Mystical tourism: between self-search and religious initiation

During the last ten years, a new sector of tourist activity has tended to develop in the world market: mystical tourism. Between ethnotourism and the search for mystical experiences, more and more international travelers fascinated by indigenous peoples try to immerse themselves in so-called traditional cultures through shamanic initiation. In Latin America, the most emblematic places of pre-Hispanic cultures have become the subject of numerous tourist speculations.

Mystical tourism: between self-search and religious initiation.


Since the 1990s, new alternative tourism activities have appeared on the world market, mass tourism seems to be less and less suitable for “the new man seeking reconciliation with nature” (Benoit and Valentin, 1998: 25) and local culture. Considered more concerned about the environment and local culture, new tourist activities such as agrotourism, ethnotourism, indigenous tourism and even mystical tourism are being developed around the world. From a visit to the giraffes of Thailand, to a stay under Berber tents in the middle of the desert, to an initiation to the rituals of the Shipibos Indians in Peru, the myth of the “good savage” seems to have a bright future ahead .

Mystical tourist activities in Peru

These different tourist activities generally grouped in Peru under the term “rural tourism” have in common favoring the encounter with the different ways of life of rural communities to help them maintain and respect their cultural identity.

Mystical tourism and indigenous communities in Peru

In the American continent, this tourist sector, which offers a supposed authentic encounter with indigenous communities, has been oriented, in countries with a high concentration of indigenous population such as Peru or Mexico, towards the development of mystical tourism. Simply search the Internet for mystical tourism or shamanic tourism to realize the multitude of organizations and tour operators that offer this type of activity. In Peru, many tourist circuits such as “Cuzco Místico” or “Esoteric Tourism” invite tourists to visit the most mystical places in Peru and participate in certain shamanic rituals such as the coca rite, ayahuasca or San Pedro. Therefore, In the last ten years, a multitude of national and international “mystical agencies” have been created that pose as associations for the defense of the Indians to the point that “mystical or esoteric tourism has become [today] a true industry “(Galinié and Molinié, 2006: 260).

Peru and its vast mystical tourist market in Cusco.

In Peru, this booming tourism sector is undergoing differentiated development, in particular due to narcotics legislation that tends to reserve the use of psychoactive plants only in Indian communities. Unlike Peru, which has managed to institutionalize mystical tourism through ministerial organizations such as the Tourism Promotion Fund and the National Institute of Culture. However, the development of this type of activity remains in Mexico a more marginal practice and especially illegal in many cases. In fact, the observation of this type of tourism represents an even more difficult task in Mexico, these practices with blurred and porous contours that bring together a large number of mystical-esoteric ideas and practices give it the appearance of a difficult to understand nebula .

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