Peru might just be the birthplace of authentic fusion, and Lima the gastronomy capital of South America. Spanish, West African, Chinese, Japanese, and Andean influences meld together to create a cuisine as deliciously captivating and complex as the culture.
Our 9-day guided culinary tour, with a maximum group size of 12, takes you from the coastal, cosmopolitan city of Lima to the colonial city of Cusco in the Peruvian Andes, once the capital of the Inca Empire. Together with the Sacred Valley and the ancient city of Machu Picchu, this was the heart of the Incas.
Insider access to the Lima culinary scene reveals the secrets of the region’s national dish—Peruvian ceviche. The country proudly celebrates national Ceviche Day every year on June 28. Other culinary highlights include world-class Andean coffee and variations of Pisco, the national spirit. Peek inside the kitchen of a top Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese) restaurant before an exclusive dining experience. A tasting menu offers a delicious introduction to this eclectic cuisine. Start your days with world-class Andean coffee. Enjoy samplings of Pisco, the brandy produced in winemaking regions of Peru from fermented grape juice. It was developed by 16th-century Spanish settlers. Dine at one of the world’s top 50 restaurants, where Japanese culinary techniques harmonize with Peruvian ingredients.
High in the Andes Mountains, visit local markets, quinoa farms, and the ancient Maras salt ponds, a region that has been continually inhabited for 3,000 years. Participate in a private Pachamanca, a ceremonial Andean feast cooked in a ground oven of hot stones. You get to help cook.
Visit Sacsayhuaman, Ollantaytambo, and Moray, where micro-climates empowered the Incas to conduct agricultural experiments using concentric terraces built into natural depressions. Everywhere are Inca ruins and the legacy of Spanish colonialism. Of course, your visit to Peru would not be complete without a journey through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to one of the true wonders of the world, Machu Picchu.
DAY 1: Your Peru Food Travel Begins
We will pick you up at Lima’s Jorge Chavez International Airport and drive you to your comfortable hotel. This evening meet your guide and fellow travelers at the hotel lobby for an orientation and optional group dinner.
DAY 2: Lima Culinary Scene
Lima is the most cosmopolitan of all Peruvian cities, a vibrant economic hub and home to three of the world’s top 50 restaurants. After breakfast we’ll set off to visit bustling Surquillo market where we’ll mingle with the locals and taste some of the Peru’s native fruits. Next we’ll learn the secrets of making the perfect ceviche in a chef-led demonstration, followed by a delicious lunch.
In the afternoon we’ll visit a gourmet coffee producer at his flagship coffee shop in Lima’s historic district of Barranco. We’ll sip some fantastic Andean coffee and learn how the coffee industry impacts local farmers. Afterward, we will continue to explore this bohemian neighborhood and visit the Hermita Church and the “Bridge of Sighs.” We’ll try a typical Peruvian desserts, such as Peruvian Sweet Potato “Picarones,” “Tres Leches,” or Suspiro de Limeña, before returning to the hotel.
This evening is yours to enjoy one of Lima’s many incredible restaurants. Please note that many top Lima restaurants require reservations far in advance, and you are able to make reservations online on their websites.
DAY 3: Explore Downtown Lima & Chinatown
This morning we’ll head to the historic center of Lima, with its striking colonial buildings and colorful streets. We’ll stop in at the Larco Herrera Museum to view their extensive private collection of pre-Inca ceramics. Then visit the Plaza Mayor, the original site on which Lima was founded. While you appreciate Lima’s central square, you will also have the opportunity to see the famous changing of the palace guards, which takes place each day precisely at noon.
Next we’ll stroll through Lima’s Barrio Chino, or Chinatown, historic home to Peru’s small but culturally significant Chinese community. Our friend is general manager of Lima’s top Chifa (Peruvian-Chinese food) restaurant, and she will graciously lead us on a tour of her restaurant’s kitchen. Afterward we’ll join her in the dining room for an exclusive tasting menu. Her English is excellent and she shares fascinating insights into Peru’s Chinese history.
After lunch, we visit the stunningly well preserved Casa de Aliaga, the oldest house in the Americas to be inhabited by descendants of the same family. Dating back to the 1500s, it has been home to the de Aliaga family for 17 generations. The afternoon will end at a historic bar for a Pisco tasting as well as to try the national drink, Pisco Sour.
The best food tours to Peru should include dining at one of the world’s top restaurants, and did you know that Lima boasts three of the world’s top 50? Tonight we will have dinner at one of the world’s top 10, which features a Nikkei menu blending Japanese and Peruvian flavors.
DAY 4: Fly to Cusco
This morning we’ll get up early and head to the airport for the next leg of your Peru tour, a short hour and twenty minute flight to Cusco. We’ve intentionally kept today’s schedule light to give you time to adjust to the altitude. You may need a rest at your hotel, but if you feel up to it, this is a great time to soak up Cusco’s culture-rich atmosphere. This evening, the group will enjoy a delicious welcome to Cusco dinner of Novoandina cuisine.
DAY 5: Explore Cusco and Cooking Class
Start the day off at Cusco’s vibrant San Pedro market, one of the most fascinating places to people watch as Quechua villagers come from the surrounding areas to sell their produce, as well as textiles and homemade goods that make excellent souvenirs. We’ll continue on for a tour of Cusco’s most important historic sites. Cusco was the historic capital of the Inca Empire, from the 13th Century until the Spanish conquest in the 16th Century. Because of its importance to the Incas, the Spanish then made it their center for colonization of the entire Andean region. The Spanish invested heavily in building incredible structures on top of the Inca sites. We’ll tour the Plaza de Armas, with its impressive cathedral and Qorikancha, or Temple of the Sun God.
In the late afternoon we’ll head to a charming local restaurant for a hands-on cooking class. Starting in the bar, you’ll learn how to make a delicious Pisco sour before heading into the kitchen to prepare mouthwatering Andean delicacies that will soon become your dinner.
DAY 6: Village Pachamanca
Start the morning by heading out to explore the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, the Inca fortress perched high above Cusco. Then we’re off to a small village near Pisac, in the Sacred Valley. We’ll spend the morning with a local Quechua family who invite us into their home for an authentic pachamanca meal. Dating back to Inca times, this ancient tradition is not unlike a barbeque, where sharing a meal demonstrates appreciation and reverence for the edible gifts that come from the earth. Meaning – literally – “earth pot,” a pachamanca is an oven created out of stones or clay bricks lining a hole in the ground. A fire is lit inside until it is hot enough to put in heaps of marinated meat, vegetables and potatoes. The meal is hearty and provides sustenance to farmers working out in the fields, as well as a welcome break to collectively share in the rewards of their labors.
The entire process takes several hours, so we will take a break to explore the village and visit the sacred ruins of Urco, if time permits. We’ll then return to the village as our hosts pull the meat, veggies, and potatoes out of the earth oven and join us to enjoy the steaming hot meal together. On the way back to Cusco, we stop and explore the colorful and busy Pisac market.
This evening is free for you to explore on your own. If you would like to try the Andean delicacy guinea pig, an adventure for some people traveling on Peru food tours, your guide will be happy to recommend some of his favorite “cuy” restaurants.
Tomorrow we head to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Please note that on the train to Aguas Calientes tomorrow, you are allowed to bring 1 overnight bag or backpack not to exceed 11 lbs (5kg) or 62 inches (length + height + width). Your remaining luggage will be stored at your hotel in Cusco. Please plan in advance, and do not forget your passport for access to Machu Picchu.
DAY 7: Discover the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Venture deep into the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Our first stop is Chinchero, our highest altitude of the tour at just over 12,300 feet. Chinchero is a weaver’s village, and we’ll visit a women’s weaving cooperative to learn how they make natural dyes and spin alpaca fiber. Next we’ll tour the village church and Inca agricultural ruins. If it’s the right time of year we’ll visit some local farmers to watch how they dehydrate potatoes to store for the winter months.
Our Peru food tour then takes us to Moray, a site of Inca ruins that were used for agricultural experiments. Taking advantage of the micro-climates, the Incas studied how crops grew at different altitudes and adapted those crops for broader farming use.
After a picnic lunch, we’ll visit the terraced salt ponds at Maras. Mineral rich and excellent for cooking, these ponds are owned by villagers and have been harvested since Inca times. Terraced on the side of a mountain, we’ll enjoy a view and explanation of the ponds and how they work.
We’ll come to the end of the road at Ollantaytambo and explore the vast Inca ceremonial center built into the hill overlooking the town. Then we’ll hop on a train and ride about one hour and 45 minutes to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu. We will arrive just in time to check into our hotel and head out for a quick dinner.
DAY 8: Revel in the Splendor of Machu Picchu
Today is the day many have been waiting for and a highlight of most tours to Peru. Built on a saddle between sacred peaks, the improbable setting for the architectural masterpiece of Machu Picchu is just as awe-inspiring as the ruins themselves. Starting with a 5 am wake-up, we’ll take an early shuttle to Machu Picchu, arriving at dawn. Machu Picchu was built in harmony with the sun and the moon, and enjoying the early morning light over the sacred site will be a memory for a lifetime.
After a guided tour of these magnificent ruins, you may choose to explore the ruins on your own.
We’ll return to Aguas Calientes in time to catch an afternoon train back to Ollantaytambo and then drive about two hours back to Cusco. This evening, you may enjoy celebrating your incredible experiences in Peru with your fellow travelers over one last Pisco sour and dinner (optional). Please ask your guide if you would like recommendations.
DAY 9: Peru Food Travel Ends
Sadly, your Peru Culinary Tour is over. You may fly home or choose to spend a few extra days on your own exploring Cusco or other areas of Peru.