A foodie’s guide to unique culinary experiences in Peru

We landed at Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru, around 6 am and were welcomed by thick, humid air and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

I was travelling with a group of Canadians, hopping on a convenient direct flight from Toronto to the South American country with Air Transat.

The week-long trip was in March when summer felt so far away for us, so we were excited to take a break from the dreary Canadian weather and enjoy the sights and tastes of Peru.

We would quickly learn that any restaurant is worth sitting through congestion in the country’s capital city by the ocean.


Views from Miraflores Park Hotel in Lima, Peru. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

With cascading mountains in the Andes, lush jungles that meet winding rivers in the Amazon rainforest, and vast deserts, Peru’s food scene is as diverse as its geography.

When you think of Peruvian cuisine, the first dish that may come to mind is ceviche, but that’s just the tip of its food pyramid.

Ceviche at Astrid y Gastón.(Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

Due to migration and Spanish colonization, the country is home to Creole cuisine thanks to Afro-Peruvians. There’s Chinese Peruvian food called “chifa” and Nikkei food, which resulted from Japanese immigration.

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I was more than ready to sink my teeth into the variety of dishes, and we did just that. Every day ended with a food coma as we went on a restaurant crawl through Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley.

From having my first taste of anticuchos (skewered and grilled beef heart) at street food market Mercado 28 to carb loading on the delectable bread basket at Astrid y Gastón to dining on authentic Peruvian dishes at the traditional colonial family estate Hacienda Huayoccari, my taste buds were satisfied.

Anticuchos at Mercado 28. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

But the most memorable culinary experiences were the ones that invited us to interact with our food.

From learning about native Peruvian coffee and chocolate to mashing corn and roasting guinea pigs with local farmers, there are plenty of one-of-a-kind activities in Peru that’ll give you more insight and appreciation for what goes into your stomach.

Here are some unique culinary experiences to try when you visit Peru.

Chocolate and coffee tasting at Ciclos Café and El Cacaotal

I rarely eat a meal without ending it with some form of chocolate treat, so I was excited that chocolate tasting was on our itinerary.

It was held on the second floor of Ciclos Café, a cozy coffee shop nestled in Lima’s hippest neighbourhood, Barranco. If you enjoy colourful street art and finding beautiful souvenirs from local artisans, this is the place to be.


Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

We were hosted by dynamic coffee and chocolate duo Felipe Aliaga and Amanda Jo E. Wildey.

Aliaga isn’t just the cafe’s owner — he is also an agricultural technician and a coffee taster specialist. Wildey is a cacao specialist and anthropologist who created El Cacaotal. She describes herself as a chocolate librarian at the chocolate bookstore that is El Cacaotal.

Amanda Jo E. Wildey and Felipe Aliaga, owners of El Cacaotal and Ciclos Café (@cicloscafe/Instagram)

Both aim to create an equitable, symbiotic relationship between cacao and coffee farmers, makers and sellers in Peru while educating chocolate and coffee lovers about the people and stories behind the bean.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

Not only did we learn how to identify the taste, smell and appearance of coffee and chocolate, but the knowledgeable pair also taught us how those elements can tell us which regions the beans come from in Peru.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

I came out of the experience with a greater appreciation for how much hard work goes into my favourite dessert and, of course, tasty souvenirs of Peruvian chocolate.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

You can inquire about coffee and chocolate tastings here.

Hotel B cocktail class

We ended our first night in Lima with a fun rooftop cocktail class at Hotel B. Also located in the Barranco district, the restored mansion from the Belle Époque was the perfect place to view the magnificent sunset while getting lit on some tasty drinks.


Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

The hotel’s award-winning bar manager, Axel Romero, taught the class. He guided us through mixing the iconic Peruvian Pisco Sour and the Inca Soul paired with tasty tapas.

For the uninitiated, the Pisco Sour was created over 100 years ago by Victor V. Morris, an American bartender who moved to Peru.

A reinterpretation of the Whisky Sour, the traditional Peruvian cocktail uses pisco, a brandy made from fermented grape juice. The grapes used to produce the classic drink are grown in vineyards in the country’s Ica region.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

The cocktail is the perfect balance of tang from the lime juice and sweetness from the simple syrup and pisco. Chilled in a shaker with ice, it’s incredibly refreshing and helped me cool off in the humid Lima night.

The Inca Soul is an ode to Peruvian vodka and the native Peruvian potatoes used to make it. This cocktail is perfect for those who like their drinks strong.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

Romero was a patient teacher to a clumsy, first-time bartender like me. It turns out that looking cool using a cocktail shaker is a lot harder than bartenders make it seem.

The experience includes a recipe book for the cocktails, so you can attempt to make them at home.

You can book a cocktail class at Hotel B here.

Nine-course meal at one of the 50 best restaurants in the world

In Toronto, I usually seek out hidden gems and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that fit my budget, so it was a privilege to get a taste of fine dining in Peru.

Our dinner at Mayta, one of the 50 best restaurants in the world, was the first time I’d ever experienced food and service of that calibre.


Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

We were treated to a nine-course tasting menu with vintage wine pairings showcasing local ingredients from Peru’s diverse regions.

While this isn’t necessarily a hands-on culinary experience like the ones I’ve listed above, Chef Jaime Pesaque’s menu was incredibly immersive. So much so that we, as guests, delivered a heaping plate of “oh wows” and gasped as each course was served.

One of the dishes that live in my head rent-free is the first course, which highlighted the versatility of native Peruvian tubers (the country has over 6,000 varieties of potatoes!)


The first course features native Peruvian tubers. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

The dish featured “paiche,” an Amazon River fish, which included the skeletal head of the animal as a plate…

Paiche, cocona, chonta, rough lemon and charapital chili. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

Our final main course of ribs, fava and butter beans, potatoes and chincho was accompanied by fava beans being smoked right before our eyes.

A bowl of smoking fava beans and the main course of ribs, fava beans, butter beans, potatoes, and chincho. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

And the beautifully plated dessert course here showcases the fresh and tangy camu camu fruit.


The two dessert courses are camu camu and what looks like a rock but is chocolate, shaped like a stone filled with coffee and lucuma. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

I was blown away not only by the flavours but also by the customer service.

The servers were like synchronized swimmers, clearing the table and placing the next course in front of each diner in unison. They guided us through each plate, explaining how to eat the dishes for the best experience. The sommelier was also very knowledgeable and explained the wine pairings eloquently.

It was exciting to sit at the fine dining table, and I recommend that anyone visiting Lima treat themselves to the decadent experience.

You can reserve a table at Mayta here.

Cooking and farming experience with the community of Huayllafara

The drive up to Huayllafara was breathtaking in numerous ways. We held our breaths as we precariously snaked our way up a narrow dirt road on the side of a steep mountain.

At one point, we had to leave the van and walk the rest of the way up to the farm because it couldn’t clear a tight corner. But the high-altitude trek was worth it, with views of lush green hills as far as the eye could see.


Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

We spent our first morning in Peru’s Sacred Valley region with Indigenous farmers in the small community of Huayllafara.

The visit was organized by La Base Lamay, a tour agency that specializes in responsible tourism.

Responsible tourism prioritizes preserving the environment and culture of the destination while sustainably contributing to the local economy.

Founder Franco Negri says the experiences are usually flexible to adapt to the community’s work schedule, stressing that they don’t force people to perform for tourists.

Franco Negri is the founder and CEO of La Base Lamay tour agency. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

“They will tell you about their life, and you will tell them about your life,” he explained, emphasizing that the goal of the visit is to connect with the community and have a cultural exchange.

It began with introductions from leaders Segundino Mamani and Benigno Huallpa, along with other members of Huayllafara. On the drive up, we introduced ourselves using the few phrases we learned in Quechua, Peru’s Indigenous language.


Members of the Huayllafara farming community in Peru. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

Mamani showed us their farming calendar, illustrating when they plant and harvest certain crops throughout the year. Some of the crops grown at Huayllafara include corn, quinoa, fava beans, and wheat.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

Then, they put us to work. We got to try using a traditional foot plough called the chakitaqlla to loosen the soil for new seeds.

Segundino Mamani and Benigno Huallpa showed us how to use the foot plough. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

Embarrassingly, I may have given them more work because I wasn’t strong enough to push the plough all the way through to lift the soil. It just shows how much hard, physical labour goes into producing quality ingredients.


Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

After ploughing, we worked up an appetite and helped prepare a traditional Andean lunch. We peeled and ground corn for soup and mashed herbs, nuts, and spices for a sauce to pair with steamed corn.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

Our tour guide, Marciel, had told us a surprise dish would be on the menu. For the uninitiated, guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru and has been a staple of the Peruvian diet for thousands of years.

Lamay is known for its roasted “cuy.”

Locals visit the town to treat themselves to guinea pigs for special occasions, and I guess our visit was just that because we got a taste of the delicacy (TW: roasted guinea pig photos incoming!).

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

As someone who had roommates with pet guinea pigs, I tried not to picture their cute, furry little faces when taking a bite.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

Once you get past seeing their skewered bodies, it’s honestly not that bad.

They tasted like a crispy Filipino pork dish called Lechon, except with less meat.

Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive

After the delicious farm-to-table lunch, we said our goodbyes. To thank them for their hospitality, we donated some of our belongings, such as blankets and ponchos.

I left our visit to the Huayllafara community in the Sacred Valley with an immense sense of gratitude for the Indigenous farmers who are keeping the tradition alive.

I think one moment that I’ll never forget sums up the Peruvian culinary experience.

Before we began ploughing, the farmers held a ceremony offering coca leaves to Pachamama, Mother Earth, a revered goddess to Indigenous people in the Andes.

“We belong to this world; the world doesn’t belong to us,” our tour guide translated.

Mamani offers coca leaves to Pachamama or Mother Earth. (Isabelle Docto/Daily Hive)

You can book a community experience like this one here.

With Air Transat’s direct flights from Toronto and Montreal, getting to Peru is also much easier now.

The author of this article was hosted by Air Transat and PROMPERU.