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South America Ethical Adventure Trail

  • In Brief
  • The Project
  • What to Expect
  • Reviews
  • Gallery
  • Extras
  • Dates & Costs
  • Apply
South America Trail South America Trail
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Frontier Group Project

Working in collaboration with institutions and NGOs with the country, projects are research-based, creating sustainable and biodiverse programmes.

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South America is a region teeming with life, colour, culture and history. Throughout its past, civilisations such as the mighty Incas have given way to a wave of European colonisation and influences.

Today, a rich diversity of peoples and styles can be seen in every country on the continent, a continent which holds not only the titanic Andes mountain chain, but also the breathtaking Amazon River, carving its way through untamed rainforest.

South America is a haven for those seeking adventure, a continent where rafting, climbing, kayaking, biking, horse riding can be done amidst astounding scenery.

Read the South America Ethical Adventure Trail Project of the Week article on GapYearBlog


  • Make lifelong friendships
  • A unique view of this mystical part of the world
  • Discover the local culture & delicacies
Airport Pickup Camping Emergency Ground Transport Hotel Homestay Mountainous Terrestrial Trekking SomeMeals
Location Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru
Activities Visit local markets & cultural sights
Trek in the mountains
Sunbathe on a beach
See Machu Picchu
Unwind in thermal baths
Stand on the equator
Explore beautiful cities in the heart of South America
Transport Transport to & from the airport
Ground transfers between accommodation & sights
Accommodation Varies - May include hostels, host families, camping and more!

Before you go Pre-departure support
Travel & medical advice & documentation
Equipment advice
Discounted kit & airfares
Free Frontier t-shirt
In-country 2 basic meals per weekday
All accommodation
Airport pick-up & drop-off
Ground transfers & in-transit accommodation
Local orientation
Project training
In-country emergency support
24-hour international HQ backup



Day 1-4: Quito

Arrive in Quito. This beautiful city has flourished from the ruins of an Incan stronghold and is a focal point of South American culture, providing a heady mix of cosmopolitan contemporary and ancient influences. Steeped in the pervasive history of the region, the city is diverse and complex; fiesta bars oozing Latin spirit rub shoulders with 500-year-old cathedrals and the elaborate Basilica, an ancient church studded with gargoyles, stained glass and intricately carved doors. 

During your four days in Quito, you will also have the opportunity to take day trips into the surrounding region, including the market town of Otovalo, home to many Otovalo Indians who proudly maintain the handicrafts and traditional cuisine of their indigenous ancestors. Stand on the middle of the world with a visit to Mitad del Mundo, another favourite on the backpacker's map, where you can watch circus performers, street entertainers and enjoy a delicious ice cream as you admire the stunning views.  

Day 4-8: Riobamba

Next, travel by train down to Riobamba, either in the comfort of your seat or braving a moment perched on the roof with the locals, bathing in the sun as you see Ecuador's beautiful countryside skip past you. Riobamba itself is evocative of an old magical land, with its countryside abundant in cactus and an arid beauty, and the town a wealth of Indian markets and pre-colonial architecture. A day spent trekking and absorbing the breathtaking scenery of the mountains of the region also awaits you here, as well as a visit to lovely Banos where you can chill out surrounded by pastel coloured tree lined avenues, swim in the waterfalls there and soak up the Ecuadorian vibe.  

Day 9-10: Cuenca & Montenita

Cuenca provides the perfect chance to drink in the ambience of a bustling South American town. Here you will find cathedrals, museums, sulphur baths where you can enjoy an outdoor spa experience, a myriad of unique souvenirs and colourful daily markets where you can see textiles, pottery, clothes and animals. After Cuenca, relax and soak up the luscious sunshine on Montenitas perfect, unspoilt beach as you enjoy the staggering scenery all around you. Having enjoyed the enchanting atmosphere of these typical Ecuadorian towns, you bid Ecuador farewell as you venture deeper into Inca territory, visiting first the Podocarpus National Park for a spot of waterfall swimming before crossing the border into neighbouring Peru.


Day 11-14: Lima

After travelling past huge tracts of gorgeous scenery by bus, arrive in Lima, the Peruvian hub. Explore the city by local bus, visiting the palace, museums, bars, cafes and even the beach! Next you will head to the charming town of Cusco, to begin your adventure into the ancient Incan heartland – Machu Picchu. 

Day 14-18: Machu Picchu 

Drive though amazing valleys filled with lush green vegetation, passing occasional ancient stone ruins as you appreciate the overwhelming majesty of your surroundings. Transfer on to your bikes and cycle along the ancient paved roads absorbing spectacular vistas.  Ride beneath waterfalls and past small villages; take an occasional ride in the support truck which brings up the luggage.  The climb is hard but the scenery is extraordinary.  At Santa Maria transfer back on to the bus for the final leg to the hostel in Santa Teresa.

The following morning set out on a walk through the valley en route to the charming hot spring town of Agua Caliente.  In the evening relax and unwind in the thermal baths before settling down for an early night in preparation for the 4am rise the next morning.

Before dawn you will begin the tough but awe inspiring ascent up the hillside steps towards Machu Picchu, finally arriving at dawn to discover this perfectly preserved Inca city from thousands of years ago – the crowning glory of a proud people.  Experience a guided tour that will give you a new perspective on all you see. The final climb is exhausting but gives an amazing sense of achievement.  

After Machu Picchu you will head to Bolivia, a country which provides a window into ancient South American culture having the highest proportion of indigenous people anywhere on the continent. En route you will stop off at Puno, where you can soak up the city’s thriving traditional arts scene – particularly the dramatic and unique dancing performances that have persisted for generations. 


Day 20-23: Copacabana, Coroico & La Paz 

Next you will travel on to the Bolivian border, where you will discover Lake Titicaca, a vast dreamlike lake surrounded by a ring of mountains that seem to reach the sky. Travel from Copacabana into the lake where you will visit the floating islands, one of which is home to a community who has existed there for a thousand years. A day excursion to Coroico, a picturesque mountain village known for being a traveller's mecca and hippy magnet thanks to the chilled out vibe and the legendary reggae bar! After this you travel on to La Paz, the highest city in the world and a must-see destination. 

Day 24-25: Uyuni & Salt Flats

Basing yourselves in Uyuni, you will explore the otherworldly expanses of the salt flats, which have to be seen to be believed. The landscape appears to melt into the sky, and is punctuated only by strange weathered and deserted churches and vegetation that has evolved to endure the extremely salty conditions! You will traverse the salt pans in a jeep – stopping to take some very memorable photos. 

Day 26-28: Uyuni & La Paz

Pick up some last minute souvenirs in Uyuni, then travel to La Paz, where you can explore this fascinating city before flying home.*

*This itinerary is subject to change and is intended as a guide only.


You will be met on the first day of the trail by your Trail Leader at an agreed rendezvous point, and escorted by bus to a local hostel where you will spend your first night. You will then spend the next few days in Quito and surrounding area acclimatising with the rest of the group. Groups range in size from 2 - 12 participants. If you are arriving before the project start date you will meet at an agreed rendezvous point. You will have time in Quito to take day trips into the surrounding region, including the market town of Otovalo, home to many Otovalo Indians who proudly maintain the handicrafts and traditional cuisine of their indigenous ancestors. From there you will soon set off to the next destination on your exciting adventure, so be prepared to throw yourself into the experience the minute you arrive!



During the trail you will stay in basic but of course comfortable accommodation such as hostels, sleeping in mixed sex communal dorms or shared rooms, or homestays.



You will be provided with two meals a day on week days. These will include a variety of local cuisine from markets and food stalls so you will get to try out the local cuisine – which generally consists of rice and beans, and of course just a touch of chillies! By using local produce and learning traditional cooking techniques you will be provided with an authentic South American experience!

The trail has been really cool; we’ve gotten to see a lot of interesting things. Earlier on...

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Placid lakes, Lofty Heights and Vibrant City Colours in South America  | 12 Sep 2011
The final page has turned of this South America Trail. The last few days have been a fantastic en...

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Inca Madness  | 26 Aug 2011
The intrepid team of South America volunteers have just come back from the most amazing couple of...

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Festival of the Sun in Peru  | 28 Jun 2011
The trail has moved onto Cuzco and Inti Raymi, Festival of the Sun in taking place. We have been ...

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Peru life  | 25 May 2011
Once safely across the Peruvian border, we arrived in Tumbes where we have had some amazing local...

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Experiencing Wonderful Ecuador  | 19 Apr 2011
On arrival in Ecuador my first impression was that it was similar to other countries in the devel...

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Frontier Frolics in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia  | 15 May 2009
I always wanted to go to South America on my gap year and I am so glad I did. I had an amazing ti...

Read more

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At each destination along the trail route there will be a range of activities for you to choose from, at extra cost. These could include a range of adventure and cultural activities such as visits to remote villages, mountain treks, river rafting,  swimming in forest waterfalls, hang-gliding, kite surfing, sailing, canoeing and many more. There are so many activities to try here that you certainly won't be short of things to enjoy.

If all this wasn't enough, our guides are always happy to advise you on where to go next! Perhaps travel up to Central America, or stay on in one of these fascinating countries. We also have a huge selection of volunteer placements across South America, perfect for those who don't want to leave!

Modern conveniences

Cities through the trail

  • 24 hour supermarkets
  • Banks / ATMs
  • Bars / clubs
  • Bureau de Change
  • Dentist/li>
  • Department store
  • Hairdresser
  • Hospital
  • Hostels / hotels
  • International Embassies and Consulates
  • Internet cafes
  • Local style restaurants
  • Mobile phone shops
  • Pay phones
  • Pharmacy
  • Traditional markets
  • Western style restaurants
  • Western Union


4 weeks £ 1,699


Departs July and August 2016


4 weeks


Before you go

  • Pre-departure support
  • Travel & medical advice & documentation
  • Equipment advice
  • Discounted kit & airfares
  • Free Frontier t-shirt


  • Food (two meals a day during weekdays)
  • All accommodation
  • Ground transfers & in-transit accommodation
  • Local orientation
  • Project training
  • In-country emergency support
  • 24-hour international HQ backup
  • Airport pick-up & drop-off


Nearest airport(s): Quito (UIO), La Paz (LPB)



Flights are not included in our project costs. However, Frontier have partnered with an experienced and professional team of travel experts to help our volunteers find the best flight deals for their trips with Frontier. This travel specialist operates in the tailor-made, long haul multi-stop travel market, arranging complex airfares and transfers for independent travellers. They provide expertise, security and a vast product range along with a Travel Butler service which is a single point of contact and support whilst you are overseas.

We recommend that you obtain a quote using the following contact details rather than book online, as our partner will offer you the most competitive fares. To receive your quote or to seek any advice for your flights, please contact Frontier’s dedicated team of travel experts on 0800 082 9994 (or +44 800 082 9994 outside the UK) or email frontier@flightcentre.co.uk .


For fast, efficient and up-to-date visa advice please contact our recommended visa consultancy partner:

Depending on your destination country and your country of origin, you might require a visa. Please see the appropriate country consular website for details or contact our affiliate visa consultancy service. Please note that your visa will usually start on the date that you enter the destination country regardless of when it was issued. Please check with the relevant embassy or high commission. If you are purchasing your visa or paying entry/exit fees in-country you will probably need to pay in US Dollars. If you have any questions please consult the relevant embassy or high commission. Please check the visa information regularly, as changes often happen without warning.


You'll need to buy appropriate travel insurance covering your participation on the project. You won't be able to go without the right travel insurance so double check to avoid disappointment. Please make sure that you're covered for the whole duration of your trip – from the day you leave the UK to the day you return. It's also best to get your travel insurance at the same time as paying the deposit for your project. Depending on your policy, this will cover you for any unexpected cancellations.

Your insurance should include the following:

  • Medical cover, including medical emergencies and medical evacuations (up to USD$3,000,000 / GBP£2,000,000);
  • Personal liability (up to USD$1,500,000 / GBP£1,000,000);
  • Cancellation and curtailment of your trip (up to the value of your project contribution).

If you are going to be scuba diving you should get coverage for scuba diving up to 30m, including hyperbaric therapy treatment (unlimited). You should consider obtaining insurance to cover you for any additional activities which you plan to do during, before, or after your Frontier project. We recommend that you obtain cover for your baggage and personal effects.

Frontier Partner Projects and Frontier group projects are run in partnership with in-country NGOs, small community based organisations, local research institutes, academic organisations and conservation agencies. Project descriptions and information are supplied directly by our partners or field staff and are accurate at time of publishing.

We aim to keep information up to date and accurate, however, the nature of our projects and in particular the fact that they are constantly evolving and developing in response to changing needs means that project activities, travel schedules, tour itineraries and daily timetables can change overnight and without notice.

To apply for this project, or to register your interest, just click on the orange "Apply Now!" button at the top of the menu. Fill out and submit a short application form and then one of our advisors will give you a call back to answer any questions and to progress your application if you wish to continue.

There is no obligation when making an application, and you do not need to pay anything at this point.