Volunteer Abroad

10 of the Most Beautiful Destinations to Volunteer Abroad

Natasha Amar

Natasha is a Dubai-based travel writer and photographer who likes to explore the world in cultures, cuisines, and hiking trails.

10 of the Most Beautiful Destinations to Volunteer Abroad

Being in places that are beautiful, whether they’re home to abundant natural beauty, cities with inspiring architecture, or picturesque landscapes, has a major impact on our general feelings of positivity and well-being.

Sri Lanka’s wealth lies both in its diverse landscapes as well as its rich and vivid culture, making it a fantastic destination for potential volunteers interested in either subject.

Often, it makes it easier to face the challenging aspects of a volunteer program, especially if it’s your first time volunteering overseas. With that in mind, here are 10 of the most beautiful destinations to volunteer abroad.

1. Sri Lanka

Volunteer in Sri Lanka

This little teardrop shaped island in the heart of the Indian Ocean is home to pristine beaches, dense rainforests, intriguing cave temples, beautiful hiking trails, and a hill country of terraced tea plantations. Here, you’ll find yourself smiling almost as much as the friendly and helpful locals. Sri Lanka leaves you with a warm tingly sensation, almost like the aftertaste of the spicy "devilled" dishes, a local specialty.

Sri Lanka’s wealth lies both in its diverse landscapes as well as its rich and vivid culture, making it a fantastic destination for potential volunteers interested in either subject. You can volunteer in community development projects for Tamil tea-plantation workers, turtle conservation, elephant conservation, education, or participate in a law internship program.

2. India

Volunteer in India

With diversity in natural landscapes, culture, food, and language, India is a heady concoction that may seem intimidating at first, but one that you can’t get enough of once you grow accustomed to it.

From the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, surreal moonscapes and lakes of Leh-Ladakh, cultural wealth of the east, and timeless colonial architecture of the cities to the tranquil backwaters of the south, traveling in India offers a variety of exciting experiences that never cease to amaze.

India has a huge number of opportunities for volunteers from every kind of background and expertise. You can teach drama, work on environmental and community development projects at an elephant camp or even in healthcare.

3. New Zealand

Volunteer in New Zealand

Mention New Zealand and the first thing you’ll hear is how far away it is. But its location far out in the Southern Hemisphere is one reason why this country is blessed with some of the most sublime landscapes in the world.

You'll be able to visit the gurgling hot springs and geysers of Rotorua, otherworldly glowworm caves, fantastic hiking trails,nd surreal fjords, not to mention the national parks and nature reserves that are home to lion seals and dolphins.

There are plenty of opportunities in farm work and agriculture. Though it can be physically demanding, you’ll be rewarded with the chance to kayak around fjords or through a nature reserve and go glacier hiking. Looking for a thrill? Try skydiving, bungee-jumping, and skiing in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world.

If you’re looking for a bit of cultural immersion, then New Zealand provides ample opportunities to learn about the indigenous Maori culture. Other volunteer opportunities are tennis coaching, caring for children with cerebral palsy, and teaching music to children.

4. Spain

Volunteer in Spain

The land of sunshine, tapas, flamenco, and medieval villages, Spain is a fantastic destination if you’d like a little bit of everything. Enjoy nature on coastal trails along the Costa Brava dotted with fishing villages and beautiful harbors, or spend time hiking in the Pyrenees. Immerse yourself in Spanish life with fun summer festivals, carnivals, and parades, delicious food in every part of the country, and a culture that encourages celebrating each day just like its warm and welcoming people do.

The cities are special too, each with their own unique identity; Barcelona with its hipster neighborhoods and the incredible modernist architectural masterpieces of Gaudi, trendy San Sebastian with its famous pintxo bars, historical Seville with Roman and Andalucian influences, and culture-rich Cordoba.

Spain offers a wide and diverse range of volunteer programs for every area of interest. You could teach English to your host family, join a community development project, work in underwater archaeology, biological anthropology, sustainability, or tutor children.

5. Iceland

Volunteer in Iceland

With surreal landscapes that make you feel like you’re walking in a life-sized painting, Iceland isn’t considered beautiful just for its wild fjords, awe-inspiring waterfalls, mystical volcanic craters, geothermal springs, and dream-like glacier lagoon; it’s also home to one of the friendliest and warmest people in the world. This makes it one of the best countries to volunteer in, especially if you love being in the outdoors.

You can choose to volunteer in photography, conservation, agriculture, food systems, social projects such as drug rehabilitation, elderly care, and healthcare, and environmental community projects. Nature lovers will love volunteering in the Skaftafell National Park, surrounded by the Vatnajokull Glacier, or working to maintain the hiking trails in Thorsmork, an area known to reward hikers with jaw-dropping views.

6. Greece

Volunteer in Greece

With beautiful cobblestone streets, whitewashed Cycladic villages dressed up with blue doors and pink bougainvillea, white sand beaches, centuries-old Orthodox monasteries perched on cliff tops that rise out of dense forests, and a capital that presents incredible history everywhere you look, Greece is a fantastic volunteer destination, especially in the summer.

The locals are friendly, warm, open, and passionate, and it’s hard to not let some of their enthusiasm rub off on you. In Greece, you’ll find yourself relishing every meal; after all, this is the land of olives and feta.

There are many opportunities for animal lovers and those who love the environment, given its own rich natural ecosystem. You can volunteer in turtle conservation in the Peloponnese, a gorgeous but less explored region of the country, at an animal shelter in Athens, in dolphin conservation, or with horses at a park on the island of Naxos. You can also teach English or volunteer in archaeological excavation.

7. Japan

Volunteer in Japan

Still a relatively intrepid destination in Asia, Japan rewards the curious traveler with countless remarkable experiences; you'll have the chance to stay in a traditional ryokan and soak in a hot spring (onsen) and explore culinary discoveries that go beyond ramen and sushi (though those are not to be missed). Don't forget about Japan's natural beauty, temples, and national parks that are never too far from its cities.

While Japan may not be as popular with volunteers as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, there are still plenty of opportunities for volunteers with different backgrounds. You could volunteer in guest services, conflict prevention, at an English camp at a recovery assistance center, or work on a farm.

8. Madagascar

Volunteer in Madagascar

Madagascar is like a dream for those who love wildlife and nature. Though relatively small, the Red Island is home to rainforests, deserts, mountains, and beaches. The plant and animal species that inhabit this island are both diverse and unique -- with everything from miniature chameleons and lemurs to rock forests and baobabs -- making it an ideal choice for volunteers interested in environmental studies and the natural world.

Malagasy people are also very welcoming, though a bit more reserved than some of their mainland African neighbors, and are excited to share their home with visitors.

The most number of opportunities are available in conservation projects of some kind, such as marine conservation and lemur conservation. But you can also volunteer in teaching and community development, marine research, or construction, to name a few alternatives.

9. Galapagos Islands

Volunteer in the Galapagos

Home to biodiversity like nowhere else on the planet, the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Galapagos Islands is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, west of Ecuador. The remoteness of the location of these islands has led the area to become a natural ecosystem for unusual animal and marine species, gaining even the attention of Charles Darwin in 1835 while working on his theory of evolution.

If you’re interested in nature and biodiversity, you can work with giant turtles and other species by volunteering in animal rescue, habitat restoration, and reforestation and hippo therapy. If working with people is more your thing, you can volunteer in childcare, education, health and medicine, gender issues, community development, and with senior citizens.

If you like languages, you can volunteer for a language immersion program with a nice bonus that includes swimming with sea lions! Artists can also choose to do a performing arts volunteer program in the beautiful islands.

10. Fiji

Volunteer in Fiji

In Fiji, you’ll find that all the island paradise stereotypes of palm-fringed white sand beaches, turquoise seas, and lush rainforests are delightfully true, and the natural beauty is just as sublime below the sea. Dive beneath the waters to observe awe-inspiring marine life and the myriad colors of its reefs. Plus, Fijians are known for their friendliness and hospitality, and immersing yourself in the culture is a great way to experience the country.

Volunteer in marine conservation, community development, cyclone relief, sea-turtle conservation, or teach English. With so many options, there is something for everyone. In your free time you’ll have opportunities to dive and snorkel, go hiking in the forests, meet with locals, and learn about the slow pace of island life.

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Photo Credits: Galapagos and Fiji