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Peru Gap Year Programme

Andes + Amazon

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Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain and Amazon

Welcome to Peru, a country boasting ancient Incan culture, brightly coloured textiles, incredible scenery, and of course Machu Picchu. Rich in both geography and history, it is a destination of extremes. From the heady heights of the Andes, to the crazy striped Rainbow Mountain, to the virgin Amazon rainforest, our unique 3-week Peru programme provides the perfect solution to get off-grid so you can see these highlights at their most authentic.

During the course of this programme, you will spend 2-weeks in the heart of the Sacred Valley where you will become immersed in local life - where crops are still planted by hand, women work in bowler hats, and llamas are as tame as pets. Here your time will be a unique mix of community projects, exploration, and adventure – the highlight being to summit Machu Picchu and to live alongside local communities.

Your final week will be a fantastic contrast as you head into the steamy Amazon jungle accessed by boat down the Madre de Dios river to reach your base at Lake Sandoval. From here you will canoe to explore both the primary and secondary rainforest to find the spectacular wildlife.

This is the plan...

peruvian lady

Peru's Programme Itinerary

This is a journey to introduce you to remote Peruvian communities tucked away from the tourists' eye, high in the Andes, who will welcome you into their family and value your contribution to help preserve their heritage, before exploring the depths of the Amazon.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Overview

Andes and Amazon

Wks 1- 2 Andes
You'll start your journey in a pretty little town called Calca, nestled amongst the mountains in the Sacred Valley, high in the Andes. It's at 9,600 ft above sea level, on the Urubamba River, known for its temperate climate, checkerboard fertile fields, and towering mountains, such as Mount Pitusiray – considered one of the most sacred places in the valley. Calca is very central which makes it a great location from which to explore Cusco and the other historic towns in the Sacred Valley.

Wk 3 Amazon
Your last week will be spent exploring the Amazon for 4 days, 3 nights, via the entry point of Puerto Maldonado. The plan is to hike and canoe into both the primary and secondary rainforest and around the beautiful Lake Sandoval, seeking out the magical birdlife and wildlife.

You will be looked after by our partners - a dynamic NGO, called the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD), who need your help to implement their projects aimed to enhance and preserve the ancient livelihoods of remote Andean Communities in the Sacred Valley. They are a great team and will show you the real Peru.

Accommodation

In Calca you will live with a gorgeous local family and be treated as a family member. You will have your own room, shared bathrooms and all eat together which will give you an amazing cultural experience. In the Amazon you will stay in a jungle eco-lodge.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Peru Gap Year Programme
Wk 1

Sacred Valley Projects + Rainbow Mountain + Spanish

Throughout this week you will experience a mix of community projects + Spanish + adventure.

Community projects

You will help AASD with their projects which address malnutrition within the high-altitude communities. You will do this by working at their demonstration farm where community elders come to learn about new practices.It is so inspiring, and now possible to grow strawberries at over 4500m. Another day will be spent with the Urco Youth Association helping at their jewellery workshop – another inspiring project which aims to teach the kids a life skill.

Rainbow mountain and ancient ruins
Throughout this week you’ll also venture off on some local hikes to help you acclimatise to high altitude living, before setting off to climb the famous Rainbow Mountain and explore the stunning archaeological site of Pisac with its epic market selling ponchos, hats, and textiles.

Spanish lessons
Aimed to help you get by as English is not widely spoken in Peru or across South America for that matter. 4 x 1-hour lessons will be woven into your week.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Peru Gap Year Programme
Wk 2

High Altitude Communities and Machu Picchu Trekking and exploration

By now you should be fully acclimatised and ready to head off into the depths of the Sacred Valley to find the remote high-altitude community called Quishuarani, before seeing Machu Picchu in all its glory.

The Quishuarani are located high above the tree line where the farmers are diversifying through AASD’s projects. You will stay the night here as guests of the community president who will proudly take you on a stunning hike along the Siete Cataratas (Seven Waterfalls) trail to reach their sacred lagoon, passing herds of llamas along the way.

You will be blown away by the scenery up here – utterly stunning and such a privilege to stay with a local community, way off the tourist trail. You will love this unique and special moment, inaccessible to backpackers and the programme highlight for many.

You will return to Calca before heading off for Machu Picchu via train to get to Aguas Calentes and hiking into the National Park the next day for your bucket list moment – you will have time to immerse yourself in the astonishing Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Accommodation

Local community and hostel in Aguas Calentes. Homestay in Calca.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Peru Gap Year Programme
Wk 3

The Amazon Adventure and exploring

Your last week will be spent exploring the Amazon via the entry point of Puerto Maldonado. Here you will spend 4 days at an eco-lodge from which you will explore this stunning environment with the help of local guides and the lodges resident naturalist.

Every day will be different, but all will involve canoeing down the Madre de Dios River to reach the stunning Lake Sandoval. From here you will explore the primary and secondary rainforest to seek out the Red Bellied Macaws as they return to the forest at night (this flock is currently the largest reported in the world - approximately 500-800 macaws), rare black caimans, parrots, parakeets, and monkeys galore.

On your final day you will head back by boat to Puerto Maldonado and return to Calca for your last night, before flying home or further afield.

Accommodation

Jungle eco-lodge.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Peru Gap Year Programme
Peru 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. Peru is perfectly placed to add on a phase in Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.

Sunset in the Amazon
The view from the Andes in Peru.
peru lady
Working the local farmers on their organic farms.
Lake Sandoval in Peru

Peru's Programme Details & Costs

Max team size of 12 per departure - so book in early.
Please note you need to be 18 years old or over at the time of travel.

Download Itinerary

Options and costs

Whats included?

Smaller Teams

You will be part of a tight team of between 5-10 like-minded volunteers, who will be on your journey from start to finish.

Off the Beaten Track

Access places that backpackers couldn't normally get to on their own through the NGOs we partner with.

Cultural Exchange

Through living and working beside indigenous communities you will experience traditional Peruvian life and make extraordinary friendships.

Physical Challenge

A journey across Peru which includes trekking, exploring, contributing, and reaching the heady heights of Machu Pichu.

Working Hours and Time Out

Each phase will vary in terms of project hours. Rural communities tend to start work very early and finish in early-afternoon, giving you time to explore in the afternoons.

Peru Gap Year Programme

Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD)

AASD was created in 2010 to support community-led agriculture projects in the highlands of Peru. Ecohuella is their (Ecological Footprint) farm. Co-founded by three siblings, Ecohuella, can also be considered a speciality school for campesino farmers because they provide hands-on trainings and workshops that respect the Quechua language, local learning styles, and traditions.

The spectacular landscapes of Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu form the backdrop for this program in this larger-than-life country, but look beyond the stunning environment and you will find evidence of long gone empires and current cultures who are just managing to adapt to the demands of globalization without losing their values and cultures.

Peru Gap Year Programme

Watch our videos

Peru Gap Year Programme

Andes and Amazon

"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

"How fantastic you all are"

We really can’t thank you enough for everything you have done to make this amazing adventure happen, and for all the hand holding for Mimi and us along the way! It’s incredible that they have managed to have as close to normal a gap year as it must be possible to have right now and we are enormously enormously grateful to you and everyone at The Leap who has helped make this happen. Thank you. We have been spreading the good word about how fantastic you all are!

- Selina ( mum )

" I recommend this trip to anyone who is thinking about doing it!​"

One of the best experiences of my life!! I met the most amazing people and experienced so many incredible things. The trip is so well organised and you get a mix of everything Costa Rica has to offer! Lizzie and Carmen were the most incredible group leaders and this made such a difference, I recommend this trip to anyone who is thinking about doing it!

- Maggie Calder

"Unstinting & cheerful help!"

Just to say Ollie got to CR & has now met up with his friends! Quite a journey! Thanks to you & all The Leap team for your unstinting & cheerful help! I fear I may be in touch in due course about exiting CR but meanwhile best of luck with all your current trips & I’ll leave you in peace!


- Julia Rooth

"The Leap is an awesome company who takes care of every aspect of your trip to make sure you can enjoy it to the fullest"

This trip was honestly amazing and I would highly recommend anyone to take the opportunity to do it.

I met amazing staff and locals over the 6 weeks and also amazing people who I still stay in contact with and I can’t wait to see during the rest of my travels.

The outreach was definitely a highlight as you get to explore more islands and do different activities. The locals are amazing and the sense of community and the appreciation for volunteers makes it so worth doing. I did forest conservation because I love animals and hiking but with The Leap your programme is flexible and if you prefer to teach you can switch over as well which you don’t get with other companies.

What you should know is GO THROUGH THE LEAP!

- Brooke

"I would say 100% I was able to make a positive contribution"

I was helping the community by making the beach cleaner and also helping protect the turtles from poachers and plastic in the ocean.

- Kit

" I felt really enriched by the end of it"

I just wanted to let you know that I'm safely back in the UK, and missing Costa Rica already! A huge thank you to you though, as I had an absolutely wonderful time - everything was so well organised, and so comprehensive. All the volunteering was great, and I felt really enriched by the end of it, and well prepared for the little bit of solo travelling I did. I'm so so glad that I went and I will really treasure the time I spent there (especially in the months until lockdown ends!).

- Rose

"An experience not to be missed!​​"

The Leap took all the responsibility and stress out of the gap year experience. Would advise that all teenagers do this part of their gap year before they 'free' travel. The Leap are highly professional and inclusive of parents.

- Sara

Peru 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

"So clear and straightforward "

I’d just like to say how impressed I’ve been by all your amazing organisation, plans and communication. I know she’s mainly communicated with you herself, but it’s all been so clear and straightforward – so thank you. I know this must have been an incredibly difficult time for you and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending The Leap to any prospective Gappies in future!

- Justine Barnes

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