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Colombia Gap Year Programme

Adventure + Community + Spanish

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Be a trailblazer to experience off-grid gems and culture

By joining this unique 4-week Leap programme you will be shown the real Colombia through the eyes of our local team who will immerse you in authentic culture, teach you conversational Spanish, help you complete life changing community projects, before trekking through the jungle to reach the famous Lost City, chilling out on Caribbean beaches and white water rafting down the thundering rivers.

You'll start your journey in the rural town of Barichara which is based in the midst of the massive canyons, before heading across to the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada and to reach Santa Marta on pristine Caribbean beaches.

This adventure promises to delivers an experience of a life time, where you will encouraged to play football, rugby and cards with community teams, alongside a team of like minded gap year travellers, creating lasting friendship and memories.

This is a great combination of contribution and adventure, all organised for you, and a great location to add on phase of independent travelling.

Colombia's Programme Itinerary

Welcome to an exhilarating journey through Colombia to explore and contribute to this unique country. Starting in Barichara you'll then head north across the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, down to pristine Caribbean beaches, experiencing a fantastic mix of community projects and adrenaline infused challenges.

Phase 1

Barichara Adventure, volunteering + spanish

Your adventure will start in the central highlands, famous for dramatic canyon landscapes, roaring rivers, waterfalls, and a relaxed pace of life. This is a beautiful classic old Colonial style area which shows you the old Colombia - fun fact - it is where Disney's Encanto was set.

To reach this area you'll fly into Bucaramanga, where our team will pick you up and whisk you away to the pretty town of Barichara, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Throughout your first 2.5 weeks of the programme, you'll become part of the local community, exploring, learning Spanish, and contributing to a range of different projects which are environmentally and community orientated, before heading off to San Gill at the weekends, the adventure capital of Colombia, to embrace all sorts of adrenaline fuelled activities.

Accommodation

Local family run hostel in the town of Barichara.

Food

2 meals a day provided. Dinner will be extra in one of the many cafes in town. Budget about $10 per meal.

Colombia Gap Year Programme
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Volunteering Community and Reforestation

During you first your time in Barichara you'll get stuck into a mix of the following community projects:

Family Help
This is part of our social work programme for families who are struggling in the community. Every team will identify a family in need and help in all sorts of areas – from cleaning their home, painting and gardening.

School renovation and teaching
Here you'll work with the local foundation school called Funda Reserve, renovating their sports pitch, teaching English and rugby.

Reforestation
This project helps the Barichara fire brigade who want us to help manage their tree nursery, which is used to reforest community land. Every team helps with the planting out and sowing seeds.

Women's Foundation
This inspiring foundation helps create eco-farms for local ladies who have previously not been able to work. Each farm then sells produce at the local markets, which includes honey, essential oils, teas, vegetables, fruits, and more, bringing wealth, security, and freedom for the women of the foundation. They love to receive a helping hand from our leapers which provides an amazing cultural moment.

Colombia Gap Year Programme
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Adventure Culture + Canyon

In Barichara and San Gill, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to adventure and exploring the authentic cultural experiences in the heart of the local community. So, interwoven into your time:

Culture
Learn how to roll your own cigar on one of the tobacco farms.

Canyon Hikes
Hike along the 300-year-old colonial footpaths known as ‘el camino real’. Think stunning vistas across the Canyon Suarez and the prettiest of towns.

Wilderness Camping
Spend 2 days exploring the Chicamocha Canyon, which is 120 million-years-old and utterly stunning. You'll start by traversing the crest, before hiking the 11km descent, meandering through tobacco and goat farms before cooling off in the river at the base, where you'll camp for the night.

Adrenaline Adventure
San Gill is only 30 mins away and offers all sorts of adrenaline activities to get stuck into, such as white water rafting and bungee jumping.

Colombia Gap Year Programme
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Spanish Learning a language

These lessons are tailored to suit all levels from beginner to advanced, with specific design to help you interact with the local community and enjoy being in a Spanish speaking country. Especially helpful if you are travelling on after the program around South America.

During the first two weeks Monday to Friday there will be 2 x 45 minute Spanish lessons everyday (usually between 15:00-17:00 but subject to change), a total of 20 classes.

Tuition is delivered by accredited and licensed teachers following a short test to establish your level and objectives.


Colombia Gap Year Programme
Phase 2

Caribbean Coast The Lost City + Santa Marta + Cartagena

The second phase of your programme (1.5 weeks) takes you north to the Caribbean coast, where you have time for a spot of beach time and tubing down the river at Palomino whilst you prepare for the final challenge of the program which involves a 4-day (3 night) trek to reach the famous Lost City after which you will head to Cartagena to fly home.

Spend time in Palomino to set you up for the trek. Relax and unwind in this surf area, very popular with gappers and has a strong international vibe. You will bump into many a traveller here as you gear up for your trek to The Lost City.

The Lost City trek
This is one of those bucket list moments as it takes you through a hot and steamy jungle journey and across the Buritaca river (several times) to reach the famous Lost City of Teyrona, made up of 169 terraces built over 30 hectares.

On your journey you will trek for abut 5 kms a day, cool off in crystal clear rivers, shower under waterfalls, be blessed by the local Koki tribe and rock to sleep in hammocks. This mountain range has the most eco systems of any mountain range in the world. Spend 2.5 days going up, then 1.5 days coming back down.

Santa Marta and Cartagena
The final few days will be spent in the hip and cool towns of Santa Marta and Cartagena – everyone’s favorite Caribbean chill out zones.

These are groovy towns, where you'll want to whip out your dancing shoes and get involved with the impromptu salsa dances, order a few cocktails, haggle in the markets, and rest up on the beaches. You will have a celebratory dinner to sit back and let your accomplishments sink in following your trek.

Prefect places to end the adventure before travelling on or heading home.

Accommodation

Family run hostels
Campsites while trekking - think open air indian huts with bunk beds. Your mozzie net and bedding is provided.

Food

2 meals a day provided. All meals on the trek.

Colombia Gap Year Programme
Colombia Gap Year Programme

Did you know?

Onward travel has never been so easy

Book a programme with us and you will receive a complimentary 12 month subscription to our Backpacking Advice Hub. This Hub is your one stop shop for all things travel advice, itineraries, handy insider hints and tips to really get the most from your travels. It is a must-have resource for independent travel post-Leap.

Our teams never want to come home post-programme and choose to add on a phase of independent travel with their new found friends - making the most of their gap year. Colombia is perfectly placed to add on a phase in Ecuador, Panama, and Peru. Call us and chat through your ideas.

The Leapers and community come together to help with the reforestation projects in Colombia on their gap year.
Views from the trek on the Colombia program.
Colombia Lost City trek.
Overnight camping on the canyon trek in Colombia.
Visiting the coast in Colombia on their gap year.

Colombia's Details & Costs

Please note you need to be 18 years old or over at the time of travel.

Download Itinerary

Options and costs

Whats included?

Nurturing Teams

Expect smaller, more intimate teams of 6-12, with Brendan as your team leader who'll be with you throughout the entire trip.

Adventure

From trekking to rafting, get ready to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new and exciting.

Community

You'll be welcomed into the local community at Barichara with open arms. You'll be playing football and salsa dancing with the locals in no time.

Contribution

Get hands-on with projects that will directly benefit the local community, from planting trees to teaching sport in the local school.

Monday to Friday

This is a whirl wind tour where you are going to be busy everyday but we promise you some down time to experience some backpacker favourites, such as:

  • White water rafting
  • Bungee jumping
  • Yoga
  • Nights out to experience Latin music and culture
  • Horse riding
Colombia Gap Year Programme

In Colombia we are focused on discovering and portraying the 'real’ Colombia, with its authentic traditions and its genuine people. We are focused on discovering its great outdoors, trekking its lands, camping in its wilderness and volunteering for its social and environmental needs.

The programme will take you across the country, where you will encounter an incredible variety of first hand cultural experiences including; pre-conquests indigenous peoples and rituals, colonial rein, to an independent and now modern-day, cool Colombia.

There is so much to see and do… hurry-on-over.

Colombia Gap Year Programme

"Very professional service"

I am super impressed that The Leap have been in contact at the beginning of my daughter's trip to tell me she had arrived safely. Very professional service - thanks very much!

- Abi Crampton

"Helped my confidence so much"

Its helped so much with my confidence and I feel like I know myself better as a person. I’m leaving the trip in such a better place than when I arrived and I’m so grateful for that :)

- Isla

"Really well organised"

Really well organised, made travelling around Costa Rica super easy and enjoyable. Lizzie and Carmen were great tour guides and made me feel super comfortable throughout.

- Alice Lockwood

"So grateful"

I feel more socially able with new people and feel more grateful for what I have back in the UK

- Sam

"This experience was life changing."

Although this is from a personal point of view, I wanted to share the great personal development this trip gave me. I believe travel and unknown/unusual environments affect and shape any individual.

It altered my being in a way i find hard to articulate, it changes you and challenges you that no 9-5 working existence ever could.

- Olivia

Colombia Gap Year Programme

"Easy Peasy with The Leap"

You guys always answered questions so fast! Zoe is outstanding!! Made travelling during a pandemic easy peasy

- Hanna

Colombia Gap Year Programme

"They have the gap year formula spot on"

Speaking only for our experience with Costa Rica, The Leap know and understand the country so well. The team communicated brilliantly-they were always pro active and accessible, nothing felt like too much trouble and they never made you feel like your question or concern was a silly one.

They have the gap year formula spot on. All the reassurance that parents need whilst safely delivering the freedom and adventure that the volunteers want-and all through a Pandemic (!)

My daughter had the absolute time of her life with them and I’m sure has made friends for life, I wouldn’t hesitate in giving them the very highest recommendation possible.

- Frances (mum)

"Grown in confidence"

I have grown in confidence from meeting new people and I have realised how much of an impact everyone could make with everyday things

- Louisa

Colombia Gap Year Programme

"You felt prepared"

The daily schedule was always written out at the start of the day, so you felt prepared for what was happening when.

- Mimi

"I would highly recommend this trip."

This trip has left me with a group of life long friends from around the world, experiences that have plus will affect me forever, and skills to help me through life.

Everyday was a new adventure, from building hatcheries for turtle eggs to teaching English at a local school to playing volleyball with the Costa Rican Cost Guard to hearing stories from past poachers to watching a turtle lay eggs to have a sing-a-long with the group.

- Jessica

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