Going Local in Peru, Tanzania and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

photography by: Lonnie Hjort

According to my experience, when you opt skipping the overly touristy areas in favor of close encounter with the local culture, you’ll often meet unimaginably beautiful souls who are willing to share their knowledge, secrets and passion, ultimately experiencing some truly intriguing moments. I believe that the best way of going local is by staying in private homestay, where you’ll get the perfect chance to enjoy local hospitality in a deeper sense while also exploring myriad of hidden charming places that otherwise will be out of reach. Suffice to say that potentially every country can be experienced from a local perspective, yet here are my insights from three countries I’ve recently traveled to.

Going local in Cusco area, Peru

In the Sacred Valley of Cusco, you’ll find villages where authentic Peruvian culture still exists in harmony on the backdrop of the breathtaking Andes Mountains. Whereas most travelers will probably visit the village of Pisac, famous for its tourist-oriented market, a much rawer and more authentic option is Urubamba village, populated by roughly 3,000 inhabitants, it has a surprisingly welcoming spirit accompanied by mind-boggling mountainous views. The best way to explore the village is by venturing out to the surrounding mountains with a local villager, who can take you on a horseback riding while elaborating on the local history and customs.

Located on the outskirts of Cusco, the village of Lucre is accessible by a scenic bus drive where you’ll have a glimpse of the nearby rural communities. Lucre itself is nestled along the beautiful Laguna de Huacarpay, flocked by dozens of locals, mingling at large family picnics. Interestingly, the bulk of Lucre villagers can trace back their history to the Incas, reflected in their wide knowledge about the mountain spirits and the power of plant-based medicine, which they’ll happily share with you. If you’re fluent in Spanish, it will definitely make things easier for you, yet even if you aren’t the young generation tend to speak relatively decent English.


Horseback riding along the Urubamba River

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


The local market in Pisac

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


The Maras Salt Mines

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


Going local in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The beautiful country of Tanzania offers a lot of remarkable tourist attractions, ranging from world-renowned national parks and lush highlands to golden pristine beaches, while literally culminating in the formidable Mount Kilimanjaro.

Many travelers choose to start their journey throughout the country in the former capital city of Dar es Salaam, where hectic street scenery and modernity coexist side by side. If you wish to experience this African metropolis in a rather local way, then use the public transportation as it offers an unfiltered encounter with locals, like a redhead chicken or a child scampering between your legs. Dar es Salaam’s city dwellers are known for their friendliness, so even if you happen to be shy, a minibus ride is a great opportunity to converse with local Tanzanians about their culture and traditions.

Served by a frequent ferry service from the downtown, the laid-back suburb of Kigamboni is tucked away on the southern bank of the Kurasini estuary, offering visitors a unique facet of the local culture, unfiltered by global trends like the rest of town. For the ones of you who wish to delve deep into the real identity of this part of Dar-es-Salaam, it’s warmly recommended to book a homestay, as it provides a rare glimpse into the mundane lifestyle of ordinary people.

The average foreigner visiting Kigaboni would probably get a lot of attention from street children, giggling while sporadically calling “Mzungu”, a term often used by sub-Saharan Africans when referring to a person of a foreign origin.
Nevertheless, perhaps the most enjoyable way of exploring Kigaboni is through your belly, as not only this neighborhood has a bustling farmers market, its beachfront is chock-full of fishermen who sell freshly caught fish for whoever wishes that.


Local girls on their way to pump water from the main well

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


A street vendor cooking a local delicacy

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


Kigaboni fishermen

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


A visit to the local school, Hazina DayCare in Mjimwema, Kigamboni

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


A typical local dance at the Shine Africa Community Art Centre

 


Going local in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The archipelago nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is one of several independent Caribbean countries, routinely swarmed by one-day visitors disembarking cruise ships. While most travelers tend to stick to its overly touristy sites, the main island of Saint Vincent has far more to offer, with plenty of lush hills, beautiful coves and national parks to explore. This green speck of land is inhabited by remarkably hospitable locals, evidently, every bus ride is brimming with reggae music and smiling people, while on Sunday, churches have gospel readings accompanied by loud prayers, inviting in any foreign passerby they might bump into.
The Grenadines on the other hand are a string of small islands, sometimes depicted as a row of pearls, named by the Spanish colonialists after the city of Grenada in Spain due to its similar geographic features, a semi-arid and hilly landscape in contrary to Saint Vincent’s heavily forested and mountainous terrain.
The islands are accessible by local boats and ferries and if you aren’t bounded by a strict schedule, it’s also possible to hitch a ride on a sailboat at Saint Vincent’s harbor. Take note that out of the tens of islands constituting the Grenadines, only seven are inhabited, therefore they might be logistically challenging to reach.


The Union Island, an Ideal place for hikes

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


A local boat in Carnash Bay, functioning as a family home

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


Salt Whistle bay – Mayreau Island

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


Sea urchins and lobsters

photography by: Lonnie Hjort


About Me

6 years ago, at the age of 48, I decided to sell everything I owned and go backpacking around the world for one year. On that trip I discovered how valuable and culturally enriching is going local, so subsequently ever since I do my best to go local whenever I travel.
I also love sharing my experience and hopefully inspire others to find these beautiful moments with locals all around the world.
For the last 3 years I’ve been co-running a local school in Kigamboni, Tanzania, which besides giving me an opportunity to experience the country as a local, it also has been a great honor to help growing a local educational leadership.

The school project’s Facebook page

Lonnie’s Instagram page

photography by: Lonnie Hjort