Peru

22 Jan

I have just returned from my third trip to Peru. This January and last April I mostly only stayed in Lima and went to and from work, with some great restaurants and shopping in between. However, this trip it was also summer, so I got to experience a fabulous beach location called Playa Blanca. While there is no actual white sand to speak of, (the beach has fine black sand) the location was incredibly peaceful and relaxing.

Lima

Hotels: I have stayed in both the JW Marriott and the new Courtyard Marriott, both in Miraflores. The JW is amazing and is right across from Larcomar, a popular shopping and restaurant mall right on a cliff overlooking the water. There is also a Westin in San Isidro which is supposed to be great, but unfortunately it has always been a bit out of my price range. The Courtyard is brand new (2 years old by now) so it’s also nice and more in the central part of Miraflores so there is not really a view, but it’s cheaper ($150 a night compared to $195 at the JW). If you are more the spg type, in addition to the Westin there is also a Sheraton more towards the financial district (San Isidro) which is not really in an ideal location to walking around at night. The JW is also supposed to have a great breakfast, but I had breakfast in the lounge which was also really good.

Restaurants: Similar to other emerging markets you do want to be careful about what and where you eat as well as ice cubes, and salads. I am always willing to spend a little more if it means not getting sick because at the good restaurants and hotels you can typically order anything and be fine, but always bring pepto just in case. Another suggestion is to only eat ceviche (aka raw fish) at lunch unless it’s a place you know is safe. This might sound obvious but you’d be surprised how many people order ceviche from a random restaurant after dark.

Noteworthy:

  • Ceviche – El Mercado o Pescados Capitales (lunch time mostly)
  • Peruvian Sushi – Osaka (needs a reservation and its amazing order the truffled scallop sashimi) – Maido (very upscale / refined option) They have a tasting menu oly served before 9pm which is supposedly sold out for months. My favorite was the foie gras sashimi
  • Peruvian Typical Food – Jose Antonio (it’s a classic), Panchita (from the owners of Astrid y Gaston), El Grifo (literally means gas station, and is built in an old restored one, but has amazing food), Restaurant Javier – local place in Barranco known for its anticuchos
  • Peruvian Chinese Fusion (Chifa – it’s a very known Peruvian type of food that happened after all the Chinese immigration) – Madame Tusan (from the owners of Astrid y Gaston)
  • Peruvian Gastro – Lima 27, Cala (on the water in Barranco and a team favorite go-to)
  • Pollo a la brasas – Pardo’s ( amazing rotisserie chicken of peru, very popular similar to Chifa)
  • Peruvian jungle – Amaz, next to the Hilton hotel.
  • La trattoria in larcomar – good Italian Peruvian fusion
  • Upscale Dining – La Gloria, Rafael, Astrid y Gaston, Maido, Osaka – but you need a reservation in advance. All are amazing.
  • More casual but good spots: La plazita, Tanta (especially for lunch), Danica, Cosme, they all are peruvian fusion.
  • Barra 55 – great gin bar in Barranco.
  • WingMan – wing and beer bar in Barranco
  • Nuevo Mundo – Draft beer bar with some bar food
  • La Cuadra de Salvador – Argentinian steak house in barranco for when you need a good steak

Centrale is also one of the worlds best restaurants but I prefer Astrid y Gaston.

Lima Tours

Fortunately my local Peru team members took me to downtown Lima to Plaza San Martin and Plaza de Armas and had me try turron, pisco sour ice cream and have an original pisco sour at  El Bolivarcito, where the pisco sour was born.

I also did a food tour in Lima which was a bit pricey ($125) but I really enjoyed it and would do it again in a heartbeat. We learned how to make pisco sours and ceviche and all about the local fruits. There’s also a $135 evening tour but it was already sold out by the time I booked.  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294316-d2358313-Reviews-The_Lima_Gourmet_Company-Lima_Lima_Region.html

Suggestions:

  1. Go to Larcomar – as mentioned earlier its an open shopping center on a cliff – if you are staying at the JW, its literally right across the street. Nice restaurants and shops. I buy my alpaca clothing there at Kuna since its known as one of the best and has decent prices for real legit alpaca scarves, sweaters, hats etc.
  2. Tourists love going to the “Mercado Indio” – its like an artisanal market.
  3. There’s a “Mirabus” the little red bus that drives you around Lima.
  4. The Mali Museum – if you are into photography, its Mario Testinos private museum.
  5. Walk the Malecon – (the park development on the coast). Its very nice, and you will get lots of nice pictures. Totally safe. You can start in Larcomar and go either way. I recommend going to San Isidro and Barranco.
  6. The red bus company also has a Lima by Night tour that my coworker has done and loved.
  7. Barranco – its nice to go walk around. Its like the area where all the Spanish Colonial houses are, and now its becoming a trendy area, basically the east village or hipster part of Lima. I’ve gone walking around at night here and was fine. It’s right next to the Miraflores area.

In November 2015, on my first trip to Peru, I flew from Lima to Cusco on LAN to meet up with some co-workers. We used Fer tur Travel, which was good and very efficient except that we were all super busy and booked it a bit last minute so we would have changed a couple of things. Included in our tour for $580 was a transfer from Cusco airport to the hotel, tour of Cusco, transporation and guide from Cusco to the sacred valley of the Incas and the train to Aguas Calientes, one night in Aguas and tour guide for 2.5 hrs of Machu Picchu, bus tickets up and down MP, train from MP to Cusco and transfer back to our hotel.

Cusco

Hotels: There are some really cheap hotels but we were all willing to pay a little more to stay in nicer hotels. The Palacio del Inka is the spg hotel in cusco we stayed at ($204). It’s right off the Plaza del Armas. There is a JW Marriott as well, which is also nice. I also suggest the Casa Andina hotels as they are very nice as well. Our hotel in Aguas was not very nice, but fine for one night. We wanted to be on one of the first buses to MP to avoid the crowds and incoming rain as well as catch an earlier train back to Cusco in order to appreciate the scenery.  We took one of the first buses up to MP at around 545am (MP opens at 6am) and quit for lunch at the Sanctuary Lodge at 11am and took the 3:20pm Vistadome train from MP to Cusco (Poroy train station). This was one of the best train rides I’ve ever been on. They give you food, offer liquor and additional snacks for purchase, put on two “shows” and sell Alpaca clothing from Sol Alpaca (another good alpaca clothing store). Also the toilets are shockingly nice and clean. I highly suggest following a similar itinerary depending on the weather outlook for the day.

Restaurants: (all require advance reservations)

Limo – they have a prix fixe dinner menu that’s really good as well as good lunch.

Ciccolina – very good Italian Peruvian fusion and traditional Peruvian (ie lomo saltado). I really liked the squid ink pasta and Carmenere.

Baco – I really liked the alpaca burger.

Senzo

Restaurants in Aguas – I made a reservation at Inkaterra which is also a really nice hotel that I suggest staying at if you can, but we had to cancel our reservations due to altitude exhaustion and poor timing.

Other key tips worth noting:

  • It does not really rain in Lima, just occasional misting.It does rain in Playa Blanca.
  • It does rain in Cusco and at Machu Picchu…harddd.
  • Bring a poncho or buy one from the street vendors for a $1, same goes for rain boots ($10)
  • Bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent. The sun is extremely strong in Peru and you WILL burn in areas that are exposed for more than 5 min. If you have any skin showing (ie ankles, the part of your hair, back of your neck) expect them to be bit by mosquitoes or have sun exposure. Re-apply often.
  • Take altitude pills one to two days before you land in Cusco and once you land if possible. Drink the coca tea in the morning and chamomile in the afternoon/evening. Reminder; the altitude pills are a diuretic so you will need to pee a lot, especially the first day.
  • Review the timing of your itinerary. Also, expect that service will not be rapido. Sit down meals can take 2-2.5 hours.
  • Bring extra toilet paper or wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • We took out soles from the ATMs at the airport, but Peru is dual currency so dollars are also accepted at most locations, as is amex which is the same as mastercard.
  • Take the Green Taxi service from the airport in Lima and Uber around Lima and back to the airport. Uber is regulated for airport pick-up so it can take longer.
  • We checked our large suitcases at the hotel in Cusco while we went to Aguas because we were told that only small bags are allowed on the train and they will charge per kilo for large bags.

I really like Peru and hope to go back again. It’s important to note that Machu Picchu does close for a couple weeks a year, typically in April, for routine maintenance. Also, reservations are required well in advance. Due to erosion, there is a cap on the number of people per day.  The Inca trail – the 4 day hike to MP, books out years in advance.

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