Ask A Local with Elizabeth Asher in Peru

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What are three words you like to use when describing (city/region) to visitors?

There is no way someone visits Peru and these words don’t jump to mind to describe their visit: scrumptious for all the incredibly delicious food, delectable for all the mind-blowing Pisco cocktails and awe-inspiring for all incredible sights to be seen (and I’m not just talking about Machu Picchu!)

Which hotels do you recommend staying at? Why?

There is no way to fly to Peru and avoid spending a night in Lima. My recommendation might seem unusual for my friends who know I have a penchant for boutique hotels, but my go-to hotel in Lima is the JW Marriott hotel in Miraflores – but my sure to book in the executive floor. This allows you to have the punctilious service of a smaller hotel while enjoying the convenience of the best-situated hotel in Lima. Rooms with a view provide the most expansive Pacific Ocean views imaginable – and best of all, as soon as you step out of the hotel you can explore Miraflores, walk to Barranco (i.e.. the “Soho” of Lima) and run all the beach trails. 

Once you leave the capital, undoubtedly all visitors will head to Cusco and go to Machu Picchu. The most decadent choice in Cusco is the Belmond’s Monastery. There is no way anyone can avoid the hit from the high-altitude at which Cusco sits – best way to deal with it is to sleep in a room that pipes in additional O2 at night so you can make sure to get a fabulous night sleep. From the Monastery, I suggest that you transfer to another Belmond property that also provides a unique benefit to ensure a memorable vacation: the Sanctuary Lodge. This is the only hotel that sits atop Machu Picchu and it allows you to stay atop of the mountain long after all visitors have gone and to have a private sunrise visit to the temples.    

Best time of year to visit?

Fortunately for anyone in the US, the best time to visit is during our Wintertime – you head down to Peru during Summertime! 

What are your favorite outdoor and indoor activities?

My favorite indoor activity while in Peru is indulging in Pisco cocktails! Peru is the home of Pisco, in fact, Pisco is Peru’s liquid soul. No other county in the world can make Pisco as Pisco has a Denomination of Origin which his the Pisco Valley that sits 5-hours south of Lima. Pisco is actually a word in the Incan language that means “little bird”. The valley, which gives the eau-de-vie its name, received its name as it is the shelter where many little birds take refuge during their migration. Today, this valley is where grapes grow to produce this gorgeous white spirit that mixes into cocktails just as vodka, gin or tequila do. The best thing about drinking Pisco in Peru is the as you travel the country you will enjoy cocktails made with fruits and herbs indigenous to that specific region of the country – you will try camu camu from the Amazons or huacatay from the Andes or aji Amarillo from the coast – and best of all, you will find Piscos made from all 8 grape varietals. Personally, I highly recommend Machu Pisco’s La Diablada and the world’s only luxury-grade Pisco, Nusta – – and remember, just as Japanese drink sake when they eat sushi, in Peru we drink Pisco when we eat our ceviche!

What is your favorite street? Why?

My favorite street in Lima would have to be the Malecon. It is a street that sits atop the cliffs’ edge that runs parallel to the beaches of Lima below. It can take you from Miraflores to Barranco and while either ambling, running or biking it, you can enjoy gorgeous art not only doting the parks you’ll cross but unique wall art by Peru’s modern-day artists. And, if you chose to take a rest along this 6-mi stretch, you can sit at cafes or drop into some great bohemian bars. 

Ask A local peru

What are your favorite annual festivals and celebrations?

My favorite celebrations in Peru are Vendimia in Ica during February and Inti Raymi in Cusco in June. Vendimia celebrations coincide with the beginning of harvest, and for Pisco producers like myself and my sister, we love the pageantry which which the season is welcomed. Ahead of the grape harvest, in Ica, the largest city in the Pisco Valley, there is a ritual we have adopted and that is a toast to Pachamama (ie. Mother Earth) – we make sure to share with her the first pressing of our grapes to thank her for that year’s bounty. 

In Cusco, every year, there is a celebration during our Summer Solstice to celebrate the Incan diety of the Sun. This is a visual smorgasbord the replicates all the majestic glory of this celebration as it was staged 500 years ago. Prepare to be dazzled!

What are your safety tips?

I would say that outside of Lima, you will be generally safe and you’ll find a warm welcome with people ready to help if lost or looking for a recommendation. In a larger city like Lima, my strongest suggestion would be not to walk alone at night. Uber has arrived in Lima so make use of your app. 

Which souvenirs should visitors purchase? From where?

If shopping is your thing while on vacation – and even if it’s not – discover the world of Peru’s textiles. Peru has some incredible designer’s working with the most gorgeous and extravagant wools. If you seek the most luxurious experiences, then definitely head to Kuna to buy sweaters or scarves made from Vicuña wool. If you are open to other types of wool like from alpaca, then head to Ayni’s atelier. This label was founded by a Peruvian and Danish woman who are working with exclusive materials like baby alpaca and creating modern designs that one could wear in Peru, New York or London. And, of course, being part of a dynamic sister duo helming Machu Pisco, I have to give a shout out to another incredible sister team who co-founded Escudo, a fashion brand that embraces sustainability while designing gorgeous fashion forward pieces using alpaca wool.

Describe your perfect day in Peru.

My perfect day is awaking to a sun-filled morning in the Pisco Valley. This Valley runs from the foothills of the Andes and runs to the shore of the Pacific. It is a desert valley that has its own micro-climate so when you head down there, prepare yourself to be wowed by the most vibrant vegetables that thrive here, from olives, lima beans, asparagus and avocados. In between meals that awaken your taste buds to an almost psychedelic reality, you can visit Peru’s mini Galapagos, the Islas Ballestas, take an air tour over the Nazca lines, go sand-boarding or adventure off-roading into the Western Hemisphere’s tallest sand dunes! 




Vanessa Gordon
Vanessa Gordon is the Founder of Travel & Taste Magazine. She earned her Master of Arts degree in Education from New York University and studied Literacy and British Literature at the University of Oxford, and Institute of Education in London during her study abroad experience as a graduate student. She lives with her husband, daughter, son, and our cats Abby and Amy. She is also the Publisher of East End Taste Magazine, LLC and Founder of the annual summer event, the Hamptons Interactive Brunch. Her writing has appeared in many print and online publications including Modern Luxury, Psychology Today, Long Island Pulse, Medium, Thrillist, Sag Harbor Express, The Independent Newspaper, and many more. She has been featured in AM New York, Parents Magazine, Pregnancy & Newborn, Hamptons Magazine, Resident Magazine, Social Life Magazine, and many more.

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