Welcome to Guatemala!

It’s time to get abroad! 

Join our eco education programme in Guatemala to take the first steps into a career in permaculture and the environmental sector. Along the way, experience a fascinating new culture and language(s), and gain valuable qualifications and skills.

We are delighted to invite you to join us in Guatemala on a 12-week placement involving permaculture design and ecotechnology training, a certificate in climate change and environmental awareness, lectures in Guatelaman history and culture, homestay with a Mayan family, intensive Spanish lessons, excursions, and volunteering placements! 

This placement is intended to help you to launch a career in this fascinating sector, and it’s all funded – that includes flights, accommodation, language lessons, and an internationally recognised permaculture design qualification.

Further info on how the programme works:

This is a new Gotoco programme that launched in November 2022,  funded by the Turing Scheme. It takes place on/around Lake Atitlán, which is in a volcanic crater in the Guatemalan highlands.

The programme combines permaculture design training, lectures in Guatemalan culture and history, intensive Spanish lessons, homestay with a Mayan family, volunteering placements with grassroots collectives and local farms, a professional development course, and cultural excursions.

The programme will start with a 2-week design training period at the Mesoamerican Institute of Permaculture (IMAP), during which you will be embedded in a Mayan Kaqchikel community and taught about the sociopolitical context of permaculture in Guatemala.   After receiving your Permaculture Design Certificate, you will then spend 2 weeks with a Mayan host family in San Juan La Laguna while receiving daily Spanish lessons and studying for your Level 2 Certificate in Climate Change and Environmental Awareness.

After this, you will go to work with selected grassroots collectives to learn hands-on skills in bioconstruction (natural building) and agroecology. You will commute from your homestay up into the mountains to use your new Spanish and permaculture skills by helping communities with farming tasks and redesigning the land. During this period, you will also receive expert lectures on how to turn permaculture into a career.

You will spend the remaining time on the programme using your new and preexisting skills volunteering on a local project that needs your help (this could be landscaping, construction, farming, teaching, gardening, photography, marketing, etc).

Costs for flights, accommodation, food, in-country transport necessary for placements, qualifications, and excursions will be covered by Gotoco.


What do you get?

This Guatemala Eco Education Programme is your launchpad for a global and impactful career. On the programme, you will receive:

  • Funding to cover your flights, weekday meals, and accommodation (note: you will need to pay for your own meals on weekends, private items, DBS check, and local SIM card)
  • An internationally recognised Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC)
  • Travel health insurance for the length of the programme
  • 2 weeks of intensive Spanish lessons 
  • A Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Climate Change and Environmental Awareness
  • Personal and community support, including 24/7 support for emergencies.
  • A wide range of volunteering placement opportunities 
  • Lectures in Guatemalan history and culture from local experts
  • Excursions to places of interest around Lake Atitlan
  • Support for anyone that wishes to transition into local career pathways, or careers in the environmental sector.

How do you apply?

To apply you need to:

Please apply at least 4 weeks before an intake start date. Places are filled on a rolling basis.

To apply you need to:

  • Be UK-linked. E.g. UK citizens, UK nationals, UK work/student visa holders, and ideally have been normally resident in the UK for the last 3 years.
  • Be at least 19 years old.
  • Be an advanced/native English speaker.
  • Be available and excited to travel to Guatemala.
  • A background in environmental work/education/activism is a bonus, but not required.

This programme is open to anyone 19 and up, including mid-career changers! There is extra support available for applicants from widening participation backgrounds, including all the funding you may need to make this happen.

*We are keen to welcome candidates with ‘non-traditional’ educational backgrounds (e.g university certainly isn’t required, this is an FE sector opportunity).

You can apply now, via this page.

Please note, our website main application form serves our teaching programmes, please use the link above for this special programme.

Upcoming intakes:
We run intakes most months! Scroll down and you can put down a deposit for one of those. 

*Cover photo by Mathijs Beks on Unsplash

You can apply right now, just login!. If you don’t have an account yet, you can apply now on this page!


A few FAQ

More and more, we recognize the need to become agents of change and reduce the impact of the current global economic model, which destroys our environment and oppresses our  society. How exactly do we achieve this?


Permaculture asks this question and gives a guide to imitate the patterns and relationships found in nature. The philosophy proposes a path towards a more conscious life, a more efficient way of designing our homes, our food sources, our place in the natural world, and much more. Permaculture aims not only to protect the environment, but also to use its riches to sustain future generations.


Being a PDC-certified designer is a big step towards making a difference!

Guatemala is a multicultural society, with just under half of the population belonging to indigenous groups. The largest of these groups is ‘Maya’, which has 22 subgroups. ‘Mayan’ refers to the peoples and languages of these groups.

In Lake Atitlán, 90% of the population is Mayan. To the north of the lake, the population is predominately Kaqchiquel. To the south, the population is predominately Tzutujil. There are also Kiche Mayan groups around the lake. On this programme, you will encounter and interact with all three of these Mayan groups. Their languages are distinct from one another but share many common features.

There is no maximum age limit, but you must be at least 19 years old by your programme start date.

No. We are keen to make opportunities available to whomsoever is interested! So please apply. We do focus our recruitment efforts at universities but that is primarily because students are always excited about joining these sorts of initiatives. We welcome candidates with ‘non-traditional’ educational backgrounds (e.g university isn’t required).


We are very happy to consider applications from those without a university background or those that have graduated already. The minimum age limit is 19, and there is no maximum age limit.


We have no additional requirements other than that you be open to an adventure and excited about permaculture, agroecology, learning Spanish, and experiencing Guatemala.

You can apply anytime, but the sooner you apply the better because we make offers on a rolling basis. There is no cut-off point for applications. However, if you want to be sure of a place, it is best to apply right now.

Please fill out an application form anyway – we can look into arranging alternative activities for you during the 2-week Spanish lesson period.

British citizens do not require a visa to travel to Guatemala, and can remain there for up to 90 days visa-free (which is under the programme length). If you do not have British citizenship, please check your country’s government guidance on travel to Guatemala. If you are travelling via a country that requires a Visa, you will cover the costs for that unless you qualify as Widening Participation.

Most Gotoco programmes are in TEFL Teaching English, thus this is a unique programme. Some of our standard FAQ (here) won’t apply to this programme, so please use this page as the source of all programme knowledge. You may find the more general FAQs on the link just above to be somewhat useful, but if this page contradicts them then please err on the side of using info’ from this page. You can always contact us if you have queries.

You won’t be living in a jungle hut, but this land is rich in fauna…biodiversity is one of the perks of participating here.


During this placement, you may see snakes, spiders, scorpions etc.


A Gotoco founder removed scorpions 2x in 24hours from his accommodation block..


Fauna risks are well managed, and experiencing nature is one of the joys of a programme of this kind in ‘the tropics’.


But just a warning, if  you are more than reasonably scared of creepy crawlies, then this might not be the best programme choice for you.

Yes. We only require that you speak advanced-level English and that you have been normally resident in the UK for the past 3 years.

Yes and yes! You are more than welcome to arrive before the programme start date, and stay after the programme end date. In fact, we actively encourage solo adventure to see the rest of the country before/after the programme, as the programme is very Lake Atitlan-centric. We can still fund your travel to and from Guatemala. However, you would have to fund your own living costs in Guatemala before and after the programme. You would also need to fund your own visa if staying for more than 90 days, but this is straightforward to arrange and we can support you with visa advice.

If you have completed your TESOL, then yes! If you previously were on the TESOL pathway but haven’t yet completed your TESOL, we can only allow participation If you provide an additional £2000 deposit. The deposit is redeemable in full if you complete the TESOL within your allotted 6 months. If you have a ‘false start’ and need to re-sign up with the TESOL school to complete it, then you will be refunded approx. £500-1000 of the amount – depending on what the course re-entry charges are. We can only offer return trips on different programme types on condition that you completed (or are on-track to complete) the TESOL and can demonstrate that the new programme is suited to your professional development goals.