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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

"So reliable"

In one of the most complicated spaces in time, Milly and team stresslessly organised the trip to Costa Rica and Guatemala giving our son a wonderful opportunity and set of memories he would otherwise not have had. And when the regs changed again while they were out there the well oiled machine that is the Leap just reconfigured and continued!

I simply can't recommend them more highly!

- Henry

"So grateful"

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

- Sam

"Team were amazing"

Thanks so much for your kind email, I am sorry that I only have just seen it now! That evening was definitely a scary shock but it has now made me so much aware about going out at night.

The Leap team were also amazing and I cannot thank Chris and Meli enough for helping me both at the hospital and then the following morning when dealing with insurance. My mum is also very, very grateful that you guys have been there to help the entire time!


- Anonymous

"I always felt in good hands"

Our daughter has had the most amazing time in Kenya, The Leap group have been fantastic with details and organization throughout, I always felt we were in good hands. The breadth of volunteering and involvement has been wonderful to see and I know this will have changed her life forever. Thank you.

- Tanya Crone

"Your support is very much appreciated"

We knew in choosing The Leap she was travelling with your ‘safety blanket’ and so it proved. Rachel at Trailfinders is also just the best. Very best wishes for continued success in such a challenging environment. The Leapers who are able to travel this year owe you and your team lots of gratitude for getting them away (and back!!).


- Anne ( mum )

"I had the best month with The Leap"

I had the best month with The Leap. It was made so special by our amazing leaders Lizzie and Carmen who were always attentive but made sure everyone was having so much fun. As well as this everyone who I did the trip with was so incredible it was great how well we all got along and how fun we made every experience for each other, from building a shower in Cocal to laughing on a coffee tour in Monteverde to endless blissful beach days in Sámara. I would highly recommend The Leap to anyone looking to travel in a big group and enjoy moving from place to place at a really nice pace.

- Maddy Jones

"Steady hands on the tiller "

So grateful to you all at The Leap. It’s been the most amazing experience for Ella and we can’t compliment you and Milly enough for all your friendly and efficient organisation and your very steady hands on the tiller in choppy waters throughout this last month!


- David

"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

"Quite an extraordinary responsibility"

Thank you, Milly. You've been an absolute star - quite an extraordinary responsibility and you're doing it admirably. Great friend of ours, has signed up for Namibia in March after hearing about Skye's adventures ahead...


- Katie Turnbull

"How on earth you have managed to pull this off I don't know!"

But you have all been absolutely incredible. I never could have imagined Charlie being able to take part in such a fantastic project in this, the strangest of years! I have huge admiration in your professionalism and ability to deliver in the toughest of times. Thank you so much, I'm sure the presence of the team will do wonders for the project and wonders for the Team Members... what a fantastic opportunity for them all!!

- Andrew Fairs

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