We conceived of Native Tours because we believe that sustainable tourism can enrich the lives of travelers as well as the people and places they visit, allowing local communities to prosper while safeguarding the rich ancestral heritage that makes them unique and attractive.

We believe that when a visitor sees breathtaking landscapes with their own eyes, participates directly in local traditions and integrates with local individuals, they are touched in a profound way that transforms perspectives forever. When they take this experience home, they not only have amazing experiences to share with friends and loved ones, but they also take a piece of that culture and natural beauty back home with them, becoming a potent force for the conservation of the places they visited.

In essence, we hope to inspire travelers to discover and cherish the earth and its people.

One of our guiding principles is to positively impact the areas we explore and in which we work.

To this end, we donate 50% of our profits to support projects at the global, regional, and local levels.

We aim to protect the last wild places in the world, support innovative local projects, and facilitate conservation, research, education, and community development projects in the places we explore.

Our journeys are magical, rewarding experiences designed with inquiring, considerate, compassionate people in mind. We personalize your set of experiences so you can see what you want to see, go where you want to go, do what you want to do. We encourage you to browse our journeys, make your wishlist, and then contact our advisors to customize your itinerary according to your available time, activity level and interests.

Mission

The ancient Incan concept of "ayni" in the Quechua language is a fundamental concept among the Andean people meaning mutual help or reciprocity - the exchange of energy between human beings, the natural world, and the universe. At Native Tours, we believe that everyone can win through this exchange:

  • First and foremost, you, the traveler, win because you have an authentic, unforgettable experience of a lifetime and a rich cultural exchange that will make for life-long memories and tales.
  • The environment wins, through responsible use of natural resources, traveler appreciation for conservation, and organizational contributions to support biodiversity protection.
  • Our local indigenous communities win, because they are paid a fair price to share their cultural activities, thus cultivating pride in their cultural identity and the means to preserve their cultural heritage.
  • The local workforce wins, through WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization) fair wages, safe working conditions, and capacity-building programs that increase their social and economic empowerment.
  • Our partners non-profits win, through our funding of community and environmental projects to improve their standard of living.
  • Our organization wins, through sustainable management, organizational stability, safety standards, customer satisfaction, and environmental and socio-cultural policies we can we feel proud of.

Vision

Consumers deserve widely accepted standards to distinguish green from greenwashed. These criteria will allow true certification of sustainable practices in hotels and resorts as well as other travel suppliers. They will give travelers confidence that they can make choices to help the sustainability cause. They also will help the forward-thinking suppliers who deserve credit for doing things right.
— Jeff Glueck, Chief Marketing Officer, Travelocity/Sabre

Tourism can generate significant direct and indirect revenue for a country, and sustainable responsible tourism can reap enormous benefits for the local population, such as increased family income, improved health, education, and infrastructure. It can be an excellent avenue for educating customers about environmental conversation practice and preservation of local culture... Or it can wreak havoc on the locals by exploiting local labor, overburdening infrastructure, polluting the environment, and widening the gap between rich and poor. Sadly, many tour operators don't meet most of the criteria for sustainable tourism. And although many companies tout themselves as "eco-friendly" and "responsible", few truly live up to these standards. This where certification comes in.

It is our vision that Native Tours will be a model for the Latin American tourism industry by increasing the visibility of sustainable eco-tourism and raising the standards for other tour operators in the region. By supporting certified sustainable tour operators such as Native Tours, travelers can maximize social and economic benefits to the local communities while preserving the culture and environment of the places they visit. They can make their vacation count!

Our vision is to be a worldwide leader in customer satisfaction and an industry leader in preserving indigenous communities, cultures, and nature by 2025.

About the Founders

Karen Vergara

Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca, Peru

This is me... I was born in Central Illinois with the wanderlust. When I was 6, I remember dreaming about the ocean, mountains, and joining the Peace Corps to build houses in Kenya. Although I'm still waiting to visit Kenya, I have wandered the world quite a bit. At 20, I went to Guadalajara, Mexico for 3 years to study, work, and live. In Texas, I taught English as a Second Language and Spanish literacy courses to newly-arrived immigrants from Central America. I lived and worked for 2 years in Bangalore, India. I've traveled to over 30 countries and speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, and some Quechua. I think the way you really learn about a culture is through the local language. I value open-mindedness, honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, authenticity, kindness, empathy, and generosity. I like the National Geographic Channel and documentaries on wildlife, nature, and other countries, cultures, and civilizations. I do yoga. I love outdoor activities, particularly soccer, basketball, hiking, horseback riding, and paddle boarding with our 2 dogs.

Willy Vergara

Eastern Washington

This is Willy... He was born in Paramonga, a small town on the central coast of Peru, about 4 hours North of Lima. As a young man, he backpacked for 2 years from the highest reaches of the Peruvian, Ecuadorean, and Bolivian Andes to the sultry rainforests of the Amazon river basin in Peru, Colombia, and Brasil. He also traveled extensively around Latin America and Europe with his national university basketball team, fulfilling his own wanderlust. He likes basketball, soccer, paddleboarding, concerts, traveling, and dancing salsa.

Kahlua and Cachaça

Qapaq Ñan Collasuyo Trail Cusco, Peru

This is our "Pack"... We travel with our furry friends whenever possible. Our dogs have had their various "doggie passports" stamped with Germany, India, Ecuador, México, and Peru. They've gone knee boarding in Illinois, chased rattlesnakes in Eastern Washington, taunted alligators in the Florida Everglades, dug up crawfish in the Texas bayous, played ball in glacier-fed lakes, sniffed seahorses on the beaches of Northern Peru, and paddle boarded with dolphins and manatees in the Florida Keys... but possibly their absolute favorite is hiking parts of the ancient Qapaq Ñan (a network of trails connecting the Incan empire) in the highlands of Cusco, where they've been known to occasionally herd llamas.

This is us...

Willy and I met dancing salsa. He asked me to dance, I told him I would probably step on him, he said he didn't mind, and that was that! The following year on the Salkantay Trail (5 days, 26 miles, and 10,000 steps later), he proposed to me in the Inca's throne atop 9,000-foot (2,720 m)-high Wayna Picchu, where the Inca meditated overlooking his magnificent city of Machu Picchu. I asked him what he would have done if I hadn't finished the trek, and he said "I would have carried you." After descending Wayna Picchu, he suggested we climb to the Machu Picchu guard house. I told him I was not climbing another @#$%^&* step for the rest of my life. "But that's where the best view is", Willy insisted. He was right, it was worth it, and that photo has always been my favorite. We got married by a shaman in Cusco on a plateau overlooking Saqsaywaman.

We have been hiking together since 2008. We have a less common approach to vacation. We spend a long time in one place getting to know it really well, and digging into the culture, the history and the people. We fell in love with the indigenous cultures in particular, mainly because they're in harmony with the natural world. We love hiking because when you're alone in the mountains, it is quiet and all smells wonderfully natural. We mostly visit emerging markets where there are still indigenous people to learn about.

Both IT Professionals for multinational companies, we found that "unplugging" from all gadgets created more space for meditation, peace, and "being".  For a while, we would escape the corporate world for a month each year, until we made the decision to plan for a permanent escape. With the founding of Native Tours, we get to do what we love full time, live in harmony with nature, and give back to the local communities that make Peru so special. We created Native Tours for ourselves, because these are the types of tours that we'd take. We hope that you will find the same wonder and bliss that we have in this amazing country. If you're like us, join our tribe!

Our Social Enterprise

A social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being - this may include maximizing social impact rather than profits for external shareholders.
— Wikipedia

NATIVE TOURS is a social enterprise offering authentic excursions that foster an appreciation for environmental and cultural conservation. Travelers can visit local indigenous communities to enjoy their hospitality and experience their customs, food, and beliefs. Local workers enjoy fair wages with safe working conditions. An alternative to harmful mass tourism, our "community-based tourism" model supports the well-being of the community and surrounding environment.

We are guided by a new-age business concept called the 'triple bottom line', meaning that every decision Native Tours makes must fit 3 criteria: be healthy for the environment, good for its workers, and beneficial for the local community.

50% of our profits are invested in projects that protect the environment and improve living conditions in the local indigenous communities in which we work:

  • Sustainable infrastructure projects such as solar power and potable water.
  • Social programs such as health services, education, native medicine, and capacity-building.
  • Environmental conservation programs such as sustainable agriculture, recycling, and rainforest and wildlife conservation.

The remaining 50% of our earnings are reinvested to enhance our employee benefits, geographic reach, and quality of service.

  • Professional Associations and Certfications

Our goal is to inspire our customers with authentic, unforgettable travel experiences rich in local culture, while ensuring that we uphold the highest standards of sustainability practices in the industry. To that end, we belong to a number of professional associations:

Environmental

- Native Tours is an Arcadia Power Clean Energy Business Partner, relying on 100% wind-generated energy.

- Carbon offsetting for each tour is provided by Sustainable Travel International.

- Leave No Trace supporter and advocate, making good decisions to protect the world around you and to pass our nation's heritage of outdoor recreation to future generations by practicing "Leave No Trace" principles.

- Conservation International working to ensure a healthy, productive planet for everyone because people need nature to thrive.

- World Wildlife Fund securing a future for forests and the people and species who depend on them.

- Environmental Defense Fund our solutions protect natural systems while also benefiting people.

- Sierra Club Explore, Enjoy, and Protect The Planet.

Sustainable Tourism

- Native Tours is the first tour operator / agency in Peru to begin the EarthCheck Evaluate program, assessing our environmental and social performance against the UN Foundation's Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.

- Rainforest Alliance's TOPS (Tour Operators Promoting Sustainability) for tourism companies working toward minimizing their environmental footprint and supporting workers, local cultures and surrounding communities. 

- International Ecotourism Society Uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel.

- United Nations Global Sustainable Tourism Council, the international body for establishing and managing standards for sustainable tourism.

-  Action for Ethical Tourism.

- United Nations Environment Programme Sustainable Consumption and Production.

- UNESCO World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, where planning for tourism and heritage management is integrated at a destination level, the natural and cultural assets are valued and protected, and appropriate tourism developed.

- Sustainable Tourism Online a comprehensive online information resource delivering substantial research, data and tools.

- Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network (IPBN) Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (PCLG) Network, a network of indigenous scientists, lawyers, community educators, conservation practitioners and activists facilitating discussion among indigenous peoples concerning the opportunities for promoting, preserving and protecting their rights to manage, control, and benefit from their own knowledge and resources.

- Sustainable Pangea, mapping best practices and social technologies which are bringing about sustainable, positive change in Latin America.