Where do I even begin with our Peru trip? As you know, I was excited about our trip to Peru all summer, but the reality exceeded all expectations! Alex and I had a wonderful time on our first South American adventure and cannot wait to return one day. We saw several Incan ruins, hiked around Machu Picchu, visited a few museums, and sampled plenty of local specialties from coca tea to alpaca. Because I don’t want to overwhelm you with information all in one post, I will be recapping our Peru trip in a series (similar to the format I used for our Ireland/UK trip). Let me know what you think!
Here is an index to the upcoming Peru Series:
- Part 1: Restaurants and Hotels in Cusco
- Part 2: Activities in and around Cusco
- Part 3: Machu Picchu-Tips and how to get there
- Part 4: Restaurants, Hotels, and Activities in Lima
- Part 5: General tips for Peru
Let’s get started with Part 1, shall we?
Cusco has some incredible food that is quite different from what you will find in Lima. Cusqueñian dishes tend to be a lot heartier than other Peruvian cuisine. You’ll find traditional and widely enjoyed meals like lomo saltado (sauteed beef strips with vegetables) and aji de gallina (creamy chicken stew) along with local delicacies like Andean corn, alpaca steak, and cuy (guinea pig). We also saw plenty of lighter dishes in Cusco, but since we had been warned about eating raw fruits and vegetables in Peru, we tended to avoid those types of dishes.
We had several great lunches and dinners in Cusco. There are several restaurants and cafes right around the Plaza de Armas because it is a very popular area, but we also ventured into Barranco for meals. I’ve reviewed some of our favorites below:
- Calle del Medio (TripAdvisor)-Our first meal in Peru was at Calle del Medio and it really set the bar high for the rest of our meals. Although the menu is a tad expensive, it is well worth the higher prices to sit on the veranda and enjoy unparalleled views of the Plaza de Armas. Drinks are great and the food was impressive. The dishes were contemporary twists on traditional dishes using local ingredients. I had pork belly with quinoa and Alex had chicken and rice with quail eggs. Both were beautiful (as you can see below) and delicious.
- Inka Grill (TripAdvisor)-Inka Grill was easily my favorite meal of the Cusco portion of our trip. It could have been because I tried my first pisco sour ever there, but more likely, it was the amazing food and great service. The waiter brought out a selection of freshly cut potato chips with dipping sauce to nibble on as we waited for our main dishes. Peruvian chips are unrivaled; with somewhere around 4000 types of potatoes in Peru, you are very likely eating a much different type of potato than you can get in the US. For our main dishes, I had lomo saltado (similar to the filling of steak fajitas, with rice) while Alex had an alpaca steak. I thought the alpaca tasted a bit like lamb, which I don’t care for, but I was glad we tried it! I only wish I had saved room for dessert; the dishes looked incredible! We planned to return later in the week for dessert but never ended up having the time.
- Greens Organic restaurant (TripAdvisor)-Greens Organic was a great restaurant with a lot of variety on the menu, including unique options like beet and sweet potato gnocchi. It is not just a vegetarian restaurant, although there are plenty of vegetarian options to choose from. I was experiencing a bit of altitude sickness the day we visited Greens Organic, but the creamy mushroom pasta helped me feel much better. Greens Organic is definitely worth a visit as it is a refreshing change from the heavier traditional Peruvian food found in Cusco.
- PachaPapa (TripAdvisor)-Alex and I both read and were told about PachaPapa, so felt that we had to make a visit. Our meals were delicious: I had aji de gallina (a creamy chicken and rice stew) and Alex had a beef stew. We both loved the authentic and quaint atmosphere. PachaPapa is located in a hidden, but open air courtyard complete with space heaters for cold nights. The restaurant also has a large wood-fired oven in the courtyard where yeast rolls, pizza dough, and cuy are cooked. My only regret is not trying the cuy. It takes 45 minutes (although you can call and order it in advance) and unfortunately, we had already made plans and didn’t have time to wait for the cuy.
- Choco Museo (TripAdvisor)-If you have a chocolate craving, this is the place to go. Not only can you learn everything you ever wanted to know about how chocolate is made (and even sign up to make it yourself), you can sit and enjoy all kinds of chocolate treats in the cafe. Alex and I shared a selection of chocolate including hot chocolate, a chocolate croissant, and chocolate fondue. If the picture below doesn’t make you salivate, I don’t know what to tell you. It was pretty heavenly.
- Fallen Angel– Unfortunately, we never actually made it to Fallen Angel, but I mention it because it came highly recommended to us. We were told the food was wonderful and from the Trip Advisor photos, the decor seems to be quite eclectic. Let me know if you get a chance to eat there!
As for where to stay, I highly recommend getting a hotel in or near Plaza de Armas. The plaza is centrally located near all of the neighborhoods in Cusco and is a frequent pick-up and drop-off point for tours. It is also very easy to catch a cab to get to the airport or train station. We stayed at the Sonesta Posada del Inca de Cusco which was on the outside of Plaza de Armas. Some reviewers commented that their room was loud, but I did not find that to be a problem. I would ask for a window facing away from the Plaza if you are concerned about noise. The staff was always eager to help and offer suggestions. However, not all of them knew English so it helped to be conversant in Spanish. Coca tea is offered upon arrival and is available throughout the day, and your stay includes a large breakfast in the hotel cafe with made-to-order eggs, as well as a buffet that includes pancakes, chicken and rice, fruit, eggs, coffee, and tea.
Calle del Medio, Calle Del Medio, 113 (Plaza de Armas)
Inka Grill, Portal de Panes 115 (Plaza de Armas)
Greens Organic, Santa Catalina Angosta, 135
PachaPapa, Plazoleta San Blas 120
ChocoMuseo, Calle Garcilaso 210
Fallen Angel, Plazoleta Nazarenas 221
Sonesta Posadas del Inca Cusco, Portal Espinar 108
Have you been to Cusco? Where were your favorite places to eat? What were your favorite dishes?