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Bitches Guide: Peru

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When a New Year’s trip to Egypt got derailed two weeks before take-off, my friend Emil asked me a silly question: Why don’t you just come to Peru, instead?

Indeed, why don’t I? I had visited Emil and his family there for New Year’s the year prior, and we did the requisite trek (read: train ride) to Machu Picchu. It was a trip I’ll never quite forget, thanks to some misguided adventures and a severe sunburn-meets-altitude-meets-stomach sickness.

Tambo Del Inka Brunch

But when the breathtaking yet tourist-ridden Machu Picchu is off the vacation agenda, would Peru be just as infatuating? The answer is yes, and owed in large part to the fabulously fun culture, the great museums and shops, the beautiful beach coves, and the food. My God, the amazing food.

Peru is known for its food (truth: It has been named the top food and drink destination by Frommers, Travel and Leisure, and countless other guides recently). Ceviche for days: Think Spanish seafood at its core, of course. But with a fusion flair, influenced by Japanese and Chinese immigrants.

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And then there’s the pisco. A brandy of sorts that Peruvians love to swing back after every meal, nabbing a glass from the drink- or dessert-carts that circle nearly every restaurant (I prefer my pisco with a bit of ginger ale and lemon, called a chilcano).

This guide is the best of the best that I discovered, thanks to Emil’s carefully curated guidance, during my two trips south of the Equator. It spans a few cities, even outside of gloriously chaotic Lima: Ancon, a beachtown a bit north; Cusco, the city you fly to when you’re making your way to Machu Picchu; and Paracas, the site of a beachside national reserve south of Lima.

Booze and Bites

Lima Lunch

For a quick lunch near the museums, had to Wayralla, one of a handful of locations that caters to the Lima lunch crowd. The open-air, friendly restaurants serve up salads and pastas. We loved the steak with huancaina sauce and the namesake Wayralla salad, a hearty serving of greens and grilled chicken.
Enrique León García 359, Sta. Catalina – La Victoria, Lima

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Dinner in the Capital

Head to Tanta in San Isidro. The neighborhood is chock full of legacy restaurants with charm and fame, but Gastón Acurio’s Tanta serves up Peruvian food with fresh style. If you’re there for brunch instead of dinner, make sure you get the fresh juices. Pro tip: Save room for the epic dessert cart. Once you see it rolling around, you’ll want everything on there.
Calle Pancho Fierro 115, San Isidro, Lima

Cusco City Charm

On your way to Machu Picchu and staying in lovely Cusco? Once the altitude sickness has calmed, trek out for dinner and hit up Cicciolina, a packed restaurant in the second floor of a traditional courtyard house. The menu is tapas-style and the cocktail list is overwhelming (stick with the pisco cocktails, they were some of the best I had in Peru). Make sure to get adventurous while you’re there. We even had alpaca carpaccio!
2nd Floor, Triunfo 393, Cusco

Sacred Valley Brunch

For a gorgeous brunch in the sacred valley, pop in to the Luxury Collection Hotel Tambo Del Inka for its buffet and choice of an entree. The huge dining room overlooks the hotel’s stunning patio and river. Or if you’re not there during Peru’s summer, you can cozy up by the gigantic fireplace. This is truly one of the most gorgeous hotels I’ve ever step foot in. And the food was to die for. Read the review here.

Tambo Del Inka Brunch

Beachside Dessert

If you’re lucky enough to be enjoying the beachside town of Ancon, don’t miss your chance to stock up on the amazing alfajores from D’Sara. The teeny, tiny little cake shop is hidden away behind a building just off the boardwalk, known only to locals who call ahead and then wait in line for their heaven in a box. You’ll know where it is when you pass by the stand on the boardwalk, where you can buy slices or bites.

Lunch with a View

Again with the Luxury Hotel Collection spots, but they are not to be missed. For a quick seaside lunch on your way to the stunning Paracas National Reserve, stop by the Paracas Luxury Hotel and walk straight through the stunning space, past that beckoning pool, and down the pier to the ceviche restaurant at the end of the pier. It’s picturesque as can be–but the food is just as amazing as the view.

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Second Suitcase, Please

Pisco, Every Day

I flew back to the states with a suitcase of Pisco bottles, which was tricky to pack but ultimately worth it, as my bar cart is now stocked with this sweet nectar. The place to get the best Pisco (besides the city of Pisco itself, of course), is Taberna Queirolo. There’s a huge selection, so enlist the help of the staff there.

Art Buyer

The Peruvian ambassador of fashion and art, Mario Testino, has a small museum tucked away in a tree-lined neighborhood in Lima. The collections rotate—last time I was there it was his private collection of contemporary art—this time it was a showcase of his photographs of his favorite models and celebrities. Whatever is there will be stunning and worth the visit. Plus, there’s an amazing little gift shop from which I take home tubes of artwork and coffee table books.

Souvenir Heaven

If you’re bringing back gifts and trinkets from Peru, do your souvenir shopping all in one fell swoop at Lima’s Inca Market. The open-air market is so enormous it’s overwhelming (be careful you don’t get lost!), filled with vendors selling everything from alpaca scarves and throws to the traditional Peruvian colorful fabrics to T-shirts and figurines.

Clothe Me

Want to take advantage of the exchange rate and stock up on luxury goods and clothing? The best place to hit up all the high-end stores at once is the shiny and brand-new Mall Plaza Salaverry in Lima. It’s multiple floors deep and absolutely enormous, and you can find most of the major American brands there, with Peruvian prices.

Bitch Tip

When traveling internationally, check the exchange rates for luxury goods with True Currency right on our Bitches Who Brunch travel page.

 

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