Peru - BIO210 Cusco track

Program Description

Operation Groundswell’s Healthcare in the Andes program examines healthcare from multiple perspectives offering insight into the contrasts between the Canadian and Peruvian health care systems as well as western and traditional Andean approaches to health and wellness. From the hustle and bustle of Lima to the cobblestone streets of the former Incan capital of Cusco and remote corners of the surrounding Sacred Valley, we’ll trace Peru’s long history of traditional medicine to their more recent transition to “modern” healthcare while exploring Andean ways of life old and new. We’ll visit local clinics, dig into sustainable agricultural, taste highland cuisine, interact with plant-based medicine, and examine holistic approaches to healthcare. We’ll work on innovative community initiatives and learn alongside local practitioners.

The immersive classroom will challenge students physically while pushing them to think critically about healthcare and service delivery in a unique cultural landscape.

Sample Itinerary


Accommodation: Pisac Hostel – Shared Dormitories
Transportation: Private bus
Meals: Local restaurants

Just a short drive from Cusco in the shadow of an Incan fortress, Pisac is a great spot to stop and acclimatize to the highlands. So, we’ll settle in, sip some Coca tea, and learn about holistic medicine. We’ll explore the artisanal market, take a yoga class, and see where Andean culture and new age tourism collide in the Sacred in the Valley. 


Accommodation: Kausay Punku – Shared bungalows
Transportation: Public bus
Meals: Home cooked

Our journey will take us to a family farm in the remote village of Maska, about an hour and a half outside of Cusco. The project, known as Kausay Punku, serves as a conservatory for ancient grains and seeds, a school of traditional organic agricultural practices, and a place of practice for traditional Andean medicine. There, we’ll learn about herbal and homeopathic medicine, natural construction, and traditional farming. Our days will be spent getting our hands dirty harvesting eucalyptus, building with adobe and distilling medicinal plants into essential oils. Evenings will be full of traditional cuisine from the sierra and local stories of the Inca.

Paru Paru

Accommodation: Guest House – Shared Dormitories
Transportation: Private bus, walking
Meals: Local restaurants

We’ll also venture off the beaten path to sites rarely seen by tourists, including pre-Incan wall paintings and secret lakes hidden high up in the mountains! We will be guided by our partners at Kausay Punku and our friend Silvestre, who will share with us the history of the region and the stories passed down from their ancestors. Along the way, we’ll spend a night in the town of Paru. This indigenous community sustains itself on potato’s, corn and quinoa so, we’ll enjoy a delicious traditional dinner and cozy up in this unique corner of the Andes.


Accommodation: Apu Wasi (or equivalent) – Shared Dormitories
Transportation: Private bus
Meals: Home cooked

In the capital of a once mighty empire, we’ll wander the cobblestone streets and learn about the Cusco’s colonial, Incan and pre-Incan past. Then it’s back to our exploration of healthcare in the unique context of the Sacred Valley where identity, geography and inequality pose their own unique challenges. So, after a cup of coca tea and a little acclimatization, we’ll visit Peru’s National University of Saint Anthony, visit a local clinic, and talk with innovative practitioners, NGO workers and community members. We’ll taste traditional Andean food and learn hands-on about the health benefits of native grains and home-made energy bars. Still got room for dessert? Take a chocolate-making workshop and taste the healing powers of cacao.


Accommodation: Mira Flores Hostel (or equivalent) – Shared Dormitories
Transportation: Private shuttle, Taxi
Meals: Local restaurants

After arriving at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, we’ll migrate to the posh suburb of Mira Flores where we’ll get settled and orient ourselves to the sights, sounds, and smells of Peru’s big bustling capital. We’ll learn a little of local lingo, sample some traditional cuisine and then take a not so typical tour of the city, its history and its many personalities.
The next day after a hearty breakfast, we’ll peak into the Peru’s healthcare system by visiting a large hospital and meeting with healthcare professionals and NGO workers who can help us examine the differences between private and public healthcare. We’ll discuss access, some its social determinants and how it all compares to our system back in Canada.