As you sit in the back of a rickety taxi, winding higher and higher through the northern Andes and away from civilization, you may nervously wonder if you should have picked a more generic vacation spot. Rest assured. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see the thirteen million hand-planted evergreens lining the mountains of Granja Porcón, Peru’s most impressive cooperative community.
Granja Porcón is no common venture for international visitors. In fact, most people would not be able to find it on a map. Located approximately 45 minutes outside of Peru’s traditional colonial town, Cajamarca, Granja Porcón offers adventurers an escape from the typical tourist traffic.
Because more than 30% of Peru’s population lives in similar towns along the Andes Mountains, visiting Granja Porcón gives visitors the perfect opportunity to mingle with local people and experience Peru the way Peruvians do.
Even though the town has only afew dirt roads, the people of Granja Porcón are always ready for your visit. As they bustle around town with their vibrant rainbow-colored attire and their large ranch-style hats, don’t be too shy to ask for pictures. One international visitor, Emily Merrell of Rocklin, California, says of the people in Granja Porcón, “I thought they might be annoyed with me for taking pictures of them, but they were actually very proud to show off their colonial clothing. Everyone was always very friendly.”
Most locals don’t speak much English. But even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’re still likely to make friends with the locals in Granja Porcón.
Granja Porcón has only two restaurants. Both serve traditional Peruvian dishes, including cuy (fried guinea pig), a Peruvian dish that is popular in the mountainous regions. Not all dishes require quite so much bravery; try lomo saltado (beef, vegetables, and potatoes served with a savory sauce over rice) or arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) if you like to play it safe.
If you crave sweets, buy a tub of the Peruvian treat manjar blanco, a rich and creamy caramel that you can enjoy with just about anything, or even by itself.
Building a tourist-friendly community is a big priority for Granja Porcón. The people of Granja Porcón have created a four-part experience for anyone who comes to visit:
- Ecotourism: tour the zoo, fish in the fishing pond, learn about natural and imported vegetation
- Living tourism: witness the cow-milking process, visit the town carpentry shop, and learn how to craft tapestries
- Agricultural tourism: plant a tree, participate in sheep-shearing, plant and harvest potatoes
- Adventure tourism: rappel down rock walls, hike through the hand-planted forest, ride the horses across town
If you’re interested in experiencing small-town Peruvian life in its purest form, visit Granja Porcón—an oasis of lush evergreens and a community of generous locals that will allow you to forget where you came from and immerse yourself in another world. And all of these attractions come at an incredibly low price (you can do everything for under US $50). ¡Vámonos!
La Historia de Granja Porcón
The remoteness and authenticity of Granja Porcón are not its only attractions. Granja Porcón is living proof of a very successful economic experiment between the town’s leader, Don Alejandro Quispe Chilón, and Charles Carton, a Belgian forester.
As poverty struck members of Granja Porcón during the 1950s, town leader Quispe Chilón sought an innovative answer to his community’s struggle. Quispe Chilón caught the attention of a Belgian corporation interested in investing in forestry in Peru. After trial and error, the two groups began covering the mountains with pine trees—13 million of them. These trees have completely altered Granja Porcón’s economy, providing jobs for hundreds of locals and bringing financial security to the community.
Photos Credit (from top): Michael de la Paz, Michael Curry