What’s the the perfect holiday for food and wine lovers?
For me, the delicious cuisine alone is enough of a reason to visit (and in my case keep going back to) Latin America. But luckily many of the areas with the best food and drink also have more than their fair share of the continent’s top sights and attractions; in particular Peru and Argentina have enormous appeal on both counts, so my ideal gastronomic holiday would have to combine the two.
I would begin in my favourite city, Buenos Aires. Of course, Argentina's cosmopolitan capital is famous for its steak (which will certainly live up to all your expectations!) but that's only one of the culinary treats in store for you here: the Italian-influenced cuisine, delicious pasty-like empanadas and full-bodied Malbec red wine are all must-trys. Take a look at our 48-hour guide to Buenos Aires for my favourite restaurant recommendations.
After three nights, it's time to drag yourself away from the sophisticated and seductive capital and retreat to the Mendoza countryside, where you can recharge your batteries at a blissfully relaxing wine lodge. Argentina's vineyards produce some exceptional and very good-value wines, and the luxurious hotels that can now frequently be found on such wine estates are just the place for a secluded and indulgent retreat. Learn about the winemaking process on a bodega tour, and enjoy restaurants with awe-inspiring Andean views where the food is often just as good as the fabulous wine.
To get from Argentina to Peru, I would take advantage of a convenient new direct flight that takes you from Iguazú Falls all the way to the Peruvian capital. Iguazú Falls may not be a foodie destination, but it would almost be a crime to come to Argentina and not visit this most spectacular of waterfalls. Plus, staying on the Brazilian side would give you the chance to get a taste of one more regional cuisine – once you've worked up an appetite exploring the panoramic trails of the national park, head to a rodizio restaurant (where they serve every cut of meat to your table until you throw in the towel!) to sample the archetypal Brazilian fare. But don't completely ruin your appetite, because for your next stop you'll be arriving in the biggest foodie mecca in all Latin America...
Lima is celebrated for its innovative and amazingly varied gastronomy, so drop the sightseeing plans and concentrate on cramming as many meals as possible into your two nights here! Peruvian food is a unique product of Peru's extreme geography and diverse cultural influences, all the way from Inca to Asian. To find the very best places to try it, a good place to start is our gastronome's guide by Peruvian restaurateur Martin Morales. But make sure you aren't so distracted by the food that you forget to try the delicious national cocktail - the pisco sour.
Next, on to the ancient Inca capital Cusco for living history, vibrant culture and, of course, more unforgettable Peruvian food. You'll find some great recommendations in my colleague's blog post, Eating Between the Lines. Take plenty of time to explore this extremely beautiful and atmospheric city, as well as taking in the historical sights and Andean scenery of the surrounding Sacred Valley of the Incas, before the icing on the cake: a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the lost Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. Finally it's back to Lima for one last night of fine dining before heading home, with a heavy heart and full belly!