Continuing our series on gap year travel opportunities, let’s take a look at some of the many wonderful trips you can take to Peru!
When we picture Peru, usually images of Machu Picchu, alpacas, and Quechua clothing come to mind. And while exploring Inca ruins and immersing oneself in traditional culture is reason enough to visit this amazing country, there’s so much more to it: from carnivals and festivals to surfing and soccer, to urban style, shopping, and food, Peru offers everything a traveler could ask for. And with the country’s increasing focus on innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship – alongside a strong sense of cultural preservation and celebration – Peru mixes ancient and modern in an incredible way.
If you’re a student looking to take some time off between high school and college, between college and career, or anywhere in between – otherwise known as a gap year – and you want to take advantage of the time you don’t need to spend in class or on homework, then going abroad on a meaningful and adventurous trip is a great way to do it.
Fortunately, Peru is an excellent place for students and young adults to embark on a gap year. The budget-friendly cost of living, the overwhelmingly gorgeous sights (not to mention the UNESCO World Heritage Sites), the modern conveniences in urban areas, and the many opportunities to live, learn and work comfortably make this a wonderful destination if you want to make the most of your gap year.
As a gap year traveler, there are a few directions you can go when narrowing down a meaningful trip with an established NGO or trip provider to Peru: you can volunteer, you can teach, or you can intern. Each of the organizations and opportunities we’ve highlighted below cover at least one of these areas – whether you want to earn your TEFL qualification and teach English abroad, pursue a career-building internship, or simply volunteer with indigenous communities and learn about their way of life, there is no shortage to the ways that you can experience Peru, make a difference, and enjoy your gap year.
Ready? Let’s go!
11 Great Gap Year Programs in Peru
IVHQ has an excellent track record of sustainability and responsible travel and is one of the most affordable volunteer organizations you can travel with right now. Since 2007, IVHQ has sent more than 76,000 volunteers all around the world, to more than 30 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, and the Pacific. IVHQ’s trips to Peru bring you to Cusco and Lima, where you can volunteer on programs such as jungle conservation, English teaching, construction and renovation, and much more.
Right now, IVHQ is offering several different opportunities to volunteer on your gap year in Cusco – a few of those programs include:
- Childcare – Providing attention to children by playing games, teaching English, and helping with homework in community centers, schools, and kindergartens
- Special Needs Care – Work in homes for mentally and physically disabled children, where you will help with feeding, clothing, bathing, and organizing crafts and games
- Construction and Renovation – Work alongside a local construction worker to help renovate community centers, schools, clinics, and other buildings
- Jungle Conservation – Assist with reforestation, animal inventories, trail and home base maintenance, and other projects at IVHQ’s placements in the Amazonian jungle conservation base
- Andean Immersion – Live with a Quechua-speaking family and truly immerse yourself in Peruvian culture by volunteering in the local village on projects ranging from English teaching, to animal care, to agriculture, to women’s empowerment and much more
- Spanish Service Learning Course – Gain university credit while volunteering in Cusco! Complete workshops to boost your Spanish language skills, and volunteer on projects where you can teach, care for children, work with animals, and more
During your free time and on weekends, you’re invited to explore Cusco and other areas of Peru, including Machu Picchu. You can also couple Spanish language lessons with your volunteer work – a great way to gain the most from your gap year experience in Peru. Depending on the project you sign up for, this program starts from one week at $295. Learn more here!
If you would rather visit Lima – Peru’s capital and a wonderful destination for great food, shopping, and nightlife – IVHQ invites you to volunteer on several different projects including:
- Special Needs and Childcare – Help underserved children with homework, tutoring, rehabilitation exercises, and other support activities
- Medical Care – Help out with medical campaigns throughout different areas of Lima, or volunteer in a local hospital, clinic, or dispensary
- English Teaching – Teach children and adult learners in schools and language institutes in the outskirts of Lima
- Construction and Renovation – Help to renovate, repair, and improve homes for impoverished families, and assist with activities such as gardening, window repair, painting, and more
To sign up for the medical volunteer program, you must at least be in a related degree program and have conversational Spanish language ability. As with IVHQ’s Cusco volunteer programs, you are invited to take Spanish lessons to get a more immersive experience during your gap year, and you will have free time to explore during your weekends – volunteer trips to Lima start from one week at $180. Learn more and sign up here!
Since 2003, Maximo Nivel has offered volunteer trips, study abroad programs, internships, teaching opportunities, and Spanish language learning trips to Latin America. So far, 25,000 travelers have signed up with Maximo Nivel to visit, learn, and make a difference in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. Maximo Nivel’s trips to Peru are all based in Lima, where you can teach English, volunteer on a variety of projects, learn Spanish, or take on an internship that can enhance your education and jumpstart your career.
Travel to Cusco to learn Spanish on this amazing program from Maximo Nivel! On this Spanish immersion program, you will have the chance to learn about Peruvian culture while taking small group courses or customized classes led by certified, native Spanish instructors. As part of this course, you also will be able to sign up for Maximo Nivel’s Tandem Conversation Program, where you will be paired with a local student so you can practice Spanish while they practice English. If you wish to pair Spanish language learning with volunteering, you can assist with a variety of programs such as animal care, construction, indigenous community support, and more. Classes start from $70 for one hour per day each week – learn more and sign up here!
Another excellent gap year opportunity in Peru invites you to take a TEFL certification course and have the chance to teach at Maximo Nivel’s English language school in Cusco. You will start with a 150-hour, four-week course in Peru that includes modules such as class management, lesson planning, English grammar, teaching vocabulary, assessing learners, and other topics. After earning your qualification, you may apply to be a teacher at Maximo Nivel’s English language institute – the third-largest one in Cusco – which has 1,600 enrolled students and hires four to five new teachers each month. If you aren’t ready to teach English in Peru yet, but still want to earn your TEFL certification there, you’re in luck: Maximo Nivel offers lifetime job placement assistance for their graduates, and as part of the program, you’ll attend a workshop on resume-building, job search, and teaching opportunities worldwide. Learn more and register here!
Since its start in 2009, Love Volunteers has offered volunteer and intern abroad placements for travelers of all ages to make a difference worldwide, with more than 120 programs to choose from. It’s also an incredibly fast-growing and affordable volunteer organization, with more than 4,000 volunteers placed overseas in the past year and with program fees in Peru starting from $429 for your first two weeks abroad. Each of Love Volunteers’ placements in Peru is based in Cusco, where you can choose from initiatives focusing on women’s empowerment, medical care, child care, and more.
As a participant on Love Volunteers’ women’s empowerment program in Cusco, you will provide support and care to women who have suffered from domestic violence. Based at a shelter for women and children in need, this volunteer program provides much-needed services to help women rebuild their lives after leaving abusive situations – you can help by providing companionship and emotional support, and assisting with income generation projects for the women to independently provide for themselves and for their children. You are invited to stay from four weeks to three months on this program, which starts at $729. Learn more and apply here.
Love Volunteers also offers a gap year opportunity in Peru where you can provide support and assistance to children and young adults at special needs facilities in Cusco. The children you will work with have a range of needs and require specialized care from local professionals, such as speech therapists, psychologists, and physiologists. As a volunteer, you will help mainly in classrooms – including a kindergarten, primary school, or practical training program – where you can assist teachers with their lessons, plan extracurricular activities, help with organizing events and festivals, attend to and interact with disabled children, and much more. Your assistance is greatly needed, as the facilities that you will volunteer with are understaffed and in need of basic support from caring and dedicated volunteers like yourself. You are invited to stay two weeks or longer, with a program fee starting at $429 – learn more and apply here.
Founded in 2010, International TEFL Academy (ITA) is an excellent option if you want to earn your TEFL certification and teach English overseas. ITA’s internationally-accredited programs include extensive pre-enrollment guidance and information from expert advisors, meaning that you will be matched with the TEFL training course that’s best for your interests and goals. ITA also maintains strict standards of excellence, with each course taught by university-level professors committed to your success. And with lifetime job search guidance as well as an array of other valuable resources for students and alumni, ITA is an amazing organization and community that you can be a part of long after you’ve completed your certification.
Based in the historic and beautiful city of Arequipa, this four-week, 120-hour class gives you the opportunity to earn your TEFL certification so that you can get paid to teach English abroad. This program includes 100 hours of classroom instruction as well as 20 hours of practical teaching and observation – course content includes basic principles of teaching, classroom management, lesson planning, conversational English, teaching group classes, private tutoring, and much more. You can expect to be in class from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm each weekday, with class size capped at 12 students. Once you successfully complete this course and certification, ITA will provide job search assistance to help you find the perfect English teaching opportunity during your gap year – whether you would like to stay in Peru or travel anywhere else in the world. This course costs $1,550 and includes tuition, textbooks, assistance with finding housing, and job search guidance. Learn more and sign up here!
Founded in 1995, Cross-Cultural Solutions is another excellent organization to check out if you want to volunteer or intern abroad on your gap year. With impactful programs spanning nine different countries and programs including women’s empowerment, global health, and child development, Cross-Cultural Solutions offers lots of amazing opportunities to make your gap year truly memorable. So far, nearly 35,000 travelers have signed up with Cross-Cultural Solutions – and for good reason: this organization has received recognition including Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, GreatNonprofits’ top award for the third year in a row, and accreditation by the American Gap Year Association.
Cross-Cultural Solutions’ Spanish Immersion Gap Year is an amazing way not only to visit Peru, but also to explore Latin America, immerse yourself in different cultures, and enhance your Spanish speaking skills. This semester-long program brings you to Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru over the course of 12 weeks in the spring or fall. During your travels, you will volunteer with local community organizations on projects relating to education, children’s development, global health, and many others – you also with be able to explore cities such as Lima and Cartago, take a hike to Machu Picchu, visit a volcano, go zip lining, and lots more. Learn more and sign up here!
Another way to visit Peru during your gap year with Cross-Cultural Solutions is through its volunteer programs in Lima. More than 70% of Peru’s population lives in urban areas, and 33% of the urban poor are based in Lima – and for nearly two decades, Cross-Cultural Solutions has strived to make a positive impact on those most in need in the capital city. As a volunteer, you can help with a child development program or with a global health initiative. On the child development program, you will assist teachers in a primary school by conducting educational and recreational programming, teaching English language skills, and providing one-on-one attention to the children. If you sign up for the global health volunteer program, you will help with outreach, education, and care for adults in low-income communities to access health care, and you will help out with campaigns such as vision screening, oral health, and promotion of hygiene. Outside of volunteering, you can visit Machu Picchu, tour Lima, take Spanish lessons and cooking classes, and much more. Click here to sign up!
Projects Abroad sends more than 10,000 volunteers overseas each year on programs ranging from archaeology, to teaching, to childcare, to medical assistance, and much more. Projects Abroad believes that international volunteering and internships provide a defining experience as you move from adolescence into adulthood. They also encourage young adults to explore and discover what they’re capable of. And what better way to do that than to spend your gap year traveling and volunteering in Peru?
Spend your gap year trekking through the Amazon Rainforest and work on the frontlines of rainforest conservation. You’ll work at the award-winning Taricaya Ecological Reserve. Under the guidance of qualified conservation experts, you’ll protect wildlife and indigenous plants, and rehabilitate wild animals. It’s an exciting and different way to help preserve this unique ecosystem for future generations. Learn more here.
Travel back through time to ancient South America as you get your hands dirty on excavation sites. You’ll work at two national parks, and learn from experienced archaeologists as you dig up the past. This program gives you the chance to help with preliminary investigations, excavations, analysis and registration of cultural material, site visits, office registry, museum assistance, archaeology presentations, and classification of ceramics. With your help, they can preserve ancient Inca and Wari sites for future generations to come. Find out more here.
If Conservation and Archaeology aren’t for you, you might enjoy some of their other projects. You can:
- Work with children and support early childhood development
- Shadow and learn from doctors and other healthcare professionals
- Improve the English of children and local school teachers
- Promote a love of sports as you coach physical education classes
Since its start in 2007, A Broader View has placed thousands of volunteers on meaningful volunteer adventures in 24 countries worldwide. This US-based nonprofit organization has donated more than $3 million to impactful initiatives all over the world, ensuring that through their partnerships and volunteer efforts, they can truly make a difference. A Broader View’s volunteer programs in Peru take you to Cusco, Arequipa, and Ayacucho for projects ranging from language and cultural immersion to animal rescue, kindergarten teaching, and much more.
One way to volunteer on your gap year with A Broader View is through their programs in Arequipa, Peru, at the base of volcanoes Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu. Projects that you can choose from include kindergarten and other classroom teachings, senior care center assistance, soup kitchen work, children’s support, and child care, and even a Spanish language immersion program. During your stay, you can enjoy amazing food, visit different attractions within the town, tour the Santa Catalina Monastery, take a trip out to Lake Titicaca, and much more. Click here to sign up!
Another excellent volunteer trip you can sign up for with A Broader View brings you to Ayacucho, a historic Spanish colonial city located in between Lima and Cusco. As one of the country’s poorest areas, however, there is a great need for volunteers to help out with a variety of community initiatives to improve health, education, and quality of life. Volunteer programs that you can be a part of in Ayacucho include teaching English, supporting women in need, working in a day care center, providing medical care and healthcare, working in a special needs center, and much more. Learn more and apply here.
For more than 25 years, Frontier has worked to combine community development, capacity building, ecosystem protection, economic growth, and development of civil society by engaging communities, researchers, and international volunteers. A nonprofit scientific research organization, Frontier started with a marine park in Tanzania, created in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, and today hosts over 400 projects in more than 60 countries on five continents. Frontier’s trips to Peru invite you to various locations throughout the country on projects ranging from conservation to community development, and much more.
On this program, you will travel to the Pimental District of Peru to work with a local team at a center for conservation of the Humboldt Penguin. During your stay, you will take part in a variety of activities including construction, building natural fences, helping with cactus reforestation, preparing food for the penguins, feeding the penguins, and assisting in a beach cleanup. You also will have the chance to visit a local school to teach about conservation and environmental awareness. During your free time, you can travel to the local town of Chiclayo for shopping, restaurants, and nightlife. You are invited to stay one week or longer, with program fees starting at $995 for your first week – learn more and sign up here!
For another gap year adventure in Peru, check out Frontier’s Amazon Rainforest program, where you will work with an international team toward environmental conservation and community education to help protect one of the most ecologically diverse regions of the world. As a volunteer, your efforts are greatly needed for hands-on support in gathering data – such as setting camera traps, butterfly traps, helping with agroforestry projects, and more – and leading workshops and other educational activities to help surrounding communities develop sustainable and environmentally-friendly livelihoods. You are invited to stay for about one month to three months, starting from $3,545 for your first month abroad. Learn more and register here!
Since 2002, Iko Poran has offered excellent volunteer programs in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with extremely affordable trips starting from just $175 for your first week abroad. This organization has been recognized internationally for its work – including being featured as a success case in volunteerism at a UN World Summit, as well as being highlighted as a Public Interest Organization by the Brazilian Ministry of Justice since 2007 – meaning that you will truly be part of the difference when you volunteer with Iko Poran. Peru placements are available in Arequipa, Cusco, and Iquitos, where you can take part in projects such as child care, English teaching, construction, and more.
One program that you can sign up for right now with Iko Poran in Peru gives you the chance to work with a variety of community development initiatives. As a volunteer, you will be placed at a community center that aims to improve the livelihood of its members – you can lend a hand by helping with administrative activities, promoting good health and hygiene, teaching English (a great longer-term volunteer opportunity for gap year travelers), painting and renovating, leading recreational and extracurricular workshops, organizing events, and much more. Iko Poran’s community development volunteer programs are very flexible in that you can be as involved as you would like throughout your stay – whether you’d like to gain lots of hands-on experience in development, or whether you would like to lend a hand but also have plenty of time to travel and explore. This program starts from one week at $190 or $285, depending on which region you travel to – learn more and sign up here!
If you’re up for a bit more physical activity that can do a great deal of good for a community in need, sign up for Iko Poran’s construction volunteer program in Peru! You can assist with building child care centers, community classrooms, recreational facilities, houses, and much more, all while working alongside and learning from local builders. Your help is greatly appreciated, as many families in impoverished communities live in plywood-and-canvas huts, some of which have no kitchen or bathroom areas, and that is not effective in protecting them from rain and wind – this can cause respiratory issues and other illnesses among children and the elderly, so it’s vitally important that these families live in more durable, safer homes. A few tasks that you will take on include mixing cement, laying down bricks, digging foundations, plastering and painting, gardening and fencing, carpentry and roofing, and cleaning tools. As with the community development program, this gap year opportunity starts from one week at $190 or $285 depending on the location – click here to learn more.
Founded in 2009, Global Nomadic is a wonderful choice if you are looking for a program that will allow you to enhance your education and get a head start on your career. As a volunteer or intern, you will work alongside local NGOs on projects relating to your degree or career path, giving you the opportunity not only to provide hands-on assistance to a program in need but also to gain new skills and knowledge. Global Nomadic also prides itself on transparency, so you will know your placement costs up-front and have the opportunity to speak directly with your in-country coordinator when you register for one of their programs. Peru trips are based in Pucallpa and Talara, where you can volunteer or intern for NGO development, wildlife research and rehabilitation, renewable energy, and much more.
For six weeks to six months, you’re invited to work in a wildlife rescue center for dislocated native animals in northern Peru – these animals have been confiscated from illegal trade or abandoned by owners, and are relocated to the center for care and rehabilitation. During your stay, you will help with construction, mapping, categorizing flora and fauna, setting up a water system, helping with reforestation, engaging in community education activities, and more. This program starts from $300 for your first week in Peru, and you’re invited to stay six months to gain the most from your internship – this is a fantastic opportunity for students interested in animal science, zoology, and conservation. Learn more and apply here!
Ready to Travel?
If you’re ready to embark on an amazing gap year in Peru, there’s no shortage of wonderful travel opportunities where you can explore, have fun, and do good. If you haven’t already, sign up for an account on Volunteer Forever to start fundraising for your trip – and check out these articles for more inspiration!
Volunteer Programs and Projects in Peru
Teach English in Latin America: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador
Peace Corps Alternatives: Volunteer, Intern, and Teach Abroad Programs