Himalayan Adventure

Apply by November 23rd to secure your interview!

We’re building a community of “backpacktivists” that are socially, environmentally, and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in. We work with our local partners on community-requested projects to uncover the intricacies of each place we go to.

Join us as we explore the vibrant Himachali culture and take in the awe-inspiring sights of the Himalaya! Our adventure will take us to the heart of the Tibetan diaspora to stand in solidarity with partners who are peacefully fighting for a return to their homeland. We’ll venture deeper into the Himalayas to connect with changemakers at the forefront of environmental activism and innovation. Get ready because this is a jam-packed journey unlike any other!

Now Accepting Applications!


2019 Fees + Community Contribution

$3,400 USD + $585 USD
$3,750 CAD + $650 CAD

May 19 – June 27, 2019
  • 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 Himalayas.
  • Visit Macleod Ganj, which is home to the Tibetan Government in exile, the official residence of the Dalai Lama, and the focal point of the Tibetan refugee community. Get ready to explore the history and mission of the Tibetan diaspora, and why Tibet is worth fighting for.
  • Collaborate with a charitable eco-tourism initiative working to blend modern sustainable farming approaches to ancient sustainable practices.
  • Hike to remote villages in the breathtaking Spiti Valley and discover the Buddhist communities, culture, and religion of the uniquely beautiful Himalayan Plateau.
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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/Dharamsala

The adventure begins as soon as you’re picked up from the airport in India’s capital city of Delhi. During our in-country orientation, we’ll be traipsing through the busy streets, interacting with local vendors, practicing our bartering skills, and sampling the many sights, smells, and tastes of Delhi. We’ll only spend a day exploring this vast and varied metropolis, before heading up to Dharamsala to continue our orientation in a community and setting more representative of the rest of the program.

Up into the Himalayas – Dharamsala

Heading north into the foothills of the Himalayas, our team will travel to Macleod Ganj, a small town located 2100 m. (6800 ft.) up on a ridge above Dharamsala, in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley. We’ll be partnering with Students for a Free Tibet as we work on campaigns to communicate the challenges faced by Tibetans both in their homeland, as well as in the refugee community beyond its borders. We’ll also have the chance to meet with groups working to improve the lives of Tibetan refugees through education and vocational training. Our time here will give us unique insight into a worldwide student activist network, the local Himalayan culture (Himachali), and the efforts to sustain the transplanted culture of the refugee community.

More than that, we’ll also have the chance to hike some epic trails, practice yoga, or take a cooking, music, or language class!

Into the Spiti Valley

Our team will head north through Shimla to the Spiti Valley – a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas. We’ll immerse ourselves in a landscape and culture that was identical to Tibet’s until 1949, when Tibet lost its independence. During our time in this very remote, agrarian region on top of the world, we will work alongside Ecosphere, an NGO that designs environmentally sustainable tourism initiatives that responsibly tour the local Mahayana Buddhist communities. The immersive nature of this experience will likely mean hiking between villages and homestays, delving even deeper into our community connections, getting off the grid, and soaking up the fierce sun and thin air that comes with living in the mountain desert!

Independent Travel Time

A staple of all Operation Groundswell programs is Independent Travel Time (ITT). You can travel independently if you desire, but we encourage everyone to travel in pairs or small groups. ITT is the ideal time for you to learn more about your specific interests – 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! And be sure to check out the Spiti area, where we’ll leave off. Pro tip? The Ki Monastery is well worth a day of your time!

**Please note that you are not under the auspices of the organized program during ITT. Team members will be given the emergency contact number of program leaders during ITT for any advice.

Disorientation – Rishikesh

Our 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, and another of India’s many holy centres, nestled along the surging Ganga river. 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, reminisce about our wild and wonderful experiences, discuss how to stay connected, and collaborate on projects in the future. Then off to the airport for some tearful goodbyes!

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What’s Included?

A comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region

Experienced and caring program leaders with you 24 hours a day

All lodging and accommodations throughout the program

Three local meals a day

All group tours, entrance fees, and excursions

All group transportation on the ground

Regular discussions and workshops to help you internalize and reflect on your experience

Support from OGHQ whenever you need it


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 Our Regional Director

In a span of 5 years, Adhila has endured the harsh weathers of the mighty Alps, the skin melting summers of Thar, military training in Austria, and a whole lot more. A lover of forests and joyful, silly things, Adhila considers India to be her complicated, chaotic, romantic partner – one who is difficult to understand even throughout an entire lifetime. She is passionate about the potential of travel for education and for building a peaceful world. She’s keen to explore this further through OG’s vision of creating a movement of ethical travellers!

If Not Now, Then When?

The world is changing. Help change it for the better.
Join the growing community of ethical travellers.