Experiential education & community service in Guatemala

Video and Photos


Nestled in Central America, Guatemala has one of the most interesting, yet tragic histories. Home to the Mayan civilization, invaded by the Spanish, and eventually ruled by successive dictatorships propped up by the United Fruit Company, Guatemala has had its fair share of political strife. A 30-year civil war helped create “liberation theology” but left many scars that remain to this day.

To travel to Guatemala is to challenge yourself physically and mentally – by climbing mountains and volcanoes, and by meeting farmers who see the coffee and mining industries as the cause of their poverty. It is shocking, empowering, exciting, and challenging all in one beautiful country.

At Operation Groundswell, we explore all the far corners of this strangely-shaped country and immerse ourselves deeply in all its culture has to offer. We dive deep into the hard issues of indigenous rights, environmental sustainability, fair trade, and food justice in our various program offerings.

  • Get your hands dirty learning about coffee alongside local farmers on the side of an active volcano.
  • Deconstruct the myths and discover the realities of today’s global food system at origin.
  • Immerse yourself in modern Guatemalan culture and hear about its history from the descendants of the Maya.
  • Get an intimate look at Guatemala’s history speaking with former guerrillas who have traded their guns for farming tools.
  • Brush up on your Spanish in Xela with one-on-one language lessons with the certified school and social enterprise Escuela La Paz.

Questions & Answers


based on 19 reviews
  • Impact 9
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.2
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.2
Showing 16 - 19 of 19
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Most Educational Week of my Life

I went to Guatemala with high expectations. Our itinerary sounded amazing. What I didn't expect was that the nooks and crannies between the activities on the itinerary was where the real experience happened. I rode in a tuk-tuk for 30 minutes listening to Total Eclipse of the Heart and Time After Time on a continuous loop-- the driver's special mix tape for tourists. I had a good bm on top of a volcano-- still one of my proudest moments. I made new connections with incredible people. I learned that I couldn't get rid of my anxiety by facing my fears, but it also couldn't stop me from seizing amazing opportunities. I gained confidence in my own abilities as a traveler, which inspired me in my international excursions since. Most of all, I learned that people, regardless of language, lifestyle, and location are all just as complexly human as I am. As obvious as this statement seems, it took traveling to a completely different part of the world for me to fully understand it. I grew up more in that week than I did during the rest of my college career. If everyone participated in a trip like this, I truly believe the world would be a better place.

How can this program be improved?
I would have enjoyed seeing more of Guate, in addition to the more rural places we visited. Essentially, this boils down to a wish that I could have been there longer.
Yes, I recommend
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Comfortably uncomfortable

You definitely get comfortable with being uncomfortable while meeting the most incredible people as you journey across this country.

It is a great program with approachable and knowledgable staff and there is so much to learn in such a short period of time that you feel like you have been there forever but also for no time at all.


Yes, I recommend
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Life Changing

Don't expect to sleep in the lap of luxury on this trip. But if you want to meet good people, see extraordinary places, and expand your mind beyond what you every though possible, then go on this trip.

PS: If you have the option to hike Santiaguito, do it.


Yes, I recommend
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Balance abroad

This program was a wild ride with ups and downs and loops and turns, and just like a ride you wanted it to continue after it was finished. The days and weeks are well balanced out with activities and educational experiences that range from hiking volcanos to working with women's co-operatives. We got to live with the locals and see the land through our own eyes not just how a tourist company wants you to see it. We learned to create our own opinions and thoughts on issues and diversity that the country is facing. We took those opinions and thoughts and focused on something constructive that we could help with. There were many hard days emotionally and physically but as hard as those day were there was an equal if not greater day to counter it.

How can this program be improved?
Honestly this program was fantastic it had a great balance of volunteering, adventure, learning experiences, excitement and I met amazing people there's not much more I could ask for except for maybe an endless summer.
Yes, I recommend


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About Operation Groundswell

Operation Groundswell is all about backpacking with a purpose. With ethical travel at the crux of our philosophy, Operation Groundswell designs financially accessible programs that tell a story, addressing key challenges unique to each region and...