By Viia Beaumanis
Renowned for its eco-tourism and storied culture, Peru now boasts indigenous-inspired menus, a stylish Lima dining scene, and bustling Cuzco cocktail bars –
not to mention an expanding array of chic places to stay.
Here are three options for enjoying the best of Peru (feel free to enjoy all in one trip!):
1. Amazon Adventure
With menus conceived by Pedro Miguel Schiaffino – one of the country’s most renowned chefs and a pioneer of Amazonian cuisine – innovative regional fare is a keynote on both the Aria Amazon (designed by Peruvian architect Jordi Puig for Aqua Expeditions as one of the world’s most stylish adventure boats) and its sister craft, Aqua Amazon.
Along with scouring rural Peru for novel ingredients and quizzing locals on their cooking techniques, Schiaffino has welcomed some illustrious peers on board, including the likes of Nobu Matsuhisa and Ferran Adrià, who on occasion have even surprised passengers as guest chefs.
2. Capital Cuisine
Eat: Now widely regarded as the culinary capital of South America, Lima’s upscale San Isidro neighborhood is now home to chef Schiaffino’s Malabar. Having uncovered native delicacies such as paiche (the “king of Amazon fish” in his estimation), Schiaffino incorporates it into his menus and is proud to now see it stocked in city markets. “Behind these ingredients is a big culture,” he stresses. “Native people with a lot of knowledge who really understand what nature gives them.”
Still hungry? See six more top restaurants in Lima.
Stay: At the ritzy Belmond Miraflores Park, barmen shake Peru’s national drink, the pisco sour – a frothy blend of egg white, sugar, fresh lime juice, and pisco (local grape brandy). Relaunched in the spring of 2014 as part of the hotel’s extensive redesign,
a cozy lobby bar opens onto a library lounge and, just beyond, Tragaluz, a restaurant fronted by Augusto Baertl, a jet-setting local who’s made a splash with his coastal hot spot (also named Tragaluz) a few hours from town. With an eye on Lima’s increasingly buzzy food scene, Miraflores Park is betting that Baertl’s first city venue – and its Mediterranean- Peruvian-Asian fusion cuisine – will add fashionable fizz to its restyled property.
3. Cultural Cuzco
An hour’s flight from Lima, but a world away, from the capital’s high-rise modernity, Cuzco’s Spanish colonial facades hide ancient Incan ramparts.
Stay: A former sixteenth-century convent, Belmond Palacio Nazarenas encapsulating the city’s architecture and atmosphere. Its dining room, Senzo, boasts a menu from one of Peru’s hottest chefs, Virgilio Martínez, the first Peruvian to earn a Michelin star in 2014.
More to Eat: Gastón Acurio’s Chicha and Coque Ossio’s Limo.
Something Sweet: ChocoMuseo is a café/shop/museum off Cuzco’s main square that also offers chocolate-making workshops. Winner of a 2013 International Cocoa Award from Paris’ Salon du Chocolat, Peru’s emerging chocolate industry is transforming rain- forest communities that once processed coca leaves for drug lords into producers of coveted cacao for the global chocolate trade.
And, to Drink: Museo del Pisco is a stylish cocktail lounge stocked with 35 in-house pisco infusions. Sample passion fruit-, cranberry-, and rose-laced shots along with the establishment’s more unusual concoctions: piquant wasabi and earthy chuchuhuasi, a blend steeped in a wood much prized for its aphrodisiac qualities.
Recovery Period: An hour’s drive from town, Tambo del Inka’s extensive wellness program is enhanced by a selection of health-conscious dishes, including gluten-free options (rare in Peru). Here, between massages, nature hikes, river rafting, and yoga, you can cycle through quinoa salads on the dining menu and quinoa facials at the spa.
4. Peak Experiences
Named for the first foreigner to stumble across Machu Picchu, the Belmond Hiram Bingham train is the most elegant way to make the four-hour journey from Cuzco to the ancient Incan
city. You’ll feel like a character in an Agatha Christie novel, enjoying a four-course meal
in the wood-paneled dining car as the vintage train trundles across the lush Sacred Valley.
A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is certainly impressive, especially given its elevated Andean setting, but purists will want to arrive early: After 10 am, platoons of tourists arrive.
Get quick details about where to stay, eat, and spa in Peru.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Traveler magazine, October 2014.
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