We loved the people in Peru. Everyone seems happy, nice and glad you're there. My family went over the week of Thanksgiving in November, and it was perfect weather.
You can't drink the water, so only use bottled water. It's fine to brush teeth and shower though.
Belmond Miraflores Park, Lima:
Alejandro, the manager in Lima, went beyond expectations for every single request, from arranging rides and activities to upgrading our room to…THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE.
The hotel was exceptionally clean and beautiful. They are washing carpet between guests. I even saw someone touching up paint in the hallway near our room. Belmonds (in Peru at least) are maintaining 50% capacity to provide social distance. The rooms are large with big windows, comfortable beds and the showerheads are amazing.
Belmond Monasterio, Cusco:
Edson In Cusco was awesome. He gave me his personal WhatsApp number. I suggest you download it to communicate with everyone in South America if you don’t already have it. Edson got us an oxygen tank when our youngest got altitude sickness, which immediately made her better. He also suggested an amazing restaurant in Cusco and coordinated with the Belmond in Machu Picchu for tickets and the Belmond in Lima to send back some clothes my kids left in their room.
The hotel building is a protected national monument with one of Cusco’s finest collections of 18th century colonial religious art. Every room is different and special. It has a very unique old world vibe that I loved. The rooms surround a courtyard with a 300-year-old cedar tree and gorgeous flower gardens.
Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu:
I did not love this hotel, but the location was incredible. It literally lives at the gate to Machu Picchu, so it could not be more convenient. The room and showers were small. Apparently it was the research facility before a hotel. The staff is friendly, but they do not speak English as well, which is to be expected since it is such a tiny city. I feel like an idiot that I can’t speak Spanish, but I used my google translate app.
We set out to show our kids Machu Picchu and have my photo shoot in Lima. Our itinerary was:
We arrived in Lima direct from Dallas at 1am. The customs line was long and took 2 hours. I had booked us rooms at the airport Holiday Inn so we could just go straight to sleep. I asked inside the airport before the exit doors if they could locate the “shuttle” to the Holiday Inn. It was just outside the airport gate but all the way to the front of the line. The Wyndham is actually adjacent, so I would have booked there instead.
2 nights Lima - Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel
Fly LATAM Airlines to Cusco
Latam is a challenge. If you don’t read Spanish, you need to translate the website, and if you book more than one person on a single reservation, you will need to use the terminals at the airport entrance to print the individual boarding passes. They require double masks.
1 night Cusco - Belmond Monasterio Hotel Book oxygen rooms and *go ahead and ask for an oxygen tank on arrival, drink lots of water/little alcohol while adjusting the the altitude. I also brought electrolyte packets, Advil and Zofran. We loved walking around the ancient city. There is a great crystal shop called Shaman Shop and some lovely Peruvian embroidery shops. We got to hold baby llamas too. Everyone takes US dollars. You can use a credit card if you spend enough.
*A note on currency - Basically divide Sol by 4 to get USD amount. Servers except 10% gratuity, but drivers don't expect tips. We had some good service, so we tipped anyway. Pictures with the ladies dressed up with their llamas are $2-$5 per lady, so carry cash for small items in/around markets. Everyone takes USD.
Belmond Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu
This is the luxury train option. It’s a beautiful old train, but you feel the age, as it’s a pretty rickety ride. Possibly worth the high higher price if traveling with adults. Might not be worth it with kids who can’t enjoy the alcoholic beverages and might not enjoy the fancyish meal and old-world feel. I booked this because it was my daughter’s 16th birthday (and they sang to her and gave her a special dessert). I thought it was a good value to take it on the way, because they include the transfer to Machu Picchu and a private guide. You don’t have to deal with the tickets to Machu Picchu. Our guide was great, and they serve tea/snacks after the two hour tour at the hotel. If you are staying the night at the hotel, you can checkin before heading out on the tour.
*The bus ride up the mountain from the train to Machu Picchu is very high, windy and incredibly steep. If you get scared of those type rides, maybe have some Xanax.
1 night Machu Picchu - Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
*A note for Machu Picchu: Wear long pants, long sleeves (cover swim!) and high socks because the biting minges are really bad, especially if you sit down in the grass area. We actually had to get our hotel in Cusco to get steroid cream for my husband, because he was so reactive to all the bites on his arms. Also sunscreen on your face/neck is necessary even if you just go for the hour-long loop instead of a two-hour tour.
Perurail train back to Cusco
You walk through a great Peruvian market on the walk from the bus to the train station. They don’t serve water or any food/drinks to purchase, so buy some here. They require double masks and a face shield to board, but you can take the face shield off in your seat. They sell those at the gate to the train. I would have bought extra seats around us if I had thought about it. The seats and arranged in tables of 4 or 2. They are reclinable large chairs with panoramic windows. They have a short show with a masked dancer and some modeling of alpaca scarves. It’s about a 4 hour ride. Seemed longer but less bumpy that the Hiram Bingham.
1 night in Cusco - Belmond Monasterio Hotel
We had left our rollers and a few things to wash here, and everything was waiting for us in our previous rooms when we arrived back.
Fly LATAM Airlines back to Lima
They only have vending machines to buy water after security, and they do not serve water on the flights. The vending machines only take physical Sol (Peruvian currency). No one could change $5 for me but the sweetest lady gave me S10 and wouldn't let me give her USD.
1 night in Lima - Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel
We asked our driver to stop at Basilica y Convento de San Francisco de Lima to see the famous library and catacombs. Our guide, Zaida (I have her WhatsApp number too), walked us a few blocks from there to the Centro Historic de Lima which is a beautiful square with their Presidential Palace, gorgeous cathedrals and intricately carved wooden balconies.
*Some notes on departure: You have to go through an immigration line after you go through the x-ray security line. They start boarding very early, because they hand check (unzip and go through) every carry-on for liquids. We left the Holiday Inn 1 hour and 45 minutes before our flight and had very little wait time. We stopped at an airport shop once at the gate to get some of the cutest ultrafluffy alpaca llamas for friends. It was the perfect amount of time to get to the airport, but the immigration line wasn't too long. It seems like it could've been longer, so 2-3 hours ahead could actually be necessary. They are pretty slow moving compared to the US.
We traveled only with a carryon roller and backpack each thinking we could wash clothes at hotels if needed. I am so glad we didn't have big bags to check during all the travel!
Central did not disappoint. We chose the territory experience, which was 11 courses focusing on different ecosystems of Peru based on altitude. I highly recommend Central. They take reservations about 5 months in advance, so book very early. Everything from the earth-toned marble tables to the splatter-painted dishes to the artistry/taste/texture/color of the food was exquisite. I can see why this restaurant is #1 in South America, and top 5 in the world.
Maido was a great mix of Peruvian and Asian cuisine. It’s a small restaurant with ropes hanging from the ceiling. The server was great, and everyone loved their food. I’m surprised it’s ranked as one of the best restaurants in the world, but it was all around pretty great.
Astrid y Gaston serves a wonderful Peruvian meal. Astrid, one of the most talented pastry chefs in the world, walks around talking to the guests. There is a big tree with colorful streamers in the middle of the somewhat open-air concrete format. We loved it.
Huaca Pucllana is a casual restaurant overlooking Incan ruins. The atmosphere is unique, and the food is good. This would be a great place to take younger kids.
Matseui was great sushi. It was the first sushi bar in Peru in the 70s. Nobu trained here. It was the biggest influence of Japanese cuisine in Peru.
Cala is right on the beach, and probably has the best view in the city. We had lunch, which was slow and wonderful. It’s a great place to have wine and fresh seafood overlooking the ocean.
Limo was a great Peruvian/Japanese restaurant on a second floor overlooking the main square, Plaza de Armas. We all loved the sushi and ramen. They have a great vegetarian fried rice dish too.
El Tupay at the Monasterio is wonderful. The mushroom soup was the best I have ever had. They have excellent fish dishes, and my husband had the classic Peruvian sliced steak in sauce and loved it.