Peru is a ‘land of contrasts’. Its people, many of whom are descendants of the Incas, retain rich traditions of language, colorful dress and lively music. It has stunning, diverse landscapes, from the highest snow dusted peaks of the Andes to the lush Amazon jungle. The food is fantastic. The language is surprisingly easy to pick-up. Wild life abounds – you’re sure to see monkeys, flamingos, condor, llamas and the elusive vicuna.
On this program you'll contribute to meaningful community development during our service project in the Sacred Valley. You'll trek an Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Explore the Amazon while on expedition in Manu National Park - a Biosphere Reserve. Connect with the rhythms of rural life during a Kichwa community stay on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Wander ancient plazas and markets in Cusco and Arequipa improving your Spanish while bargaining for cosy llama-wool ponchos. Visit mysterious Nazca Lines and try sandboarding the dunes at Huacachina.
This summer abroad program is suitable for high school graduates, gap year students, university students and graduates, ideally 18 – 24 years.
On arrival at the airport in Lima you will be met by your Pacific Discovery Program Instructors and transferred to our central accommodation. A comprehensive program orientation commences, before we take an excursion to explore the historic center of Lima, visiting key sites. In our first days together we’ll focus on getting to know each other really well, and creating a supportive group culture from which we’ll each be nurtured to realize our goals and hopes from this experience.
We begin a fantastic journey to Machu Picchu on the Inca Jungle Trail. An early morning flight takes us to Cusco and then by van into the Sacred Valley of the Incas, visiting historic sites and ruins, before we overnight in the town of Ollantaytambo. The next morning we bike downhill through cloud forest and exotic fruit plantations to stay in the small jungle village of Santa Maria.
Leaving Santa Maria, we trek approx. 6 hours to Santa Teresa, enjoying local hot springs along the way. We have a day here to explore and take a ziplining tour through the forest canopy. Our final trekking day is approx. 6 hours traversing jungle, canyons, spectacular waterfalls, hot springs, mountain views and Incan archeological sites. The trail brings us to Aguas Calientes, gateway town to Machu Picchu, and a night to rest our weary trekking legs before exploring this incredible site.
We hike up to Machu Picchu, for sunrise and a breathtaking start to the day. After an informative tour of the sacred site, we’ll have plenty of time to explore independently, and climb Wayna Picchu for birds-eye views of Machu Picchu. Mid-afternoon we depart Aguas Calientes and catch the train back to Urubamba.
Based from the cosy Llama Pack House with project founders Alejandra and Jorge and some pet llamas, we spend our time learning about and contributing to the project's valuable initiatives. Llama Pack Project's focus is to recover traditional uses and breeding of carrier llamas. They work with local communities in environmental education and sustainable rural development, and in the conservation of Andean mountain ecosystems in the Sacred Valley highlands.
Our project focus will be helping with the construction of Llama Park – where the goal is to create a replica Andean village, so local and international visitors can come to learn about Andean ways of life, without trekking high into the mountains. It will be home to llamas, typical crops, traditional houses etc, and have an education center for local people. Our volunteer work may include building trails, reforestation, developing crops fields, or building a fence around the area. Proceeds from visitors at Llama Park will go towards funding Llama Pack projects, so this is a really great social enterprise to support.
At the end of the project we head to Cusco for two nights – a chance to rest, do laundry, connect with family and friends back home via WiFi – and to wander the cities fascinating plazas and markets.
Manu National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. It is the largest National Park in Peru, and protects several ecological zones ranging from just 450 feet above sea level to altitudes of 13,500 feet. Because of this it has one of highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. More than 15,000 species of plants are found in Manu. It is home to over 1000 species of birds, and is known as having one of the highest abundances of land vertebrates ever found in Latin American tropical forests.
We embark on a private expedition to explore Manu over 6 days. Departing Cusco we travel by private bus through the Andean mountains and down through cloud forest to enter the park. Our first night is spent in a rainforest lodge in an area home to the exotic Peruvian national bird, the "Cock of the Rocks".
Day 2 we boat down Madre de Dios, a tributary of the Amazon River, spotting parrots, vultures, monkeys and other endemic species. We have the chance to soak in natural hot springs before beginning our trek further into the park. We finish the day at a jungle lodge, and after showers and dinner, have the option of a night walk to try spotting night critters.
Day 3 begins by boat again, travelling on the Manu River, spotting caiman and turtles, and if lucky more monkeys. We finish the day at another jungle lodge hosted by the indigenous Matsiguenkas, and can hike on trails in the area, and take another optional night walk to spot nocturnal creatures.
Day 4, we spend the morning at the lake of Cocha Salvador spotting heron, capuchin monkeys, and hopefully giant otters. In the afternoon we go hiking in the jungle looking for spider monkeys and taking in the canopy vista from a 60 foot observation tower.
Day 5 we'll be travelling downriver to Boca Manu scanning the river's shoreline for elusive wildlife, then traverse the Madre de Dios again to return our jungle lodge. This afternoon there's time to relax and absorb the jungle ambience, or hike some trails for the final time.
On our final day we have an early departure to travel by boat and bus back to Cusco. On arrival in Cusco we settle back into our welcoming guesthouse. We have 2 nights back in Cusco and the opportunity to participate in a fun chocolate making workshop at the Choco Museo, or to try our culinary prowess at a Peruvian cooking course.
The road from Cusco to Lake Titicaca stretches across an arid moonscape of mountains, lakes, clusters of earthen homes and scattered herds of llama. Our destination, the Capachica Peninsula, has a distinctly Mediterranean feel. Its tranquility and simple subsistence lifestyle is alluring. We homestay in twos or threes with neighbouring local families for five nights, giving us ample time to participate in daily life, explore the terraced slopes and significant hilltop ruins, swim in the highest lake on earth, boat out to Taquile Island, soak up the wonderful ambience, and help out with a community projects and initiatives. These families live a simple and wholesome life rich in community, and in harmony with their natural environment – it is inspiring to experience this.
We migrate through high desert, past lagoons and nature reserves to Arequipa, a city at the feet of the impressive 19,000ft volcanic cones of El Misti and Chachani. Closer to sea-level than Cusco or Capachica, the air feels rich and warm. We again stay in the historical quarter, closest to the museums, plazas, markets and cafes. Our guesthouse, with its sprawling garden, swimming pool and hammocks, will feel like a ‘home away from home’. The next day is free for us to relax, explore the city’s historical sites and trawl the handcraft markets.
Farewell Arequipa for a journey north along the coast of Peru stopping at key points along the way to enjoy beautiful beaches, historic sites, and some great adventures. We’ll spend a night at Nazca, and next morning have the option of a flight over the Nazca Lines.
Our next stop is La Huacachina Oasis where we’ll head out for an afternoon of sand-buggying and sand-boarding on coastal dunes – no experience necessary – anyone can master it! We’ll have a relaxing lunch poolside at a local hacienda, then drive to Lima completing the circle of our journey.
We have a farewell dinner near the ocean in Miraflores and on our final day transfer to the airport for flights home.
Note: Each week there will be some designated free time in a town or city so that you can catch up on email and laundry, relax and explore independently with others in the group.