Peru Cultural Immersion College Credit Program

This program is designed for intact university and college groups from a single department. Please contact us for a detailed syllabus and information on college credit. If you are a professor and interested in bringing a group of your students to Peru with Mountain Spirit Institute please contact MSI's Executive Director Randy Richards .

Our program includes six components:

  • Daily activities
  • Service Projects
  • Group Expeditions
  • Solo Experiences

Daily Activities

These activities are a sample of what is available during your stay at Ollantaytambo. Each participant will have an opportunity to work at of the local shops or projects and participate in the different activities throughout their stay in Ollantaytambo:

  • Basketry: For generations the Carbajal family has been weaving "pispita" stem baskets. Students will be able to visit the Carbajal family and learn how to make baskets.
  • Blacksmith Shop: Students interested in metal work are welcome to work on a project of their liking.
  • Bread Oven: The firewood bread ovens in Ollantaytambo provide bread for the entire population of Ollantaytambo. Students can learn how to make bread with the local bread masters.
  • Ceramics: The museum ceramics school welcomes anybody interested. Lucho Soler, the schoolteacher and artist has been working in Ollantaytambo using pre-Columbian Andean techniques.
  • Participants may also visit the local high school. Urubamba Market. Shopping for weekly supplies is done at the Urubamba farmer’s produce and meat market. Students on separate occasions will take the local bus to Urubamba and do weekly shopping at the market for the items on the shopping list.
  • Art and Journaling. Drawing, painting and journaling what one sees is a vital element of experiential learning, One can be coached and practice on the basics of Pen and Ink, watercolor and possibly oils or other mediums, and will also have time to reflect in your journal.

Quechua and Spanish language Learning. Conversational language learning in the cultural immersion tradition, allows the participant to learn by doing, not by translating. You will learn the language with locals to acquire a better understanding of your Peruvian surroundings.

Service Projects and Town Work

  • Adobe making, house roofing and field work. River and Inca Path Cleanup and a Tree Planting Campaign are two service programs in the area.
  • Ollantaytambo has a number of local organizations (listed below) that could use a hand in different aspects of their work. Individuals may take time to talk to the leaders of these organizations and see how they can contribute to their work.
  • CATCCO Museum: This is a locally run cultural organization. Aside from managing the local museum and information center, it runs a number of community outreach programs.
  • TROTUH (The Restaurant of the Universal Heart): This is a food shelter for out of town kids who walk for between 1 and 3 hours in order to get to school.
  • ECOAN: works in the communities surrounding Ollantaytambo whose main objective
    is to protect the endangered native Polilepis "Qeuña" forests.
  • Inca Porter Project: This organization, which is just getting started in Ollantaytambo, is working to help porters who work on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu
    improve their working conditions, by helping them negotiate with travel agencies in the area and offering them training in basic skills, especially English.

Group Expedition/Visiting Important Historical Sites
Trek Along a Portion of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Three- to four-day expeditions are part of our program. You will be hiking at high altitude in the backcountry, along remote parts of the countryside that most tourists rarely see. As a team, participants will plan the itinerary, purchase the food, cooking fuel, other supplies needed, set up tents, and work together to ensure the expedition’s success.

We will also visit many of the amazing important ruins in the area. Inca Trail section: Participants will disembark the Machu Picchu train at Kilometer Marker 104 and hike, with both an MSI and local guide, on a branch of the Inca Trail to the formidable complex of Winaywayna. This links up with the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The rest of the day will be devoted to visiting the famed and stunning ruins of Machu Picchu.

Quechua - Indigenous Elders Speak
You will learn village Elders’ perspectives of their place in the world and how Inca and Quechua culture relate to the Pacha Mama or Earth Mother, and may, if you wish, participate in ceremony and prayer honoring the Pacha Mama and Mountain Spirits or Apus in the area

Solo Experiences
A 24-hour solo will be part of the expedition, depending on location and conditions. It’s a time to rest on your own in a beautiful mountain location, to reflect on what the program has meant to you and to start thinking about how you will transfer what you have learned back to your life in the US.

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Dexter R. Richards

'Randy' Richards has guided and taught individuals, clients, and participants throughout South America, the European Alps and the Western US since 1981. He has been a senior guide for Alpine Ascents International on Aconcagua, Argentina and four of Ecuador’s major volcanoes, and expedition co-leader on Mt. Huascaran, Peru, as well as a respected instructor on Mt. more.

Wendy Weeks

Wendy Weeks an American operates the El Alberque Hostel in Ollantaytambo where she has lived for over 20 years. She is an artist and shows in Cusco, Lima and the US. She was born in Seattle Washington in 1949. After studying Fine Arts, at Pitzer College, Claremont California, she moved to San Francisco, where she met her future husband Robert Randall. Together they traveled through Latin America. Having traveled from Mexico to the tip of South America, they returned to Machu Picchu, and settled not far from there in Ollantaytambo. Robert, a writer, and Wendy a painter, set up this small but beautiful hostel complete with courtyard . Soon after, they started the Interalp Andean Studies Program which has a great track record for delivering quality, in depth and safe programs in conjunction with people of the local villages.

Joaquín Randall

Joaquín Randall, born in Ollantaytambo to Robert Randall and Wendy Weeks lived in Ollantaytambo until the age of 16 when he finished his studies at the Urubamba public High School. Following in his parent’s footpaths he traveled; first in the US and later in Europe and an extended period in east and southern Africa. Having returned from Africa he studied at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. He now lives in Ollantaytambo where he is the director of the town museum and is active in community affairs.

Robert Stremba

Robert Stremba is Vice President of Mountain Spirit Institute, and Coordinator and Professor of Adventure Education at Fort Lewis College, more.

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Mountain Spirit suggests that you purchase a few guide books from our reading list, brush up on your languages, and start studying! Please contact us for our reading list. Visit for details.


Your MSI staff on this expedition includes Randy Richards, an Emergency Medical Technician, to take care of you while you're with us. Before you leave, however, The Center for Disease Control CDC recommends the following vaccines; see your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for immunizations to take effect.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
  • Hepatitis B, if you might be exposed to blood (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, stay >6 months in the region, or be exposed through medical treatment.
  • Yellow fever vaccination, if you will be traveling outside urban areas.
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles.
  • Anti-malarial drugs are not necessary for this trip (per MSI).

For more information on CDC recommendations, please visit their web site.

Our Peru expedition will include hiking and camping at high altitudes; for this reason, you should be healthy and fit enough to endure the hiking/camping portions of our program.

Supplies and Belongings

Come prepared with an open mind, bring a journal, and if you like to draw or watercolor, this is the program for you. Wendy Weeks, your host at El Alberque, is an accomplished painter. As a result, oils, watercolor as well as other mediums could be as important as your camera, so bring some art materials.

There are people who have traveled for ten years in Peru and never had anything stolen. There are others who have traveled for one month and have had things taken from them ten times. One can very easily take precautions. We recommend reading Lonely Planet’s instructions about traveling safely.

You can purchase most everything in Cusco that you'll need (shampoo, razors, socks and t-shirts, etc.), so you may want to buy some of these items there. Certainly, traveling light on the plane and buying a sweater in Cusco is a good way to go. However Gore-tex or similar rainwear is better purchased in the US. Consider also purchasing a large colorful Peruvian duffle bag once you are there for taking gifts back to the US.

In short, pack for hiking and camping, as well as relaxing. For suggestions on what to bring along with you, please contact us and we'll be happy to help.


We ask that you study the language before you go. A bit of effort to speak the language goes a long, long way with the local people. We can’t emphasize this enough. Knowing some basic Spanish and a few Quechua words will do more than anything else to put you in closer touch with the people of Peru. Learning the basics is easier than you might expect. Start with Spanish tapes or a fun picture book with removable stickers of Spanish words (which one can put on light switches, night tables, and toothbrush).

Randy speaks fluent Spanish and basic phrases in Quechua. The other staff speaks fluent Spanish, as well as Quechua and English. Some shop owners may speak a little English. If you find yourself in a bind, you probably won’t have a long wait before someone comes to your rescue. However, our expectation is that you will have learned some basic Spanish prior to our expedition, as a courtesy to your hosts.

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Taking it slowly the first few days to allow time for your body to acclimate is the most important rule for adjusting to altitude. By the time we embark on any significant hiking or climbing, you will be fairly well adjusted to the altitude. Your guides and facilitators will use the old program of 'climbing high and sleeping low' to properly acclimate. Cusco is at 3362 Meters (about 9500 ft.) and higher than Machu Picchu, so one should plan on taking it a bit easy the first day.

Money, Credit Cards and Debit Cards

Cash advances and debit machines are easily accessed in Cusco and Lima, however we have found that VISA is much more widely used than Mastercard. Have a backup card carried in a separate place. Transfers from Savings to your checking is also possible in some locations but not all. Traveler’s checks may be cashed at some locations.


  • PHONE: having a calling card will be useful or better yet, you can purchase a Peruvian calling card and use it for calling the US.
  • EMAIL: This is the best way to go. There are public computer booths/stalls where you can log onto the web for approx. $.50/hour. Having a web-based email such as Yahoo! or Hotmail is free, so you only pay the hourly rate. It can save a bundle on phone calls.
  • MAIL: Peruvian stamps aren’t the cheapest but are works for art. Regular mail’s reliability has improved somewhat, especially for letters, which take about 2-3.5 weeks in delivery time. Mailing valuables, and any packages for that matter, is not recommended.
  • FAX: easily available, but more expensive than email, in many shops in town.
  • SKYPE INTERNET CALLING: Web-based program available at all internet booths that allows free high quality intenational calling and video calling to and from Internet café computers. Simply create your own account and open it on any computer to start calling other Skype users or regular telephones for about .02 cents per minute

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20-day Peru Expedition is $2800.00

International and in-Peru air travel is not included.
(US and in-Peru air costs are estimated at Estimate$630.00, based on rates provided 1/25/05 for roundtrip airfare for BOS/LIMA/BOS and LIMA/CUSCO/LIMA).
This sum is included as courtesy but will vary.


  • Ground Transportation
  • Three Daily Meals*
  • Hotel Accommodations in Cusco
  • Accommodations and Services at the El Albergue Hostel in Ollantaytambo
  • Camping Expenses
  • Activities and Workshops
  • Entrance Fees for Ruins and Museums
  • Roundtrip Train to Machu Picchu from El Albergue
  • Km 104 Inca Train and Machu Picchu Expedition with Professional Guides
  • Hotel Accommodations in Machu Picchu
  • Co-Leader Fees and Administrative Costs

*NOT included are five meals in Cusco and towns (with an average cost of $3-4 per meal), which allow participants freedom to explore a number of restaurants on their own.


  • International and In-country air transportation
  • Compensation for consequences of flight delays or Acts of God
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Snacks and sodas or any alcohol
  • Donations to community project that the group or individuals might want to support
  • Immunizations, medical costs or health insurance, (which includes an international medical evacuation)
  • Peru airport taxes ($35.00-$38.00 total)

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College credit is available through Fort Lewis College, Durango Colorado. Three Credits will be awarded through FLC and arrangements must be made during the application process. Please contact the MSI office for a syllabus and how to proceed.

Mountain Spirit Institute’s main program staff, Randy Richards, has been guiding in the Alps, America’s western mountains and the Andes for 25 years and Mountain Spirit Institute has been operating programs for five years.

Mountain Spirit Institute is a fully insured and federally recognized 510 (c) 3 Non-Profit Educational Organization.To receive information on optional college credit please contact us.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Top and Bottom Image by Joaquin Randall.