First rule: There are no rules. These resources are completely free and at your disposal. Use as much, or as little, as you want. Study casually, or work to create a portfolio of academic work that will blow the socks off of the educational establishment.

Feel free to adapt the materials for your own purposes. We expect families, business people, backpackers, college students, high school kids, middle aged vacationers, and retirees who are on a late life adventure to take these materials and run with them. We’d be very happy for teachers or travel group leaders to add these materials to their study abroad packets as well.

The nature of open source is collaboration, so please feel free to contribute when you become aware of resources we haven’t listed, or you have project ideas that we haven’t developed. Send us your work and inspire others to reach higher and deeper as they travel!

The landmass of France makes up almost a fifth of the whole of the EU. It’s the most visited country in the world – 83.7 million people visited in 2014 (9.3 million of those visited the Louvre, making it the most visited museum in the world too). Mont Blanc, in the French Alps, is the highest in Europe at 4810m.

Our goal with this project is to inspire adventure and further education through experiential learning around the world. Please send us a note and let us know how you used these resources!

Buffet Style Learning

Does the menu look overwhelming? Looking for a formula to use as a skeleton for your studies in France?


  • Two books
  • Two films
  • Three articles
  • One Problem & Solution or Project Option
  • One Cultural Assignment

Table of Contents

Book Recommendations


peru-turn-rightTurn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

by Mark Adams

What happens when an unadventurous adventure writer tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu?

In 1911, Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and “discovered” Machu Picchu. While history has recast Bingham as a villain who stole both priceless artifacts and credit for finding the great archeological site, Mark Adams set out to retrace the explorer’s perilous path in search of the truth—except he’d written about adventure far more than he’d actually lived it. In fact, he’d never even slept in a tent.
Turn Right at Machu Picchu is Adams’ fascinating and funny account of his journey through some of the world’s most majestic, historic, and remote landscapes guided only by a hard-as-nails Australian survivalist and one nagging question: Just what was Machu Picchu?

peru-cookPeru: The Cookbook

by Gastón Acurio

The definitive Peruvian cookbook, featuring 500 traditional home cooking recipes from the country’s most acclaimed and popular chef, Gastón Acurio.

One of the world’s most innovative and flavorful cuisines, Peruvian food has been consistently heralded by chefs and media around the world as the “next big thing.” Peruvian restaurants are opening across the United States, with 20 in San Francisco alone, including Limon and La Mar.

Acurio guides cooks through the full range of Peru’s vibrant cuisine from popular classics like quinoa and ceviche, and lomo saltado to lesser known dishes like amaranth and aji amarillo. For the first time, audiences will be able to bring the flavors of one of the world’s most popular culinary destinations into their own kitchen.

peru-last-daysThe Last Days of the Incas

by Kim MacQuarrie
The epic story of the fall of the Inca Empire to Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the aftermath of a bloody civil war, and the recent discovery of the lost guerrilla capital of the Incas, Vilcabamba, by three American explorers.

In 1532, the fifty-four-year-old Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro led a force of 167 men, including his four brothers, to the shores of Peru. Unbeknownst to the Spaniards, the Inca rulers of Peru had just fought a bloody civil war in which the emperor Atahualpa had defeated his brother Huascar. Pizarro and his men soon clashed with Atahualpa and a huge force of Inca warriors at the Battle of Cajamarca. Despite being outnumbered by more than two hundred to one, the Spaniards prevailed—due largely to their horses, their steel armor and swords, and their tactic of surprise. They captured and imprisoned Atahualpa. Although the Inca emperor paid an enormous ransom in gold, the Spaniards executed him anyway. The following year, the Spaniards seized the Inca capital of Cuzco, completing their conquest of the largest native empire the New World has ever known. Peru was now a Spanish colony, and the conquistadors were wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

But the Incas did not submit willingly. A young Inca emperor, the brother of Atahualpa, soon led a massive rebellion against the Spaniards, inflicting heavy casualties and nearly wiping out the conquerors. Eventually, however, Pizarro and his men forced the emperor to abandon the Andes and flee to the Amazon. There, he established a hidden capital, called Vilcabamba—only recently rediscovered by a trio of colorful American explorers. Although the Incas fought a deadly, thirty-six-year-long guerrilla war, the Spanish ultimately captured the last Inca emperor and vanquished the native resistance.

peru-nazcaHistory’s Greatest Mysteries: The Nazca Lines

by Charles River Editors

But in 1927, air traffic was a relatively new phenomenon, especially in the wilds of southern Peru, and when the first planes passed over the sprawling expanse of the Nazca Desert, passengers looking out their windows saw an incredible sight that they could hardly believe. On the baked desert floor, someone had carved broad, perfectly straight Lines that ran for miles. Even more amazingly, some of the Lines twisted together to form the shapes of animals, birds and insects. But when the Lines were investigated further, it was discovered that they were mostly undetectable from ground level.

As researcher Viktoria Nikitzki put it, “The Lines themselves are superficial, they are only 10 to 30 cm deep.” Since their discovery, these “geoglyphs” (the name for any large carving viewable from the air) have attracted attention from the around the world, and their popularity is matched only by the mystery surrounding them. Why were they created? Who drew the Lines? What technology did they use to fashion them? Their beauty and mystery have, at times, led to farfetched theories that have credited extraterrestrials; as one National Geographic article on the Nazca Lines put it, “At one time or another, they have been explained as Inca roads, irrigation plans, images to be appreciated from primitive hot-air balloons, and, most laughably, landing strips for alien spacecraft.”

Despite elaborate modern fantasies about aliens and spaceships, the New Age theories have obscured the genius of the Lines’ human creators. In fact, the creation of the Lines was actually well within the technology of the purported builders, and the Lines could be drawn without extraterrestrial excavators. Luckily, decades of dedicated archeology have begun to slowly peel back many of these mysteries, even as new discoveries have opened the door for new questions and new puzzles. To this day, anthropologists, archaeologists and other scholars continue to debate whether the Lines had religious importance, astronomical importance, or were made for entirely different reasons.

peru-readerThe Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics

by Orin Starn, Ivan Degregori, & Robin Kirk

Sixteenth-century Spanish soldiers described Peru as a land filled with gold and silver, a place of untold wealth. Nineteenth-century travelers wrote of soaring Andean peaks plunging into luxuriant Amazonian canyons of orchids, pythons, and jaguars. The early-twentieth-century American adventurer Hiram Bingham told of the raging rivers and the wild jungles he traversed on his way to rediscovering the “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu. Seventy years later, news crews from ABC and CBS traveled to Peru to report on merciless terrorists, starving peasants, and Colombian drug runners in the “white gold” rush of the coca trade. As often as not, Peru has been portrayed in broad extremes: as the land of the richest treasures, the bloodiest conquest, the most poignant ballads, and the most violent revolutionaries. This revised and updated second edition of the bestselling Peru Reader offers a deeper understanding of the complex country that lies behind these claims.

Unparalleled in scope, the volume covers Peru’s history from its extraordinary pre-Columbian civilizations to its citizens’ twenty-first-century struggles to achieve dignity and justice in a multicultural nation where Andean, African, Amazonian, Asian, and European traditions meet. The collection presents a vast array of essays, folklore, historical documents, poetry, songs, short stories, autobiographical accounts, and photographs. Works by contemporary Peruvian intellectuals and politicians appear alongside accounts of those whose voices are less often heard—peasants, street vendors, maids, Amazonian Indians, and African-Peruvians. Including some of the most insightful pieces of Western journalism and scholarship about Peru, the selections provide the traveler and specialist alike with a thorough introduction to the country’s astonishing past and challenging present.

peru-revolutionariesLife and Death in the Andes: On the Trail of Bandits, Heroes, and Revolutionaries

by Kim MacQuarrie

The Andes Mountains are the world’s longest mountain chain, linking most of the countries in South America. Kim MacQuarrie takes us on a historical journey through this unique region, bringing fresh insight and contemporary connections to such fabled characters as Charles Darwin, Che Guevara, Pablo Escobar, Butch Cassidy, Thor Heyerdahl, and others. He describes living on the floating islands of Lake Titcaca. He introduces us to a Patagonian woman who is the last living speaker of her language. We meet the woman who cared for the wounded Che Guevara just before he died, the police officer who captured cocaine king Pablo Escobar, the dancer who hid Shining Path guerrilla Abimael Guzman, and a man whose grandfather witnessed the death of Butch Cassidy.

Collectively these stories tell us something about the spirit of South America. What makes South America different from other continents—and what makes the cultures of the Andes different from other cultures found there? How did the capitalism introduced by the Spaniards change South America? Why did Shining Path leader Guzman nearly succeed in his revolutionary quest while Che Guevara in Bolivia was a complete failure in his?

peru-hiramLost City of the Incas

by Hiram Bingham

A special illustrated edition of Hiram Bingham’s classic work captures all the magnificence and mystery of the amazing archeological sites he uncovered. Early in the 20th century, Bingham ventured into the wild and then unknown country of the Eastern Peruvian Andes–and in 1911 came upon the fabulous Inca city that made him famous: Machu Picchu. In the space of one short season he went on to discover two more lost cities, including Vitcos, where the last Incan Emperor was assassinated.

peru-energyMasters of the Living Energy: The Mystical World of the Q’ero of Peru

by Joan Parisi Wilcox

Known as the “keepers of the ancient knowledge,” the Q’ero Indians of Peru are the most respected mystics of the south-central Andes. In 1996 Joan Parisi Wilcox traveled to the Andes and was able to record the mysteries of kawsay pacha, the multidimensional world of living energy, through more than 40 hours of intensive interviews with six Q’ero paqos, masters of the ancient spiritual traditions of Peru.

The Q’ero are known for having preserved the Inca spiritual tradition more purely than any other indigenous population in the Andes. The in-depth interviews presented in this book recount the direct words of these masters so readers can discover for themselves the mind and heart space of these people.

Four new chapters of this revised edition focus on the work of the mesa, the Andean form of a spiritual medicine bundle, and its use as a conduit for the healing energies of nature. The mesa is called the “heart’s fire” because it represents the finest energy–the energy of compassion–that a paqo cultivates while walking the sacred path. Wilcox provides instructions on how to make, activate, and work with a mesa, as well as other practical exercises showing how we can use the power of the Andean spiritual tradition in our own lives.

inca-conquestThe Conquest of the Incas

by John Hemming

In 1532, the magnificent Inca empire was the last great civilization still isolated from the rest of humankind. The Conquest of the Incas is the definitive history of this civilization’s overthrow, from the invasion by Pizarro’s small gang of conquistadors and the Incas’ valiant attempts to expel the invaders to the destruction of the Inca realm, the oppression of its people, and the modern discoveries of Machu Picchu and the lost city of Vilcabamba. This authoritative, wide-ranging account, grounded in meticulous research and firsthand knowledge and told from the viewpoints of both protagonists, “keeps all the complex issues to the fore . . . the deeper wonder of the conquest and the deeper horror of its results” (Washington Post).

peru-miningUnearthing Conflict: Corporate Mining, Activism, and Expertise in Peru

by Fabiana Li

In Unearthing Conflict Fabiana Li analyzes the aggressive expansion and modernization of mining in Peru since the 1990s to tease out the dynamics of mining-based protests. Issues of water scarcity and pollution, the loss of farmland, and the degradation of sacred land are especially contentious. She traces the emergence of the conflicts by discussing the smelter-town of La Oroya—where people have lived with toxic emissions for almost a century—before focusing her analysis on the relatively new Yanacocha gold mega-mine.

Debates about what kinds of knowledge count as legitimate, Li argues, lie at the core of activist and corporate mining campaigns. Li pushes against the concept of “equivalence”—or methods with which to quantify and compare things such as pollution—to explain how opposing groups interpret environmental regulations, assess a project’s potential impacts, and negotiate monetary compensation for damages. This politics of equivalence is central to these mining controversies, and Li uncovers the mechanisms through which competing parties create knowledge, assign value, arrive at contrasting definitions of pollution, and construct the Peruvian mountains as spaces under constant negotiation.

peru-lilyLily of Peru

by David C. Edmonds

I’ve left him. It’s over. If you still want what we’ve been talking about, I’m ready.

When university professor Markus Thorsen reads these words from the love of his life, Marisa, he abandons his work and flies to war-torn Peru, where government forces are battling a brutal insurgent organization known as the Shining Path. Once there, Markus hopes to whisk Marisa to safety—far away from her Peruvian husband.

His plans fall apart as soon as he arrives, however, when a Peruvian general shows up at his hotel room with a host of accusations. Markus has to face the truth: Marisa has connections to the Shining Path. But is her involvement by choice or coercion?

Desperate to learn the truth and get her out of the country, Markus sets off on a dangerous journey with Marisa that takes them from Lima to the Andes and on into the eastern jungle. Along the way, they are pursued by counter-insurgency agents, elite soldiers, hostile natives, Marisa’s husband, and even a man with a large jungle cat.

Markus planned on his Peruvian reunion resulting in happily ever after, but now he simply hopes he and Marisa make it out of the country alive.

peru-shiningShining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995

by Steve J. Stern

Shining and Other Paths offers the first systematic account of the social experiences at the heart of the war waged between Shining Path and the Peruvian military during the 1980s and early 1990s. Confronting and untangling the many myths and enigmas that surround the war and the wider history of twentieth-century Peru, this book presents clear and often poignant analyses of the brutal reshaping of life and politics during a war that cost tens of thousands of lives.

The contributors—a team of Peruvian and U.S. historians, social scientists, and human rights activists—explore the origins, social dynamics, and long-term consequences of the effort by Shining Path to effect an armed communist revolution. The book begins by interpreting Shining Path’s emergence and decision for war as one logical culmination, among several competing culminations, of trends in oppositional politics and social movements. It then traces the experiences of peasants and refugees to demonstrate how human struggle and resilience came together in grassroots determination to defeat Shining Path, and explores the unsuccessful efforts of urban shantytown dwellers, as well as rural and urban activists, to build a “third path” to social justice. Integral to this discussion is an examination of women’s activism and consciousness during the years of the crisis. Finally, this book analyzes the often paradoxical and unintended legacies of this tumultuous period for social and human rights movements, and for presidential and military leadership in Peru.

Extensive field research, broad historical vision, and strong editorial coordination enable the authors to write a coherent and deeply humanistic account, one that draws out the inner tragedies, ambiguities, and conflicts of the war.

peru-amazon-beamingThe Encounter: Amazon Beaming

by Petru Popescu

THE ENCOUNTER tells the true story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre who became lost in a remote area of Brazil in 1969, leading to a startling encounter that changed his life.

1969: Loren McIntyre makes contact with the elusive Mayoruna ‘cat people’ of the Amazon’s Javari Valley. He follows them – into the wild depths of the rainforest. When he realizes he is lost, it is already too late.

Stranded and helpless, McIntyre must adjust to an alien way of life. Gradually, he finds his perception of the world beginning to change, and a strange relationship starts to develop with the Mayoruna chief – is McIntyre really able to communicate with the headman in a way that goes beyond words, beyond language? Petru Popescu’s gripping account of McIntyre’s adventures with the Mayoruna tribe, and his quest to find the source of the Amazon, is reissued here to coincide with Complicite’s acclaimed new stage production inspired by McIntyre’s incredible story.

peru-tahirTrail of Feathers: In Search of the Birdmen of Peru

by Tahir Shah

A shrunken head from Peru and a feather with traces of blood are the clues that launch Tahir Shah on his latest journey. Fascinated by the recurring theme of flight in Peruvian folklore, Shah sets out to discover whether the Incas really were able to “fly like birds” over the jungle, as a Spanish monk reported. Or were they drug-induced hallucinations? His journey, full of surreal experiences, takes him from the Andes Mountains to the desert and finally, in the company of a Vietnam vet, up the Amazon deep into the jungle to discover the secrets of the Shuar, a tribe of legendary savagery.

Tahir Shah’s flair for the unusual reveals Peru as we’ve never seen it. With his trademark humor, abundant curiosity, and oddball assortment of companions, he offers a journey that is no less illuminating than it is hilarious—and true.

Kids Book Recommendations


peru-mummyYou Wouldn’t Want to Be an Inca Mummy!: A One-Way Journey You’d Rather Not Make

by Colin Hynson, David Salariya & David Antram

“I teach kindergarten through 5th grade Spanish and I wanted some books about the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs that my students would find interesting. This book, and others like it in the same series, fit the bill perfectly. I just read a few excerpts to get them started; soon they were clamoring to read it themselves. It’s best geared for 3rd through 5th grade. It’s humorous, but gruesome. The writing is in that busy cartoon style like the Magic School Bus that I personally don’t enjoy much, but that kids seem to love. It’s better for reading independently than as a group read-aloud. ” – Michelle Colbert

peru-patternsPatterns in Peru: An Adventure in Patterning

by Cindy Neuschwander

Matt and Bibi unravel a pattern to discover a lost city

The Zills are visiting Peru to study the mysterious lost city of Quwi when Matt and Bibi stumble into an adventure.

With only each other, their faithful dog Riley, and an unusual ancient relic to guide them, the twins must use their understanding of patterns and sequences to locate the lost city–and the way back.

This companion to Mummy Math is a pattern-packed adventure in math that’s perfect for young readers.

peru-kids-climateKusikiy a Child from Taquile, Peru

by Mercedes Cecilia

KUSIKIY A CHILD FROM TAQUILE, PERU, by author and illustrator Mercedes Cecilia is a unique story of CLIMATE CHANGE. The author created an original myth that draws us into the kaleidoscopic a world of a Peruvian child. KUSIKIY lives in The Andes Mountains of Peru in a small island in Lake Titikaka. In the peaceful community of Taquile, Kusikiy’s father cultivates potatoes and Quinoa; his mother, like her mother and grandmother, weaves traditional designs into her textiles recording the important events.

Children easily identify with Kusikiy’s love for family and his concerns for the effects of climate changes on Mother Earth, as well as with his desire to be of help to his town.

This is a book that gives parents and educators a visual and appealing way to engage children in a dialogue about traditional cultures, the meaning of community, sustainability and caring for our environment.

peru-if-you-were-meIf You Were Me and Lived in…Peru: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World

by Carole P. Roman

You’ll never guess what crazy dish the ancient Incan kings ate. But you can read all about it, and more, in If You Were Me and Lived in…Peru, the latest book in Carole P. Roman’s fun travel series for kids.
An exciting introduction to world cultures written for young readers ages three through eight, this new expedition takes kids to South America and gives them a colorful glimpse into what living in Peru is like. Highlighting a myriad of topics, including language, cuisine, climate, and history, this book teaches kids about diversity while also revealing to them the important truth that we are all connected.

Parents, grandparents, and teachers alike will love opening their children’s eyes to the world around them in a fun and easy way—and they’ll be happily surprised when they end up learning a few things themselves. Fair warning, parents: your kids will want to start celebrating a new February holiday after reading this book. But don’t worry. You can always tell them you’re making a certain special, royal Inca dish for dinner.

Film Recommendations


Peru: The New King of Cocaine

The United Nations announced in 2013 that Peru has overtaken Colombia as the world’s top producer of coca, the raw plant material used to manufacture cocaine. For the past two decades, Colombia has been virtually synonymous with cocaine. Now that Peru has become the global epicenter of cocaine production, the Andean nation runs the risk of becoming the world’s next great narco state.

The Peruvian government is trying to crack down on the problem by ramping up eradication of coca plants, and devoting military and police resources to interdiction efforts. Despite the response — and a hefty amount of foreign aid devoted to combatting cocaine production — Peruvian coke is being consumed in the nightclubs of Lima and in cities around the world like never before.

The Inca Empire

The Inca Empire, also known as the Inka Empire or Incan Empire, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political, and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century, and the last Inca stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572.

From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean mountain ranges, including, besides Peru, large parts of modern Ecuador, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and central Chile, and a small part of southern Colombia into a state comparable to the historical empires of Eurasia. The official language of the empire was Quechua, although hundreds of local languages and dialects of Quechua were spoken. Many local forms of worship persisted in the empire, most of them concerning local sacred Huacas, but the Inca leadership encouraged the worship of Inti—their sun god—and imposed its sovereignty above other cults such as that of Pachamama. The Incas considered their king, the Sapa Inca, to be the “son of the sun

State of Fear: The Truth about Terrorism (Peru’s War on Terror 1980-2000

The fascinating story of Peru’s savage 20-year civil war and struggle against the psychotic Maoist guerilla movement ‘Sendero Luminoso’ (The Shining Path) under the demonically charismatic maoist fanatic Abimael Guzman, aka Chairman Gonzalo and how he nearly destroyed Peruvian society. For 13 years Guzman and his marauding band of maoist thugs waged a relentless war of indiscriminate terror against the civil population both in the countryside and the cities.

It shows how the war took Peru to the brink of collapse, and details systematic human rights abuses committed by the military and government forces. Just as he appeared to be on the verge of bringing about a collapse of Peruvian society, Guzman was dramatically captured by a special forces unit in Lima in 1992 and later tried and imprisoned and even turned informer, bringing about the sudden collapse and disintegration of his movement. The film shows rare footage of the police surveillance and home video footage of Guzman in his Lima apartment shortly before his capture. Theodore Dalrymple compared Sendero to the Khmer Rouge, also inspired by Mao: “The worst brutality I ever saw was that committed by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in Peru, in the days when it seemed possible that it might come to power. If it had, I think its massacres would have dwarfed those of the Khmer Rouge. As a doctor, I am accustomed to unpleasant sights, but nothing prepared me for what I saw in Ayacucho, where Sendero first developed under the sway of a professor of philosophy, Abimael Guzmán.”

Backed by media and big business, President Alberto Fujimori cyncially exploited the war and panic to assume authoritarian powers and used emergency anti-terror powers to eliminate and silence opposition long after the terrorist threat had passed. Film is a powerful reminder and warning of how terrorism can turn a nation in on itself and tears at the fabric of society turning neighbour against neighbour and how those who fight it become as brutal and ruthless as the terrorists and can destroy the democracy it claims to protect.

It also describes the aftermath and fall of Fujimori and subsequent efforts to bring about reconciliation and closure to a traumatised nation and his successors.

CHOLEANDO: Racism in Peru


The Lost Civilization of Peru BBC Horizon Documentary


A Toxic Legacy: Gold Mining in Peru

Earth Focus profiles the new film Amazon Gold that depicts the apocalyptic destruction of the rainforest in pursuit of illegally mined gold and the health impacts of mercury pollution, a by-product of gold mining. Amazon Gold reaffirms the importance of the rainforest as a repository of biological diversity and the global implications of its destruction.

People & Power – The New Shining Path

People&Power looks at the reinvention of the Maoist guerrilla group in Peru, and its links to the narcotics trade.

Secret Sterilisation – Peru

In Peru Andean women are speaking of a brutal Programme of forced sterilisation.

Amazon jungle documentary national geographic

The Amazon rainforest, also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, is a moist broadleaf forest that covers most of the Amazon Basin of South America. This basin encompasses 7,000,000 square kilometres (2,700,000 sq mi), of which 5,500,000 square kilometres (2,100,000 sq mi) are covered by the rainforest.

This region includes territory belonging to nine nations. The majority of the forest is contained within Brazil, with 60% of the rainforest, followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. States or departments in four nations contain “Amazonas” in their names. The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s remaining rainforests, and comprises the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species.

Mystery of the Nazca Documentary on Ancient Peru’s Nazca People and Lost City


Discovery Channel Build It Bigger Peru Dam


Documentary: “Memory Walkers”

The documentary “Memory Walkers” is a portrayal of distinct post-violence scenarios in Peru. Victims, perpetrators and other actors, in an environment that remains hostile, begin to address their responsibilities and the painful memories caused by the internal armed conflict.

The Truth About Ayahuasca

Happy Juice: Peru is home to a mind-bending drug named Ayahuasca that has attracted much attention. Said to transform lives and contain healing powers, this drug has been labelled as a magical potion.

MARINERA passion of Peru. Music Marinera dance

The marinera is a dance of pair of extraordinary beauty, that represents a universal subject: the courtship of love.

Caral Hidden Pyramids of Peru


Markawasi Marcahuasi Stone Forest Peru

“In the monuments of Markawasi we have a mirror to view our own soul. Essentially the stones and cliffs of Markawasi are like a huge Rorschach test. Among the forms that various people, including Ruzo and others, have identified at Markawasi are men and women of various races and nationalities, from native South American to Semitic to African; mostly these are facial profiles, but some of the figures consist of standing forms or reclining forms. Along with people are a diverse array of animals such as horses, camels, elephants, lions, frogs, seals, turtles, sphinxes, a hippopotamus, sea lions or seals, a crocodile, lizards, and many other forms.

The indigenous Andean peoples had a traditional concept of wakas (guacas, huacas), which can in an abstract sense refer to laws (as laws of nature) or knowledge, or could at times be personified as heroes and deities (similar, perhaps, to the Egyptian concept of neterw [also spelled neters] or divine principles) or as cult ancestors. Wakas, it was believed, could sometimes take the physical form of uniquely shaped rocks or other natural structures. This is exactly what we may behold in the simulacra of Markawasi. The perfection and abundance of the manifestations of the wakas would make this an
incredibly sacred place indeed.” Excerpted from: “Markawasi Peru’s Inexplicable Stone Forest” by Kathy Doore

Uros – Peru

The Uros people inhabit 56 man-made islands floating on Lake Titicaca, made from the Totora reeds that grow there. The only community of its type to exist into modernity, this documentary presents a unique insight into a vanishing, pre-incan world.

Peru Blood and Oil Amazon Multinational Corp. Exploitation of People and Planet Social Justice

Unreported World travels deep into the Peruvian jungle to investigate how the government’s auctioning off vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest to global corporations has led to violent clashes with thousands of indigenous tribal people.

Ayahuasca Tribe Documentary | National Geographic


When Two Worlds Collide Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Documentary

This documentary one first prize at the Madrid Film festival in 2016.

The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau – The Legend of Lake Titicaca


Girl Rising | Peru

Meet Senna, Girl Rising’s fearless champion from Peru. Now you can see her chapter of the film plus exciting new footage from Senna’s life today and a behind-the-scenes chat with renowned writer Marie Arana. Find out more at and

Article Recommendations

Peru’s Dirty Gold – Al Jazeera

Who First Farmed Potatoes? Archaeologists in Andes Find Evidence – NY Times

Leaked Map Reveals Chronic Mercury Epidemic in Peru – The Guardian

The Shining Path – Peru Reports

The Country That Cracked its Stunting Crisis – The Guardian

Cloud Catchers in Peru – BBC

Scientists Investigate Death of 10,000 Endangered ‘Scrotum’ Frogs in Peru – The Guardian

Lake Titicaca Study Sheds New Light On Global Climate Change – Science Daily

Forced Sterilisation Haunts Peruvian Women Decades On – BBC

The Day Peruvian Women Rebelled – NY Times

Illegal Mines and Local Mafia Take Shine off Latin American Gold – The Guardian

People Have Been Dyeing Fabric Indigo Blue for 6,000 Years – NY Times

In Latin America, People Disappear but Crimes Remain – Al Jazeera

Capture of Ambimael Guzman – BBC

Pulling the Wool Over Peruvian Shepherds’ Eyes – Al Jazeera

Thousands of Turtles Released Into the Wild in Peru – BBC

Another Year, Another Major Oil Spill in Peru – Al Jazeera

Gender and Perú’s Shining Path – Jordan Payne

Working Toward Gender Equality in Peru– AS / COA

First Pictures of Last-Uncontacted Amazon Tribe – The Telegraph

Pre-Hispanic Mummies From 1,000 AD Discovered in Peru – The Telegraph

Oil Spills Stain Peruvian Amazon – Scientific American

Meet the Man Helping Peru’s Foreign Drug Mules Get Home – Vice News

Project Options:


Peruvian History

From pre-historic Incan times, to the modern day Peru’s history is strewn with adventure stories and magic. One of the only countries left in the world where there are still un-contacted tribes, living much as their pre-Columbian ancestors did, Peru’s present offers a rare glimpse into the past.

Choose one or two aspects or characters of Peruvian history to study in depth:

  • Pre-Columbian tribal life (choose one tribe, there were more than the Inca in Peru!)
  • The building of the ancient cities, including Machu Picchu
  • Mummification in pre-Columbian Peru
  • Textiles, pottery & crafts work in pre-Columbian Peru
  • The Nazca Lines
  • Arrival of the Spanish & European colonization
  • Francisco Pizzaro
  • Incan Civil War
  • Founding of Lima
  • Precious metals mining in colonial Peru
  • Peruvian civil wars
  • Communism vs. Democracy in Peru
  • Insurgent groups and guerrilla warfare
  • The Shining Path


Study the arrival of Pizzaro and the conquistadors. What was Spain’s motivation for colonizing Peru? What was Pizarro’s background? What were the first interactions with the native populations like? What were the experiences of the conquistadors? What were the experiences of the Inca and other native groups? Explain the process of Spanish colonization, the introduction of European lifestyle and values as well as the establishment of the colonial regime in Peru. Look for some of the personal narratives to tell that lie below the surface.

Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon rainforest makes up over 60% of the land area of Peru and only Brazil is home to a larger portion of the forest than Peru. It is estimated that five percent of the population of Peru lives in the Amazon. The biodiversity of this region is incredible. Scientists believe that over 60% of all mammal species and over 40% of all of the bird species in the world live here. That’s pretty amazing.

If you’re going to Peru, spend some time in the rainforest. Do your best to get “off the grid” and spend some time with an ecologist and guide in the Amazon.

Before you go, study the region. What are the things that make this region so remarkable? Why is the Amazon so important to the planet and to humanity? Historically, who populated this region? Who populates it now? What is the political situation in Peru surrounding the land in the Amazon? Examine the bio-diversity, learn about some of the amazing creatures and plants that live here. Tell some of the human stories that have been documented, regarding uncontacted tribes, indigenous narrative, and the conflict between worlds.

While you are in the Amazon make it a point to listen, learn, and document.

Peruvian Mysticism

There are a number of mystical traditions in Peru. Some authentic, some marketed, largely to tourists. Mysticism in Peru is a growing economic opportunity as well as a deeply rooted tradition. So some research up front on the indigenous mystical traditions in Peru. Seek to peel back the layers and get to the deeper, more original understanding. Examine oral tradition and how this form of history keeping remains significant in many of the Peruvian people groups. Look for similarities between Peruvian mysticisms an others you’ve encountered or learned about from around the world. Compare and contrast these.

Or, peel back a layer on the shaman industry and expose some of the charlatans in the “business.” What motivates these people to manipulate ancient tradition in a disingenuous way? Or do you think they get a bad rap? Choose a path and tell, either some success stories, or some horror stories surrounding mystical tourism.


Agriculture is a major industry in Peru. The potato finds its roots in Peru and there are over 3000 varieties of potato grown within the country. Also, cotton, sugar cane, coffee, quinoa, logging, wool production, corn of many varieties, coca, and asparagus are important crops.

Choose an agricultural sector and learn more about the nuances of production, worldwide consumption and Peru’s role in the market. Examine production methods, ecological impact, the human factor (working conditions, wages and community life), and the historical significance of this crop. Try to visit a farm or production center and talk to farmers and agricultural workers first hand. Making meaningful connections with our food sources and the supply chain is one way to take responsibility for our consumption habits on a global scale.

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines are one of many of the great mysteries in Peru. The official name for these lines is geoglyphs, which basically means rock pictures. Except that they weren’t built by building up rocks to create the designs, they were built by removing rocks to expose the lighter colored rocks and earth below. Because of the climate in the area, they’ve been well preserved. You can see some of them from high points in the region, but the best view is from the air.

Read, or watch some documentaries, about the Nazca lines. Who were the Nazca? What is the prevailing theory about the lines and the people who build them? What do archaeologists believe the lines were for, or about? Also learn a bit about some of the alternative theories of these lines. Which makes more sense to you? Why?

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and one of the highest altitude in the world. It’s located on the border of Peru and Bolivia and is interesting for several reasons. The architecture, culture and history of the region are unique. Visit and study some of the following:

What makes Lake Titicaca special? How are the reed islands constructed and maintained? Why to the people still live on them? How are the reed boats constructed and maintained? Where did this unique form of construction originate? Is there anywhere else in the world where this style of reed construction exists? What were Thor Heirdahl’s theories on this lake, the people, and how did they inform his expeditions and the subsequent theories on how the South American continent may have come to have been populated?

Profiles of …..

Conduct a series of at least five interviews within a country. The point of the exercise would be to get a well rounded view of what it is like to live in the France from a variety of ages, incomes, employments and experiences. This could be conducted as video, or as text. Do an in depth analysis of the experience/information.

People you might profile:

  • Farmers
  • Teachers
  • Restaurant owners/workers
  • Clergy or Nuns
  • Government officials
  • Doctors or nurses
  • Cafe owners
  • Street vendors
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Drivers
  • Artists or musicians
  • Laborers
  • Cab drivers
  • Long term expats

Problems & Solutions


Shining Path

The Shining Path is the popular name for the Peruvian Communist Party. Branded as a terrorist organization by the US, European Union, and Canada. This organization continues to struggle towards the overthrow of the government and the establishment of pure communism in the country and eventually the world. Recently, their longtime leader was captured.

Who are the Shining Path? Where did they come from? What are their stated goals? What are their methods for achieving these goals? Describe their fight and the results of the conflict thus far? Have they accomplished any of their goals? What has been the human cost thus far? What has been the reaction and action of the Peruvian government? What is public opinion about the group and their goals and methods? Compare and contrast the Shining Path to other communist insurgency groups (both past and present). (Hint: Cambodia, Nepal, Vietnam.) Do you think the label of “terrorist group” is justified?


Mining is a major industry in Peru. We hear a lot about the illegal gold mines in Peru, the destruction of the rainforest, and the human cost of these operations. But there are other resources being pulled out of the ground in Peru and these are significant contributors to the GDP of the nation.

Examine the mining industry, in general, in Peru. What is being mined? Where is it being mined? What are these resources used for, locally and globally? What is the ecological cost? Are there industries that are more, or less damaging in their practices? Are there any mining success stories that can be pointed to? Which products are we using that are directly linked to Peru’s mining industries.

Or, take a look, specifically at one mining industry and examine the cultural, ecological, economic, political, and industrial impact. Of particular interest in the news in recent years is the illegal gold mining in the Amazon. Are there major differences between illegal and legal mining? If so, what are they? Tell the human story in depth, by interviewing or researching the lives and experiences of individuals. How is the Peruvian government working to crack down on illegal mining?

Rainforest Decline

You’ve probably heard the Amazon referred to as the “lungs of the planet.” There is good reason for this! Peru is home to the second largest section of the Amazon rainforest (only Brazil has more.) There is grave concern in the scientific community and worldwide about the decline and destruction of the rainforest. Take some time to examine the following:

What has been the human impact on the rainforest, historically, and within the last century? What are the important resources that we all rely on that are linked to the rainforest? In what ways is the rainforest measureably declining? How is climate change affecting the rainforest? How is the Peruvian government protecting (or not) the Amazon? Are there local, or grassroots, initiatives underway to reverse the damage or conserve what is left? What are the current major threats to the Amazon in Peru? Are there ways that the average person can help?

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a major problem in Peru. One of the biggest offenders is the illegal mining trade. Young girls are brought in from the highlands, promised domestic jobs, and instead forced into prostitution. Learn about human trafficking in Peru. Which are the most vulnerable populations? Which industries are supporting the trade? What is the government response and action towards this problem? Are there local, or grassroots initiatives that are working to free individuals? Tell some success stories? What work most needs to be done in order to prevent and reverse trafficking at the community and individual levels?

Cultural Assignment Options



Peru has an interesting food heritage. It is one of the places where corn was slowly bred from it’s ancient form into something resembling the modern grain and there are dozens of strains still grown in Peru, there’s even a drink made of purple corn. Quinoa originates here and has been a staple for Peruvians for generations. Cuy is a staple meat, guinea pig, farmed in most rural homes. Alpaca is raised for pack animal, wool, and the dinner table as well.

Eat bravely in Peru. Try the things you haven’t seen before and try the meats that seem strange to you. Why not collect some recipes or try making some when you get home.

Meaningful Connections

What is a meaningful interaction? You get to decide that. In general, it should be an interaction in which cultural exchange took place and you learned something. Often this will be with a local person; sometimes it will be with another traveler.

Sometimes these interactions look like very little on the outside but are totally life changing on the inside. Other times, they are rock your world amazing from every angle. It could be a meal shared, an afternoon’s excursion, a discussion that opens your eyes in some way, a self revelation that happened without any words exchanged at all.

Spend a day with a local individual or family. Document your experience in photos, interviews and the written word. The best way to interact with locals is to just start chatting with them at markets, on tours or on the street. You can also ask other travelers if they have met anyone who has offered some insight into life in the country. If you are a family who have children attending a local school then have a party, invite a parent to coffee, basically just open up your home to new relationships.

Take a Class

There are many options! Don’t be limited by this list:

  • Cooking (definitely consider taking a cooking class in France!)
  • Language
  • Art or Crafts
  • Literature
  • Yoga
  • Dance (Marinera?)
  • Music
  • Weaving

Museum Visits

There are a number of museums in Peru that are worth a visit. There are also archeological sites that beg to be visited. Everyone has heard of Machu Picchu, but it’s only the most famous of many. Be sure to attend as many as possible. The more of Peru’s history you experience first hand, the more modern Peru with grow in depth.

Museum resources in Peru:

Save your ticket stubs!


Volunteering is a great way to get to know a local community and give back a bit to the places that you choose to travel. There are lots of ways to do this, both organized and arranged privately, as well as impromptu opportunities that will pop up.

If you’re looking for a list of volunteer opportunities in Peru, Transitions Abroad has one. Please be advised that TAP is not recommending these, only presenting them as a list of possibilities. Vet your volunteer options carefully.

Live local

Get out of the hostel, rent a place in a local village, or do a homestay. Through websites like Airbnb it’s easy to find places to live locally.

Photo essay or a blog description of why living local was different than living in a hostel. How did this experience change the economics of your stay? What did you learn about the way locals live? What challenged you? What would you do differently next time?

Work Stay

Through an organization like WWOOF, HelpX, or Workaway you can arrange for an opportunity to work in exchange for your room and board in a number of capacities, from farm labour to hospitality. Lots of students make use of these experiences to lower the cost of their travels, while at the same time learning valuable skills or “trying out” various career areas that interest them.

Request feedback in the form of a short evaluation that can be used later for a CV or reference

Public Transportation Project

Take as many types of public transportation as possible.

Challenge yourself to take every type of public transportation available while you are in Peru. Create a photo essay or videologue of your adventures. What did you learn?

Attend a Religious Observance

Peru is home to many religious traditions, many of them grown from indigenous roots. Shamanism is still practiced widely. Ayuhuasca is used to open spiritual awareness by shamans in the Amazon. The Q’ero are keepers of a knowledge that the rest of the world has lost and are deep mystics.

With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors came Catholic missionaries. Catholic cathedrals and basilicas grace the square of almost every village, no matter how small. There are also smatterings of protestantism, and many missionary churches still being “planted” throughout the country. Take some time to attend various religious observances and see what you can learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. How does the religious climate in Peru compare with what you grew up with?


How to Create Your Own Course Work



Learn to ask for what you want. If you meet someone interesting, ask them to teach you. Ask them for an interview. Ask to shadow them for a day or a week. You’ll be surprised at how eager people are to share what they know and teach when someone shows actual interest. Learn to ask questions. Learn to take social risks by putting yourself out there as a learner.


You have an idea or an interest. Something surprises you on your journey and all of a sudden you have a burning desire to know more. Plan your attack:

  • Narrow your field of study to a particular question or topic.
  • Compile resources: Look for teachers. Who knows what you need to know? Or who can you interview to learn more? Are there books or videos on the topic you’re interested in?
  • Quantify it. How will you demonstrate what you have learned? A research paper, a video project, a photo essay, through art or music, a blog post, a published piece, an interview series, a mini documentary or do you have some other idea?


Produce a quality piece of academic work that reflects your experiential learning. The whole key to quantifying outside the box learning is to translate it into something that reflects the value of what you learned and how it contributed to your overall educational process.

Perhaps this will be as simple as a traditional research paper, depending on the depth and length of your study this could be as short as three pages or as long as a dissertation. Maybe you’ll produce a video for YouTube, or something grander, like a mini-documentary. Perhaps you’ll do something concrete instead, an art, or community action project and you’ll tell the story through a photo essay, or a series of blog posts. The possibilities are limited only by the resources you have at hand. Get creative. Think outside the box and truly experience your education.


Check Out Some Gap Years Real Students Took to Peru

For more Gap Year inspiration check out our partners, No Crap Gap Guides.

Do You Have Anything to Add to This Resource Page?

We’re actively seeking to grow these resources in an open-source spirit. Please email jenn(at)bootsnall(dot)com with your edits or submissions of new information or materials.

Thank you!