South America Explorer
Visit two of South America’s most iconic countries - Peru & Ecuador – and discover the lost lands of the Incas!
With the awe-inspiring spectacle of Machu Picchu; the sensation of waking up to the sounds and sights of the Amazon rainforest; or intimate encounters with incredible animals, you are sure to encounter something to astound you at every turn of this journey. Volunteering projects in wildlife conservation mean you can leave your mark and give something back as you travel this vibrant, surprising corner of South America.
Perfect for: Adventure Travel, Summer Programs and Wildlife Conservation.
- Stunning 5 day Andean trek to Machu Picchu, one of the seven modern wonders of the world;
- Surf the pacific waves off the coast of Mancora, Peru's best known beach town;
- Navigate your way through the rapids with some white water rafting near Baños, Ecuador's adventure sports capital;
- Get up close and personal with a vast range of animals whilst volunteering at an Amazon Wildlife Rescue Sanctuary;
- Trek the Quilotoa Loop, arguably one of the best multi-day trekking routes in South America and one of Ecuador's most popular treks!
Week 1: Cusco
Begin your journey in Cusco, historic capital of the Inca Empire and cultural heart of Peru. Spanish lessons, salsa class, cookery workshops, homestays with friendly local families, city exploration and a Sacred Valley tour with your fellow travellers are the perfect way to acclimatise - both to the altitude and the laid-back South American way of life.
Week 2: Trek to Machu Picchu
Step up the adventure level with an epic trek across the Andes to Machu Picchu. Follow in the footsteps of Inca road-builders on the remote Salkantay route over icy mountain passes and through mysterious cloud forests to the remains of a fallen civilisation. This is the way to the Lost City of the Inca for those who prefer the path less travelled.
Week 3: Andes to Amazon
It's time to sling on your backpack again as you travel overland to Ecuador. After a brief stop in Lima, you'll head north to the chilled our surf town of Mancora on Peru's Pacific coast. From here, you will cross into Ecuador, a country of diverse landscapes with a unique flavour and a reputation for friendly, welcoming people. Stop in the city of Cuenca to absorb its colonial history and the stunning beauty of a nearby national park, before heading onto Baños in the jungle-clad eastern province of Amazonas.
Week 4: Jungle Adventures
Your adventures in Ecuador kick up a gear in week four as you explore the adventure tourism hotspot of Baños. This mountain town has restaurants and bars, as well as white water rafting, hiking, canopy tours, canyon bungees, rope swings, hot springs, cycling and many other adventure activities! It’s the perfect place to refresh and revitalise yourself after the humid jungle.
For those booked onto the 4-week program, this will be your final week and you will be transferred to Quito for your return flight home.
Week 5: Animal Rescue Sanctuary Volunteering
Of all the wildlife projects Gapforce supports, the Animal Rescue Sanctuary is possibly one of the most unique and meaningful! Get face-to-face and hand-to-paw with rainforest inhabitants as you volunteer at a rescue centre for wild animals. Macaws; boas; monkeys; ocelots and even caiman crocodiles are just some of the creatures the centre works to protect and rehabilitate after abuse by the black market trade in wild animals as pets. Warning: this phase of the program may contain cute fuzzy animals.
Week 6: Tamandua & Indigenous Culture
After a truly rewarding week volunteering, it’s time to venture further into the jungle with a week's stay with an indigenous community. Learn the secrets of life in the rainforest - test your marksmanship with blow pipes; be cleansed in a traditional healing ceremony; try to keep up with the locals' dance routines; teach children at the local school and dare to go on night-time walks into jaguar territory!
Week 7: Quilotoa Loop & Quito
To bring your adventure in Ecuador to a fitting conclusion, your final week will include an incredible multi-day trek of the Quilotoa Loop. Trekking far into the remote Cotapaxi province, the loop is a bumpy, ring shaped high mountain pass that links a number of Andean villages. Over the 4-day trek you will discover vibrant indigenous markets and the crystal clear waters of Laguna Quilotoa. You will then return to Quito for the final few days of your adventure where there is a chance to explore the historic city and visit the Mitad del Mundo, zero degrees of latitude - the centre of the world!
If you want help planning your trip to Peru and Ecuador, read our essential backpacking guide to South America!
For current prices, check out the dates and availability section below - you may need to scroll right to view the prices! Remember you only need to pay a $300 deposit when you book to secure a place on your chosen adventure!
- Pre-departure support
- Airport pick-up & return transfer
- Gapforce Expedition Leader
- Local project staff
- All accommodation for the duration of the trip
- Breakfast & Dinner each day
- Some lunches
- Trips & activities as listed in brochure
- All internal transport
- 24/7 emergency back-up
- Financial failure protection
What is not included:
- Flights to/from destination
- Travel Insurance
- Visa & Vaccinations
- Some lunches
- Spending Money
- Tipping & Gratuities
How much spending money do I need?
You will need money for extra meals, drinks & snacks, as well as for any activities not on the itinerary. We advise you to budget for £70 / €80 / $100 per week (this is a guideline only)
What is the food like?
You will be provided with breakfast and dinner daily as well as lunches during the trek and project work. Typical South American food includes lots of rice, meat, beans, vegetables and fruit, regional dishes vary and local specialties will always be made available! Vegan and vegetarian diets can be catered for, please check with us regarding further dietary requirements and/or allergies.
What type of transport will I be using?
You are responsible to getting yourself to and from the start point of the expedition. During the expedition, program transfers are included. Travel is a combination of day and overnight journeys using a range of transport including public and private buses, internal flights, boats and taxis. Please give us a call for more information on individual journey details.
Where will I be staying?
You will stay in a variety of diverse accommodations throughout your trip including: local hotels and hostels, camping, volunteer guesthouses, cabins in the Amazon and homestays. Most accommodations will be dorm style with shared bathrooms
Who takes part in this program?
This program is for anyone looking to explore two of South America’s most ecologically and culturally diverse countries. There is no prior experience required although the minimum age is 18 and you must also have your doctor sign our medical form confirming you are medically fit to participate.
Who will be supervising me?
Throughout your expedition you will be accompanied by a Gapforce Expedition Leader. At various stages of your expedition we utilize the services of local support staff including project coordinators, drivers and guides.
INCREDIBLE AND LIFE CHANGING
What and amazing experience met some incredible people and had some amazing experiences. Obviously some stuff sometimes went wrong but its South America what are people expecting? Cant wait to go back!!!Tom
South America Explore
Have always wanted to travel but felt like going with a group/company would be best for the first time. I chose this trip as it had a mixture of expirences, for me one of the highlights of the whole trip was the Sachu Yacu wild animal rescue centre. Volunteering with animals is something I have wanted to do for a very long time and will base many future travels around. The place is so relaxing and peaceful, being in the Amazon rainforest Is truly an amazing experience. Working so closely with wild animals is experience you will never forget, going inside a cage with an ocelot is both terrifying and incredible at the same time! The people who run the place are so lovely and quickly become good friends along with all the other volunteers! Saying good bye when leaving was sad because everyone becomes so close, it really makes the expirence x10 more wonderful!Banos is a town in Ecuador which I loved, bungee jumping off a bride is something I never thought I would do but it was absolutely amazing! Being on this trip has increased my confidence hugely, my self-confidence in travelling alone has become something I am no longer afraid off.The trek to Machu pichu was difficult for me, I struggled quite a lot going uphill, but my leader was so understanding of my injury I came on the trip with and would contiously check up on me to make sure I was not in pain, he was so supportive. Completing the trek was a massive achievement for me, and the views from Machu Pichu itself made it so worth while.My leader was brilliant! His sense of humour was always apparent, even on days with 5am starts! so happy I did not have a different expedition leader as he has taught me so much about travelling, I really couldn't of had anyone better!The whole trip was better than I hoped and was defiantly the perfect first time travel!Cara
So little space but come on this trip!I made friends for life on this trip and got to see and experience things that you wouldn't normally by travelling solo. One of my favourite (or many) memories was swimming in the natural hot springs after our 2nd day of the trail to Machu Picchu followed by a bonfire and smores at the hostel!It might not change your life but it will change your heart.Andrew, Douglas
I had the most amazing time on my trip to South America in October! At first I was worried as there were only 3 other people in the group however as soon as we met the worries disappeared. Our guide Alfie was very enthusiastic and ensured we had an itinerary filled with fun activities and experiences. There was enough flexibility in the program that we were able to decide where to eat and what we wanted to see. The Spanish lessons in Cusco along with the home-stay for the first week were a great way to start the trip. My favourite part of the trip was the hike to Machu Picchu. We were in an awesome group of people and saw breathtaking views. The Galápagos Islands were absolutely incredible and the activities were great especially the day trip on a boat out to snorkel! The best thing about this tour is the variety it entails. It involves adventure activities, volunteering and cultural experiences which combined to make an unforgettable trip. Would highly recommend this program!Gillian, 19, gap year student from Australia
Amazing 8 weeks!
Just spent the last 8 weeks on the Gapforce South America expedition. Before arriving, I wasn’t so sure what to expect as the details on the website were quite vague.Upon arrival, I was picked up at the Cusco airport by one of our leaders and brought back to our hostel. Once all 14 of us in the group had arrived, we went for a stroll around Cusco and clicked instantly. We spent the next 8 weeks learning Spanish, trekking, salsaing, beaching, exploring cities, working with animals, chilling by the Amazon, volunteering at a daycare and finally living it up in the Galápagos.Going on this trip was one of the best decisions I’ve made, and although I was a little nervous beforehand, [...] I would recommend it to anyone. I would also suggest that if you’re going to do the expedition, definitely do the 7 week program and the Galápagos extension. I had originally only planned to do 7 weeks but going to the Galápagos Islands was an incredible experience and was totally worth the extra money.The people I’ve met on this trip are some of the coolest and most fun people I know. We’ve all become close friends and I will miss you all so much.Minaëlle
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- Duration: 4 to 7 weeks
- Departures: February, September