First Timer’s Guide to Peru

At the start of 2023, one of our lovely community members asked me on Instagram stories what my top destination was for the year, to which I answered: PERU!! Some of you may recall that I was quite literally en route there, from Santiago, Chile, to Lima, when the unspeakable virus shut down the world. On March 14th, 2020 I booked a last minute, one-way ticket to Toronto, Canada, and never reached Peru. I was devastated. I had come SO close to finally getting to experience one of my greatest dream trips to no avail. I didn’t know it then but the universe had a better plan in store for me.

Fast forward to May of 2023 and I received an auspicious email from the award winning luxury travel pr firm, The Brandman Agency. The subject line read “New Idea/Opportunity” asking me if I would have any interest in painting my way through Peru, to showcase their exquisite portfolio of Marriott properties there, through my lens. I just about fell off my chair. Not only would I finally be able to experience this extraordinary country, but I would be doing so in the most remarkable way possible. My guide below covers where I went, where I stayed, and what I did while being there. Spoiler alert: Peru exceeded every. single. expectation!


Where to Stay: JW Marriott Lima (3 Nights)

Truly the epitome of luxury! I stayed in an expansive Contemporary Superior, Guest Room, 1 King, Oceanfront, Corner Room and it was DIVINE. I had a wraparound floor-to-ceiling view of the South Pacific Ocean and my own living room area and bar. When I arrived, I was greeted with an enormous bouquet of white roses and a plethora of food plates waiting for me in my room (cheese board, chocolates, and fresh fruit). Lima is arguably the gastronomic capital of the world, and I understood why, the minute I tried my first piece of cheese and fresh pineapple. I was gobsmacked by the unreal levels of freshness and flavors at this hotel. The staff was so exceptionally kind, attentive, gracious, and warm! For every night that I was there, a special Peruvian gift was left for me by my bedside. The whole team gathered in the lobby to bid me farewell and take photos. I still have tears well up in my eyes when I think about our goodbye.

Other Hotels of Note: Sheraton Lima Historic Center, Courtyard Lima Miraflores (boutique style, gorgeous rooms), AC Hotel Lima Miraflores (beautiful contemporary design, definitely check out their rooftop restaurant INSUMO), The Westin Lima (their thermal circuit is incredible, as is their fine dining restaurant Maras).

What to See:

A walking tour through the Historical Center is a great introduction to the city. You’ll get a real sense of Lima’s origins from the Hispano-American Baroque architecture, but also the country’s 3 distinct geographical regions: the coast, highlands, and jungle! From there you can jump in a cab and head to the art-fueled and fashionable neighborhood of Barranco (the soho of Lima). Along the way, be sure to stop at the Inka Markets for a bit of shopping. Once in Barranco, do visit the main square where you’ll catch live performances, and the world’s No. 1 restaurant on the World’s 50 Best list, Central! Walk over the Bridge of Sighs, take in the graffiti street art, and then check out the Dedalo Art Gallery. Before leaving, spend a morning wandering through the market stands of Mercado No 1 de Surquillo. Try some fresh cocoa beans, chirimoya (sweet Peruvian fruit), sea urchin, and learn about some of the 4,000 potato varieties native to Peru!

What to Wear:

Since I was visiting in August, it was mainly overcast, but still comfortably warm. I wore various iterations of what you see above: a tank top with a sweater layered over, long flowing skirts, and ballet flats for walking.


Where to Stay: Hotel Paracas, A Luxury Collection Resort (2 Nights)

After 2 full days in Lima, we drove 3 hrs south along the coast to Paracas which can be described as the chosen it-place for jet-setters and glamorous Peruvians. It’s proximity to Lima means it often caters to locals, but it should absolutely be on your list of must-see places when visiting from abroad. Not only is it a sunny paradise escape from city; the hotel itself has a rich and storied history. Having once been a private members club in the 1940’s, it boasts its own private dock and yacht, a thermal circuit in their exquisite spa, and a literal sea-to-table restaurant on the water, named Chalana. They serve up the most exciting and inventive takes on traditional Peruvian ceviche and more!

What to See:

Apart from enjoying the beautiful oceanfront property, its multiple pools, and spa, you absolutely must board the boat tour to the Ballestas Islands. It departs directly from the hotel’s private dock. You’ll head out around 8AM and enter into another world entirely. On the way to the islands you’ll get to appreciate the magnificence of the “Candelabro”, an enormous pre-historic geoglyph carved from desert soil into the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula. You’ll also come face-to-face with some very sassy sea lions, blue and orange crabs, and precious Humboldt penguins.

What to Wear:

On property you’ll want to wear your beautiful sundresses layered over your swimwear. However, you’ll definitely want to layer up in leggings, a sweater, and a windbreaker jacket for the boat ride as it gets quite chilly in the wind out there. Also, DO take your non-drowsy dramamine because the motion of the boat will hit you when you least expect it. I took one about 30 mins before we departed and felt totally fine!


Where to Stay: JW Marriott El Convento Cusco (2 Nights)

It was time to leave behind the coastal life and officially experience the Andes! From Paracas, we drove back to Lima airport to catch the 1.5 hr flight to Cusco. You could feel the energy shift the minute we landed in Cusco, or maybe it was just the altitude. Would you believe me if I told you that I started to cry involuntarily when I walked into the lobby of JW Marriott El Convento Cusco?! Not only is the hotel built into a 16th-century Spanish convent, but behind the front desk hangs a larger than life Inka Sun sculpture, made from 76,500 Swarovski crystals, glowing radiantly to greet you. The rush of emotions was then amplified when the hotel’s very own baby Alpaca, named Chaska (meaning star), came out to welcome me as well.

The hotel team was unbelievably thoughtful and accommodating. They placed me in THE Presidential Suite for the two nights I stayed with them. Note: every room is pumped with extra oxygen to help you acclimatize and portable tanks are just a front desk phone call away. When I walked into my room, there was a handmade tree sitting on my livingroom table, adorned in traditional Peruvian sweets, with a handwritten note from the GM. They also commissioned a local artist to illustrate my moment meeting baby Chaska, as a keepsake to return home with. I really cannot say enough just HOW generous the teams were at both JW hotels. They went above and beyond. I would also be remiss not to mention just HOW stunning the interiors are at this hotel. Be sure to enjoy the spectacular courtyard by day and by night!

Other Hotels of Note: Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel (do not miss the tour of the hotel’s art collection, the pisco sour master class at Bar Rumi, or the Andean healing ceremony in their lobby).

What to See:

The hotel arranged for a private city tour that covered an enormous amount of ground in one day. Little by little we pieced together the origins of the historic capital of the Inca Empire. We started high in the Andes with the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sacsayhuamán, an ancient citadel on the northern outskirts of the city. On our way back down to the center, we stopped to feed some llamas and alpacas before heading straight to San Pedro Market. Be sure to visit the Oropesa bread ladies in their stunning, jewel-tone pleated skirts, and sky-high white hats. From the Mercado we hit the streets by foot to take in the absolute vibrancy and energy of Cusco. It is like a visual storybook of its own history and origins; the stone walls changing from Inka style angled carvings, to Spanish Colonialism brickwork, as your eyes rise from the base of every building. The Plaza de Armas of Cusco is also a site to behold.

What to Wear:

I layered up, once again, to take me from different temperatures and proximities to the sun (high in the mountains vs lower in the city center). Comfortable walking shoes are ideal though I made out just fine in my Chanel flats, ha! I would advise that you definitely bring your sun screen, snacks, water, and some coca tea to combat the altitude.


Where to Stay: Tambo del Inka, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa (3 Nights)

I would have loved to have spent one more day exploring Cusco, but alas, the Sacred Valley of the Incas was calling!! We drove 1.5hrs into the heart of the valley and my jaw quite honestly hit the floor of our van as we pulled up to the entrance of Tambo del Inka. Picture a sprawling, luxurious, earth tone chalet, nestled into the Sacred Valley mountains, hugged by the soothing Urubamba River. Simply put: serenity found! Upon arrival, I opened my bedroom door to find an easel waiting for me, standing proudly next to my backyard terrace doors. But there was no time to draw just yet as I was about to have the spectacular farm-to-table lunch experience that you can see pictured above. Pick your fresh veggies from the hotel’s very own organic garden and watch as their chef prepares your four course meal right before your eyes!

More highlights from this property include the Kawsay experience of the day, beer tasting at the property’s own beer garden, the most exceptional seven course tasting menu with wine pairing at their fine-dining restaurant HAWA, and the hotel’s 19,375-square-foot spa that has a combined indoor/outdoor pool, encased with towering floor-to-ceiling windows! This hotel TRULY sets the bar high for luxury in Peru. Oh and did I mention it has its own train station?!!

What to See:

Of course you could spend a few days simply lounging on your private terrace, or tanning next to the pool, but let’s be honest, if you’ve come to Tambo del Inka, you’ve come to make your journey to one of the world’s seven wonders: MACCHU PICCHU. With the hotel having its own, I repeat, ITS OWN TRAIN STATION, you can walk from your bedroom door and in 5 mins be boarding the train from Urubamba station to Macchu Picchu. Pro-tip: do find a seat on the side of the train that follows the Urubamba River. The views are so unimaginably majestic, I wept for nearly the entire 2.5hr train ride. Once I arrived, my amazing private guide, Carlos, was waiting for me outside the station. We jumped on one of the many buses that take you up to the main entrance of Macchu Picchu where you’ll have roughly 2hrs to explore the grounds. My heart was racing with every minute we inched closer. For lunch I headed to Inkaterra restaurant which was so delicious and a lovely ambience to reflect on what I just witnessed.

What to Wear:

The weather was beautiful the day we visited Machu Picchu but I was still advised to dress in a long sleeve top and bottoms to avoid any unwanted bug bites AND to protect my skin from the sun. They weren’t kidding on that front. I would advise bringing a hat because there is nowhere to hide from the sun when she is out within the grounds. Also, DO wear appropriate footwear. You don’t need hiking boots if you are just doing the day tour, but comfortable sneakers with grip is essential! As for outfits back at Tambo, I would say relaxed luxury! Tambo translates to resting spot, but it is a 5 star resting spot after all, ha!

In all seriousness, this guide barely scratches the surface of just how transformative and meaningful this journey to Peru was for me. Without question, it was one of the most awe-inspiring, heartfelt, and life-affirming trips I’ve ever taken and I cannot recommend going enough. My gratitude, to every single person who was involved in making this journey a reality for me, is endless. I cannot wait for the day I get to return!!

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