• Volunteer

Amazing Volunteer Programs for Travelers Who Love to Hike, Run, & Swim

Robin Van Auken | Hands-on Heritage
By Robin Van Auken
Writer
Volunteer trips for travelers who like to hike, run, and swim

Do you have itchy travel feet? Are you more comfortable in boots than sandals?

Hikers know that a long, solo walk is the easiest and quickest way to lose yourself and your cares in the beauty of nature. Hiking is great for mood, and this Stanford University study proves that it also decreases your anxiety and improves your memory. Another study found that long walks help battle depression, so if you’ve been sad for a while, trekking in nature may help. Or, if you want to increase your attention span and creative problem-solving skills, going into the wild can help it by as much as 50 percent!

Did you know that hiking is also a great addition to your volunteer trip abroad?

If you want to combine a trekking adventure with a meaningful trip abroad, there are numerous organizations that offer affordable excursions. Take a look at the suggestions below – each designed to give you a spectacular and unforgettable outdoor experience while having a positive impact on a community in need!

Featured Volunteer Adventures

International Volunteer HQ

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International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) works with local organizations and NGOs in more than 40 destinations, providing 200 affordable and safe volunteer projects worldwide. Founded in 2007, IVHQ has connected more than 94,000 travelers with meaningful projects around the world. If you’re on a budget, IVHQ is an excellent organization to check out if you’re interested in a volunteer program or even TEFL certification – plus if you want to pursue an internship abroad, IVHQ’s sister program Intern Abroad HQ should be on your radar.

Amazigh Immersion – Atlas Mountains

Travel to Marrakech and visit the Berber community on an Amazigh Immersion in the Atlas Mountains program with IVHQ. The people here are descendants of the indigenous pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa – on this placement you can work in their village to help with daily tasks and learn how to live simply and independently. While in Morocco, add a trip to the Atlas Mountains, a hiker’s paradise: join adventure tours through the mountains and out into the Sahara Desert. Volunteers travel via 4×4 vehicles through the hills, and have the opportunity to travel via camel back through the desert. If you’re interested in traveling to other parts of Marrakech and Morocco, IVHQ offers tours in the region. Program fees for one week start at $330 – click here to read more and to register!

Hike Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Volunteer with IVHQ in Cordoba, Argentina, for childcare support, teaching English, or community development, and tack on a unique, arctic-type adventure to Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glacieres National Park in the Patagonia region. IVHQ can assist you with a tour that will take you to the glacier for a day of climbing, exploring ice caves, and a boat ride. Volunteer program fees start from $295 for one week, and your adventure is an additional cost – read more here!

Hikers’ and Volunteers’ Delight in New Zealand

Explore New Zealand on foot when you include a Great Walk with a Kiwi volunteer trip. Volunteers are based in Auckland, located on the North Island, and volunteer project options include coast and waterway conservation, environmental education and NGO support. Visit a pristine national park and take advantage of New Zealand’s accessible hiking and park lodging system. Notable hikes to consider include the Tongariro Crossing, Abel Tasman National Park, the Milford Track, Franz Josef Glacier, Stewart Island, and Mount Cook (New Zealand’s tallest mountain). Program fees start from $885 for two weeks, and additional tours and travel are extra. Learn more about volunteer opportunities here, and travel suggestions here.

Plan My Gap Year

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Plan My Gap Year is an affordable and highly-rated organization that works with communities in need worldwide and empowers volunteers to travel, understand, and make an impact. Founded in 2011, Plan My Gap Year sends more than 4,000 travelers overseas each year on safe and extraordinary adventures throughout Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America.

Round the World Encounters

Plan My Gap Year offers amazing opportunities for travelers to travel abroad for 12 weeks or longer in world encounters that take you across Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These trips are perfect for first-time solo travelers, as everything is organized for you – all you have to do is enjoy the experience! Plan My Gap Year takes care of extensive pre-departure support service, airport pickup, orientation, meals, housing, project transportation, and local support. Choose from the following trips:

  1. Real Africa Encounter: $2,185 for 12 weeks in Ghana and Tanzania
  2. Real Asia Encounter: $2,038 for 12 weeks in Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka
  3. Real South America Encounter: $2,374 for 12 weeks in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru
  4. Real South East Asia Encounter: $2,293 for 12 weeks in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Bali
  5. Real Taster Encounter: $1,328 for six to 12 weeks in India, Sri Lanka, and Bali
  6. Ultimate Round the World Encounter: $6,503 for 36 weeks – takes you to nine spectacular destinations

Learn more here and choose the trip that’s best for you!

Maximo Nivel

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Maximo Nivel, a locally-operated organization founded in 2003, runs educational institutes and volunteer programs for travelers in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. A leader in international education, study abroad, and travel, Maximo Nivel works with more than 4,000 travelers each year to deliver high-quality, safe, and affordable programs in Latin America. From solo adventurers to high school and university students, young adult groups, retirees, and families, Maximo Nivel has an amazing adventure for travelers of all backgrounds and interests.

Mini Adventures in Latin America

If you’re looking to add a side trip to your volunteer experience in Latin America, add a mini adventure and enjoy ziplining through the jungle, hiking a volcano, exploring Machu Picchu, or learning to surf! Spend six days traveling and exploring some of the best spots in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru. A few ideas:

  1. Six-Day Beach and Jungle Adventure in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: Includes a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park, rainmaker jungle tour, canopy zipline, whitewater rafting, and Nauyaca Waterfall hike.
  2. Six-Day Mini Adventure in Guatemala: Includes volcano Pacaya hike, three days/two nights on the beach (surf lessons included), two days/one night in Tikal (airfare to Tikal included), and zip-line tour.
  3. Six-Day Mini Adventure in Peru: Including Cusco city tour, Sacred Valley tour, Moray Ruins, two days/one night tour of Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca and Puno tour.

All trips include housing and food with a homestay with a local family. Private rooms and apartments are also available. Learn more and sign up here!

Love Volunteers

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Launched in 2009, Love Volunteers is a trusted, highly-rated volunteer organization that has placed more than 20,000 volunteers on meaningful projects around the world. Love Volunteers works in 34 different countries, with more than 120 different projects that you can choose from. Transparent, low-cost fees are a priority, with many of its programs starting at only $280.

Volunteer Tours in Asia and Africa

Love Volunteers understands that people catch the travel bug and want experiences beyond that of the average tourist: if you want to get behind the scenes and into real life while you’re abroad, consider a voluntour, and combine meaningful volunteer work with adventure in a stunning location! A few to choose from:

  1. The Golden Triangle Experience escorts travelers to Delhi to experience the magical country of India through a combination of volunteering and fun – spend time with disadvantaged children in Delhi, and at an elephant camp in Jaipur. This program costs $829 for two weeks.
  2. The Kenyan Explorer program takes you to Nairobi for a fantastic volunteer program helping on essential programs, while also giving you the chance to explore the sights of Kenya. Travel from the city, to the beach, to the countryside – fees are $2,259 for four weeks.
  3. Volunteer and travel in Vietnam with this program based in action-packed Ho Chi Minh City! This experience of a lifetime starts from two weeks – you’ll spend weekdays volunteering and then use your weekends to explore this cultural and scenic wonderland. This program starts from $959.

Projects Abroad

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Projects Abroad offers a variety of meaningful service opportunities around the world, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in the language and culture of their host country. Founded in 1992, Projects Abroad has placed more than 100,000 volunteers and interns in 38 different countries. Program types range from volunteering, internships, high school specials, alternative spring breaks, gap years, language courses, and programs for professionals.

Culture and Community Volunteer Projects

Journey around the world living like a local, working alongside fellow volunteers and community members, and assisting with the preservation of a traditional culture. Learn about unique communities and ways of life as you help with day-to-day tasks in villages. Spend your free time outdoors, giving yourself time and freedom to absorb and appreciate a life-changing experience. Projects Abroad offers Culture and Community projects in South Africa, Fiji, Samoa, Tanzania, Cambodia, Jamaica, Mongolia, and Morocco – read more and choose a destination and project here!

Alternative Spring Break Trips for University Students

If you’re looking for a short-term volunteer abroad opportunity over spring break, take a look at the Alternative Spring Break offered by Projects Abroad! You can choose a program in a country close to you, helping to reduce jet lag – spring break programs range from public health to conservation, and are offered throughout February and March. Learn more and plan your trip here!

Fronteering

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Fronteering offers experiences that are far from ordinary in places rich in nature, wildlife, and indigenous cultures. Founded in 2007, the organization offers adventure travel placements to remote locations on projects that care for the environment and preserve animals. Fronteering’s goals are to make a difference to communities that can benefit from the input of volunteers, and to provide exciting and significant experiences to travelers.

Paima Mountain Trek

Trek with Fronteering’s Amazon guide through Paima in the Kanuku Mountains of Guyana, and learn how to spear fish, shoot with bow and arrow, live from the forest, and sleep in a hammock underneath the jungle canopy. Learn the Amerindians’ traditional ways of living in harmony with the jungle, and enhance your skills with modern-day survival techniques. Fees start at $1,995 for two weeks – click here to learn more!

Ride the Arab Horse Trail

Sleep under the stars in the deserts of Jordan, and spend 10 days exploring the country while riding the fabled Arabian horse with Fronteering! Meet and travel with the Bedu Tribesmen through the desert on this trip that combines adventure and horseback riding. Fees start at $2,595 for two weeks – learn more and apply here!

Global Vision International

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Global Vision International (GVI) offers award-winning, high-impact trips in the areas of community development and conservation around the world. GVI hosts more than 2,000 travelers each year, making sustainable contributions towards key global and local issues. Founded in 1997, GVI has placed more than 24,000 volunteers on projects with local partners, as well with international organizations such as Save the Children, The Red Cross, WWF, SANParks, and The Jane Goodall Institute.

Volunteer and Adventure Experience in Nepal

This is the ultimate bucket list trip: Mount Everest Base Camp! Join GVI on an adventure of a lifetime before volunteering on community development project in Nepal. Both an exhilarating challenge and a way to give with compassion, this experience in Nepal may be life-altering. Start your six-week trip volunteering with children or teaching conversational English and other subjects, and then spend two weeks trekking to Everest. At Base Camp, you’ll stay in local tea houses – most meals are included, as well as orientation, local tours, language and culture classes, white-water rafting the Trisuli River, and the challenge of trekking to Everest Base Camp. It also includes return flights from Kathmandu to Lukla. Fees for this amazing immersion starts at $4,395 – more details are available here.

Backpacking in Costa Rica During Spring Break

Looking for a fun beach trip during Spring Break? Quepos, Costa Rica is a backpacker’s paradise, where you can spend your break volunteering on a community development program and exploring the diverse and fascinating landscape of a coastal area based at the entrance of Manuel Antonio National Park. While here, you’ll see many different kinds of wildlife, including howler monkeys, toucans, and sloths. Spend one week or more with fees staring at $1,790. Read more and apply today!

GoEco

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Since 2006, GoEco has offered affordable volunteer abroad programs and internships in over 45 countries throughout AfricaAsiaAustralasiaCentral AmericaEurope, the Middle EastNorth America, and South America. With more than 170 different programs, GoEco is a great organization to check out if you’re looking for a variety of impactful trips to choose from, from wildlife conservation to teaching English. GoEco was recently recognized as the Top Volunteer Abroad Organization from GoAbroad, Top Eco-Enthusiast by Greenmatch, and has been recommended by Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and more. As a volunteer, you will have 24-hour support from the GoEco team, from start to finish.

GoEco Volunteer Vacations and Tours

Turn your vacation into an impactful experience with GoEco’s Road Trip, a volunteer travel adventure that includes trekking, excursions, and fun!

  1. Road Trip Thailand: Join GoEco in Thailand and enjoy this gorgeous country’s captivating culture on a road trip. Experience authentic Thai culture and give back to the community in some of the different destinations that you visit. Fees start from $1,880 for four weeks – learn more here!
  2. Road Trip China: Visit China and appreciate its people and ancient culture during a road trip that has you traveling, sightseeing, and experiencing authentic Chinese culture – you also will have the chance to volunteer with the communities you visit. Fees start from $2,180 for four weeks – click here to learn more!

Peru – Teaching Assistance in Cusco and 4-Day Machu Picchu Trek

Explore Peru in two weeks and lend a helping hand at the same time! Embark on a four-day trek to reach Machu Picchu following a week of volunteering in Cusco. Participants will assist children with homework and daily tasks at a local school in Cusco. Highlights include trekking through the Andes Mountains, ziplining, a motorbike tour of a National Park and more!

Amazon Conservation and Machu Picchu Expedition in Peru

This project takes you to an ecological reserve in the Amazon rainforest, where you’ll conduct biodiversity research, help at an animal rescue center, assist with turtle repopulation efforts, and maintain trails. Your volunteer time includes a visit to historic Machu Picchu. You’ll also get to see many areas of Peru, from the Amazon jungle to the Andes Mountains to the coast. Already packing your bags to experience the beauty of Peru? Know the 15-day volunteer trip costs $2,200. Find out all the details here!

Naturally Africa Volunteers

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Naturally Africa Volunteers supports a small network of locally-operated projects in throughout Africa. Its sustainable programs help communities achieve self-sufficiency instead of creating a dependence upon aid or donations. As a U.K. registered charity, Naturally Africa Volunteers helps in areas where there is a lack of skill or knowledge, ensuring that volunteer supplement ongoing work rather than displacing local professionals.

The Malawi Marathon

If you’re a runner and you’re looking for the race of a lifetime, check out the Malawi Marathon, a 10-k event and a full marathon that takes you along an exceptional trail winding through the rural villages along the banks of Lake Malawi. This event supports Naturally Africa Volunteers’ rewarding service projects, and gives you the opportunity to meet like-minded people who help make a direct and long-lasting impact. You’ll camp on the shores of Lake Malawi and enjoy beach BBQs, fun activities, and a runners’ finale party. Extra trips you can choose from here include:

  1. Liwonde National Park, where you can enjoy a safari and view large herds of elephants, and numerous hippo in the rivers
  2. Cape Maclear, a popular tourist village where you can snorkel, take a boat trip on Lake Malawi, and sunbathe on the beach
  3. Zomba Plateau, with its stunning views and serene spots where you can relax in the cool forest, trek alone, and horseback ride

Fees for this event vary depending upon your choice of camp, but start at £545. Read more and apply today!

Ready To Travel?

From Kilimanjaro, to Everest Base Camp, from a glacier in Argentina, to the Great Wall of China, there are destinations that will change your life and challenge you. When combined with a meaningful volunteer program, you can change someone else’s life too. If you crave the serenity that’s found only when you’re engaged in a walk in the wild, then consider an impactful trip abroad. And don’t forget your hiking boots!