personal experience, poverty, women

Shea Butter Helps Drive Community Development and Ecotourism in Ghana

Victoria Okoye 8 August 2011

Mole National Park, Ghana's largest protected ecosystem, is surrounded by nearly 30 indigenous rural communities that rely on the land for their livelihood. Addressing these fringe communities' concerns is an important part of the work done in the area by one tour company, M&J Travel and Tours, committed to ecotourism in Ghana. It currently works with more than 350 women to support the local shea-butter production efforts for commercial trade.

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  ...on Siem Reap, Cambodia

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