Peru and Ecuador are two countries in South America rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Join us on this 22-day service trip as we discover what makes each country so vibrant and unique!
In addition to exploring majestic volcanos, gorgeous islands, sacred sites, and vibrant markets, we will visit the jewels of each country as we take in the splendor of sacred Machu Picchu and view the world-famous wildlife of the Galápagos Islands.
We will also have the opportunity to volunteer and give back to several communities throughout our adventures for a total of 60 hours of community service. In Peru, we will be welcomed into a community where we’ll form bonds with the families and children, teach English, and help out with light maintenance projects and farming. In the Galápagos we will help out with a variety of projects at a local daycare, elementary school, and sustainable farm.
On This Program You Will:
- Earn up to 60 hours of community service credits working with local communities in both countries
- Help improve the village and school facilities in Misminay and Urubamba
- Volunteer with local students and a sustainable farm
- Relax in soothing volcanic hot springs surrounded by mountains
- Make lifelong bonds with the local schoolchildren as you interact with them, helping them learn English
- Be mesmerized by Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
- Live like a local during our unique homestay program, as you are welcomed into Peruvian homes and communities
- Experience the Sacred Valley and its Incan past, exploring Coricancha, Ollantaytambo and Moray
- Hone your bargaining skills as you peruse the vibrant local markets for authentic handmade souvenirs
- Learn how the locals make, dye and weave natural alpaca wool into stunning patterns
- Earn 20 hours of community service volunteering with local students and a sustainable farm
- Walk on lava surfaces and hike into a volcanic crater to explore the lake within
- Stand in both the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time
- Snorkel or scuba dive* with sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, penguins, manta rays, and a variety of tropical fish
- See different species of Galápagos tortoise at the Charles Darwin Station
- Keep your eyes peeled for Darwin’s finches, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigate birds
- Watch playful sea lions up close as they swim in the water and bask on the shore
- Enjoy delicious, local cuisine at an authentic hacienda
*Scuba diving is an optional activity
This trip is the combination of our popular Peru Service and Ecuador & the Galapagos Service programs, designed for those travelers who want to do it all! Please note that for the Session 1 departure, the trip begins in Peru and finishes in Ecuador, and for the Session 2 departure the trip begins in Ecuador and finishes in Peru.
DAY 1: GROUP FLIGHT DEPARTS FROM MIAMI
Upon our arrival in Lima, we’ll board the next flight to Cusco. Next, we’ll head straight to Ollantaytambo, where we’ll rest and start getting used to the Andean altitude.
For the Session 2 departure, this itinerary will begin in Ecuador and end in Peru.
DAYS 1-4: OLLANTAYTAMBO AND URUBAMBA
We’ll kick off this incredible program in the Sacred Valley! Visit the amazing sites of the area, including the ruins in Ollantaytambo and Moray, where archaeologists theorize that the Inca conducted agricultural experiments. We’ll also begin our community service in Urubamba, helping an elementary school with and projects they may need and spending time with the children, instilling English as a second language and playing games.
DAY 5: MACHU PICCHU
Explore legendary Machu Picchu, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World! This imposing Incan city perched in the clouds will take your breath away, it’s nothing short of incredible! Hike to the legendary Sun Gate for sweeping views of the ruins, and reward yourself with a relaxing soak in the natural hot springs to finish off a perfect day!
DAYS 6-9: MISMINAY
Balance your sightseeing experiences by immersing yourself in the small communities that define the diverse cultural identity of Peru! We will be welcomed in the warmest way you can imagine, with open arms and big smiles, into the village of Misminay. Our first project in the small community will include providing hands-on help in various projects like building houses, kitchen improvements (construction work) and farming. One of the nights we will help the community prepare the “pachamanca,” a traditional Peruvian meal cooked in the earth. During our stay in Misminay, we will be sleeping in our own private rooms attached to some of the local family homes, allowing us to fully immerse ourselves in the local community.
DAYS 10-12: CUSCO
Cusco is one of the most important cities in the Sacred Valley, so wake up and get ready to explore the historic Incan empire! Wander through a beautiful mix of Incan and Colonial architecture, before checking out Coricancha, the most important temple in the Incan Empire, which is dedicated to the Sun God, Inti.
Enjoy a hands-on chocolate making class and make your own tasty creations. At the handicraft markets in Cusco, sharpen your bargaining skills to get unique souvenirs for your family and friends! You’ll even spend a day channeling your inner Indiana Jones as you roam through incredible Incan Ruins, getting off the beaten path to explore some of these ancient cities.
DAY 12: QUITO – LA MITAD DEL MUNDO
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, Quito will charm you with its stunning scenery, well-preserved colonial district, and welcoming residents. Nestled between the Andean Mountain peaks, it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in South America! We will explore this city and discover its intricate architecture, vibrant plazas, and colorful markets.
One of the most unique aspects of Quito is that it is home to “la Mitad del Mundo,” the Middle of the World, where you can be both in the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time! After straddling both hemispheres, we will visit the Intiñan Museum, where you will learn more about the indigenous culture of Ecuador and be able to participate in some unique experiments that can only be done at latitude 0°.
DAY 13: QUILOTOA VOLCANIC CRATER
We’ll enjoy a delicious Andean breakfast before continuing our journey to one of Ecuador’s most fascinating natural sites – Quilotoa. Quilotoa was once a majestic volcano, but 800 years ago, it suffered a catastrophic eruption that tore the peak of the volcano off and left only the caldera. Over time, it filled with water, and today it has become a spectacular lake. On the way to the crater, we will be able to see the indigenous populations of Zumbahua and Tigua in their small picturesque villages.
Once we arrive at the crater’s rim, we will have a spectacular view of the lake from the edge of the volcano before hiking down to the shore of the lake. On the lakeshore, you’ll be amazed by the spectacular view of the surrounding crater as we enjoy a traditional Andean lunch and marvel at the fact that we are enjoying a picnic in a volcanic crater!
DAYS 14 – 17: GALÁPAGOS – DISCOVERING THE ISLANDS
The next destination on our journey is the magical Galápagos Islands! We will spend time on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal Islands and discover what makes the Galápagos such a coveted travel destination.
On Santa Cruz Island we’ll take the trail to the gorgeous Tortuga Bay where we will sunbathe, swim, and even spot marine iguanas along the shore. We’ll also visit the Charles Darwin Station on the island. This famous center is a wealth of information on habitats and local conservation, and home to the Tortoise Breeding Center, where it is possible to view tortoises of varied sizes and shapes.
The second island we will visit is San Cristóbal, where we will visit the Galapaguera, a Tortoise breeding center and home to the largest species of giant tortoise in the world. We’ll also explore the misty Junco Lagoon, a freshwater lake located in the middle of a volcanic caldera. You’ll spot seabirds bathing here to wash the salt from their feathers.
While on the islands, we will have plenty of time to relax on the white sandy beaches and swim in the crystal clear water. We’ll snorkel with some fascinating marine life, including sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas, penguins, manta rays, and different species of tropical fish. Those who are looking for a little more adventure will also have the option to scuba dive! One of the beaches we visit is home to a large number of lazy sea lions basking on the sand, so you will be able to observe these beautiful creatures up close.
DAYS 18 – 21: GALÁPAGOS – COMMUNITY SERVICE
After enjoying everything the Galápagos have to offer, there is no better way to complete our journey than by giving back to these beautiful islands that have given us so many incredible memories! We will volunteer with several different projects dedicated to helping the local community–first at a local school, then at a sustainable farm.
We will work with both the elementary and high school students and play games with them, help them practice their English, and learn about what life is like for them on the islands. We will also help out with any light maintenance projects the school may need.
We’ll also spend time at a sustainable farm dedicated to preserving the environment and providing food for the local community. We will help out with several projects on the farm, including recycling, preparing food in a traditional mud oven, and even helping with their horse therapy program for children with disabilities.
Our projects will allow us to form a deeper connection with the community and to better understand the island’s unique culture. After completing our service we will come full circle and head back to Quito for one final night together in the city where we began our adventure.
DAY 22: RETURN FLIGHT HOME
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can go on this trip? What kind of teen typically goes on this trip?
Teens from all over the world join this program! Typically, our participants are culturally curious individuals who are excited to make new friends, experience something unique, and interested in stepping out of their comfort zones and expanding their horizons.
This program is exclusively for students who are currently in grades 9th through 12th and approximately 14 to 18 years old. Students living outside of the USA are welcome to join!
Where do we stay?
Our hotels and hostels are specifically chosen to be in safe areas and well-suited to facilitating group supervision. We stay in centrally located accommodations, usually within walking distance of the main attractions. This means we do not use large, impersonal chain hotels on the outskirts of cities. We prefer to select smaller, family-run hotels where we establish personal relationships with the owners.
On this program, we will stay in several different types of accommodation, including hotels, lodges and slightly more rustic accommodations (such as a lodge located in the jungle). Our homestay is in the Misminay community, where you will be with other students in a private room of the villager’s home, with shared restrooms and communal meals held in the main center of the village.
For safety reasons, we do not publish the names of the accommodations we use. We do not feel it is safe to publish the name of a hotel where a group of teenagers is staying abroad. After registering, participants and parents are given access to our secure parent website where you will be able to see the names of all of the accommodations for a program.
Do most travelers go on their own?
Yes! In fact, over 75% of students who travel with us choose to come independently. This encourages teens to step further outside their comfort zone and make new friends. We believe that one of the most rewarding and exciting elements of travel is the new friendships that form along the way. When we travel by ourselves, we are bound to make new friends from all over the country and even the world. The best part is, you can travel again with your new friends on another TFT program the next summer!
If you are thinking about joining a TFT program by yourself but you are feeling unsure, please let us know! We have plenty of references from solo travelers who had great experiences and would be happy to chat with you about it.
Can I bring a friend?
Absolutely! We ask that if you do come with a friend, you and your friend(s) maintain openness to meeting new people and sharing this special experience with the entire group.
What do students like the most about this program?
Students love that they are able to explore two of the most visited countries in Latin America. Visiting the Galápagos and Machu Picchu in one summer is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
What is unique about this program?
Students will have the unique opportunity to work closely with the local community at its schools and on a farm. This provides travelers with a unique cultural connection that most tourists are not able to have.
What is included?
Tuition cost includes ground transportation; accommodation; chaperones and guides; program-related activities and admissions; taxes and tips; all breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Not included in cost (this is not intended to be an exhaustive list): airfare; visas and visa application fees; personal and medical expenses; activities and admissions that are not program-related or referenced in the itinerary; beverages other than filtered water at meals; participant expenses that are outside of the program description, such as excess baggage fees and damage to hotels; expenses related to unforeseen circumstances, such as transportation strikes and natural disasters.
What is the average group size?
We pride ourselves on small group sizes to create a more authentic and personalized experience. Our group sizes fall between 14 and 21 students – the perfect size to facilitate new friendships without feeling lost in a crowd! We believe smaller groups eliminate the likelihood of cliques, and allows for a well-rounded, healthy group dynamic.
Who leads the program?
Our staff is a cut above the rest! We seek out two main characteristics in our counselors – extensive knowledge of and experience in our destinations, and a passion for working with teens. Our staff’s backgrounds include living abroad and working in summer camps or other educational settings. Team members are proven leaders and role models, who connect easily with others and form genuine friendships with each student – all while bringing each destination to life.
We celebrate diversity! Our staff represents 49 different nationalities, speak a combined total of 21 languages, and visited 142 countries. Additionally, 80% of our staff lived or worked abroad in their lives. With so many unique experiences to share, you are sure to gain a global perspective.
Our average minimum ratios are one staff member to every seven participants. Each program has one Trip Director with several support staff, depending on the group size. Directors must be at least 25 years old and have prior experience working with TFT.
What are the safety qualifications for our staff?
Our staff members undergo a rigorous hiring process. They receive the same background check as school educators, an extensive training process to go over all safety precautions and protocols, and are required to be certified in CPR and First Aid. We exclusively hire responsible, multi-talented individuals who are safety-minded and are as passionate about teen travel as we are.
How do the optional group flights work?
Upon registration, you will be contacted by our International Logistics Team to discuss the program’s flight details. There is no requirement to take the group flight, but there are several advantages to doing so. The group flight is usually chaperoned by a TFT staff member, and it also offers an opportunity for the students to get to know one another prior to the start of the program. Parents are responsible for coordinating transport to the departure airport – however, the logistics team will send out instructions detailing the exact meeting spot and airport point person. For additional information about flights, visit our dedicated flight page.
What is the food like on this program?
In a word – delicious! At TFT, we believe food should be an integral part of the travel experience and always make an effort to eat at authentic establishments when we can. What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a place than by sampling the local delicacies, and we encourage students to do so whenever possible! Just as we stay away from Americanized hotel chains, we try to avoid restaurants with menus that cater only to tourists because every good traveler knows the best food is found wherever the locals are eating!
The food in South America is delicious! Expect to eat corn, potatoes and other tubers, quinoa, rice, meats (beef, pork, fish and chicken) veggies and many other foods flavored with unique Ecuadorian and Peruvian seasonings! Vegetarians will have no issues eating well on the trip. Also, unlike in Europe where a light breakfast of coffee and toast is the norm, South Americans eat big, savory breakfasts—and so will we!
We also love to have picnics al fresco, and do this whenever possible, which is a great way to taste some local food while sitting out in the fresh air taking in the sights and sounds of our surroundings. As always, we are willing and able to accommodate vegetarians, vegans, gluten allergies, and other dietary restrictions.
Do I need any vaccinations for this program?
We recommend checking with your family doctor regarding vaccinations and medical advice for the destination you are visiting. For more information, please check the World Health Organization’s website. Upon registration, we provide a list of recommended vaccinations that can be discussed further with your doctor.
Do we ever get time to go off on our own?
Our staff and teens are nearly always together, but we do provide the opportunity to break up into smaller groups to allow for flexibility and customization within the itinerary.
We offer free time in defined safe areas – for example, shopping in a market or exploring a museum. During these times, students remain in groups of at least two and are given no more than an hour. Of course, the counselors remain nearby and available. Additionally, a lifeguard-certified counselor supervises the campers any time they are involved in water activities.
What kind of visa do you need for this trip?
Any US citizen that enters Peru and Ecuador is automatically granted a free 90-day tourist visa. If you are coming from somewhere outside the US, please be sure to check your country’s specific visa requirements.
How does this program connect to other programs?
Our program dates are designed specifically so that participants can opt to combine trips throughout the summer. When connecting to another program, your counselor will escort you to the airport on the last day of the program and assist you in meeting your next group at your new destination.
Families who sign up for more than one program will also receive a 15% discount on the lesser-priced program.
Do I need to speak the language?
No, our skilled staff members will help you get around and even teach you a few fun phrases!
Authenticity is engrained in everything we do.
Eat, stay, and travel like a local. Check out what past travelers have to say about TFT and discover why we were awarded top youth travel organization in 2017.
"Thank you so much for the photos and updates. We look forward to them each night! I love how big Joanmarie’s smile is in her photos! What amazing experiences that will help to shape their knowledge of the world."
"Wow, incredible pictures from Ecuador. Love the mule ride! We can’t wait to hear about the Galapagos and see more photos. Thanks for taking such great care of the travelers, sounds like an amazing trip. Thanks for all the updates and fabulous pictures. Cate was very excited about working on the sustainable farm and then getting to play some futbol! Thanks for all your enthusiasm and great guidance. Cate has had an amazing time from what I have heard."