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Peru Gap Year Program

Volunteer and Explore Sacred Valley

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Volunteer in Peru's Sacred Valley

Step into the Inca Empire

It is a must-see destination if you are thinking about venturing to South America. Rich in both geography and history it is a traveler’s awe-inspiring dream of extremes. From the heady heights of the Andes where the mysterious Machu Picchu lies in the Sacred Valley, to the virgin Amazon rainforest, to the glimmering Lake Titicaca.

But for us Peru is much more than the sights, it’s about the remote communities, living in the heart of the Scared Valley whose crops are still planted by hand, where the women work in bowler hats, and where llamas are as tame as pets.

These resilient communities are trying to preserve their traditional way of life but are keen for development in its gentlest form facilitated through our partners the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD).They are a non-profit NGO located in the Sacred Valley helping implement forward thinking, sustainable projects to enhance and preserve their livelihood.

This unique 4-week leap program provides a unique opportunity to combine an immersive cultural experience in the depths of the Sacred Valley.

Venture out to Peru for an epic journey of adventure and community development before reaching the breath taking Machu Picchu.


Peru's Program Itinerary

This is a journey to introduce you to the remote communities tucked away from the tourists eye who will welcome you into their family and will value your contribution to preserving their heritage.

The following is a sample itinerary.

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Sacred Valley

You will arrive in Cusco and be transferred to Calca which will be your main base throughout this program.

Calca is a colourful little town, nestled amongst the mountains in the Sacred Valley, 9,600 ft above sea level, on the Urubamba River. It is known for its temperate climate, checkerboard fertile fields, tranquillity, and towering mountains. So very pretty.

It is very central which makes it a great location from which to explore and home to Mount Pitusiray – considered as one of the most important mountain gods in the region.

Accommodation

In Calca you will stay in a homestay with a local family. Here you will have your own room and eat with the family providing you with an amazing cultural experience.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Wk 1

Community Project Farming + Exploration + Spanish Lessons

Your first week will be a combination of Spanish lessons, project work and exploration, which will include:

Contributing at Ecohuella, the local organic farm: Since 2010, AASD has worked with communities to improve their ecological farming practices to address malnutrition via greenhouse construction and workshops at an organic demonstration farm called Ecohuella.:

During your first week, you will work at the farm for a couple of mornings, learning about their sustainable development practices and rolling your sleeves up to help with the daily jobs.

During this time, you’ll watch the documentary about the now famous potato farmer so you can further understand the challenges, resilience and resourcefulness required to make a living in this environmentally hostile environment. For more information: here is a link to the documentary Opening the Earth: The Potato King , which AASD’s co-founder, Aaron, and his brother collaborated on.

Sacclio Community: In addition to working at EcoHuella, you will also assist the community of Sacclio, the area opposite Calca along the Vilcabamba River where the farm is located. Some of the activities include harvesting corn, preparing tree seedlings for reforestation projects, participating in youth education and recreation projects.

Exploring Urco Ruins, hikes and jewelry workshop: Intertwined though this week you will visit the Urco ruins, hike to a chapel that overlooks Calca, and along an ancient irrigation canal that leads to an Inca site called Urco, and join a jewelry workshop with the Urco Youth Association; before a friendly game of football.

Spanish lessons: To help with the communication throughout the program we have arranged for you to have 5 x 1 hour informal lessons in your first week to focus on easy conversation.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Wk 2

Ancient Ruins Trekking + Exploration

Your second week will be focused on adventure - exploring different ruins and hiking through the mountains to get a feel for the remoteness and vastness of the spectacular sacred valley.

Huchuycosco Trek
To kick start this week you will venture off to reach the site of Huchuycosco, which is a stunning location overlooking the mountains. It is one of the most sacred sites in the whole of the Sacred Valley because it was a main water source. Very unknown and off the beaten track – a hidden gem.

Pisac
This is a very well-known archaeological site and home to an epic market, famous within the region. The Quechua communities from the surrounding highlands flock to the market to sell their produce and gather their supplies for the week. Expect to find amazing ponchos, hats, Alpaca products, Andean instruments, paintings and many more souvenirs.

Urubamba
Moray and Salt Mines de Maras are located outside of Urubamba - another town in the Sacred Valley along the Vilcanota river. Some believe that it was used as an experimental agricultural site to help adjust crops to different micro climates while others consider Moray the womb of the Earth used for spiritual ceremonies, to an ancient amphitheatre.

Wk 3

Campesino Communities Cultural Exchange

By the third week you should be fully acclimatised and ready to head off into the depths of the Sacred Valley to find the high altitude Lares campesino (farming) community called Quishuarani, who our partners, AASD have just started a collaboration with.

Quishuarani is located high above the tree line where farmers primarily cultivate potatoes. This community is also part of a government initiative to enhance the nutrition of campesino communities through trout fisheries.

While you are here you will visit meet the president of Quishuarani who will take you on a brief tour of the trout hatchery before taking you on a hike along the Siete Cataratas (Seven Waterfalls) trail to reach a lagoon the community considers sacred. On your way, you will probably meet herds of llamas being corralled them and loaded up with cargo on their backs. Llamas are used primarily to transport harvested potatoes from high in the mountains. However, they are only able to carry around 25lbs at a time, so it takes a herd to transport the many sacks of potatoes in a typical harvest.

Here you will spend a couple of nights with the community work side-by-side the farmers helping them in the fields with whatever is in season. It could be weeding, planting, pickaxing but will always be accompanied by chicha (a fermented corn beer) during breaks.

Accommodation

You will stay in Lares, a larger pueblo lower in elevation to visit the baños termales (hot springs) to warm up after a chilly, rainy morning. This is a favorite spot among locals and tourists.

Food

3 meals a day provided.

Wk 4

Machu Picchu 4 day trek

You will return to Calca to prepare for the big 4-day trek to Machu Picchu.

A bucket list moment – time to immerse yourself in the ancient culture of Peru and venture off for a 4-day adventure to the astonishing Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world.

Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century high in the Andes mountains above the Urubamba River valley. It’s renowned for its dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, buildings in line with astronomical alignments and stunning panoramic views. Its exact former use still remains a mystery.

Now’s your chance to visit the breathtaking and iconic Inca site via a bespoke trail led by our guides who speak many local dialects and will lead you through the winding valleys and stunning scenery before ascending to the site of Machu Picchu in time for sunrise

Please note: The exact trail will be confirmed when you are out there as it is very weather dependent and we need to match the team's fitness with right level of challenge.

Accommodation

Tents and local homestays – depending on the route.


Food

3 meals a day provided on the trek.

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Independent Travel

The leap program in Peru is a unique experience in getting you off the beaten track - enabling you to hit the ground running and be so much more than a backpacker - but it also aims to make you travel savvy so if you choose to add on a phase of independent travel you are ready. We find that most leapers are now doing just this, making plans with their new friends from the program.

We recommend this as the two contrasting travel experiences compliment each other and we can support you by finding you a flexible return flight ticket and making you members of our Leap VIP resource - which is our independent travel support guide.

Typical routes involve a few more weeks exploring Lake Titicaca, Rainbow Mountain and Ica for the sand boarding or perhaps travel further afield into Ecuador, Bolivia and Colombia.

Peruvian locals in the street.

Peru's Program Details & Costs

Max team size of 12 per departure - so book in early.

Options and costs

Whats included?

Social Life

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

Off the beaten track

Explore the depths of the Sacred Valley.

Cultural Exchange

Through living and working beside indigenous communities you will experience real 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.

"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 affects and shapes 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

" 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

" I can see why you are so highly recommended"

Incidentally, Georgia had a really, really good time on the Costa Rica Adventure trip. It was a fantastic experience for her. In addition, the admin and organisation surrounding the trip was first class. I can absolutely see why you are so highly recommended.

Many thanks for your help.

- Nicola Preston

"​I had the most incredible time in Namibia "

I had the most incredible time in Namibia even though it flew by. We achieved so much in a short month. The conservation activities were fun and fascinating to be a part of.

A particular favourite of mine was invasive tree demolition and obviously white water rafting. Having limited WiFi made it much easier to click with other people and I’ve made some great friends. Red and Andrea are truly inspiring people and I wish them the best of luck and hope to visit soon to see the progress.

- Ivo

"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

"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

"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

"Incredible experience"

I wanted to say a huge thank you to you and your team !

Ava returned yesterday via Peru and had such an incredible experience in Ecuador. It was all very well organised and the people were amazing .I am still to hear more.

- Amanda Howard

"Well done Team Leap!!"

Thank you so much for all the hard work in getting them there! You have all been amazing. I do not underestimate how much work and pressure there has been in making this happen during such challenging times. They are now able to do something positive and rewarding during their gap year which is only possible because of The Leap.


- Paula & Lloyd

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