Leadership and Cultural Immersion Gap Program
The Patagonia Exchange Gap Program allows you to find your place in a diverse and globalized world through outdoor adventure, authentic cultural exchange, and working with inspiring community leaders in one of the most beautiful, and highly coveted, adventure destinations in the world.
Throughout your gap program, you will gain tangible leadership skills and discover how you can use this knowledge to create lasting change in your home community. Come find the inspiration and skills to be the change you wish to see in the world!
Length: 79 days
Season: Fall or Spring
Fall: approximately September 27 to December 15 | Spring: approximately January 10 to March 30.
(* does not include airfare to Coyhaique, Chile)
You will find ample adventure in your journey from the glaciated peaks to the pristine rivers of Chilean Patagonia. Our team of highly-skilled instructors and local partners will guide you through multi-day backpacking, rafting, and whitewater kayaking experiences while you learn the skills to plan your own exciting adventures around the world. As you gain leadership experience, you can expect to shoulder more responsibility during these expeditions, learning to pick routes, set the daily itineraries and motivate your peers towards a common goal.
You are not required to have experience backpacking or kayaking before you join us. We would love to teach you! Each semester is a mix of students with varying experience levels in the outdoors which promotes peer leadership and collaboration. There is no shortage of opportunities to push yourself and explore one of the most beautiful adventure destinations in the world!
Cultural exchange is at the heart of the Alzar Gap experience. We create opportunities where you can reach across borders, feel the power of human connection and appreciate the beauty of diversity. Our gap students have the opportunity to engage with host families, take Spanish classes from native speakers, explore quaint Patagonian towns, and learn how to live in the breathtaking Patagonian countryside from real gauchos. We help students develop cultural competence and authentic relationships as we navigate the language, history and traditions of Southern Chile.
As we travel through Patagonia, you will have the opportunity to meet and work alongside inspiring community leaders that have created NGO’s, eco-businesses and community action groups in Chile. The community leaders that we work with are thrilled to discuss the skills and experiences that have allowed them to positively impact their local communities. Although entirely optional, we encourage you to use this experience to create your own project to implement in your home community with support and guidance from our dedicated team.
The program will be split between front-country and back-country environments. While in the front-country, gap students will have the opportunity to stay at our very own Base Patagonia, selected homestays, hostels and front-country campsites. In the backcountry, our students camp along sandy beaches, beautiful forests, alpine meadows, and ranches. Imagine falling asleep under the southern sky, after paddling on a crystal clear Patagonian stream!
A gap program with Alzar Gap is packed with memorable experiences. Here is a basic overview of what your adventure might look like.
Please note that although our itineraries are powerful and well-thought-out, they are subject to change.
Our Patagonia Exchange Gap Program begins in the Aysen Region of Southern Patagonia, known for its beautiful rivers, glaciated mountains and distinct culture. With our Base Patagonia campus serving as home-base, we venture out daily to kayak and raft world famous rivers, while learning all the skills needed to be comfortable on the water. We end the week with a four-day self-supported kayak expedition across the lakes of the region and down the Paloma River.
This portion of our semester consists of a blend of group activities and independent exploration. Students are given an intimate look at Chilean culture through placements for visits with carefully selected families in the Simpson Valley. Students can take Spanish lessons in the morning, with the opportunity to learn how to cook Chilean cuisine, play soccer with locals or explore the cafes and plazas of Coyhaique in the afternoon.
We will spend 12 days traveling down the world famous Rio Baker in kayaks and rafts while taking in the beautiful scenery along the way. Midway through our trip, we will stop at an active ranch, only accessible by boat, to learn the ways of Patagonia’s “gaucho” (cowboy). After a farewell asado, we’ll continue through glacially carved fjords to our takeout by the ocean. We then take a short bus ride to Parque Patagonia, where we focus on learning about conservation and environmental issues in Chile, engaging in service learning and exploring the park. It’s often possible to catch sights of guanacos, condors and pumas in this world-class destination.
Gap students are placed with homestay families, while having the opportunity to work with a local high school program focused on training young Chileans to enter the outdoor guiding industry. These young aspiring guides are excited to teach our students about local flora and fauna, and Cerro Castillo. We’ll end our week with a multi-day backpacking trip through world-renowned Cerro Castillo National Park.
We will make our way up the Carretera Austral to the small town of Futaleufu, known to be the whitewater capital of Chile. On our way, we hit the beautiful hot springs of Puyuhuapi and see the hanging glacier of Queulat National Park. Our time in Futaleufu is spent exploring this quaint town, kayaking, hiking, and learning about local environmental and social justice initiatives from local leaders.
As our adventure winds down, we head up to coastal Chaiten to spend time honoring our incredible semester. We can explore the beaches of Santa Barbara, hike through Pumalin National Park or hike to the summit crater of Volcan Chaiten.