Peru: A Colorful Travel Guide
Imagine a country where cobblestone roads lead you into colorful shops and markets.
Where the food is made with such acute attention to detail — every flavor and preparation is thoughtfully planned.
Where “gratitude” seems to be a daily topic of discussion.
A country where endless mountains surround valleys full of vibrant crops, horses, cows, and alpacas. Where flowers adorn everything from the clothes women wear to the edible flowers you’ll find on top of almost every plate. A country where strangers smile at you. Where you feel welcomed everywhere you go. Where mother nature is valued and honored above everything else.
This country is Peru. And I can promise you, if you decide to visit, it will exceed all of your expectations.
I started my trip in Lima, a metropolitan city known for its grey skies, rich culinary experiences, and beautiful interior design. From the hipster Barranco neighborhood to the upscale Miraflores district, the city’s restaurant scene is mind blowing for the taste buds and easy on the eyes with its mix of colonial architecture, minimal concrete, and natural wood accents.
I recommend staying for 3-4 days in Barranco, which is Lima’s centrally-located colorful, artsy bohemian district — home of the bridge of sighs, the main square, La Ermita, and lots of delicious restaurants. 3-4 days is the perfect amount of time to sight-see and try a variety of different restaurants. If you decide that’s not enough time, you can always come back to Lima for a day or two after checking out the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu before flying home.
After meandering through the charming streets of Barranco, I stumbled across the main square in Barranco. In the middle stands a lovely colonial church surrounded by flowers, statues, and fountains. Occasionally you’ll find a treat performer!
Bridge of Sighs
Tradition says if you make a wish and cross the bridge without breathing, it will come true. At the end of the bridge, you can purchase a lock, write your name + date on the back and attach it to a fence filled with many other locks.
Steps away from the Bridge of Sighs, you can take a look at the La Ermita which is a bright yellow church as originally a chapel used by fishermen and travelers.
Park of Love (Parque del Amor)
A small park dedicated to lovers that offers a panoramic view over the Pacific Ocean and the cliffs of Lima, Peru. I recommend grabbing a fresh crepe from Beso’s and enjoying the sunset.
Caleta Dolsa Coffee
Located down the steps of a Main Street, you’ll find a boho-chic cafe with incredible matcha, a variety of fresh baked goods, and a breakfast burrito that will leave you drooling.
This cafe has a lovely outdoor seating area with an amazing selection of fresh pressed juice, I ordered the green detox and immuno. Inside you’ll find a nice seating area with baked goods, fresh flowers, and other knickknacks for purchase.
Right next to Merito, one of my favorite restaurants of all time, you’ll find a super cool upstairs cafe area. The minimalist wooden open bar area with metal accents is easy on the eyes.
Felicia & Domingo
A charming cafe with outdoor bistro seating covered by dainty beach umbrellas and surrounded by lots of spring flowers. Inside the cafe, you’ll find a bright neon sign and a great selection of fresh coffee and snacks.
I stumbled upon this spot kind of by accident. After working all morning at a cafe in Barranco, I looked up “lunch spots” nearby and picked the closest option. I arrived right when they opened at 12:30 pm and sat down at the bar upstairs. Having no idea that I was about to have a culinary experience at arguably Peru’s most acclaimed restaurant. I knew after the first plate came out, that I was about to have the best meal of my life. I wasn’t wrong. Honestly, there are no words that can describe the experience, it’s just one of those places you have to go to. Definitely order the tostadas acevichadas, Peruvian corn, and fish curry.
This recommendation came straight from a local. My friend Alexia was born and raised in Lima and said that I had to go here while I was in Lima. Glad I took her advice. Everything about this upscale Chinese-Peruvian restaurant is mind-blowing from the architecture to the way the food is presented. I ordered Peking duck, soup dumplings, and a salad. Not only did it taste incredible but each dish was presented with the utmost care and decorated with edible flowers, of course.
Great casual spot for brunch or lunch with incredible Peruvian food. Ask the waiter about his local favorite recommendations and trust that you’re going to have one of the yummiest Peruvian lunch experiences.
Don’t let the cozy ambiance of this sushi bar fool you. Eating at Poke 51 was one of the highlights of my time in Lima. If you’re looking to try high-quality, innovative, mouthwatering sushi for an affordable price then this is the spot for you. I recommend their salmon crispy rice, volcano roll, maki umami, and seared scallop nigiri with truffle.
Bright, spacious, clean, beautifully decorated, and features a vintage claw- foot tub. Say no more. Casa Wynwood is the boutique hotel of your dreams and is the perfect space to learn about the culture and customs of Lima in depth. Features five modernized suites inside of a cozy 1900s mansion with multiple spaces for teleworking and total relaxation — including a reading room and workout room.
$135/night includes breakfast, Wi-Fi, TV, bathtub, workspace, gym
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
After spending some time in Lima, I decided to fly to Cusco, a mountain town at 11,152 feet above sea level famous for its spectacular main square, cobbled streets, terracotta tiled roofs, and proximity to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. I spent the night in Cusco before renting a car and driving into the Sacred Valley where I stayed for a few days to acclimate to the altitude before heading to Machu Picchu.
Salineras de Maras
These ancient salt mines are an essential sight to see in the Sacred Valley, so mesmerizing in fact, that I had to go back twice. Prepare yourself for a short but steep 15-minute hike directly up to the salt mines. Because of the incline, I recommend going earlier in the morning to avoid hiking in the midday heat. Once you get to the top, you’ll see thousands of shallow pools filled with salt water. These salt pans have been mined and operated by local families for over 500 years.
Have you ever had the rare experience of being moved so deeply by the beauty of a place that it brought tears to your eyes? Well, I hadn’t… until I reached the top of Machu Picchu. Even though it’s a bit of a trek (literally), I truly couldn’t imagine traveling to Peru and not checking out one of the 7 wonders of the world. There are a bunch of different ways you can get to Machu Picchu — some people hike or take the bus but I took the Inca rail. The scenic train ride is about an hour and a half and takes you along a stream through gorgeous towering mountains. It’s pretty easy to book online and once you get to Machu Picchu town you can explore the colorful market and grab a bite to eat before taking a bus or hiking up to Machu Picchu. I recommend bringing sunscreen and bug repellent!
A phenomenal restaurant located in Cusco with a to-die-for selection of plant- based goodness made “full of respect and love for the universe” and they’re not lying. You can taste the love. This is a must-go spot if you’re plant-based and still want to experience the famous Peruvian ceviche — their oyster mushroom ceviche is probably better than the real thing. I recommend going hungry and trying lots of things on their menu — including their Cusco grill platter, smoked sushi, and tacu tacu.
A farm-to-table gem that will satisfy your craving for comfort food from home made out of fresh, organic ingredients. They offer a variety of international and Peruvian cuisine including wraps, pad thai, pasta, pizza, falafel, and other daily specials. I ordered their incredible Mediterranean bowl, kombucha, green goddess smoothie, and fresh juice.
Located in the community of Arin, close to hiking trails, incredible views, and a beautiful waterfall just 15 minutes walking distance from the house. The 2-story house was built with traditional, natural, and local materials: adobe, wood, and stone which gives off a natural and authentic Peruvian feel while still having the cleanliness and comfort of modern amenities. Outside there is a hammock area, outdoor terrace, barbecue area, and hot tub.
$97/night includes Wi-Fi, TV, kitchen, bathtub, incredible views, and scenic outdoor common areas.
Samadhi Sacred Valley
Had I known about Samadhi before arriving at the sacred valley, I would have stayed here the entire time. This yoga retreat space was surrounded by nature and overlooked the entire sacred valley — enclosed by the Andean mountains. Each of their bungalows is enclosed with perfectly manicured gardens and represents the seven chakra energy centers in the body. In the main lodge, they have a living room and dining room both overlooking the sacred valley and some of the nicest people I met during my stay.
$111/night includes daily accommodations, yoga classes, and 3 meals a day.
After 12 days. Peru easily became one of my new favorite travel destinations and I still didn’t get to see and experience everything that I wanted to. If I had more time, I’d have also visited Huacachina which is a village built around a natural lake in the middle of the desert called the Oasis of America. As well as Iquitos, a village known to be the gateway into the northern part of the Amazonian jungle. But I guess that’s the beauty of falling in love with new places… you can always go back.
I hope you get the chance to make it out to Peru and if you do, feel free to share your experiences with us on Instagram by tagging #thegoodstufftravelrecs and @happyplacebrand in your posts!
'Til next time,
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