Experiential Education & Community Service in Peru

COVID-19 Program Updates

Due to global health & safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the coronavirus, Operation Groundswell has decided to offer flexible booking options for some of their upcoming programs. Learn more about COVID-19 updates to stay tuned regarding program information.

Video and Photos

Headstands
Headstands
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Hiking
Hiking
Lunch break
Lunch break
Peru Programs | Operation Groundswell
Peru Programs | Operation Groundswell

About

Peru isn’t the country you might expect it to be. Everyone has heard of Machu Picchu and the Incan civilization, but very few know that 60% of the country is the Amazon and much of the rest is coastal desert. For adventurers, Peru’s canyons, mountains, glaciers, and beaches are a playground unlike anything they’ve ever seen. For history buffs, the Spanish colonial architecture sitting on top of traditional indigenous temples capture their fascination. But for true backpacktivists, Peru is the place where we prove that “backpacking with a purpose” really works. While most travelers simply pass along the ‘Gringo Trail’, hopping from overpriced tourist trap to party hostel, that isn’t our style.

At Operation Groundswell, we’ll dive deep into cultural exchange as we partner with various change makers in Peru who are impacting their communities in deeply positive ways. We examine issues around indigenous rights, access to quality of healthcare, LGBT rights, and environmental justice.

Highlights
  • Work alongside local indigenous organizations that are working tirelessly to defend indigenous rights, keep their cultural practices alive, and strengthen their communities.
  • Learn about how the effects of oil company operations impact our environment and human rights.
  • Live on an organic farm high up in the mountains, learning about sustainable agricultural methods, traditional medicine, and the real story of the Incas.
  • Explore the beautiful cobblestone streets of Cusco as we dive deep into various cultural classes that will give us a real sense of daily life in Peru.
  • Try some of the best Latin cuisine in South America while taking introductory Spanish classes!

Financial Grants Available!

Our financial grants program can cover 15-25% of your program fee. Simply apply for an OG program and contact our financial support team. Visit our website for more information!

Questions & Answers

Hi there, Our program fees vary from program to program, but you can find them on each individual program page here: https://operationgroundswell.com/programs/programs-by-regio… or on our website here: https://operationgroundswell.com/programs/programs-by-fee/#…. You can also find a breakdown of what our fees cover and how they're allocated here: https://operationgroundswell.com/programs/fee...

Reviews

9.73 Rating
based on 15 reviews
  • Impact 9.1
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.6
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 15
Dora
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Operation Groundswell Amazon Adventure: Peru

I have no words for how grateful I am to have partaken in this experience. OG really does make a huge impact and in such an exciting and interesting way. The experience is definitely off the beaten track and includes many interactions with locals and local modes of transport. OG also puts a lot of importance on talking about certain issues in the regions that you’re in (the ones that you’re working on fixing) and it’s really cool to learn what’s going on in those areas as well as hearing the locals talk about it and hearing your travel companions’ opinions. The Amazon trek was definitely the highlight and hardest part of the trip. You get to go hiking through native territory where not even 1000 people have ever walked before. The terrain is challenging and a good degree of physical fitness and proper hiking gear is definitely required, but you also don’t have to worry about carrying your food or tents with you because the guides take care of that. The trip consists of so many amazing experiences but if you’re someone who’s hoping for prime comfort and degustation it’s not the trip for you, but rather for someone who loves adventure and truly authentic experiences. The 10 days of Independent Travel Time are also an amazing asset of the trip; I have not seen any other organization that gives people 10 days to do whatever they’d like while still being able to call the group leaders or regional mentor should something go wrong or should you need help with figuring something out. I 110% recommend this for someone’s first backpacking trip because you get a hang of how backpacking works and you definitely have the chance to make your own choices and be independent but you also have leaders to help you out.

What would you improve about this program?
The one thing that would’ve been nice if we were told that hiking poles and a headlamp were needed, but we told our leaders and they took note of it so I’d imagine they inform the new groups of this now.
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Sarah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Peru: Secrets of the Sacred Valley

This program hands down changed my life. Whenever someone asks me about it I get overcome with joy. My personal values could not align more with the values of the company and the program. I truly support everything they stand for and do (even down to offsetting the carbon footprint of your flight). The program leaders are knowledgeable and deeply caring, they enable you to make true and lasting connections with the people of Peru and with the other people in your program. By going on this trip I felt I received a genuine glimpse of Peru, rather than a typical tourists look at it. I stayed, lived, ate, and laughed with the people of Peru. And my life is better for it. I can not say enough good things about this organization or this program. I have irreplaceable memories, new friendships, and a better understanding of the world. Peru just makes your heart smile. Endlessly grateful for this expierence!

Australia
Sierra
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Peru: Amazon Adventure

I don't even know where to begin here, but I'll start by saying that this trip was absolutely incredible and has definitely had a huge impact on my life, not just for the views, for the things I've seen and done or for the friends I'm still in contact with, but for the lessons I've learned through it (which sounds really cheesy but just go and I promise you'll understand). I could go on for days about the program, but will try to cover the most important parts for anybody reading this curious about it.

It can be terrifying, thinking of going to a foreign country where you may not speak the language at all (like myself), to meet up with a group of strangers and do some very out-of-the-box things. This is not a holiday at a five star resort in the Bahamas, nor is it a cookie cutter Euro-trip. There are times that can push you, for various reasons (whether this may be the load of insects, the humidity in the jungle, the hiking, the physical labour, or even just trying to recover from drinking too much berry moonshine the night before). Regardless of these, there were moments on this trip that absolutely outweigh any and all of the negatives: sitting around a table as a group eating the feast you've prepared from fresh ingredients bought at the market that morning (bought using the Spanish you've learned), hiking up the last few steps to an incredible lookout (or a waterfall to stop and swim at), having a cold beer watching the sunset from the roof of a ferry boat driving up the Amazon river, having deep and meaningful candlelit conversations in the evenings with people closer to you than friends you've had for years, etc.

Operation Groundswell's programs are different in the way that they make you more self-aware, and really make you step back and look at your place in the program and in the world as a whole. The reflective group exercises make the program so much different from others, and the entire experience being as local as possible (food, transportation, accommodation, and the work itself) really allows you to experience something so different than you would be able to individually.

Small tip, a bug net shirt was a huge help to me to stay cool(er) and avoid some bites. Would also recommend a sleeping bag that compressed very small (vs the bulky one I brought).

Trust me on this one, this is a program you won't regret.

What would you improve about this program?
Honestly nothing that I can think of. The overnight bus was long, so prepare for that, but it was authentic and cheaper than another flight, so is still the best option.
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Paula
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Peru Mind and Body

I wasn't sure what to expect with this program, as it was my first volunteer experience abroad. The program was to be dedicated to volunteering in sustainable organic agriculture, yoga, meditation, and hiking. Of course it delivered these things, but what sets Operation Groundswell apart is its dedication to meaningful learning and integration with the local culture. To elaborate, over 2 years later, the activities and discussions in which we partook still resonate with me. The delivery, combined with 2 INCREDIBLE group leaders (Gordon and Meg, you two are the bees' knees!!!), are exceptionally important to create a profound experience that you will take with you back into your own community, and future backpacktivism.

This program is not something that will be handed to you in a nice little package, but rather an invitation to engage with a new environment, new people, a new culture. OG goes to great lengths to ensure you truly have the opportunity to integrate with local communities, with the goal of great impact on both parties.

While the physical labour we offered the farm was certainly helpful for their progress, equally important was our understanding the challenges they face, especially in engaging their own community with their goals. Be prepared to be fully unplugged and immersed during this process!

In addition to volunteering, you will be signing up for some great adventuring - we climbed many a'mountain, with some yoga and meditation along the way! Overall, I must say the personal growth opportunity is exceptional in this program, and I am confident that OG has done an outstanding job structuring their trips to benefit everyone involved.

If you are considering becoming a backpacktivist, rest assured that OG is the right organization to take you on that journey!

Allyson
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Peru: Mind and Body Program

This 40-day trip with OG was my first time travelling outside of North America. Prior to the trip, I felt very supported by the OG staff when it came to logisitcs (flights, answering questions about program safety, etc). I also absolutely loved fundraising (I fundraised for my community contribution and program fee) because it 'forced' me to do more research on the non-
profits I'd be working with in country, and through that I was able to raise awareness before even stepping foot into the country! This is cheesy, but I tell everyone, it literally changed the trajectory of my life. I came home more confident, and with a better idea of what I wanted to do with my life. The program was amazing, my Program Leaders were BOMB, and I still keep in contact with the people I travelled with.

What would you improve about this program?
More time working with the non-profits OG partners with.
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Natalie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Peru - Mind & Body

I traveled with OG in May of 2014 to Peru. It was somewhat a spur of the moment decision and I could not regret it!

Travelling with OG gave my the opportunity to truly experience a new culture and learn from my fellow group members. We saw so much of the countries amazing nature as well as different elements of the culture. This was done through spending time learning Spanish, living with local family, and volunteering with local NGOs. The group leaders organized the trip perfectly for us all. We had lots of time to explore the country, volunteer with locals, and get to know each other. I took so much away from this trip. Additionally, the time following our volunteering to explore on our own time give me the chance to travel on my own for the first time with the help from group leaders who knew the area. I highly recommend Operational Groundswell to everyone looking for truly helping others as well travelling responsibly!

Savannah
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Peru Advanture

Honestly the trip was amazing, although it was kind of a roller coaster because there were times i wish the trip was “better” mostly in regards to how much I paid for the trip compared to how much you could pay on your own; I learnt a lot. And afterwards I realized that I didn’t pay to be fed, transported and brought in hikes, I was paying to learn new things that I’d never learn back home. For those who worry that the trip is expensive especially since you need to pay for your own flight, it is TOTALLY worth it! You pay for ans amazing time and amazing leaders and that’s what you get. They know all the little secrets around town and you will definitely not be disappointed. My leaders were and are amazing people in their own and had a crazy life story that I couldn’t get enough of. I made new life long friends that I’d never forget and hope to travel with in the near future.
We got free time through the trip to go walk around visit new places, eat where we want, go shopping, take pictures etc. We had choices of food we could eat when we ate out (we ate at a vegetarian restaurant and it was some of the best food I have ever eaten). We helped on a farm and learnt lots of new things about organic agriculture , got to take many hikes, saw a couple of archeological sites as well as one that no tourist would go to because it was defiantly off the beaten path.
A tip for future travelers would be to extend your trip after the OG trip. Your eyes and heart will be so much more open than it was before and you will really embrace and appreciate what the country and the people have to offer.
This trip changed my life in so many ways I can’t even describe , it was my first time traveling solo, at the age of 19 and I met so many new and amazing people on the way and the OG program made the trip so educational and purposeful I couldn’t imagine going to Peru without going with OG.

Moral of the story I highly recommend any OG trip. I’m already planning my next one and I am hoping to go to Ecuador. Woo!

A very grateful Alumni,
Savannah Dubien

What would you improve about this program?
After the trip I did a crazy amount of thinking and I don’t think there is anything to change. This trip was amazing, the people and our leaders were amazing and I’d go back if I could.
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Ben
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Climbing Mountains

Our most challenging experience as a group was certainly faced early on in the high jungle near San Roque. We embarked on a hike that was considered by most of us as the most gruelling part of our Peruvian experience. We all became closer along the way. We encouraged each other, helped each other and became a real team as we made our way to unbelievable sights in the Peruvian jungle. We tested our limits and were rewarded with unforgettable nights near waterfalls and good food prepared by our incredible porters. We learned a lot along the way with our main guides Joel and Kenji as well. Overall, we came out of the jungle a stronger and more caring group. This experience sums up the trip so well for me because I loved how our team motivated each other to keep going when the going got tough and it was a truly rewarding sensation being able to experience all the sights with great friends.

What would you improve about this program?
Having gardening gloves while working during a few of our projects would have been a good idea.
It should be a must to pack a pair of wool socks.