sábado, 31 de marzo de 2018

7 exotic jungle foods you'll want to try (or not)

In previous posts we talked about the elegant and fancy side of Peruvian gastronomy and the best restaurants in Lima, however, in Peru exist a wide variety of ecosystems that open a huge range of possibilities to the different local cuisines of the country.

Undoubtedly the most extravagant and unknown of the Peruvian 'gastronomic boom' is jungle food. Here are some of the most unusual and unknown local dishes that - if you dare and don't have many objections to new experiences - you will surely want to try.

Churo (Giant snail)

Although in countries such as France, Spain or Portugal, the terrestrial snail is considered a delicacy, in the Amazonian department of San Martín there is a variety of giant river snail (known as churo) that it is very popular for stews based on chilies, onions and tomatoes.

This mollusk is also a great source of iron and protein and a solution to combat anemia and malnutrition in its area of origin. In Lima, some restaurants like Maido have prepared them with an emulsion of dale dale in a gourmet version.

Exotic Jungle Food, Amazonian Food Peru, Jungle Gastronomy

Suri Anticuchos

One of the most emblematic foods of the jungle is the palm worms, know as Suri. Despite the initial rejection that it may provoke at first sight, this type of dish is considered a delicacy in cities of the Amazon like Iquitos or Pucallpa.

Their preparation is very simple and varied, some simply wash and fry them in oil while others prefer to grill them on the grill and place them on a stick like a traditional antique. The most daring dare to eat them raw or even alive.

Giant churo, giant jungle snail, jungle gastronomy, curious jungle meals

Zarapa or Sarapatera Soup

In many parts of South America the turtle is considered a delicacy and Peru could not be left out. In the wetter areas of the Peruvian Amazon we find the motelo turtle, one of the components of the diet of the jungle dweller and a dish that should not be overlooked when visiting this place.

Its meat is prepared in different ways, from grills to stews and among these is the soup Zarapa, which is prepared inside the shell of the animal and is accompanied by grated banana.

Turtle Soup, giant jungle snail, jungle gastronomy, curious jungle meals

Giant ants

Just like you read it: ants. Those insects that gather around your food when you leave it alone for too long are the favorite snack of the people of Moyobamba (San Martin province).

Siquisapas are giant forest living ants that are coveted for their unusual but delicious aroma and flavor. According to kitchen experts, they can also be enjoyed as an appetizer, on pizza or even in exotic drinks.

Giant Ants, giant jungle snail, jungle gastronomy, curious jungle meals

Lizard Chicharrón

If you're going to Iquitos, capital of the province of Loreto and a favorite tourist destination in the Amazon region, then you must taste the lizard meat, a common dish among the locals in any corner of the city.

Its most popular presentation is in pork rinds but you can also order it grilled with other protein foods such as venison, chicken or even seafood.  

Lizard Chicharron, jungle gastronomy, curious jungle meals

Roast monkey

Strangely enough, monkey meat is a traditional dish in several parts of the Amazon region of Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. In the market of Belén, in the city of Iquitos, it is possible to discover a passage where we will find a great variety of exotic animals -some of them in extinction- quartered, such as turtles, parrots or monkeys.

The traditional preparation is to skin it and cook it on the grill, being able to bring you the surprise of discovering a leg or an arm on your plate. Not suitable for sensitive stomachs.

*The photos we have discovered on internet are not very nice, so we refrain from putting an image for this dish.

Bushmeat Mazamorra

As well as the popular Peruvian sweet, the purple mazamorra, there is also an exotic version in the Amazon based on monkey, but you can also find it prepared with tapir (or tapir, a kind of Amazonian wild boar), armadillo or even lazy bears depending on the time of year.

Basically, it is a soup thickened with striped green plantains and garnished with roasted yucca and chili peppers. It should be noted that the preparation of this stew is currently based on farmed animals given the ban on the sale of exotic creatures such as those mentioned above.

Bushmeat Mazamorra, jungle gastronomy, curious jungle meals

In the mentioned market of Belén we can ask for the well-known Pasaje Paquito, where there are stalls where they sell from medicinal plants, herbal tonics, to concoctions and aphrodisiac potions and for love.

We can also find other native products of the jungle such as the charapita pepper, the sacha coriander, the sacha potato, or the chonta or palm heart, which is usually used raw for salads, of a pleasant texture.

Without a doubt a whole world of contrasts and an explosion of flavours that we could not imagine. Dare to try it!

Esteban García, Peru Travels Blog
March 2018

viernes, 16 de marzo de 2018

Tourists were expelled from Machu Picchu for obscene gestures

Believe it or not, the fact that one or more tourists perform obscene acts in Machu Picchu is nothing new and there have been many similar cases.

In the classic postcard that is the most photographed of Machu Picchu (with the Huayna Picchu in the background) have been taken instant several Hollywood stars, there have been hundreds of petitions for hands... But it has also witnessed some"filth" that clearly contravene the ethical rules governing the visit to the wonder of the world.

Tourist expelled from Machu Picchu for obscene acts

On this occasion, three tourists were discovered by the Ministry of Culture's park rangers when they showed their buttocks to other tourists who were passing through the area known as 'La casa del vigía'.

After being intervened by the authorities, the three tourists identified as Gerardo Tobías (21) of German nationality, Noan Reichlin (24) of Swedish nationality and Sjoerd Ten Brinkee (26) of Dutch nationality, were referred to the Aguas Calientes Police Station, where they were warned of their behaviour, forbidding them from entering Machu Picchu until after one year.

Tourist expelled from Machu Picchu for obscene acts

"We very much regret that this type of attitude continues to be taken by bad tourists, we understand that they behave unseemly in other places, but they must respect our monument, because for the people of Cusco and for all Peruvians it is a sacred site," quoted the local newspaper Correo Fernando Astete, head of the Machu Picchu Archaeological Park.

The official also regretted that up to now this type of attitude has not been punished effectively or pecuniary, which could discourage other visitors from committing similar actions.

Esteban García, Peru Travels Blog
March 2018

lunes, 12 de marzo de 2018

Sailing on Lake Titicaca - Bolivia Side

In previous posts we have already talked about the awesome experiences and tourist attractions of sailing on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca and, although this blog is based on the travels to Peru, it seems unfair not to talk about the beauties and main atracctions on the other side of the lake.

To cross the border there are several options, although the safest and most recommended is through Yunguyo, which will take us directly to Copacabana, our base to visit the famous islands of the Sun and Moon, the sacred sites of Andean mythology.

From the land terminal of Puno (between Av. Costanera and Jr. 1 de Mayo), the bus company Ormeño offers services to Copacabana at 7.00 and 7.30 am for about 25/PEN - 8/USD. Or if you wish ,you can follow the road to La Paz from this point.

The journey will stop at the border exchange office for the traveler to complete the obligatory entry formalities. Carry cash and be respectful of control agents. It's not the first time we've heard that some unfortunate commentary has left people without being able to get through or asked for a' bribe'.

If we have more time to travel, another economical option is to take one of the minibuses in the city of Puno that stop in the small towns that are in the outskirts of the Peruvian shore and thus to know its people and their customs.

Among these towns stand out: Ichu, with some beautiful remains of Inca temples; Chucuito, which has some curious stone phallus of more than one meter (where some women sat in search of fertility); Liquina Chico, which has small funerary chullpas; Juli, known as the "Little Peruvian Rome" for its four 16th and 17th century colonial churches; and the town of Pomata, with a beautiful Dominican church on a hill and a viewpoint called Asiru Patjata.


Crossing the border through Yunguyo, we will find the quiet Bolivian town of Copacabana (3841 masl), with approximately 15 thousand inhabitants and large number of businesses focused on tourism. In 6 de Agosto Street there are restaurants of pizzas and fried trout (specialty of Copacabana), exchange offices, banks and travel agencies that offer visits to the well-known islands of the Sun and the Moon.

Copacabana is also known for being a center of pilgrimage, because inside its Basilica (dating from 1601) is the image of the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of Bolivia. Inside the temple we will also find the Chapel of the Candles in which miracles of all kinds are requested. In August, thousands of Peruvians and Bolivians carry their cars to be blessed at a well-known popular festival, so caution is advised against possible thefts.

If you have time, you can rent bicycles for about 80/BOB - 12/USD a day and visit the Mount of Calvary, where we will see a beautiful sunset and nearby Inca sites, or Yampupata, about 17 km away on the Sicuani peninsula.

Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun)

According to Andean mythology, the Sun, Manco Capac and his sister-wife Mama Ocllo were born on this island, and later went to Cusco to found the Inca dynasty.

The main tourist attraction is the Inca complex of Chincana in the north of the island, while the south side -along with the community of Yumani- has the Inca staircase and the fortress of Pilkokayna.

In Chincana is located the Rock of the Puma or' Titi Khar' ka', which gave the name to the lake and according to legend, belonged to the body of a puma that devoured the men of the island, making the god Inti (Sun) cry for 40 days and 40 nights, creating the Lake.

Isla de la Luna (Island of the Moon)

About 8 km from the Island of the Sun is located the small Island of the Moon, also known as Coati, considered the second sacred island of the Incas. The most remarkable visit is the Palace of the Virgins or 'Iñak Uyu', where a group of selected women learned various trades such as textile or manufacturing to serve the god Inti or as concubines to the Inca.

On both islands there are simple lodgings where you can spend the night and some restaurants *be aware of the low temperatures in the area. Camping is also allowed on both islands.

There are many agencies in Copacabana that offer the Tour of the two islands for 50/BOB - 7,5/USD, although they do not include payments for the communities in Isla del Sol (10/BOB - 1,5/USD north and 5/BOB - 0,75/USD south) and Isla de la Luna (10/BOB - 1,5/USD).

The departure is at 8.30 am and takes the travelers to Ch' allapampa, in the north of Isla del Sol. On the island there are services of guides, and although they are not obligatory, for 5/BOB - 0,75/USD tips can be very useful to get to the place and learn more about the local history.

A day tour is often criticized as a hasty and poorly organized experience. From Puno you can hire circuits (more expensive) that include food, luxury boats and guides.

Lake Titikaka by Free

You can reach it independently by taking a one-way ferry to Isla del Sol by 10/BOB - 1,5/USD, to Yumani and 15/BOB - 2,25/USD, to Ch' allpampa. We can spend the night there and leave the following day from the northern part of the Moon Island. Ferries depart early in the afternoon from the north of the island.

Departures from Copacabana to Yumani: 08.30 and 13.00 hrs.
Departures from Ch' allpampa to Yumani: 13.30 hrs.
Departures from Copacabana to Ch' allpampa: 13.30 hrs.
Departures from Yumani to Copacabana: 10.30 and 15.30 hrs.

Another option is through the Community Tourism Network of Lake Titicaca, with which we will also be contributing to promote community tourism and paying the same communities.

They offer one-day- to three-day tours on the islands sleeping with local people and their offerings include folk dances, bird watching, storytelling or local food. There is a center of attention in Copacabana, where we can find a museum with valuable information about the communities in the area.

There are no excuses to enjoy a total experience in the waters of Lake Titicaca.

miércoles, 7 de marzo de 2018

5 Best Peruvian Restaurants abroad

Peruvian cuisine has managed to position itself as one of the best gastronomies in the world thanks to the creativity of the new batch of young chefs that emerged from the famous culinary boom of the last decade.

Chefs such as Gastón Acurio, Virgilio Martínez or Jaime Pesaque are already recurring names in prestigious international competitions, which have decided to extend local borders. But there are also other new promises that are timidly and courageously taking on the world's major capitals such as London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong or Milan.

In this list we leave you 5 of the best Peruvian restaurants that are making people talk in their host countries.

La Mar (Miami)

Located in the Hotel Mandarin Oriental, this restaurant of the famous chef Gastón Acurio offers its guests the opportunity to taste typical Peruvian cuisine in the heart of Florida. It is worth mentioning that La Mar also has a restaurant in Lima that is ranked 15th on the list of Latin America's 50Best Restaurants 2017.

The specialty, as its name indicates, is seafood, fish and seafood dishes. Its flagship dish is the classic Peruvian ceviche, although it has other specialties such as the tiradito Nikkei, shells (vieiras) gratinadas or the airport chaufa. mandarinoriental.es/miami/

La Mar Miami, 5 Best Peruvian Restaurants abroad, Peruvian Cuisine

Lima (London)

With the 5th best restaurant in the world and the 2th in Latin America (Central), the success of Virgilio Martinez did not just remain in the southern hemisphere, but dared to take his kitchen to the English capital and in the process won a Michelin star. Lima offers a contemporary version of Peruvian cuisine and its signature dish is octopus in quinoa sauce. limalondongroup.com/floral/

Lima Restaurant London, 5 Best Peruvian Restaurants abroad, Peruvian Cuisine

Above Eleven Bali (Indonesia)

Last July 2017, the first Peruvian food restaurant was inaugurated in Indonesia under the name Above Eleven Bali, which is led by chef Renzo Vaccheli. Offers classic dishes of national cuisine such as lomo saltado, ceviche, anticuchos, and cocktails based on pisco such as pisco sour or chilcanos (pisco & Ginger ale with a touch of lime juice).

The place is located in Jimbaran, Bali Island, with a spectacular view of the bay, the international airport Ngurah Rai and the sunsets. As a consecuence, Above Eleven become one of the top ten best dining spots in the city, according to The RooftopGuide, the guide to the world's best rooftop bars. facebook. com/aboveveelevenbali/

*A few months later, the second Peruvian restaurant, called Henshin, would enter Indonesia, with chef Hajime Kasuga (former chef of Hanzo) in the kitchen.

Above Eleven Indonesia, Mejores restaurantes peruanos en el extranjero, Gastronomía peruana en Indonesia, Best Peruvian Restaurants Abroad

Yakumanka (Barcelona)

After the closure of its two restaurants: Tanta and Astrid & Gastón in Madrid during 2017, the presence of Gastón Acurio in Spain seemed to be in jeopardy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The new proposal of the renowned Peruvian chef arrived in Barcelona at the end of last year to raise the level of national Peruvian cuisine.

Its menu focuses on Peruvian seafood from the coast; in fact the place has that touch of traditional cevichería market that La Mar also have in Lima. The dishes focus in classic fish ceviches, the nikkei tiradito of tuna or the classic causas. A new spot not to miss Gaston's ever-winning kitchen. yakumanka.com/

Yakumanka Barcelona, Best Peruvian Restaurants Abroad, Gaston Acurio Yakumanka Barcelona

Pacifico (Milan)

The latest restaurant on our list is Pacifico, the latest creation by renowned chef Jaime Pesaque (Mayta), who decided to bring his signature cuisine to Milan in February 2015. This restaurant invites you to taste the fusion of oriental flavors and typical Peruvian cuisine based on seafood. Its star dish is the Asian ceviche. wearepacifico.it/

Pacifico Milan, 5 Best Peruvian Restaurants abroad, Peruvian Cuisine

For next post we will continue to look for the flavor of Peruvian cuisine and the talent of new chefs inherited from innovative culinary techniques in other countries of the world. Stay tuned!

Esteban García, Peru Travels Blog
March 2018

viernes, 2 de marzo de 2018

Sailing on Lake Titicaca

We arrived to one of the most mystical places in Peru and even in the world, Lake Titicaca, whose dark waters -according to the Andean worldview- emerged the sun and the parents of the first Incas: Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo.

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world (3812 meters above sea level) and with a surface area of 8,562 km² - 56% of which corresponds to Peru and 44% to Bolivia - ranks 19th in the world in terms of territory. As a joke, Peruvians often say that they kept "Titi", leaving the Bolivians "caca" (poop).

The first thing that surprises visitors to reach these spots of Puno is the enormous contrast that exists between the rest of Peru and a place where the Andean culture of the altiplano (shared with Bolivia) is brimming with color and is reflected in the clothes of the women with skirts, small pumps and sandals made of rubber.

On the shores of Puno and the Bolivian border, the Catholic tradition is fervently mixed with the Andean rituals of paying the' Pachamama', in rituals and dances that last until dawn, as in the famous Festividad de la Virgen de la Candelaria -which is celebrated every 27 November- and which was declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since 2014.

Lake Titicaca Travel Guide

Whether we come by bus from the White City of Arequipa or if we land at the Inca Manco Cápac International Airport (5 km away) in Juliaca, we recommend not stopping too long in this city and continue to Puno. We can take a bus at the same airport for about S/ 20 or from Plaza Bolognesi. The journey from Juliaca to Lake Titicaca takes about an hour.

Lonely Planet's warnings are sometimes alarmist, but in this case we agree with Juliaca's definition of "an ugly, dirty city and, outside the downtown shopping area, dangerous". It is the entry point for most of the smuggling that arrives from the southern border to Peru, so there is a great trade movement on both sides of both countries.

By the way, we will be arriving in a city at 3,826 mnsm, so we recommend caution against altitude sickness. If this is the first visit to Lake Titicaca, we recommend a soft diet based on soup with cooked chicken and mate de hoja de coca (recommended for the altitude), which can be found in all the lodgings in the area.

It is important to know that we are at a point where the minimum temperatures in the winter months (May-August) reach -0 ºC. Note: Remember to wear warm clothing, use sunscreen, sunglasses and Vaseline, cocoa butter or similar for lip care.

In the Juliaca´s surrounding - to mention just a few - we have some very charming points of interest, such as Lampa (36 km northeast), in whose church of Santiago Apostol there is a replica of Michelangelo's Piety that the Vatican used to reconstruct the original after the 1972 bombing; Pucará (60 km northwest), known for its colorful handicrafts and famous ceramic toritos; Ayaviri (100 km northwest) with a lively market and its hot springs of Pojpojquella, open to tourists; and Abra la Raya (100 km), mountain pass to 4.470 mnsm and the highest point of the route to Cusco.

In this post we will focus on the islands on the Peruvian side of the Titicaca, leaving the well-known Sun and Moon Islands on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca for the next post.

Uros floating islands

These islands are the main attraction of Lake Titicaca. They are easily accessible in about 30 minutes through several organized tours or by a ferry departing from the port to Uros every hour from 6am to 4pm. The most striking thing about these islands is that they are built with totora, a reed that grows under the waters and with which the settlers also make their houses, their totora horses (small boats that cross the lake) and even the craftsmanship they sell to tourists.

Nowadays these islands are inhabited by Aymara people, after the almost disappearance of the Uru ethnic group, one of the oldest pre-Inca civilizations, which is said to have settled in Titicaca to escape the invasion of the Inca Pachacútec. If you wish to stay in Uros you can contact a small company run by Cristina Suaña, which offers sleeping with her and her family, as well as other traditional activities with the community.

Taquile Island

The small Taquile Island has about 7 km² and a population of about 350 families. Unlike the rest of the Lake islands that are Aymara, its inhabitants speak Quechua, which differentiates them and gives them a greater group identity. They manage their own tours, host tourists and try to preserve their ancestral customs. From Puno to Taquile it will take us about 3 hours to reach Taquile Island.

It is known worldwide for its textile works, the main economic source of its inhabitants. Among the island's traditions, men wear wool hats that they weave themselves, where red means they are married and red and white means they are single. The women also embroider delicate embroidered blouses, girdles and costumes that can be purchased at the Taquile cooperative store.

To climb up to the top of the village you have to climb 567 steps - which in good physical condition will take 20 minutes to climb - and from whose heights you can have a beautiful view of the lake. To get in or out of the island there are ferries that leave from Puno at 6.00 and 7.45 am and return at 5.30 pm.

Amantaní Island

Also known as the "Island of Love", it is the largest island in Lake Titicaca and is located north of Taquile. Amantaní Island has no hotels and lodging is accomplished by the own settlers, who welcome tourists with dancing, music and local gastronomy. The price of accommodation is usually around S/40 and rotates between the houses of the islanders.

This experience is without doubt the best way to feel the local lifestyle. The island has no cars, motorcycles or any other type of vehicle, and you must walk up the 300 meters of the slopes that will take us to the sanctuary of Pachatata (Father Earth) and Pachamama (Mother Earth), which remain from the culture Tiahuanaco, a mainly Bolivian culture that took places between 200 BC and 1,000 AD.

Suasi Island

This tiny island located at the other end of the lake is the only private island of Titicaca and is perfect if you want to rest, enjoy nature, walk or raft. It is famous for its exclusive Hotel Isla Suasi******* of Casa Andina, the only lodging in the area, which offers all the comforts to fully enjoy a luxury experience in Lake Titicaca. The double room rounds the S/ 740 (€ 200), but guests' opinions are unanimous in describing their stay as a "magical" moment in a paradisiacal setting.

In the next post we will discover the city of Puno and its peculiar festivities like the Virgen de la Candelaria, in which bands of music play all night while its inhabitants stomp and drinking beer until dawn.