Exploring Peru Through Its Chef Ambassadors
Lima used to be a mere pit stop for adventurous travelers en route to the abandoned citadel in the sky, Machu Picchu. Those days are gone. Peruvian restaurants, the chefs that helm them, and the progressive Peruvian cuisine they’re forging are now among the country’s main attractions. Wonders of the world will wait while you dine at the establishments of the luminary leaders of Peru’s current culinary dynasty: Gastón Acurio (Astrid y Gastón), Virgilio Martínez (Central), and Hector Solis (Fiesta).
When you’ve finally made the restaurant rounds, Lima holds more to explore, from the markets, to the lively Miraflores district, and the Cathedral of Lima. When you’re ready to leave the city limits, there are plenty sites to savor before trekking up the Andean peak that leads to the sacred and mysterious Machu Picchu. The Terraces at Moray are singular among the Peruvian terraces because the levels descend in concentric circles—instead of the usual linear, vertical steps—giving the impression a space-ship may have crashed landed there 500 years ago, or a rather geometric meteor smashed down. A once-in-a-lifetime lunch is served on the site of the terraced craters at El Parador de Moray (by appointment only). Equally as remarkable as the terraces are the still intact and in use Maras Salt Mines. Like shining jewels embedded in the hillside, the system of evaporation pools are still yielding salt today.
We’ve also compiled a list of recommended places to stay, from the rustic and remote to fully appointed hotels with all the modern amenities. All the tools you need for an unforgettable adventure in Peru.
51 (12) 219 393
Hours: Mon-Thu: 12:30pm-11:30pm; Fri-Sat: 12:30pm-12am; Sun: 12:30pm-4:30pm
In the heart of fashionable Miraflores, Chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino (formerly of Malabar), is fearlessly bringing the Amazon out of the depths of the forest, and serving it in Lima in his jungle-esque Ámaz. Schiaffino works with ingredients even most locals might not have heard of, taking diners on an a la carte journey that’s as delicious as it is adventurous, deeply rooted in centuries of tradition. Edible flowers, funky fruits, and mysterious snails feel perfectly at home here. With his elegant, straightforward food, there is no doubt that for Schiaffino, it’s all about the ingredients.Recommended:
51 (14) 422 775
Hours: Tue-Sat: 1pm-3pm, 7:30pm-9:30pm
The drama of the menu at Astrid y Gastón’s new location in Lima is matched only by the dramatic venue: Casa Moreyra—a castel-like, majestic, historic Moorish-style structure in the San Isidro neighborhood. Pioneering Peruvian Chef Gaston Acurio and the restaurant’s executive chef, Diego Muñoz Velasquez, take guests on a grand gastronomic odyssey in seven courses through the various regions of Peru, beginning with a course named for the restaurant, Casa Hacienda Moreyra, which begins on the veranda with cocktails and snacks. The remaining courses are served in the dining room—Pacífico, Desierto, Andes, Antiplano, Amazonas, and Hasta Pronto—and consist of several smaller courses, each one or two bites. Astrid y Gastón is a beacon of Peruvian cuisine and an example of the heights that can be reached in fine-dining for the rest of the world.Recommended:
51 (12) 428 515
Hours: Mon-Fri: 1pm-3:30pm, 8pm-11:30pm; Sat: 8pm-11:30pm
At his restaurant, Central, in the center of Lima’s traditional district, Miraflores, Chef Virgilio Martinez is forging a new frontier in Peruvian cuisine. But it’s founded on the food philosophy of the pre-Hispanic Andean peoples. The current tasting menu, “Heights: A World Elevation,” is divided into regions of Peru according to altitude and served in 17 courses. Martinez and his team are constantly searching for new ingredients, at all heights, for guests to discover in the sleek, modern, sophisticated dining room within the elegant converted townhouse. The space also houses a rooftop garden, lab, and open kitchen where diners watch the precisely orchestrated ballet of chefs as they construct Martinez’s wildly imaginative dishes.Recommended:
51 (12) 429 009
Hector Solis has shepherded the food of his culture into the modern era. At Fiesta he cooks progressive Peruvian cuisine while never losing sight of his roots and remaining true to the hearty regional dishes of Chiclayo in the north. Much like the food at Fiesta, the atmosphere is also crisp, clean, and classic yet made for the diner of today.Recommended:
51 (14) 454 042
Hours: Mon-Sun: 12pm-4pm, 7pm-12am
Huaca Pucllana is a bright, colorful, comfortable white-tablecloth restaurant nestled next to a recently unearthed1,500-year-old adobe pyramid in a residential neighborhood of Lima. In the kitchen, Chef Marilú Madueño takes traditional Peruvian dishes dating back to the Incas and updates them, also incorporating African and European influences from the country’s rich history. An outdoor wood-fired grill is used for the anticuchos (kebabs) and cuy (guinea pig).Recommended:
51 (14) 442 568
Hours: Mon-Sat: 12:30pm-4pm, 7:30pm-11pm; Sun: 12:30pm-4pm
At Maido, Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura effortlessly moves between the world of Japanese flavors and techniques and that of Peruvian ingredients. Miso rubs shoulders with purple corn powder, there’s nori in ceviche sauce, and maca (an Andean native) blends seamlessly with fukujinzuke (a Japanese pickle). Although, he is at his best when preparing Nikkei, the fusion of Peruvian and Japanese cuisines, Tsumura also offers sushi and omakase service, a reminder of the time he spent training in Osaka. His food is playful, elegant, minimalistic, and always perfectly refined.Recommended:
51 (14) 465 430
Hours: Tue-Sat: 12pm-4pm, 7:45pm-12am; Sun: 12pm-4pm
At Mayta, Jamie Pesaque draws on Peruvian heritage and history as well as the physical geography to create a heightened dining experience. The theme of the menu is “Coordenadas” and Pesaque takes his guests on a journey through Peruvian food from the high altitude Andes to the deep jungles and the coast—all with big, funky, wild flavors, cool presentations, and playful pairings. Mayta’s ambience mixes modern style with touches of the green jungle foliage of Peru.Recommended:
51 (84) 402 213
El Parador de Moray offers a dining experience like none other, because it just happens to be nestled next to the Moray Terraces. The intimate meals are by appointment only and Chef Americo Yepez Roque serves traditional, Peruvian home-style fare. The view, the venue, and the history combine to make a for a very special, unforgettable edible event.Recommended:
PiscoBarAv. Petit Thouars # 5390
Hours: Tue-Sat: 12pm-4pm; 6:30pm-1:30am; Sun: 12pm-4pm
If you want to explore the world of Pisco beyond the ever so popular pisco sour, make sure to drop by PiscoBar. Ricardo Carpio, owner of this aptly named local favorite, is full of stories, history, and new ideas on how to mix and consume the national spirit of Peru. As part of his mission to save pisco from the ruination of the sour, Carpio offers a tasting of piscos which he serves neat. Kick off your evening with this straight-up tasting of the spirit. After that, have no fear—Carpio is the undisputed king of this castle—pick your favorite, and once again surrender to his higher judgment as he recommends the best way to drink your pick.Recommended:
Urubamba, Cusco, Peru
51 (16) 100 400
Spread out over 12 terraced acres in an Andean village including a bird sanctuary, eco-resort Inka Terra is comprised of 85 rustic, minimally appointed cottages with alpaca blankets, fire places, and sitting and dining areas. Just steps from Machu Picchu, a variety of excursions are available with several adventurous and family friendly packages.
51 (17) 127 000
In the historic core of the ancient Incan capital city of Cusco, is Palacio del Inka. Converted from a fabled 500-year-old mansion, this luxury hotel is situated across from an important Incan temple, near the city square, and close to many cultural attractions and restaurants. Inside, Palacio del Inka Spa offers indigenous treatments and a therapeutic indoor pool, and the restaurant, Ravmi, serves authentic Peruvian dishes. Guest rooms combine all the color of Peruvian art and crafts with all the modern comforts and amenities.
Sacred Valley, Peru
51 (84) 581 777
Deep in the Sacred Valley, only 10 minutes away from Urubamba’s town center, lies Tambo del Inka Resort and Spa. The LEED certified resort is at once modern and rustic with its stone walls, cozy fireplaces, and Incan textiles. Its numerous facilities include two heated swimming pools, a fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant that serves the quintessential Peruvian culinary experience. The spa offers therapeutic treatments and sweeping views of the Andes.
Lima 27, Peru
51 (12) 015 000
The 30-floor glass tower that is the Westin Lima Hotel, soars above the city. The airy lobby, with its aluminum walls, boasts a collection of art, and the hotel comes complete with a fitness room and a spa. The pool is a highlight—a serene oasis in the middle of a bustling metropolis. The large, comfortable rooms offer views of Lima and the ocean and islands in the distance. The Westin contains a cozy pub, a trendy lounge, and two restaurants, including Chef Rafael Piqueras’s Maras. Dine on his cuisine, influenced by the multicultural history of Peru, out on the terrace or at the intimate chef’s table.
In downtown Lima, in the middle of Plaza Mayor, stands the Cathedral of Lima. The mid-sixteenth century Roman Catholic church is dedicated to St. John and despite its many reconstructions and transformations, it's a fine example of baroque architecture. Designed by Francisco Pizzaro, the man who conquered the Incas and founded Lima, it’s also the site of his tomb. With its delicate vaulted ceilings, mosaic chapel, intricate carvings, and colorful history, the Cathedral of Lima is a sight to behold.
A more than 500-year-old abandoned city in the sky, Machu Picchu—one of the New Seven Wonders of the World—is believed to be either a ruined royal estate or scared religious venue built by the Incans before 16th century Spanish invaders arrived. The mountain-top citadel, which has been partially restored, is five miles across with more than 3,000 stone steps. Re-discovered by American archeologist Hiram Bingham in 1911, Manchu Picchu has become one of the world’s great historic sites, attracting hundreds and thousands of tourists a year, drawn to the mystery and majesty of what the Incans left behind. Ascend to Machu Picchu via one of three trails, the longest of which is 26 miles long and takes about a week to trek. Shorter options are available, beginning higher up on the 13,800-foot peak.
Maras Salt Mines - Maras, Peru
Not far from the Moray Terraces are the Maras Salt Mines, where the Incans extracted their supply of salt for the city of Cusco. The salt is derived from a patchwork of evaporation pools dug into the slopes. The salty water comes up and is channeled from an underground stream. No pool is more than a foot deep and four-by-four yards square. The mine is still fully functional and requires the cooperation of local communities to harvest the accumulating salt deposits to this day—a testament to Incan ingenuity.
Colorful, vibrant, and full of delicious (and, more often than not, bizarre) foods, Peru’s markets are an explorer’s delight. Stalls of fresh fruit juices (don’t forget to try a local favorite Lulo), freshly baked breads, hot soups, alpaca scarves, ceramics, and coca leaves are the norm here. Less usual, but equally enthralling, are entire aisles dedicated to entrails, like the one we came across in San Pedro in Cuzco, and the occasional donkey head lying in the middle of knickknacks. At the great markets of Lima, Urubamba (Wednesday is market day there), and San Pedro (the largest market in Peru in the state of Cusco), there’s no telling what one might discover on a casual walk through the stalls.
A favorite with surfers and paragliders, the Miraflores neighborhood is one of the top attractions in Lima. Once a thriving pre-Inca site, today the Huaca Pucllana is the only remaining structure—a clay pyramid built in seven terraced platforms. With myriad parks, tree lined promenades, El Parque del Amor with the famous sculpture of lovers, beaches, and Pacific views, Miraflores offers many options for the keen traveler. Start your day with a bike ride along the coast, stop for lunch at restaurant Huaca Pucllana, follow that up with shopping in the flea markets (or the busy mall if you prefer), and take a quick nap on the grass before grabbing some cocktails in the early evening. Wrap up your day by popping in to a casino or one of the many clubs—Miraflores has a little something for everyone.
Some of the most breathtaking parts of Peru’s mountainous landscape were sculpted by the Incans more than 500 years ago. They devised a complex system of terraces in order to cultivate the necessary crops to feed an entire civilization that lived on high altitude terrain. The terraces at Moray are special because they are circular depressions that go deep into the earth in concentric levels. A one of a kind dinging experience is offered nearby, from Chef Americo Yepez Roque in his kitchen called El Parador de Moray, with majestic views of the terraces.