Peru you have our hearts forever! Traveling to Peru has been on my bucket list for years and getting to do it with Chloe made it that much more special. Here’s everything we did in Lima, Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in Peru!
When I was around Chloe’s age, I learned about the Incan’s culture spanning over 1000 years and the magic of Machu Picchu. I had it on my bucket list and started planning this trip 2 1/2 years ago to visit last summer, until the pandemic got in the way. Chloe and I had to put the trip off for a year which ended up making the entire experience that much more special and worth the wait.
After traveling to Peru being there for 9 days, I feel like I could have written an entire guide on every nook and cranny, so let’s get to business so you can travel with your family there too… stat!
What to Do in Lima, Peru:
Here’s a peek at our 4 day stay in Lima, Peru. Where we stayed, what we did and tips for making it a blast!
Where to Stay in Lima:
We stayed at the Milaflores Hotel for 4 nights which felt like a vacation within itself. It was a splurge and totally worth it with the location right on the ocean, cozy beds, incredible service and one of the best breakfast spreads with a variety of exotic, local fruits, pastries, cereals, omelets, meats and more (included in the hotel stay) that I’ve ever eaten.
Sightseeing and Shopping in Lima:
- Kennedy Park Walk around the park and see all of the cats, entertainers and grab bambinos which are like orange donuts. There are often vendors selling handmade gifts and lots to see in the area.
- Choco Museo: for decadent hot chocolate (dark or milk), cocoa beans, cooking classes and every chocolate product you can imagine.
- Inca Market: Chloe and I decided it was the best place to shop in much of Peru. Great prices, different levels of quality and variety on everything from sweaters to scarves and gloves.
- Paragliding: We went paragliding with Condor Xtreme! Chloe was totally scared to go paragliding, but at the end of our trip when I asked her the highlights of the trip she said this was one of her top three! It’s absolutely gorgeous flying over the city for 20 minutes and a bucket list experience not to be missed.
- Barranco Neighborhood: Known for its bohemian vibe and world famous artists, galleries, and musicians plus hip bars and restaurants plus all of the dynamic architecture. We spent a morning walking around visiting an outdoor farmers market, shops and art installations.
- Presidential Palace and Main Square: Spend an hour walking all over the area to get even deeper insight into the people and historic architecture of Lima.
- Casa de Aliaga: This historic home built by Francisco Pizarro in 1535 gives a deeper look at his descendants and a deeper look into the area.
- Presidential Palace: the official residence of the President of Peru. It was closed to visitors when we were there; however, the magnificent main square and surrounding area is worth the visit. The Spanish Baroque style church La Mercedes was breathtaking as well.
Restaurants in Lima:
- Sibaris: There are 3 regions of Peru which includes over 4000 types of potatoes, 250 types of chilis and 55 varieties of corn. You’ll see corn boiled, deep fried and fermented in Peruvian dishes and especially at this small, but special spot in the Barranco neighborhood. We had a 4 course meal which included Ceviche made with leche de Tigre (basically an acidic “milk” made from citrus which is used to “cook” the fish). Second, we tried Causa which is a sweet potato sandwich made with mayo and vegetables, Anticucho (chicken on a stick served with potato and corn), Cincano (a cocktail made with pisco) and finally Aji de gallina (a creamy, spicy chicken dish).
- La Mar: Some of the best ceviche and tiradito that I’ve ever eaten at this seafood heavy spot. It’s only open for lunch and there can be a wait, but worth every second. The cocktails and mocktails are festive and made with pure and fresh ingredients.
- Heladeria Speciale: This special ice cream shop is a must for an afternoon stop in Barranco with unique flavors like lucuma, cherimoya and maracuya coconut.
- Huaca Pucclana: Next to ancient ruins it makes for the perfect spot to enjoy local Peruvian food while sipping a Pisco sour while looking at a gorgeous backdrop of the pyramids in the middle of Lima.
- Central: Get ready for one of the best gastronomic experiences of your life by devouring 14 courses (includes 2-3 per course) using foods that come from all over Peru. Chloe and I both agreed it was one of the best meals of our lives. Make sure to book as far in advance as possible as there’s limited seating available.
- Urban Kitchen Milaflores: If you want to cook and eat an incredible local meal this is the place to go. We made one of the most flavorful dinners including ceviche, vegetables, a beef dish and more while improving our culinary skills simultaneously.
What to Do in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, Peru:
After spending several days in Lima, we took a bus to the Lima airport and boarded a flight to Cusco. We had been told to bring altitude medication, but I had no idea how much of a difference the air quality would be. Going from sea level in Lima to over 11,000 feet was a wild feeling as our breathing became more shallow departing the plane, but what a site to see. The light bounced off the mountains illuminating the topography. Since the altitude can be intense for some people, most restaurants and hotels offer coca tea which is amazing for any sickness you maybe feeling or Muna tea which aids with altitude and digestion. Here’s where we stayed and what we did in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, Peru!
Where to Stay in Cusco and the Sacred Valley:
- The Sacred Valley: After arriving in Cusco, we spent the day in the heart of Cusco and then drove for 90 minutes to the most spectacular hotel in the Sacred Valley, the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba. Upon arrival they offered us Chicha Morada which was super flavorful and refreshing. We stayed there for several days.
- Cusco: After 4 days of touring the Sacred Valley, the surrounding areas and Machu Picchu we returned to Cusco where we stayed for 2 nights at the magnificent Monasterio, which was once a monastery and adjoining chapel. They had one of the best breakfast spreads I’ve ever devoured!
Sightseeing and Shopping in Cusco and the Sacred Valley:
- Plaza de Armas: The breathtaking main square in Cusco with shops and restaurants abound.
- San Pedro Farmers Market: The coolest farmers market I’ve ever visited with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of food stalls. Some of the best gifts of coffee and a varieties or salts came from here.
- Inca Museum: Cultural museum sharing history and art from the region.
- Awana Kancha: a center where South American animals, such as llamas and alpacas, are bred, and learn about the valuable fibers created from their coats.
- Manos de la Comunidad: This was one of Chloe’s favorite stops on the trip where we learned about and met endless varieties of llamas, alpacas, Vicuña and other animals local to Peru including the 1.3 million llamas and 3.2 million alpacas and 3800 almost extinct Huanaco living there. This is one of the best spots to buy luxurious textiles including sweaters, scarves, socks, hats, tapestries and more.
- Saqsaywaman: This is an archaeological site also known as the Temple of the Sun built in the late 1300’s used as a religious site.
- Ccorcorr: in the Sacred Valley of Peru at the highest elevation we visited lies the wonderfully authentic village where we learned about all of the local foods, natural colors to dye fabrics and visit with locals sharing their abundant traditions. Once we left we met with a shaman speaking kitchuan (the Incan language) and observed his ceremony offering gratitude to Mother Earth.
- Kuychi Center: Also known as Children of the Rainbow, it’s a nonprofit school supported by Abercrombie and Kent. We toured the school, watched a performance by the children and enjoyed the best lunch of our trip made with local organic seasonal foods.
- Ollantaytambo: this massive estate and now ruins of the Incan Empire are a peek into the history of the Sacred Valley.
There are endless shops in Cusco for shopping so feel free to walk around and explore. I rarely shop when I’m traveling, but we couldn’t help ourselves given the low prices and vibrant goods. The textiles and especially the ones like blankets, sweaters, scarves and purses made from baby alpaca (the first shaving of a young alpaca) were some of the softest fabrics I’ve ever touched. This is one trip that we decided to buy everyone in our family tons of goodies to give out when we returned home.
Restaurants in Cusco and the Sacred Valley:
- Calle del Medio: Incredible Andean ceviche and trout escabeche in the center of the Plaza de Armas overlooking Cusco. The tres leche cake, caramel sublime pie and Lucama flavored custard aren’t to be missed.
- MAP Restaurant: fine dining with local flavors in an all glass building at the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in Cusco. We enjoyed Sacred Valley Salad, trout and a luscious lemon pie.
Traveling to Machu Picchu “The Lost City”:
Machu Picchu has been on my bucket list since I was a kid and experiencing it with 13 year old Chloe made it even more special. We broke the visit to Machu Picchu into two separate days so we could be there at the end of the day and again as the sun rose above the mountains. The ruins of the area include 186 buildings (most now are ruins) and included some 400-600 residents at the time. The area receives 85 inches of rain annually, so make sure to bring your rain gear just in case.
Take the Train or Hike to Machu Picchu:
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu: hiking or by the Incan Trail Rail. Someday I want to hike the Inka Trail to get there, but for our first go round we decided to take the train, which happened to be one of the highlights of our trip. On the way there, we rode in the premiere car which served a delicious lunch (quinoa salad with asparagus, tomatoes and guacamole plus chicken in elderberry sauce with potato galette and fruit salad) and Pisco sour.
We got to stand on the balcony looking out at the snow capped mountains and river a stones throw away. After the 2 hour train ride we arrived in the tiny town at the bottom of the mountain. From there we got on a 25 minute bus up a windy, narrow road to the Sanctuary Lodge which happens to also be the only hotel at the top of Machu Picchu. Between the Pisco history and tasting class and wonderful meals we relaxed inside the modest rooms in between hikes.
If you’re looking for a vacation that both adults and kids will love, I think traveling to Peru is a great choice! Chloe and I couldn’t believe how incredible this trip was. There are tons of activities to do, the food is delicious and there is so much culture to take in and learn about.
No trip to Peru would be complete without a few glasses of the national cocktail: Pisco Sour. Here’s the recipe I was taught at the Sanctuary Lodge and have made for friends since returning to the states. Enjoy!