Footsteps of the Incas: A Virtual Tour of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador (55+)

Join us for a virtual voyage of discovery focusing on Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. You will learn about ways of life in the central Andes—the art and architecture, the long history and the magnificent cultural heritage inherited from past generations. You’ll discover the immense variety each country presents, from Indigenous markets in the Sierras to marvels of nature in the Galapagos, from pre-Hispanic traditions to Catholic festivities.

Each week will include a multi-image presentation and a discussion of geography, history and the syncretic nature of religion in the Andes. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the region’s subtleties, especially valuable if you plan on travelling there.

Note: Back by popular demand, from fall 2017.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:

  • Describe your visual impression of points of interest within the countries covered
  • Give examples of the intangible heritage and cultures of the countries covered
  • Describe several cities, UNESCO World Heritage sites and natural landscapes of these countries
  • Challenge stereotypes commonly held about these countries
  • Give examples of insights useful to travellers to these countries

Learning methods

You will learn through lecture with time for questions and answers (may vary from class to class). For Liberal Arts Certificate for 55+ students: you will write a reflective essay.


Weeks 1 & 2 Peru

Peru is often visualized as a mountainous place, many visitors remaining unaware of the splendour of the country's immense desert coastline and its vast tracts of tropical rainforest. A fantastic land of gold, Peru was 16th-century Europe's major source of treasure, and once the home of some of the world’s oldest civilizations, including the Inca Empire. We explore Peru’s capital, Lima, the beautiful colonial city of Arequipa, see condors in the Colca Canyon. Then we head to Lake Titicaca, Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and partake in the traditional Corpus Christi celebrations in Cusco. Discover the less-visited sites of Northern Peru's many ancient civilisations. The Moche, Lambayeque and Chimu cultures achieved great sophistication and skill in ceramics, agriculture, architecture, metallurgy and warfare. Discover Chiclayo, Cajamarca and the lovely colonial city of Trujillo. Explore the amazing archaeological finds of Sipan, the imposing Kuelap Fortress of Chachapoyas and Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the world.

Weeks 3 & 4 Bolivia

Stretching from the majestic icebound peaks and bleak high-altitude deserts of the Andes to the exuberant rainforests and vast savannas of the Amazon basin, Bolivia embraces an astonishing range of landscapes and climates. While three centuries of Spanish colonial rule have left their mark on Bolivia's language, religion and architecture, this European influence is essentially no more than a thin veneer overlying indigenous cultural traditions that stretch back to long before the conquest. Owing to its remoteness, Bolivia remains one of South America's least-visited countries despite its myriad attractions.

Weeks 5 & 6 Ecuador

Our journey starts in Ecuador's capital, Quito, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. In the Sierras, we visit Otavalo with its enormous Saturday market, some historic haciendas and Cotopaxi National Park. In the southern sierra lies the captivating colonial city of Cuenca, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its stunning architecture and nearby Ingapirca, the country's only major Inca ruins. We marvel at an amazing journey by train from Quito to the port city of Guayaquil. We also explore Yasuní, a protected area in the heart of the Amazon rainforest that boasts an impressive biodiversity. Time permitting, we also explore the legendary Galapagos Islands. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galapagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species.

Books, materials and resources

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

Academic integrity and student conduct

You are expected to comply with Simon Fraser University’s Academic Integrity and Student Conduct Policies. Please click here for more details. Simon Fraser University is committed to creating a scholarly community characterized by honesty, civility, diversity, free inquiry, mutual respect, individual safety, and freedom from harassment and discrimination.

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