Eating Between the Lines: Peru
We have lots of exciting and enticing holiday ideas on our website, but these naturally can only convey a small flavour of the experience of being in a country as exotic, colourful and full of new sights, sounds and sensations as Peru – a country very close to my heart. Using our classic Highlights of Peru holiday as a starting point, I'd like to fill in just a few of those gaps to bring one aspect of the holiday experience to life: what else but the fabulous cuisine!
Being married to a Peruvian, I have had the fortune to visit Peru several times, but whenever I return one of the things that never fails to get me incredibly excited about my trip is the thought of all the diverse and unique (not to mention absolutely delicious) dishes I will finally be able to eat once again once back on Peruvian soil. So read on, and I'll let you in on all my favourites – the places where my husband Chris and I would go if we were taking this holiday ourselves.
Laura Rendell-Dunn, Marketing
Day 1: Arrive Lima. Overnight.
On the first day I'd opt for a light dinner since you will most likely have just spent a day travelling. For the same reason you'll probably also want something near to your hotel, so my choice would be Mangos in Larcomar, Miraflores. The restaurant has a terrace on a cliff top overlooking the Pacific ocean. You can order anything from typical Peruvian snacks like anticuchos to the less Peruvian spicy fajitas.
Day 2: Morning at leisure. Fly to Arequipa. 2 nights.
I'd recommend you continue to keep things light, as you’ve just started your high-altitude ascent. For a modern twist on Peru's famously excellent dining, I’d recommended Chicha – one of Peruvian "super chef" Gastón Acurio's restaurants. It's a smart restaurant serving Peruvian and Mediterranean fusion cuisine.
Day 3: City tour and visit to the Santa Catalina convent.
For a more substantial lunch, I’d recommend a typical dish of the region, chupe de camarones (crayfish soup). Then for a fun and unusual dinner, try Zig Zag (which is also a favourite of our clients). You’ll be presented with burning hot volcanic stone and slithers of meat, including alpaca. Cook your meat or fish on the stone until done to your liking.
Day 4: Fly to Lake Titicaca, drive to Puno via Sillustani. 2n.
While Lake Titicaca is a rightfully celebrated beauty spot and the meeting point of Peruvian and Bolivian cultures, its gateway town of Puno is a little scruffy and also very high-altitude, which combined with the journey there is a good reason to simply eat in your hotel tonight. Particularly as you'll be getting up early the next day to see as much as you can of this stunning area.
Day 5: Excursion to the floating reed islands of the Uros Indians.
After a day exploring Lake Titicaca, try La Choza de Oscar back in Puno, which has an extensive menu of Peruvian fare.
Day 6: Full-day road journey to Cusco. 3n.
If you take private transport, you’ll be able to stop in the small village of Ayavari for lunch – the train used to stop here but (as far as I'm aware) no longer does. Around the main square you’ll find a few shops and restaurants serving roasted lamb. The lamb is so succulent and flavoursome. In fact there is nowhere else in Peru where it's as good as it here – the lambs feed on a local herb found only in the high-altitude plains and the taste of the meat is divine. Be prepared to eat with your fingers and get messy!
As you’ll be arriving into Cusco around 7 or 8pm, a light dinner is recommended – try Baco and you won’t be disappointed. I’ve always been put off eating guinea pig, but I tried it for the first time here. I had the fillet served with a crispy quinoa topping and it was just incredible. They also have a great wine menu.
Day 7: City tour and visit to the ruins surrounding Cusco.
For lunch I’d suggest Trotamundos café. They have a balcony where you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer overlooking the main square. I love their chicken and avocado ciabatta for a light lunch.
For a smart (and possibly romantic) option for dinner, book a table at LIMO, again overlooking the main plaza. Here you’ll find all the typical dishes such as lomo saltado served with a modern twist and a touch of class – I’d rate the food here nothing less than exquisite.
Day 8: Optional excursions and activities around Cusco.
For a smart lunch, Map Cafe is relaxing and sophisticated. The restaurant is located in the peaceful and very picturesque courtyard of the Pre-Columbian Museum – in between hotels Monasterio (worth popping into even if you aren't staying, for the best Pisco Sours in Cusco) and La Casona. The food here is outstanding – I’d particularly recommend the chicharrón de chanco (deep-fried pork), a very typical dish from the region, served with a sticky, sweet aniseed sauce.
For dinner, I’d head to Cicciolina – but this restaurant is always busy so go early or book ahead. They offer classic Peruvian cuisine with a Mediterranean spin. The open kitchen allows you to watch the food being prepared as you wait.
Day 9: Visit the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Overnight in the valley.
Normally lunch is included on your excursion here, but if not head to Los Geranios – a real gem of a find. They have a lovely garden where you can sit down after a busy morning of scaling ruins or visiting markets and enjoy the food here that is prepared for locals – warning: don’t eat beforehand, the portions are massive. Order rocoto relleno (stuffed chilli pepper with minced meat) if you can handle your spicy food; the pepper is deep-fried so you have a lovely crispy batter on the outside. I’d also recommend the seco de cordero – lamb stew slowly cooked in plenty of coriander and served with potatoes and rice.
In the evening, I would choose to eat in the hotel as tomorrow is going to be the main attraction!
Day 10: Train to Machu Picchu, guided tour. Overnight nearby.
Food won't be the main thing on your mind here in Machu Picchu Village (Aguas Calientes), but there are plenty of small cafes and restaurants serving hearty bites like chicken noodle soup.
Day 11: Return to Cusco. Overnight.
Personally, I'd probably be inclined to return to one of the previous options I've mentioned in Cusco, but if you want to try a new place, the Inka Grill is another top client favourite.
Day 12: Fly to Lima. Guided city tour.
For lunch I would opt for a traditional cevichería (seafood restaurant specialising in ceviche) called La Canta Rana. Hugely popular with the locals, it's situated in bohemian Barranco. I’d order conchitas a la parmesana (queen scallops topped with grilled parmesan cheese) for a starter with the mixed seafood rice (arroz de mariscos) or the stuffed squid (calamares a la silva) as a main. Note: this restaurant does not open in the evening – in fact most cevicherías close at night as Peruvians only eat ceviche for lunch.
Then to make the most of your last night in Peru, I would not hesitate to recommend La Huaca Pucllana. This beautiful restaurant in the residential quarter of San Isidro overlooks the atmospheric Pucllana ruins that pre-date even the Incas. The food is spectacular, as is the service. I’d recommend you try the aji de gallina – chicken stew cooked in a rich yellow chilli pepper sauce and served with rice and potatoes.
Day 13: Transfer to the airport.
If you’re returning to the UK via Europe, then chances are you won’t be departing until the evening. A must on my last day would be Segundo Muelle on Av. Conquistadores, San Isidro. This delightful restaurant offers sexy, refined dishes with oodles of flavour. The queen scallops cooked with crunchy garlic are superb. I would also order the tiradito a los tres ajies, which is similar to ceviche but cut in wafer-thin slithers like carpaccio, then served in a sauce of three different Peruvian chilli peppers. I’ve tried most of the seafood menu here and I can vouch for it all.