Peruvian cuisine isn’t all about potatoes. You might also have heard that guinea pig is a local delicacy. But there is so much more; and delicious recipes are starting to receive world-wide recognition. Fusion cookery is à la mode and Peruvian dishes exemplify this so well: a country of immigrants.
Peru has evolved a menu of scrumptious meals in which Chinese, Japanese, African, Italian, German, Spanish flavours and textures blend with age-old delicacies conceived by the indigenous populations of the Andes, the desert coast and the Amazon: the choice of ingredients is as wide as the variety of landscapes from which they come.
Day 1 Arrive in Lima and transfer to hotel in Miraflores.
Arrive in Lima, transfer to your smart, contemporary hotel the Casa Andina Select. It’s in Miraflores, a Pacific-side quarter with a number of top restaurants, best known among which is the internationally lauded German-Peruvian Astrid&Gastón, with traditional Peruvian and fusion taster menus.
More nostalgic is Rosa Nautica, set on a pier over the crashing waves of the Pacific, serving excellent sea bass. Another classy eaterie with a spectacular location opposite the pre-Columbian adobe pyramid of the same name - illuminated at night - is Huaca Pucllana, which serves a good range of Peruvian dishes including the renowned seafood ceviche.
Day 2 Chef guided introduction to Lima’s markets, cookery lesson.
This exciting gastronomic experience takes you deep into the heart of Peruvian cuisine. With your guide, walk through the centre of Miraflores. Esteemed chef Gonzalo will greet you at the Surquillo market, accompanying you to inspect the various stalls piled high with succulent products. Some are native, others are imported but have thrived here: potatoes (there are hundreds of varieties), chilli peppers, beans, avocados, corn, quinoa, yucca, plantains, mangos.
Experience the hustle and bustle, and maybe spot one or two of the city's most innovative chefs searching for their next recipe inspiration. Continue to San Isidro market and visit Abel and Eduardo - the influential father and son fish vendors whose stall has been a mainstay for almost two decades -who will demonstrate how to make the freshest ceviche. Then, head back to Hotel Runcu’s intimate top floor restaurant to put your newly-learnt skills into practise, during an animated Peruvian cookery lesson.
Day 3 Pachacamac, visit distillery; continue to Ica, tour of vineyard & wine tasting.
Drive down the sunny desert coast and inland to the oasis at Ica. En route, stop at Hacienda Queirolo to visit its distillery, a taste of things to come: the hacienda is linked to the vineyards of Viñas Queirolo in Ica.
Lunch is at the delightful colonial hacienda San José, in the little wine and pisco-producing town of Chincha, where you’ll visit the catacombs. In the afternoon, there’s a guided tour of the vineyard at Ica which culminates with a glass of espumante as you watch the apricot and lilac sunset from a viewpoint over the valley. Later, enjoy pre-dinner wine-tasting to sample more of the local wares. Overnight at the winery.
Day 4 Visit small private distillery, pisco tasting at Bodega La Caravedo.
There’s a long history of viticulture in the Ica oasis, where conditions are ideal for the cultivation of vines: the first vineyards were established in 1550. Over the years, the distillation of grapes evolved into the production of Peru’s national drink, the grape brandy ‘pisco’.
There are now dozens of cellars in the area, many of which have retained the same traditional methods of production. Visit Bodega La Caravedo. Founded in 1877, it was the first establishment to produce the liquor organically, and today produces the fine brand Pisco Portón for export.
You might like to take advantage of the opportunity to fly over the Nazca Lines, the famous huge figurines and geometric designs carved into the desert rock in pre-Columbian times. (You will need to arrange this in advance).
Day 5 Bus to Lima, fly to Cusco, transfer to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Return to Lima by public coach. You’ll be met at the coach station and escorted to the airport for your flight (1hr) to Cusco in the Andes. From there, transfer by road to the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas, once the breadbasket of the Incas, and stay at the lovely first class countryside hotel Sol y Luna.
Day 6 At leisure. Optional lunch at Wayra Ranch, with pace horse presentation.
Morning at leisure to enjoy the hotel facilities or to take an optional excursion or activity such as horse riding, river rafting or walking.
You might choose to have lunch at Rancho Wayra, which has an excellent reputation for its gastronomy. Eat on the sunny terrace, including a barbecue and dishes prepared from fresh local produce. You are entertained by an exhibition of the skills of the Peruvian pace horse.
There is also an optional excursion into the countryside accompanied by the ranch’s chef to visit the farms which provide these ingredients and learn about their use and agricultural methods.
In the evening, sample the local cuisine with a 5-course tasting menu that combines 5 intricate dishes with a variety of wines to compliment and bring out the rich complexity of the flavours. The meals are prepared using all local ingredients and cooked by resident chef Nacho Selis, accompanied by an expert sommelier. The experience takes place in the sophisticated setting of Wayra's cellar, which houses some of the finest wines in the world. The intimate dining room provides a warm ambiance for an evening of gastronomic delights.
Day 7 Full day guided excursion to Pisac market and ruins with lunch.
Full day guided excursion to Pisac, including the market in the riverside colonial village and the Inca ruins which tower above. Visit also the nearby Parque de la Papa, to learn about the cultural importance and sustainable use of medicinal native potatoes. You call in at several villages.
In Pampallaqta you encounter blankets full of steaming baked potatoes of multiple varieties, along with a piquant green dipping sauce. Sample each type, purple and yellow and white. Surprisingly, the tastes differ noticeably. After the taste test, file into the dim storehouse where over 1,000 different potato varieties are kept.
Day 8 Transfer to Ollantaytambo, train to Machu Picchu with guided tour of the ruins.
Travelling for 90mins by train from Ollantaytambo, you reach the ruins of Machu Picchu. As the river Urubamba enters its narrow gorge between thickly-forested granite hills, there is room only for a single track, which hugs the right bank and passes through hamlets that are no more than a collection of shacks beside the railway. Close to the foot of the mountain on a saddle of which the citadel was built is the village of Machu Picchu, dedicated to serving the many visitors with artisan markets, bars and restaurants.
The majestic ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, is reached by minibus up a sinuous road, or on foot up a near vertical rocky path. The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath jungle vegetation. It is perhaps the ruins’ location, on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon, that most ignites the imagination.
You will have a guided tour of the ruins and there is time later to take one of the many trails within the site itself, such as the hike to the vertiginous Inca Bridge, carved into a cliff edge, or wander among the stone buildings and llama-dotted grassy ledges soaking up the atmosphere. Spend the night in Machu Picchu village.
Day 9 Return to Cusco for 3 nights
Train times permitting, there’s the opportunity to return to the site of Machu Picchu. Getting up early and taking one of the first buses up to the site is well worth it. The ruins are virtually empty at that time and the early morning mists swirl around the surrounding mountain tops.
There is time for an optional hike to the summit of Huayna Picchu (although this must be booked in advance). Alternatively enjoy the thermal baths or walks in the village below. Return to Cusco by rail and road in about 4 hours.
Day 10 Walking tour of the city and market.
The name Cusco derives from the Quechua word for navel, indicating its location at the centre of the Inca Empire. Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches.
It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and cafés.
There's a walking tour of the city including the comestibles market. Pyramids of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables claw towards the sky: tomatoes, soft fruit and corn from the valley, potatoes and onions from the highlands.
Day 11 Visit to Choco (chocolate) Museum and chocolate-making lesson.
Transfer to Lima airport.
Visit the Choco Museum. As its name implies, it’s a cathedral to chocolate. Cocoa is produced in Peru’s Amazon region. You’ll learn about how the cacao beans are cultivated and processed to make fine chocolate.
As the museum makes its own chocolate drawing on Aztec and Inca techniques, all the manufacturing process is described step by step and you will be able to make your own chocolate with nuts, almonds, coffee beans or cashews.