An Interview with…Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin

Mexican architect and environmentalist Héctor Ceballos-Lascuráin is renowned across the planet as the Father of Ecotourism. Winner of the Colibrí Ecotourism Lifetime Achievement Award, his work includes more than 160 books and articles, and has developed his eco-friendly designs in countries such as Mexico, Dominican Republic, Spain and Egypt. In June Mr. Ceballos-Lascuráin visited Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, and we had the chance to talk with him about the challenges of ecotourism and sustainability, his view on architecture, and the latest four species he added to his 4,366-bird life list.

When did you first start to appreciate nature?
It developed in my early childhood back at Parral – Chihuahua, a small mining town in Northern Mexico. We lived in a colony where the houses of the trusted employees (my father was the company’s doctor) were located at broad collective gardens with big trees surrounding an artificial lake. Many aquatic birds migrated to the lake, among ducks, herons, kingfishers and cormorants. I started observing them with a telescope given by my uncle Juan, and from then on, I was hooked.

Do you recall the precise moment when the term ‘ecotourism’ emerged?
I coined the term ‘ecotourism’ in July 1983, when I worked both as Director General of Standards and Technology at SEDUE (Secretaría de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecología de México) and as Founding President of PRONATURA, an influential conservationist NGO in Mexico. During those days PRONATURA was encouraging the conservation of  coastal inlets of the Yucatán peninsula, which were then key breeding and feeding areas for the American Flamingo. One of the key reasons I used to help dissuade the building works being planned for the area was that there was an increasing number of tourists – especially from the United States – that visited the area for bird watching. I was  convinced that these people could play a key role in the economic growth of rural communities, creating new job opportunities and helping preserve the ecology of the area: ecotourism!

After three decades since the term’s appearance and having been interpreted according to different contexts, do you think its definition has changed?
I think that my definition, as it has been adopted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is still valid: “Ecotourism is a modality of tourism that is environmentally responsible, which consists in travelling to or visiting natural areas without disturbance, and with the purpose of enjoying, appreciating and studying the natural values (landscape, flora and fauna) of these areas, as well as any (past or current) cultural manifestation that may be found there, through a process that promotes conservation, has a low negative impact on culture and environment, a promotes an active and socioeconomically beneficial involvement of local communities.”

The COP 20 will be held in Lima on December 2014. The overarching goal at this event is reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in order to avoid global temperature increasing 2°. In what ways ecotourism can be a choice to achieve this mission?

As it values natural vegetation and fauna, it is evident that ecotourism contributes to minimize deforestation (which is known to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) and other drastic changes produced by man in our natural environment.

In many cases, a country’s economic growth is not aligned with the conservancy of its natural and historic heritage. According to your experience, what are the main consequences of this form of development?
Regretfully, since the mid-19th century and during all the 20th century, we have experienced the worst destruction of our planet’s natural resources, due to man’s unscrupulous lucrative eagerness and the irrational exploit of these resources. This industrial, commercial and economic development has obviously occurred in a more noticeable way in richer countries. This is how a great proportion of natural and cultural values have been irreversibly lost in these countries. Extreme consumerism has been disastrous for the environment.

Stay tuned for the second part of this interview, where we talk about Héctor’s views on ecotourism in Peru and his opinions on the work of Inkaterra.

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Giant Anteater Spotted at Inkaterra Hacienda Concepción

Spotting any wild animal in their natural environment is an exciting moment, but spotting a creature that is normally very shy and elusive has an extra special resonance. The 13th of June proved to a group of travellers that the Amazon jungle is still full of surprises.

Led by Inkaterrra Hacienda Concepción Explorer Guide Carlos Torres, the group were heading towards Lake Sandoval, along the Sandoval trail, when one exclaimed they had seen ‘a large dark creature’.

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The creature was actually a Giant Anteater, (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) which was approximately three metres long, making it the biggest individual of the four that currently inhabit the area. Though the Giant Anteater is known to be active in the region, this was the first time in several years that this species had been observed. The group of trekkers were in luck, with the individual feeling totally at ease in their presence, feeding on a nearby termite mound.

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The Giant Anteater can consume as many as 30,000 insects in one day – visiting over 200 individual nests, spending an average of one minute at each site. After tearing open the hard nest exterior with long, knife-like claws, the Giant Anteater uses its sticky, 60cm long tongue to collect its prey.

Traditionally Giant Anteaters have been featured in the mythology and folklore of the indigenous tribes found in the Amazon, considered a trickster and a foil to the Jaguar, making this creature at the very heart of the Amazon civilisation and history.

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It was a great experience for the group to see such a majestic creature that is normally seldom seen in their natural habitat. The fact that we have four individuals who are looking healthy and active demonstrates the great work the ITA are doing at protecting the environment in which they thrive.

OMAPED Christmas Chocolatadas

On 20th December, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel was proud to host a very special event in collaboration with OMAPED, the Municipal Office for People with Disabilities in Peru.

More than 200 people in the area of Machu Picchu suffer with some form of disability, meaning that daily life can often be very difficult. As part of their Christmas celebrations, OMAPED organised a special event together with many organisations from across the district, throwing a traditional Chocolatadas for those individuals helped by OMAPED.

The event consisted of entertainment, and like the chocolatadas held throughout Peru at this time of year, hot chocolate and sweets were handed out to those attending. As a final surprise, Papanoel himself, Father Christmas took time out from his very busy December to hand out presents. As part of its ongoing commitment to local CSR initiatives, Inkaterra is proud to be involved with such initiatives as this, helping to spread the spirit of goodwill during the festive season.

Birding Rally Challenge 2013

Next week, from 3rd to 10th December, the third Birding Rally Challenge begins in Peru. Considered the world championships for birding, for those who aren’t in the know, this is the ultimate event in the ornithological world, bringing together the most renowned birding teams from all over the globe in a six-day contest to decide the best Birding Team in the world.

The challenge for the teams from the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Colombia is to cover the greatest number of habitats within a certain area in a limited amount of time counting the number of bird species they can identify; and naturally, the winners are the team that has spotted the highest number of species.

Peru has been specially chosen to host the Birding Rally Challenge because of its expensive natural biodiversity. Peru is a true treasure in ornithological terms. It is home to 1836 species of bird – that is one fifth of all registered species in the world, Peru is the second leading country in the world for bird diversity, and the best in terms of bird observation. The unique habitats that Peru has, from lush wetlands to vibrant cloud forests means it is host to visiting species, as well as the 120 endemic bird species that call Peru home.

Organised by the Inkaterra Hotels, the Inkaterra Association and PromPerú, the teams will travel 840km through Peru, from Tambopata in southern Peru, to the bio diverse cloud forest of Machu Picchu, and the teams will stay at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica and Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.

The actual challenge won’t simply be a walk in the park for our teams. They will have to contend with the changing climates of Peru, from the tropics of the rainforest to the coolness of the Andes, not to mention the strict rules about bird sightings.

But this competition is not simply about birdwatching. The Birding Rally Challenge has some core principles behind it. Designed to develop ecotourism in Peru, the competition promotes conservation and sustainable tourism, especially regarding the local communities that are often overlooked by traditional tourism.

In December 2012, the first rally lasted five days, and a total of 692 species were sighted. The second rally, Nor Amazon, trumped this total, with the birding teams observing 864 separate species in Peru – that’s 10% of the world’s registered bird species.

The 9th December is deadline day for our five birding teams, with the closing ceremony and winners being announced at 19.00. Will it be another successful rally for the American team? Only time and a keen eye will tell.

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Off the (well) beaten track – Peru’s Alternative Inca Trails

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Without doubt, Machu Picchu is the most famous attraction in Peru. The winding Inca trail draws people from across the world, but like so many of the World Heritage Sites, Machu Picchu’s awe and attraction comes at a cost.

Over 400,000 people visit every year and, whilst the Peruvian government has restricted the amount of people who can walk the Inca Trail to a maximum of 500 daily; with 2500 people being allowed entry to Machu Picchu itself, and only 400 being allowed to trek Huayna Picchu, there is still a great risk of permanent damage to these protected sites.

So, what’s the alternative? Well, there are trails running throughout Peru that are just as stunning as those leading to Machu Picchu – and with far fewer people! Camino Del Apu Ausangate is a path through this stunning landscape of snow-capped mountains and rust-red hillsides and thermal springs.  And you’re more likely to stumble across a heard of llamas than you are another tourist.

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For those still looking for that Machu Picchu experience, Choquequirao is the best option. Nicknamed “Machu Picchu’s Little Sister” this site is ideal for those who still want to experience an Incan settlement, but with solitude. After two days of uphill and downhill climbing, adventurers are rewarded with lush slopes, traditional buildings and ‘llama-terraces’. And for the real explorers (or mad-men) climbing the Choquequirao terraces 5,000 feet above the Apurimac river is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Camino Salkantay is an alternative path to Machu Picchu, and trekkers really do take the high-road. With the original Inca Trail reaching 13,800 feet above sea-level, Salkantay rises even higher to over 15,000 feet. As such, walkers will be explore some of the area’s most spectacular mountains, and while the high altitude may have a strain on the body, the hot-springs, warm duvets and friendly bartenders at some of the lodges along the trail do help the daily recovery.

Views from Choquequirao

Views from Choquequirao

If you are still committed to trekking the Inka Trail all the way to Huayna Picchu, then do your homework. Booking your tickets online is the only way to ensure you reach the peak – and do this early: unsurprisingly with a centuries old settlement nestled in the heart of the Andean mountains, mobile phone signal isn’t at its strongest.

However, with all of these treks being so ‘off-piste’, so to speak, they’re not for the faint-hearted. Expect strenuous days and aching nights. But the end destination is beyond words. Just invest in a good pair of boots. Our additional tours at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel mean you’ll have an expert, local guide alongside you whilst trekking the Inca Trail. It’s even a trip to take with the whole family with our specially created family journey to Machu Picchu. Make 2014 the year you see one of the most iconic archaeological sites in Peru, if not the world.

Seeing Purple: The Lord of The Miracles Festival in Lima, Peru

October is Mes Morado (or purple month) in Lima, Peru, and the faithful dress from head to toe in purple as a sign of their devotion to El Señor de los Milagros (the Lord of Miracles).

A group of women called "saumeadoras" carry incense as they follow the procession of Peru's most revered Catholic religious icon through central Lima

This Christ figure, known for its miracle-working powers, is housed in the Church of the Nazarenes, and thousands of purple clad worshippers come to pray and make offerings during the month of October. There are several processions on different dates in October, including a 24 hour long procession which is one of the largest in all of the Americas annually. Tens of thousands of the faithful dressed in purple tunics, sing hymns and pray as they accompany a huge two tonne litter which bears the painting of the Christ from the church of Las Nazarenas. The smell of incense and the steady beating of drums add to the solemn atmosphere as the procession winds its way along the narrow, purple clad streets of Lima.

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The origins lie in colonial times, when a slave drew an image of Christ on a wall. The wall with the image stayed standing despite an earthquake which destroyed all the building and many around it. Thus, this image has since become one of the most venerated in South America, and the church of Las Nazarenas was built around it.

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The whole of October is classed as Purple month but key procession dates are October 18th, 19th, and October 28th. How are you celebrating this festive time in Peru? We’d love to hear!

Travel to Peru in 2013 with Inkaterra

Looking forward to 2013

A new year gives travellers the chance to plan a trip to one of the destinations they have dreamed of visiting. With South America named one of the go-to destinations for 2013, and a 10% increase in tourism to Peru expected, Inkaterra is looking forward to another successful year.

Here are just some of the reasons that the jewel in South America’s western point is becoming a hot-spot in 2013.

Machu Picchu  

For many, a trip to Peru and  South America is only complete with a visit to the centre of the Incan Empire; ‘Machu Picchu’. With unrivalled scenery, this awe-inspiring ancient city has become one of the top destinations for people to see in their lifetime. Set yourself a goal this New Year by hiking the Inca Trail with Inkaterra. Within a day trip, reach the Citadel of Machu Picchu via a steady climb along the Inca trail allows experiencing past diverse mountain habitats, archaeological sites and a beautiful waterfall.

Trek the Inca Trail with Inkaterra

A Gastronomic Paradise

When it comes to great food from the Americas, no other country has yet to rival that of Peru, and the whole world seems to agree. With Peruvian restaurants popping up across the globe such as Lima and Coya in London, and Gaston Acurio’s restaurant empire growing across the Americas and Europe, Peruvian cuisine continues to be the star of the world food stage.  The mouth-watering ceviches, spicy mashed potato causas and tender alpaca steaks have become a firm favourite amongst many. Come to Peru and taste it in its home environment.

A classic Peruvian drink 'Pisco Sours'

The Peruvian Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world, covering over five and a half million square kilometres.  Nicknamed “The Lungs of our Planet” the Amazon Rainforest produces 20% of earth’s oxygen. To see this astoundingly beautiful natural ecosystem on our planet is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Stay in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon with Inkaterra at Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, in a treehouse surrounded by only the sounds of tropical birdsong. Climb the banks of the meandering Madre de Dios river and enter another world. Surrounded by a vast jungle canopy, your body and mind can truly unwind, rejuvenate and revitalise.

The Peruvian Amazon Rainforest

Unmatched Wildlife

Peru has some of the greatest biodiversity in the world thanks t0 the Andes and the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest.  Lush greenery accented with wildlife cover the land, while up above a birding paradise is waiting to be discovered. With 1,836 species of birds (20 % of the world total), of which 120 are endemic, Peru possesses an astonishing ornithological diversity. Long-considered a birding paradise, Peru is now recognised worldwide with over 20,000 bird-watchers expected to visit Peru next year, generating an estimated $50 million USD in revenue.

A hummingbird flies close to a flower during the Birding Rally Challenge at "Aguas Calientes" in Cuzco, Peru

Unparalleled in history, natural beauty and diversity, Peru offers a myriad of delightful landscapes, cultural experiences, and exhilarating adventure. Whether you visit to embark upon an adventure, engage in the cultural mosaic of Peru’s charming cities, or simply to evolve the archeologist within, Peru offers a wealth of landscapes and settings to satisfy every curiosity.

New species of Orchid found at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

Inkaterra has been in the spotlight again; this time for its magnificent collection of orchids. The American Orchid Society has stated that in all probability Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel has the world’s biggest collection of native orchid species (372) in their natural habitat, within a private setting. Now biologists and nature lovers will be excited to hear that two new species of orchid have been found on the premises of the hotel.

Biologists have confirmed the presence of the new-to-science and recently identified bromeliads around Machu Picchu and at the hotel itself. The two bromeliad species, Guzmania inkaterrae Gouda & C.Soto and Tillandsia machupicchuensis Gouda & Julio Ochoa, have been acknowledged by Dr. Eric J. Gouda, Seed Distribution Manager at University Utrecht Botanical Gardens, Netherlands. The Andean cloud forest is home to a large range of native orchids and it is one of the most significant sites from which visitors to the Machu Picchu Nature Reserve can appreciate these beautiful flowers. The unrivalled Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel’s native orchid garden and expert guided trails are available for those eager to learn more.

Whilst at the hotel, guests can feast their eyes on the miniscule Lepanthes, Trichosalpinx and Stelis, the enormous Phramipedium caudatumand the fragrant Ida locusta, not forgetting the vast range of other orchid species, such as the Kefersteinia koechlinorum and the Masdevallia marizae Luer & Rolando. Not only an orchid-lover’s paradise, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is a must visit for all kinds of nature lovers.  The hotel can arrange excursions to see its 200 species of bird, 111 species of butterfly, experience a magical twilight tour, visit the organic tea plantation and of course witness the mighty ruins of Machu Picchu.

The best way to see these natural wonders is by taking an Orchid Trail Excursion: A three day, two night trip through the Andean cloud forest. Trip highlights include:

  • Personalized guided tour of Inkaterra Machu Picchu Orchid Trail by one of our nature specialists or, upon special request, by our Resident Chief Biologist, an author of the book, “Orchids at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel”.
  • A large variety of native orchids to be seen at the peak blooming season in their cloud forest habitat, with their natural pollinators.
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner at the grand glass-walled restaurant overlooking the Vilcanota River and the Machu Picchu cloud forest.
  • Choose excursions from an array of nature activities: Nature Walk, Bird Tour, Twilight Walk, Tea Plantation and Tea House.
  • A relaxing De-stress massage.

Make 2013 the year you come to Peru and see this wonder of nature for yourself with Inkaterra.

A Sustainable Future at Inkaterra


With people slowly growing to understand the consequences that their lifestyle inflicts upon the environment, as well the growing trend of ‘Being Green’, it has never been more prevalent for travel companies to encourage an eco-friendly, sustainable environment.

For over 37 years, Inkaterra has pioneered and promoted sustainable tourism in Peru. Throughout the years at both Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel and Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, the team has introduced thousands of people to the natural wonders and the indigenous cultures of Peru. Creating authentic experiences for their guests, with a focus around excellence in ecotourism and conservation is the fundamental meaning behind the Inkaterra experience.

The Sustainability Policy at Inkaterra aims to preserve the environment, preserve the native cultures, and develop sustainable tourism in Peru. Here are just some of the sustainable targets outlined in Inkaterra’s policy:

  • Define and respect authentic cultural, social and environmental values.
  • Create professional development opportunities and encourage the recruitment and training of local staff.
  • Develop contingency plans for natural, social or financial disasters.
  • Encourage the development of local communities, taking into consideration their environment and culture.
  • Use environmentally friendly products and maintain good communication with suppliers.
  • Use energy and water efficiently, and provide adequate waste treatment.
  • Offset the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the organization’s operations, in order to be carbon neutral.

The recent Virtuoso Travel Week conference in Las Vegas, an event showcasing the news and updates from the luxury travel market, identified ‘Sustainable Tourism’ as a key emerging trend. Top destinations and travel providers expressed a strong commitment to products and practices that support this movement. Inkaterra, a leader in this recent emerging trend, has had this at the heart of all their movements since opening in 1975.

To put it simply, sustainable tourism is the desire to preserve this beautiful world in which we live in. Can you imagine a future without outstanding natural beauty like that seen at Machu Picchu and in the Peruvian Rainforest? By hoteliers creating a sustainable and eco-friendly strategy, they will be able to assist in preserving these astoundingly beautiful places that are found at all corners of our world. By embracing a sustainable living environment, we hope that our grandchildren will be able to one day experience the same beautiful locations that we have had the privilege of visiting.

A Digital-Detox with Inkaterra

When was the last time you went without checking your emails or phone?  We live in a world where we use our mobile devices on average every ten minutes, so when we do have a break, we find it difficult to completely switch off.  In today’s technologically advanced world, even on holiday mobile phones are often close at hand, be it for making calls, reading work emails, or tweeting about the weather.

Increasingly, more of us are craving a complete switch off from the digital sphere, in an environment of inspiring natural beauty. And where better to get your ‘Digital Detox’ than within the realm of the Inca Gods at Machu Picchu, or to the beat of the Peruvian Amazon Jungle? Like an entire continent in a country, Peru astounds visitors with the diversity of its landscapes. From jaw-dropping terrain to glaciated Andean peaks, the only device that you will need on a trip to Peru will be your camera.

The Amazon River at Inkaterra Amazonica Reserva

A ‘Digital-Detox’ at Inkaterra will bring you right back to nature. With no signal available, you can relax and de-stress whilst staying at the Reserva Amazonica Lodge, waking to a symphony of tropical birdsong; ending your days by lantern light and falling asleep to the sounds of the Amazon rainforest. Explore the rainforest garden and learn to identify native plants, tress and orchids, while spotting rare species of birds.

Inkaterra’s Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is another serene retreat to escape from fast-paced lives. The timeless spirit of Machu Picchu awaits, along with local excursions to tea plantations, or discovering the largest orchid collection that is open to the public. The ancient land of the Incas make you forget about your busy life as you learn about the incredible history and tales of the Inca Tribe. Days at the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel end with an Andean eucalyptus sauna, followed by a star-lit plunge pool dip. A perfect end to a digital-free day.