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Gap year advice on where to travel in South America?

Written by Jenny McWhirter on 31 / 01 / 2019

Gap Year Advice

So you're interested in travelling around South America but you’re not sure how or where to go? Not surprising the continent is massive and therefore fairly daunting to break down...so, where to start...

It's easy to see why South America has captivated so many over the years as travellers head off to explore the idyllic beaches, snow-drenched mountains and steamy rainforests, the lost majesty of Machu Picchu and the riddle of the Nazca Lines across the Peruvian desert. With stunning natural wonders and contrasting landscapes it gives the best backdrop for your adventures. Whether you’re hiking past ancient temples laid down by the Incas or meandering down the Amazon in a dugout canoe, there is something for everyone.

Where to Focus

However it's impossible to see it all so after much travelling we have come to the conclusion that there are two stand out players – Peru and Ecuador. We love these countries for the endless exploration they offer, their culture and inspiring indigenous communities, so rich in history. Over the years we have developed great relationships with local communities tucked away in remote extreme locations and who are struggling to keep hold of traditions while adapting to the modern world. Helping and exploring is our aim.

Travelling to South America?

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Ecuador in Focus

We have arranged an epic journey through the Andes, Galapagos and Amazon on our 10-week adventure where you will have the opportunity to live alongside some of the world’s most remote cultures helping and developing initiatives co-ordinated by the Yanapuma Foundation.


You'll start off in Agato, a rural Andean community who struggle to maintain a sustainable living through farming and handicrafts and so welcome our volunteers into their world to help turn this around. Here you live with host families in their traditional houses, living an off the beaten track experience.

Ruta de los Volcanes

Next up are a few adrenaline adventures along the famous Ruta de los Volcanes (Volcanic Route). Starting at the Quilotia Crater Lake, you'll stroll around the enormous lagoon nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano before hitting the waters in a kayak and white water rafting down the Pasraza river before finishing off in Riobamba with a spot of mountain biking.

Lowland Jungle

Next you’re off to the lowland jungle, travelling down into the lush green tropics home to the country’s last remaining indigenous Tsachila tribe. This is a unique opportunity to learn about their culture and reinforce pride into their heritage to stop the young migrating to the big city. You'll experience living among Shaman healers and learn to dance, dress and live like a local. Projects here include helping to plant and manage the Tsachila’s cacao plantation, refurbishing buildings and extending their ‘ethno cultural centre’.


It’s impossible not to go to South America without visiting the Galapagos. Animal fans you are in for a treat, this is the ultimate bucket list experience. 600 miles of the coast of Ecuador, means the island’s flora and fauna have been almost entirely isolated from the rest of the world for millions of years. It is THE place to experience one of a kind wildlife encounters with animals that aren’t afraid of humans.

You will fly into San Cristobal, the Galapagos’ easternmost island, to live and work at a conservation project and eco-farm called Hacienda Tranquila. Here you will help with their organic gardens and create an indigenous forest with the aim to reintroduce the giant tortoise back onto the island.

Amazon Rainforest

Finally, you’ll get the chance to visit the mighty Amazon Rainforest. The Amazon will be everything you had imagined - hot, steamy and tall, with its towering canopies, noisy bird chatterings and camouflaged wildlife. Here you will experience a canoe river tour, hiking in the primary rainforest, fishing, and a trip to a native family home.

It will be a great finale to your journey across Ecuador.

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Peru In Focus

From the heady heights of the mysterious Machu Picchu lying in the sacred valley, to the virgin Amazon rainforest, to the glimmering Lake Titicaca – Peru is a traveler’s dream of extremes. But Peru is much more than the sights, it’s about the remote communities whose crops are still planted by hand, where the Campesinos still wear tire truck sandals, where the women work in petticoats and bowler hats, and llamas are as tame as pets.

This is a journey which will not only take you to the bucket list highlights of Peru but will also introduce you to remote communities tucked away from the tourists’ eye who will welcome you in and will value your contribution to preserving their heritage. This adventure takes you on the ultimate tour through the Andes, the Amazon and Cusco and the Sacred Valley.


Starting in the sun-drenched colonial Andean city of Arequipa where you will spend the week learning Spanish and exploring this pretty, shimmering World Heritage Site, due to it being built of white volcanic stone.

Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca

After exploring Arequipa you'll head off to the Colca Canyon where you’ll be led on a 3-day hike deep into the canyon to explore its majestic beauty with a local guide.

Next up is Lake Titicaca which straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia high in the Andean Mountains. It is one of South America's largest lakes and it is believed to be the birthplace of the Inca’s. Here you will live with local families on the shores of the lake helping with their farming and learning about their unique heritage.


Your home here will be at The “Reserva Tierra Linda” a conservation center found in the south-east jungle of Peru, at the entrance to the El Manu National Park.

This center is dedicated to Amazon conservation and keen to promote tight links with the local community to encourage them to respect and preserve this amazing resource.Your time here will be a mixture of Amazon exploring and community conservation.

Machu Picchu

Back in the Andes and starting in the stunning city of Cusco which fantastically fuses the ancient, with colonial conquest and modern day. Cusco is famed for being the gateway to the Sacred Valley - a valley of Andean countryside dotted with villages, high altitude hamlets and ruins linked by trail and railway tracks all converging into the continent's biggest draw of them all – Machu Picchu.

A bucket list moment to see Machu Picchu in all its glory at sunrise. We aim to get you there after a 4 day trek through inca villages - a real treat and not to missed.

Like the plan? Read more about Peru

Get on board

So there you have it, your South American must-see destinations, now all you have to do is come on board and start the adventure. One other thing to remember is it is easy to combine these 2 countries with Bolivia and Colombia. Just get in contact to hear how...

Travelling to South America?

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With the covid travel experts

Worried about how to travel and plan your gap year through this pandemic?

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