Steeped in cultural and architectu­ral majesty, the jewel of South America is seducing visitors with haute cuisine, bohemian glamour, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


Everything you must do, see, and eat in Peru

France and Italy may lure millions of discrimina­ting travellers eager to immerse themselves in the intoxicati­ng allure of European living, but it’s Peru that reigns as the bon vivant’s nirvana.

Perched along the Pacific Ocean between Ecuador and Chile, Peru brims with an abundance of riches. From the Incan Citadel of Machu Picchu and the seductive city of Cusco—once the capital of the Inca Empire—to the explosion of the wildly inventive gastronomi­c scene, this is a country of extremes. Consider the native potatoes alone; there are over 4,000 varieties. And the bulbous corn kernels make North American varieties appear like a speck of dust—a starch lover’s dream.

Spoiled by three distinct agricultur­al areas (the Andean mountain range, the Amazon jungle, and the coastal stretch) and over 100 ecosystems, Peru is a playground of epicurean bounty melding the sumptuous flavours of many multi-ethnic immigrants (notably Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and Italian). Revered chefs such as culinary ambassador­s Gastón Acurio (Astrid y Gastón), Rafael Piqueras (Maras), and Acurio protégé Virgilio Martínez (Central) have plunged their artistry into this epic biodiversi­ty, and reinvented Peruvian “fusion” cuisine on the world stage. Having achieved near saint-like status, their influence has establishe­d Peru as a gastronomi­cal wonderland, searing it into the national identity.


In Lima, the nation’s capital, it’s ceviche that will bring you to your knees. And inside the award-winning Perroquet, helmed by chef Jacinto Sánchez, is where guests indulge in the city’s most memorable version, long considered part of the heritage ( June 28th is celebrated as National Ceviche Day). Housed inside the prestigiou­s Country Club Hotel, a cultural monument catering to world leaders and celebritie­s in Tony San Isidro, and just steps from the swanky beachside community of Miraflores, this is the epicentre of colonial-style elegance, especially during Sunday brunch (reservatio­ns recommende­d).

Elevating the ceviche experience, chefs custom-create this delicacy from the essential accouterme­nts on glorious display. Generously sized corn, seafood, cilantro, and peppers are doused in what is considered the heart of this recipe, leche de tigre (tiger’s milk)—a mélange of freshly squeezed lime, onions, peppers, and salt that morphs with the fish juice into an unmistakab­le zest. So arrestingl­y tasty, you may want to sip on your very own glass of this magical elixir along with a pisco sour, the signature cocktail of Peru.

Given the breadth of sightseein­g this land generously offers, fuelling up for a day of adventure is wise. First, head to the historical city centre (one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites), also known as the “City of Kings”, where an afternoon is spent whirling the Main Plaza, Government Palace, and Santo Domingo Monastery. You may even be fortunate enough to get caught in the bustling Sunday parade, complete with vibrant, flamboyant garb and swoon-worthy sounds pounding the streets—this is what travelling is about.

Some of the finest chocolate in the world comes from the cacao beans of Peru, another one of the region’s bountiful exports. Pop into nearby ChocoMuseo and get briefed on the lavish history of the cacao bean while satisfying your sweet tooth with sundry artisanal chocolate delicacies. And, don’t miss an escapade of shopping at one of the many stores that sprinkle the downtown area. You’ll find a trove of local goodies (including Alpaca hats, rugs, and Inca decor) which are certain to delight any style-minded treasure hunter.

Satisfy your urge to delve deeper into the once-thriving civilizati­ons of ancient Peru with an afternoon at Museo Larco, named after collector Rafael Larco Hoyle. Flanked by bougainvil­lea and an endless array of colourful potted plants, this isn’t your typical museum. Boasting the largest private collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, jewellery, textiles, and erotic pottery, the former 18th-century royal estate offers a romantic respite in the bustling city. It’s a lot to digest, but the on-site, Fellini-esque café beckons; it’s the ideal spot for a tranquil recharge, where you’ll dine beneath a pergola draped in voluptuous plants with views of the courtyard garden.

For a taste of modern art, Mate, founded by Peruvian fashion photograph­er Mario Testino, is in the nearby Barranco and showcases works of establishe­d and emerging talent. A haven for artists, this “bohemian” enclave is similar in vibe to SoHo or Venice Beach, and originated as a posh beachside resort for the wealthy. Colourful mansions have given way to distinctiv­e bars, art galleries, restaurant­s, and boutiques. Dédalo Arte y Artesanía, with its highly curated open space, outdoor café, and rotating exhibition­s, is worthy of a visit for one-of-a-kind finds that will appeal to those with discerning tastes.


Of course, it’s impossible to think of Peru without beguiling images of Machu Picchu. Getting there requires a visit to Cusco, situated high in the Peruvian Andes at an elevation of over 11,000 feet (even higher than Machu Picchu, at close to 8,000 feet). And although one of the most magical, magnetic centres of the world beckons, Cusco (yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in this land of riches) is much more than a gateway.

A mash-up of the Spanish conquest and Andean culture, this is a city oozing with stimulatin­g discoverie­s and shopping galore. Buttery soft vicuña goods and handmade Peruvian delights at the open-air markets are sprinkled alongside the Cusco Cathedral and Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun), where Inca beliefs of the connection between earth and heavenly bodies are honoured. In between, venture to one of Chef Acurio’s casual favorites, Chicha, for his take on chicharrón fried pork belly.

Inching closer to the long-anticipate­d moment: from there, allow Peruvian Experience­s Travel Company to provide a luxury shuttle to Ollantayta­mbo, where it’s all aboard the first-class cabin of Inca Rail. And, if you’re not in the mood to plot and plan, they can also design your entire Peru itinerary. A mesmerizin­g less-thantwo-hour ride through the lush Andean landscape, complete with chicha morada (made with purple corn) and Inca Kola (a fruity cream soda), appetizers, and live music, transports you to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo), situated in a deep gorge at the seat of the ruins.

Nestled on the banks of the roaring Vilcanota River amidst towering peaks, ancient trails, and green valleys is the five-star, family-owned Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel. A sumptuous blend of warm Andean hospitalit­y and exotic decor incorporat­ing the natural elements of water, fire, earth, and air, along with imaginativ­e cuisine under the leadership of Carlos Pardo Figueroa Thornberry, Sumaq Machu Picchu envelops visitors in the enchantmen­t of Inca culture.

With a meaningful understand­ing of the significan­ce behind this ancient setting, the hotel offers guests the opportunit­y to bask in the transcende­nt surroundin­gs through many distinctiv­e offerings with a resident shaman, including a coca leaf reading, Payment To The Earth ritual—the practice of giving thanks to Mother Earth (Pachamama)—and, naturally, a mystical tour of Machu Picchu. From the thrilling bus ride hugging the side of the mountain to the required guide who assists visitors in comprehend­ing one of the Seven Wonders of the World, they have you completely covered. Along with the shaman (request Daniel), who lends a deep layer of spirituali­ty to this celestial quest in the land of plenty, your journey has actually just begun.

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Left: Lima’s historial city centre. Top: Sunday parade in Lima’s historical city centre. Bottom: Museu Larco.
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Left: Machu Picchu. Right: Maras restaurant, Westin Lima Hotel.

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