Getting to Machu Picchu has never been easy, but there has never been a better time to visit. The UNESCO World Heritage site is still off the beaten path, but a range of transit options can appease all travelers. Once at the base of the site, the ruins can be reached by an impressive five-mile hike, featuring more than 3,000 stone steps that link the settlement’s different levels located on a ridge between the Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu mountains in Peru. The best part of your visit, though, could very well be the food.
You're likely to start in Lima, where foodie hotspots include Central, Maido, and Cosme. A stay at the Country Club Hotel (one of the Leading Hotels of the World) is a must, if only for a table at Perroquet, considered one of the best restaurants in Lima. Try its ceviche bar, helmed by chef Jacinto Sanchez, and Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado, a stir fry that combines marinated beef with onions and tomatoes, the restaurant's best-selling dish.
From Lima, visitors travel to Cusco via commuter flight before moving onto Aguas Calientes by rail. While any car on the Inca Rail will provide stunning views along the way, the first-class car will also include a traditional Peruvian meal capped off with live music and open-air views courtesy of the cocktail car.
Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes, the Sumaq Hotel is just a short walk from the train station. Located at the base of the cloud forest that surrounds Machu Picchu, the hotel offers stunning views of Urubamba River and valley, a still-sacred Inca landscape. What makes Sumaq special, aside from that stunning view, is the hotel’s dedication to sustainable travel and local traditions. The resort has partnered with social organizations such as the Chef’s Alliance (Alianza Cocinero), and Andrés Ugáz, a 2008 Gourmand World Cookbook Award recipient, has trained Sumaq chefs in gourmet bread baking. More than 30 varieties of bread are prepared with regional ingredients such as kiwicha, yellow peppers, and chicha de jora.
Sumaq Hotel guests don't just ascent Machu Picchu alone; they go with a shaman who offers a mystical tour of the area focusing on the spiritual significance of the site. He practices healing and energizing rituals along the way that will make this a tour you will never forget. Back at the hotel, indulge in a traditional Peruvian lunch known as the pachamanca. Prepared by Sumaq elders-in-residence, the meal includes meats and veggies wrapped in banana leaves and cooked on hot stones underground. While the meal cooks, guests are offered instruction on how to make traditional chicha de jora (fermented corn beer) and chicha de quinua (beer made from quinoa). Once the brew is ready, a small amount is poured out as an offering to pachamama (mother Earth) before consuming. Then, lunch is dug up, unwrapped, and served.
Just when you think the Sumaq couldn’t introduce you to any other traditions, your day at Machu Picchu is capped by a “Payment of the Earth” ritual. The shaman-led ceremony offers guests the opportunity to reflect on the wonder and traditions they have experienced the entire day and share their intentions for the days, months, and years to come during an offering that includes traditional Peruvian corn, tea, and herbs.
Culinary additions to the program include cooking demos for both adults and kids, pisco sour tutorials, private chef dinners and a “Tour of Peru” at the hotel’s Qunuq Restaurant — a collection of flavors from the Peruvian coast, highlands and jungle, presented in seven dishes served with a select variety of international wines.
Hungry yet? Peru is waiting.