In Lima, we wandered the streets of old town and some of the city's most popular neighborhoods, learning about the international influences behind the country's increasingly popular foodie scene.
In the Sacred Valley, we visited once impoverished villages where locals -- including women with otherwise no employment opportunities -- are now making money and helping to support infrastructure development and other social programs through tourism ventures highlighting their traditional cultures, including textile weaving, brick making, pottery and, of course, food.
The visits were part of G Adventures first Change Makers Summit, which brought travel advisors from around the world to experience not only its tour products here but also the social programs it has helped developed through its Planeterra Foundation and G Values Fund, a microlending program created in 2015 with the advance G Adventures founder and CEO Bruce Poon Tip received from sales of his first book, "Looptail."
The book describes the paying-it-forward philosophy on which the company was founded, a philosophy that focuses on helping to develop and use local businesses to ensure that tourism is helping rather than harming the communities it visits.
For instance, on our trip from Cusco to the Sacred Valley, we drove right past the busy streets where merchants plied souvenirs, stopping instead at local villages where Planeterra has worked to help the communities set up programs to showcase their traditional cultures and sell them.
In Ccaccaccollo, for example, we learned how the 250 women involved in that project create and weave wool. We then were able to purchase sweaters, scarves and other goods directly from the women who made them.
The organic garden at Parwa restaurant in the Sacred Valley, one of the most succesful community development projects funded by G Adventures’ Planeterra Foundation. Photo Credit: TW photo by Jeri Clausing
The most successful example of the Planeterra projects in the region, Planteterra officials say, is Parwa restaurant, which was developed in a community that falls about midway through G Adventures daylong itineraries through the Sacred Valley.
Planeterra helped the villagers learn how to create and run the business, which has a park-like atmosphere offering sweeping views of the mountains and glaciers that surround the valley. There is an organic garden and beautiful flowers and outdoor seating areas in addition to indoor dining venues.
A second dining room was recently added, and officials say the restaurant last year hosted 12,000 G Adventure travelers in addition to others, netting $300,000 in revenue.
It is run by 60 families, all of whom meet every month to decide what the proceeds will be spent on. The money has funded everything from rain barrels to a new school with a computer lab as well as scholarship programs.
Joel Callanaupa, Planeterra project manager for Latin America, says the program is proof that Planeterra, which has 75 similar projects in 43 countries, "truly is changing people's lives."
Bite Peru is the first program to receive seed money from G Values Fund. Started by former G Adventures guide Ruben Diaz Outten in 2016, it now has 20 employees and is expanding across the country.
Correction: Funds to start the G Values Fund came from sales of Bruce Poon Tip's first book, "Looptail." Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this article.