Himalayan Adventure

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Himalayan Adventure

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  • Explore a piece of the vibrant, historic Himachali culture by getting to know the people, the food, and the language of a hill station in the Himalayan foothills.
  • Visit a Tibetan refugee settlement and explore the history and mission of the Tibetan Refugee diaspora, finding out for yourself what Tibet was really like and why people are still fighting for it.
  • Hike to remote villages in the breathtaking Spiti Valley and discover Buddhist culture and religion at the 1000 year-old Ki Monastery.
  • Collaborate with local organizations to create events that help to increase cultural and social awareness of the wider issues facing Tibetans today.
Program Dates


May 26 – July 4



To Be Announced


Program Fee



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Sample Itinerary

*This itinerary is based on our previous experience with the region. Programs change every year based on the needs of our partners. This should give you a sense of what our program may look like.

Orientation – Delhi
After arriving in India’s capital city, Delhi, you will be picked up from the airport where the journey will begin. During an in-country orientation in Delhi, our team will navigate the busy streets, interact with local vendors, practice their bartering skills, and sample the delicious local cuisine. Our group will spend several days exploring the sites of Delhi and adapting to the vast differences we will be exposed to for the rest of the program.

Up into the Himalayas
Heading north into the foothills of the Himalayas, the team moves to Macleod Ganj, located 2100 m (6800 ft) up on a ridge above Dharamasala and in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley. It is home to the Tibetan government in exile and is the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We’ll be working with local women’s groups working to improve the lives of Tibetan refugees through education and vocational training. We will also discover the legacy of Buddhism, the dominant religion in India for a millennium until about 800 years ago. Our time here will give us a picture of life inside and outside of Tibet, the local Himalayan culture (Himachali), and why this tiny town has a year-round deluge of visitors from every corner of the globe.


More than that, we will hike outside the village, check out rafting in the area, practice yoga, take cooking classes, or learn the local language or indigenous instruments. There’s plenty to do outside of our work!

Into the Spiti Valley
Our team will head over the mighty Rohtang Pass to the Spiti, or “the Middle”, Valley. Perched right on the South-Western tip of the Tibetan Plateau, the valley is found in the unique high altitude, cold desert mountains. We’ll immerse ourselves in a landscape and culture that was identical to Tibet’s until 1949, when Tibet lost its independence. We will work with NGOs in Spiti to design environmentally sustainable tourism initiatives that will responsibly tour the local Mahayana Buddhist communities. The immersive nature of this experience will likely mean hiking between villages and homestays, and will complement our engagement- and interaction-focused learning.

Bir Village
On our return from Spiti to Dharamsala, we stop at one of the Central Tibetan Authority’s (CTA) settlement villages. Removed from the steady flow of tourists into Macleod Ganj, we’ll engage with the refugee diaspora and explore the differences between the opportunities and realities of these communities. We will also explore the initiatives of the CTA to improve the lives of the people who risked everything to cross the Himalaya. They left their country in the hope of preserving it until Tibetans can return to their peaceful existence on the roof of the world.

Bringing it Back to Dharamsala
We will take all we have learned and experienced on the program and help put together a day event to celebrate and promote the work of our partner organizations. The event also aims to encourage and increase the awareness and engagement of both the domestic and international tourist communities with the Tibetan refugee community. This place, after all, is a place they called home long before it became the most popular Himalayan holiday spot.

Independent Travel Time
A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire but everyone is urged to travel in pairs or small groups. During this time, you are not under the auspices of the organized program and are entirely responsible for yourself. Team members are given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice or safety concerns.


ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interest, whether it’s by volunteering with Tibetan refugees in the north, traveling inland, or just relaxing on the coastal beaches. With over a billion people and the largest mountains in the world, you won’t be short of options here!

Disorientation – Rishikesh
The group will reconvene for a program debrief known as ‘disorientation’ prior to flying home. We will meet in Rishikesh, arguably the world capital of yoga. Yoga and meditation centres are balanced by great opportunities for more rafting and hiking, making it a great option for everyone and the perfect place to debrief and end our experience together. We’ll re-live memories of the program, summarize our experiences, discuss how to stay connected, and collaborate on projects in the future. Then off to the airport for some tearful goodbyes!


Independent Travel Time is your opportunity to go out there and explore on your own terms!

  • Border hop on over to Nepal for a different Himalayan perspective.
  • Experience the vibrant music scene in Varanasi or visit the Taj Mahal in Agra.
  • Hang out with the elephant, monkeys, and tigers at Jim Corbett National Park.


With OG, you live like the locals.

Traveling as much as we do on the India program, there will be a number of different styles of accommodation. Tents on the side of a mountain, a homestay in Ladakhi villages, or a dorm room in the Shiva Blues art hostel in Manali, there’s always a quirk to the places we call home on the road in India. One of the most welcoming cultures in the world, expect to be amazed at the hospitable nature of the people and communities who we stay with. Life is different on the road, but backpackers embrace it all, even if the best part is the story you get at the end! So get ready to embrace cold-water bucket showers, “cozy” sleeping conditions, and the occasional squat toilet!

Meet Your Program Leaders

Zoe SilverbergThat little travel bug going around must have bitten Zoe. She is constantly buzzing around looking for new adventures and experiences. She has hiked the Himalayas, dived the Pacific, cycled the Alps and competed in a 24 hour hiking and biking race in the Sahyadri Mountain Range. Zoe always tries to have a unique travel experience by blending work and travel. She has worked in the field of informal and formal education in Canada, India, Singapore and Switzerland. She has worked as an outdoor education leader in Switzerland and Singapore and established and managed a swimming program in India. When she isn’t engaging in heated discussions about issues around equity and access, both locally and abroad, she can be found swimming and paddling in the magical fresh water lakes of Ontario, Canada. All this being said a Saturday night with a bowl of all dressed chips, a beer and the newest HBO mini series doesn’t sound all that bad.

Mav is an itchy feet nomadic soul, who holds love for the roads and its travelers at the core of his being.  Someone who travels around and lives light, with a box and a bike, the engineering graduate (who never ever used his degree) switched early to adventure sports.  He’s been a mountaineer, a rafter, and triathlon enthusiast, an acro yoga assistant, and a reflexologist. Mav shares a deep bond with mountains and the seas, and an even deeper one with kids and animals.  He has volunteered with slum kids and stray animals with NGOs like Project Khel, Jeevashraya, apart from having had a stint with the forces as well. You would find him either involved with mixing play and education for kids under the sun in a park, or rescuing stray animals; lost in the woods or bicycling around a city, or when none of these…sitting in a bar with buddies ‘n beer, or being a bartender himself!


The Way We See It

Ask any traveler – India is one of the most intense places in the world when you first arrive. It could be the staggering population, the incredible diversity, or the physical landscape. Whatever it is, you won’t forget it. India has always held a special place in the hearts and minds of those who want to feel the wind in their hair and new lands under their feet. It is an enigma of a country that weaves its ancient past so uniquely into its modern and progressive present. It can embody all the beauty, the sadness, and the intrigue in the world. We hope to give you the opportunity to not only experience it for yourself, but also to challenge yourself and understand why it is such a powerful and distinct place.

Take the plunge into the Himalaya with us and you’ll experience a unique program seeped in traditional Indian Himachali culture, as well as the life of Tibetan refugees in their own words. Macleod Ganj is the principal hub of the worldwide Tibetan independence movement and a place where we can engage with both the Himachali and Tibetan diaspora communities and the organizations that protect and promote their rights.

Few other countries are as challenging on your body and your mind. Packed with bitter-sweet contradictions, you will often find yourself as frustrated as you have ever been in one moment and contemplating the beauties of life over sweet chai tea in the next. Ready?

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