You’ll certainly work up an appetite exploring the famous Incan archaeological sites of Peru’s Sacred Valley, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Moray, and Chinchero. Here’s our travel advice about great restaurants (and a bonus craft brewpub) where you should eat and drink in the Sacred Valley.
Mil at the Moray archaeological site
In 2017, Peruvian star chefs Virgilio Martinez and Pia Leon (of Central and Kjolle respectively which both rank high on the annual list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants) opened a restaurant on a rise above the Moray archaeological site. The duo has spent years investigating Peruvian ingredients, techniques, and traditions and reinterpreting them in the kitchen of acclaimed restaurant Central in Lima, but Mil is their first offering outside of the capital. Mil is also home to the team’s Mater investigation center which explores the products, foods, and food traditions of Peru.
The polished restaurant (lunch only, reservations essential) focuses on Andean ingredients. During our 8-course, 3-hour meal (633 soles or about US$177 per person without beverages, a vegetarian version of the menu is also available), we had the best quinoa we’ve ever had (forget what you think you know), a lamb tartare that beats beef any day, a salad (salad!) worth flying to Peru for, and much more. Service was informed and natural, right down to the lush alpaca blankets on offer should you catch a chill at this altitude (more than 11,000 feet).
Wayra Restaurant at Hotel Sol y Luna
Hotel Sol y Luna, one of only a handful of Relais & Chateaux properties in Peru, has two restaurants run by chefs who were trained by Peruvian celebrity chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino of the acclaimed Malabar restaurant in Lima. Wayra is open to guests and to the public and is a nod to Peruvian favorites including Pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked in the ground).
There’s also a menu full of gourmet versions of International and Peruvian favorites including choclo con queso (Andean corn with cheese), anticuchos (barbecued marinated and sliced cow heart), trout carpaccio with cactus seeds and avocado cream, lamb with quinoa and chicha (corn beer) sauce, and much more.
The restaurant’s location, near to the hotel’s lovely horse stables, and ranch chic décor (heavy on pieces by local artists), create an elegant but casual environment. There’s also an inviting bar, a fireplace, a sleek wine cellar, a chef’s table, and private dining areas. The outdoor seating area is where you want to be if you’d like to enjoy a show of horsemanship during your lunch.
Tawa in Yucay
The town of Yucay got its first serious restaurant in 2016 when Milagros and Rene Rodriquez opened Tawa on Manco II Plaza. The Peruvian couple has spent decades working in restaurants (including the restaurant at the Sol y Luna hotel, see above) and they brought all of that experience to Tawa.
The couple spent two years developing the menu before opening Tawa which means four in the Quechua language–a nod to the number of members of their family.
The restaurant offers lunch and dinner including legit pizzas alongside surprisingly sophisticated dishes like homemade ravioli stuffed with trout in a bright dill, lime, and chili sauce or confit cuy (guinea pig) or curry quinoa with shrimp.
Chuncho Restaurant in Ollantaytambo
Chuncho Restaurant got its name from the Quechua word for native or wild. It is both. Located on the main square in Ollantaytambo, the rustic-chic space offers a changing menu of “traditional native dishes with local ingredients.”
Those ingredients come, in large part, from the restaurant’s nearby organic farm and seasonal dishes might include soups made with mote (extra-large Andean corn) or potatoes, oven-roasted cuy (guinea pig), rocoto relleno (stuffed peppers), and much more. Dishes are best shared around the table so everyone can get a taste of the Andes.
Cervezeria del Valle Sagrado
Like almost every great craft beer we’ve ever had, the award-winning beers from Cervezeria del Valle (Sacred Valley Brewing Company) are made by friends. Alex Ball, Juan Mayorga, Louisa de Heer, and Joseph Giammatteo made their beer-making dreams come true in 2014 when the Cervezeria del Valley brewery and brewpub opened next to the Urubamba River in the town of Pachar (quite close to Ollantaytambo) in the Sacred Valley.
Since then, this brewery has been at the forefront of the craft beer revolution in Peru, turning out a long list of award-winning beers in a wide range of styles and using local ingredients when possible. The brewpub also offers food and live music events. These days you can buy Cervezeria del Valley brews in restaurants and bars around Peru, but nothing beats a visit to the place where it all started.
Pass through the village of Lamay and you will notice a theme: cuy. We know them as guinea pigs in English. Andean communities throughout South America know them as cuy and they’re a delicacy. A strip of a dozen or so roadside restaurants just outside the town of Lamay have developed a specialty in cuy and they advertise the dish with playful statues of (much) larger than life cuy and by brandishing freshly cooked cuy.
Cuy is usually a weekend/special occasions treat and is most often cooked on a spit over a wood fire then served whole along with traditional side dishes like mote (large Andean corn). Cuy tastes a bit like duck (fatty and rich) and it takes patient, meticulous work to get all the meat off the teeny tiny bones (see the photo of cuy at Tawa Restaurante, above).
More Sacred Valley travel tips
Part 1 in our Sacred Valley Travel Guide covers the Ollantaytambo archaeological site. Part 2 covers the Pisac archaeological site. Part 3 covers the Moray archaeological site. Part 4 covers the town of Chinchero. Part 5 covers (mostly) non-archaeological things to do in the Sacred Valley. Part 7 covers some of the best hotels in the Sacred Valley.
Here’s more about travel in Peru