Alternative Peru was founded in 2014 by Carlos and his Belgian wife Natalie. Since then, the Alternative Peru team has grown into a very diverse team of tour leaders, bilingual guides, cooks, local guides, drivers, artisans, artists. Most of them based in Lima but with roots all over Peru: coast, Andes and Amazon. Alternative Peru believes very strongly in the values and positive impact of Responsible Tourism.
On this Pachacamac tour, we travel 30 km south of Lima through a changing landscape. From the beautiful views of the coast to a dry desert landscape. After about 45 minutes, we arrive to what was for more than 1500 years the main sanctuary of the Andean coast, the archeological site of Pachacamac. First, we have a look at the collection of the modern Pachacamac museum with various artefacts of the different cultures that used to occupy this sanctuary. After, we head to the vast archeological site, which consists of the remains of more than 50 temples and other buildings.
Afterwards, we head to a local community of artisans nearby. The first thing we do there is to have lunch at the house of a local artisan family. On the menu is a great local experience and delicious homemade typical Peruvian lunch. The menu is different every time, but it’s always authentic, fresh and a lot.
After entertaining us at lunch with some of his many stories, our funny host will show us his ceramics workshop. He also takes us to two more workshops of his talented fellow artisans, who make other types of Peruvian handicrafts, for instance rugs and textile. Buying is not expected but if you’re interested in taking home some fair-trade Peruvian handicrafts, this is also your chance.
Visit the most important archeological site of Lima
Without a doubt, Pachacamac is one of the most important archaeological sites of coastal Peru. It contains elements dating back as far as 200 AD. Because each succeeding culture added their own temples, there are remains belonging to different ancient cultures from pre-Inca and Inca times. Today, Pachacamac shelters the remains of more than 50 temples and buildings making it the largest archaeological complex in Lima.
On our Pachacamac tour, your guide shows you first around the found during archeological excavations. Then, our driver will take us around this huge site with stops at the different sights. At some stops, we need to walk around a bit to have a good look at the remains of the temples. Besides the archeological remains, you will be amazed by the great views of the surrounding area including the Pacific Ocean. It is hard to believe we’re so close to the metropolitan city of Lima.
Visit the workshops of Peruvian artisans
After the Pachacamac tour, we head to a close-by local neighborhood that houses many artisans from the area of Ayacucho. These people fled the violence of the guerrilla war of the 1980’s and 1990’s by moving to the outskirts of Lima. The guide will tell you more about this terrible period in Peru.
In this neighborhood, local artisans continue to make the traditional handicrafts and art from Ayacucho. Before we visit some of their workshops, we have lunch with one of these local artisan families in their home. With a full stomach, we visit a few workshops where they make textiles, ceramics and other beautiful typical Peruvian handicrafts. The artisans love to show you their work and explain how they make these pieces of art. In a place where the government is mostly absent, these people have built their own community and are developing and maintaining the local economy with their traditions and art. They are working hard to keep their traditions alive.
Certainly, you will leave this place very inspired and perhaps even with a few authentic and fair-trade souvenirs (completely optional of course).
Trade of artisan under threat
Though there is an increased interest in Peruvian handicrafts, the art and the trade is slowly disappearing because the younger generation does not see a future in the artisan trade. Unfortunately, many young people won’t continue the family trade because they cannot make a good living as an artisan. This is of course completely understandable but such a shame, since it’s such an important part of Peruvian culture going back many centuries. Your visit shows the younger generation that it is important to conserve these traditions and that people who come from across the world are interested in learning more about the artisans and about their art.
At the same time, your visit also supports the local artisans’ cooperative. By organising themselves in a cooperative, they can negotiate better prices, which is very important since low prices are another serious threat to the trade. Nowadays, in the touristic areas of Lima but also Cusco and other touristic places, handicrafts that are made in large quantities in factories are sold at very low prices. In order to compete, artisans often have to sell their art for a very low price as well. As a result, it becomes harder and harder to make a living as an artisan. The products you see at the artisan workshops are truly fair-trade, as the artisans decide their own prices.