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Colombia Gap Year

Canyons, Spanish and Volunteering


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Colombia's Volunteering Road Trip

A journey of adventure and contribution

Trust us Colombia is a rocking, off grid destination. Our plan is to help you venture into this amazing country to explore the awesome vibe of latino-caribbean culture, the stunning architecture and delicious food, whilst learning Spanish and of course contributing to the communities you meet.

So, this is our plan - you will start your adventure in the inland town of Barichara (central Colombia) before heading across to the snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada and then down to pristine Caribbean beaches.

Along the way you will help with our reforestation projects, restore rural homes before trekking through the world’s second largest canyon and finding the famous Lost City.

This is an awesome combination of contribution and adventure. You will see all the lonely planet highlights and so much more as we get you off the beaten track to live and breathe real Colombian life.

Colombian farmer

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 and down to pristine Caribbean beaches.

Colombia's Program Itinerary

Your journey will start in Barichara and end in the latino-caribbean town of Cartagena having experienced a fantastic mix of adventure and projects in the Andes and jungle - ending up at The Lost City.

The following is a sample itinerary.

Wk 1 & 2

Barichara Explore and Reforestation

You will fly into Bucaramanga airport and will be picked up by our team who will whisk you away to the little town of Barichara, tucked away in the heart of this stunning country to explore, learn Spanish and contribute to 2 different development projects which are environmentally and community orientated. Each week will be a mix of the following to create a dynamic itinerary.

Reforestation: Supporting the Barichara fire brigade who want us to help create, from start to finish, a fully functioning and fully stocked tree nursery.

School renovation:
Repaint a sports centre for a rural school near the community of Guane.

Women's Foundation: Their philosophy is to bring independence and freedom to women in rural communities, where previously they would wait at home for their husband's support. The foundation works as a collective creating sustainable eco farms in houses owned by women in the foundation. They work together volunteering in support of each other. Each farm then sells produce at the local markets and they sell their produce which includes honey, home grown orchards, essential oils, teas, vegetables, fruits, dairies and more. It has brought wealth, security and freedom for the women of the foundation.

You will visit workshops involving local cigar and the tobacco trade, coffee production, ceramic, stone carving, culinary workshops such as open fire roasted goat and flying ants and basket weaving.

Experience trekking along the ancient 300-year-old colonial royal footpath known as ‘el camino real’, from Guane to Barichara and the Barichara to Cabrerra route which takes you to both sides of the Canyon Suarez.

Monday to Friday there will be 2 x 45, minute Spanish lessons everyday, delivered by accredited and licensed teachers following a short test to establish your level.


Local family run hostel in the town of Barichara.


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
Wk 3

Chicamocha Canyon Canyon Trekking

Now you'll start your road trip, travelling from the Andean mountains heading north to the Caribbean coast. Starting with....

Chicamocha Canyon - trek across the second biggest canyon in the world
Here you will experience three days in the wilderness, trekking across the crest of the 120-million-year-old canyon, passing through isolated terrain and tobacco farms, before reaching the riverside camp for the night. This trek includes 8km of an ancient royal footpath, originally built by the Spanish crown, linking Santa Marta on the coast, with Bogota. Simply stunning.

Santa Marta and Palomino Beach
After the trek you will overnight bus to reach Santa Marta and the Caribbean ...where you will stay for a couple of days to relax and prepare for your final challenge which is to reach the Lost City. You will stay at Palomino for a couple of days of R & R - lots of things to do here such as river tubing and horse riding - utter heaven.


Camping on overnight trek. Family hostel in Palomino.


2 meals a day provided.

Colombia Gap Year
Wk 4

The Lost City + Santa Marta + Cartagena Trekking and Caribbean

The grand finale....

The Lost City Trek
Get ready to embark on a 3 night, 4 day trek to reach the Lost City. Here you experience hidden beaches, ancient ruins and the cooler mountains.

Santa Marta and Cartagena
Down time...The final few days will be spent in the hip and cool towns of Santa Marta and Cartagena. The cities are historical, colorful and superbly preserved. Here you will visit historical points, and barter hard in the local markets.

A prefect place to end the adventure before travelling on or heading home.


Family run hostels in the centre of the old quaters.


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

Colombia Gap Year
Colombia Gap Year

Add on Independent Travel

Combine with Peru and Ecuador

What we are finding is that our teams never want to come home post program and choose to add on a phase of independent travel with their new found friends - certainly making the most of their gap year. We can easily support this through our Leap VIP travel resource which every leaper has access to.

Colombia is perfectly placed to add on Peru and Ecuador and complete your South American gap year. Just a short flight away, super easy to navigate and the perfect destinations to explore. Fancy a chat? Call us to discuss.

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.

Options and costs

To hear more about it tune into our leap Live on instagram:

The price includes the Lost City Trek

Please note:

Max team size of 15 per departure.
If you are not fully vaccinated then you need proof of a negative PCR or antigen test to enter Colombia.
You can easily combine with Central or South America.

Whats included?


From trekking to mountain biking and rafting, get ready for an adventure.


Two weeks spent in the mountains before heading down for two weeks on the Caribbean coast.

Beach Life

End your program on a Caribbean beach

Social Life

The program can accommodate up to 12 volunteers, who come from all over the world, so it's busy and fun.

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:

  • Paragliding in San Gil
  • White water rafting
  • Yoga
  • Nights out to experience Latin music and culture
Colombia Gap Year

Colombia is free and celebrating again, and now is the time to come see its secrets first hand.

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 program 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

Leaper's Highlights

As this is a new program for 2022 we don't have any diaries just yet BUT have a read of these from Costa Rica to get a feeling of Leap team life.

Painting signs, recycling and turtles Lucy Dickens

So the first week of our stay in Costa Rica at Jakera is done. In my opinion I feel it has gone slowly but for others it’s gone quite fast. Our first day was just travelling from the airport to Jakera. It was a LONG journey, mini bus then a ferry and then a mini bus again. But the next day was great it was a free day but most of us all went out to watch the sunset and for dinner. The sunset here is so beautiful!

A lot of us have tried various restaurants and some have been amazing and some not so much. But while we’re here why not try something new and not order a burger?

Spanish lessons. I’ve started to really enjoy our Spanish it’s so nice to be able learn the language whilst we are here. We have different groups based on your level of understanding but we all have them in the morning.

One of the projects we have been doing is creating signs for the beach on littering, recycling, no vehicles on the beach and rocky areas. To finish them it took us maybe 3 days as we had to let the paint dry so we could go over to outline it.

Our turtle watches. I’m afraid to say we have not seen any baby turtles yet as they haven’t hatched. We hope they will in the next day or two. We all take 3 hour shifts everyday from 6am till 12pm. The shifts were uneventful and slightly painful sitting for 3 hours with no turtles. But hey they will come some day!

We also have had a trip to another beach to teach some kids how to surf. When I say the word teach I use it loosely, we took them out spun them around and then pushed them when a wave came. It was a lot of fun being able to help them out and play with them though.

Hopefully we will see turtles next at Montezuma. Until then it was lovely chatting with you!

Colombia Gap Year

Turtle hatcheries, surfing, yoga and more Emily Dinovo

We began building our own turtle hatchery at Banana Beach in Santa Teresa on Monday. Jakera decided they would like to take on the mission of helping out the turtles themselves. With our shovels and rakes we cleared out an area and began digging as well as made signs for the new hatchery. We spent a couple of our mornings this week surfing. With the help of Chris, we rented a couple of surf boards, got up early in the morning and headed down to the beach. Since Henry surfs almost daily back home in California, he acted as our surf instructor and helped us attempt to catch a couple of waves. Also, this week Kat and I attended another yoga class. This one was also at sunset. The yoga classes always make us feel very relaxed and, while some of the stretches may be strange or difficult, it’s very enjoyable.

On Friday, as a group, we decided to take a short weekend trip to a town called Tamarindo. I was impressed to see paved roads and sidewalks. The first day we arrived, we didn’t waste any time finding a place to eat lunch. As we explored the new town and the new night life, we started the night off with a toast to our friends that couldn’t be there with us and to the ones that have already made their way back home. Saturday was spent relaxing at the beach and visiting the shops in town.

Sunday, we booked a boat tour on the river. Tamarindo is known for its crocodiles and we saw a few, we also were able to see monkeys, different types of birds and iguanas. To see the monkeys our guide had us get off the boat and walk through the jungle. We also discovered a new kind of insect this weekend. Our time in Tamarindo was a great way to spend the weekend and I felt that we were able to bond in a different kind of way than before. The next day would be spent going back to Santa Teresa for a final week before we all head our separate ways back home.

Colombia Gap Year

Tyre garden, hot springs and reforestation Maya Sanden

Monteverde has been a very different experience, since we got to work in a variety of places!

For the first week, we helped out at a local school with their gardening project. There were multiple different beds that needed work, as well as a cute car tyre garden that we created! The best part of that week was working together. The tyre garden came together from nothing with everyone helping in different ways. It was nice to have a project to work on from start to finish, and at the end, we left our mark, with everyone painting their hands and leaving handprints! We had lots of fun and did lots of work! The kids at this school were just as welcoming as the last school, and we played games with them during free time. The kids were always willing to help, and insisted on grabbing our shovels and paint brushes and being a part of the team!

In our free time, we got to explore the Monteverde Reserve, discovering beautiful overlooks and an amazing suspension bridge! It was wonderful to be able to actually get to know the trails that we worked on, and we loved the forests so much we went back for more, doing hikes over and over again and making sure everyone in the group got to see it.

Last weekend, we found out about some natural hot springs nearby and a group of us braved the long, slippery walk down to relax in them! It was definitely worth the hike- the view of the hills was incredible, and the hot springs were two levels high and right next to a beautiful waterfall. We spent the entire afternoon there, leaving right as it started to rain.

We’re very excited for our reforestation work next week, look out for more info and pics on it soon!
When we aren’t working, we’ve been exploring Santa Elena, finding great restaurants and ice cream shops! The area is beautiful, but walking the hills every day wears us out, so we’ve had early bedtimes here. The host families we’re staying with have been incredibly welcoming and accommodating, and we’re trying to practice our Spanish more with them!

Colombia Gap Year
Colombia Gap Year

"The most incredible experience"

This 10 week programme was truly the most incredible experience, where I have made amazing friends and immersed myself in getting to know a whole new place and culture.

The camp itself has members of all different volunteer programmes, allowing you to develop incredible relationships with people from all over the world in such a unique environment. I did a month of marine conservation and a month of teaching. The marine conservation was beautiful, and being able to get an advanced open water PADI in marine protected areas of Madagascar was very special.

As for the teaching, this was something which was so special to me, it allowed me to become so connected with the community, and I created bonds with people that I will truly never forget. Seeing students progress over time was so rewarding and allowed me to develop such close relationships. The staff members are super relaxed and it really feels like your own community! Honestly the best experience!!!

- Izzy Proud

"An unforgettable experience"

I received so much support and positive energy from the team at The Leap; nothing was too much trouble, and contact was maintained by e-mail while I was in Nepal. I started to teach within a couple of days of my arrival, supporting a member of staff. However, within a couple of days I was asked if I wanted to teach on my own. My core subjects were English and maths, but I taught basic hygiene too since there is a lack of understanding amongst the children about germs, hand washing and personal care.

If you want to give your time, skills and energy to a welcoming community, please contact The Leap and opt for a project in Nepal. Like me, you will have an unforgettable experience.

- Keith Donald

"I cannot recommend enough to all of my friends"

To everyone at The Leap

Archie had the most wonderful six weeks, probably the best he has had so far in his life! We are so glad we choose The Leap to begin his adventures traveling. He said all the Leapers were great people and really fun to be with. The experiences were just incredible and learning about the plastic and turtles fascinating. I think he has made some friends for life and if he ever returns from his travels we will hear lots more about it. Archie really liked Amelia and said she was fun, supportive and a wonderful leader. Just a really fabulous experience which I cannot recommend enough to all of my friends. In a couple of years my daughter will be coming to join a trip on The Leap. Thank you so so much.

- Henrietta Mogg

" Madagascar leap program SUPERB"

Experience of a lifetime, met people I would never have met and now consider them as my closest friends, gave me a more humble and appreciative view of life and provided me with memories that I can never replace and will never forget.

Highly RECOMMEND!!! (Make sure u like rice and beans and chickens in your room).

- Georgia Burgess

"Confidence and reassurance"

Thank you Milly and team for all you have done in giving Gemma the experience of a lifetime. I don't underestimate the complications and issues that you have overcome in getting the group onto this amazing programme during a global pandemic. The confidence you have give Gemma and the reassurance that we have received has been immense and we are recommending you to anyone who will listen!

- Suze Raby

"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

"You changed my life"

I love Jakera more than anything and you guys changed my life so much. I am forever in debt to all the things I have learnt here and the people I have been lucky enough to meet. Thank you to every single person at Jakera.

- Jack R

"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

"Five star all the way"

Incredible service, five star all the way, informative, professional and friendly, highly recommend, second daughter that has travelled with them

- Araminta

"The Leap were very thorough"

I spoke to The Leap and they gave me thorough information regarding what to take and what to expect. If I didn't have anything Chris at Jakera would always help me get what i needed.

- Kit P

Get in contact

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