Food tours are the best way to quickly tap into the best and most interesting food in a given destination. In Peru, a thriving gastronomic scene takes the culinary tour experience to another level. Whether you’re in the city or the countryside, visiting restaurants, fresh markets, farms, and more alongside an expert guide gives you privileged access to hidden foodie treasures you might otherwise miss.

Evening Food Tour in Lima

Designed by Lima Gourmet for travelers in search of the city’s culinary highlights, the evening food tour takes you on an interactive journey through the city’s food and cultural landscape. The tour begins at a Barranco bar where you can watch and learn as the bartender makes Peru’s storied cocktail, the pisco sour. Sip and savor while your guide tells you about the renaissance of Lima’s bohemian quarter.

The second stop transports you to the rainforest via the city’s best Amazonian restaurant, ámaZ. Although two-thirds of the country is covered in rainforest, Amazonian dishes are underrepresented in what is considered classic Peruvian food. But Lima is quickly embracing rainforest products and ingredients thanks to the work of forward-thinking chefs. At the restaurant, join in making a fresh Amazonian ceviche and enjoy it alongside appetizers and a rainforest fruit cocktail.

Spread of Amazonian specialties at ámaZ in Lima

Photo courtesy of ámaZ.

For the main course, continue to Huaca Pucllana, a 4th century AD pre-Inca ruin in the heart of the city. After sundown, the ruins are illuminated – you will feel like you’re on a movie set. Enjoy the views while sampling exquisitely prepared classic Peruvian dishes. The chef at Huaca Pucllana, Marilu de Madueño, has been recognized by SUMMUM as one of the best in Peru.

There’s always room for dessert, right? Transfer to your last stop in Barranco, one of Lima’s most happening districts, and indulge in a irresistible gelato on the bustling main square.

Gastronomic Experience in Arequipa

Arequipa is the birthplace of many of Peru’s iconic dishes. (Read our two-part journal post — Discovering Arequipa one bite at a time, Part 1 : What to Eat and Part 2 : Where to Eat).

Eating your way through a city is great, but what about cooking some of those famous dishes yourself? Giardino Tours (one of Arequipa’s most reputable tour operators) allows you to do just that.

The experience starts at one of the city’s quintessential attractions, the San Camilo Market. Taking up a full city block in the historic center, this market is packed with stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, meats, cheeses, grains, flowers, and more. Your guide will show you around the market and together you will buy the ingredients for the dishes you’ll be cooking.

After the market, head to the house of a local Arequipa family for a hands-on experience in the kitchen. The cook will guide you through the entire process of cooking your own Peruvian dishes. It’s a memorable experience and you get to take home a bit of Peruvian culinary knowledge.

Carrots and peas at a market stall in Peru

Photo courtesy of pahowho / Flickr

Potato vendors at San Camilo Market in Arequipa

Se Vende Papas by Alan/Flickr

Pachamanca Lunch: a unique food experience in the Sacred Valley

Forming part of the scenic Belmond Rio Sagrado Hotel, Restaurante El Huerto is a must-stop for foodie travelers on the epicurean route to Machu Picchu. With advance notice, the restaurant can also prepare a pachamanca, one of pre-Columbian Peru’s oldest meals. Meaning “earth pot,” the pachamanca is a type of hot stone oven dug into an earthen pit and it is one of the most unique food experiences in the Andes.

First, the hot stones are heated in a wood and charcoal fire. Then the stones go into the pit followed by marinated meats including chicken, beef, mutton, pork, and alpaca as well as corn, various types of potatoes, and aromatic herbs. The pit is covered with banana leaves, more hot stones, and earth to keep all the steam in. Cooking time varies depending on the size of the pit, but does not usually exceed 20-30 minutes.

The pachamanca holds deep symbolism in Quechua and Andean culture.  Food harvested from the earth is returned to the earth to represent the cycle of life and as a sign of respect to the Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Once everything is in the earth, the cooks perform a ceremony of thanks. Then the oven is opened and the feast begins.

Written by Anabel
Anabel is Incas Expert’s nomadic wordsmith. After 5 years on the road, she's developed a knack for making impromptu workplaces out of cozy cafes across South America. When not writing, she's probably out searching for the best food, coffee, and bookstores in town.