Unexpected Holiday Dishes Around the World – with recipes

By: Gina Bang, Director of Marketing, Avanti Destinations

One of the best-loved parts of any holiday is the special food we celebrate with, both savory and sweet. Here, we present 12 holiday specialties – with links to recipes – from countries as diverse as Morocco, Japan, Peru, and Croatia. Interested in sampling them in their native lands? We have suggestions for where to go – usually beyond the capital city to make it even more authentic.  

Sponge Donuts (Morocco)

Hanukkah is traditionally celebrated with deep fried foods to commemorate the miracle of one day’s worth of oil lasting eight days. These fluffy ring donuts, “Sfenj” (meaning sponge) have a crispy friend outer layer with a delicate, airy interior, and they are usually dusted with sugar or soaked in honey. Experience them in Casablanca, especially in Jewish communities during Hanukkah. Try this 100-year old family recipe.

Lechon (the Philippines)

Christmas in the Philippines is a grand affair, with Lechon, a whole roasted pig, at the center of festivities. Try it in Cebu, the region known for its distinctive “cebuchon” stuffed with lemongrass, scallions, garlic, and basil. Using a boneless, pork-belly roll instead of a whole pig is easier for most cooks Recipe

Honey Cookies (Greece)

“Melomakarona” are eggless, dairy-free cookies, akin to baklava, enjoyed during the fasting period of Orthodox Christians. Thessaloniki is the ideal place to taste these honey and walnut delights. Recipe

Tamales Criolles (Peru)

Traditional Peruvian Tamales differ from Mexican tamales, using fresh white corn and banana leaves. Another Peruvian Christmas custom called “Chocolatadas” is to distribute gifts and hot chocolate to less fortunate people in early December. Cuzco is the place to go. Recipe

Bûche de Noël (France, Belgium, Switzerland)

This Christmas dessert, symbolizing the Yule log, originated in France’s Brittany. Made with sponge cake, chocolate and heavy cream. Try it in Rennes, capital of Brittany, a city filled with medieval half-timbered houses or Lausanne, Switzerland. Recipe

Mochi Soup (Japan)

“Ozoni,” a New Year’s breakfast soup. Each family has their own special way of making it – with chicken, fish cakes, carrots, taro root, regional spices – but it always features mochi rice cakes. Try it in Kanazawa, known for its traditional districts. Recipe

Fruitcake (Chile)

“Pan de Pascua,” reminiscent of German stollen, is a Christmas staple, rich with spices, cherries, raisins, strong coffee and rum, brandy or pisco for a kick. Enjoy it in Chile’s picturesque Lake District. Recipe

Cabbage Rolls (Croatia)

Croatian “sarma” consists of meat-filled cabbage leaves, a winter comfort food best enjoyed in the gastronomic region of Istria. Recipe

Rice Pudding (Sweden)

“Risgrynsgröt” is a Christmas Eve essential, often a breakfast item on Christmas Day. It comes with a fun tradition of hiding one almond for good luck. On Sweden’s west coast, Gothenburg is a recommended destination for this treat. Recipe

Farofa (Brazil)

This crunchy side dish, made from cassava flour and flavorful additions such as bacon, onions, garlic, parsley and chives, is also commonly used as a stuffing for poultry. A great accompaniment for Brazilian Christmas barbecues. Salvador de Bahia offers an authentic cultural backdrop for this dish. Recipe

Feast of Seven Fishes (Italy)

This Southern Italian tradition involves a meatless Christmas Eve meal. It remains a much-loved custom among many Italian American families. Whether in Sorrento, Palermo, or Lecce, you’ll find various fish dishes to commemorate the occasion. Recipe

Rice Cake Soup (South Korea)

“Tteokguk,” a rice cake soup, is eaten during the lunar New Year, symbolizes purity and good fortune. Toppings for the soup can include beef or other meat, seafood, eggs, nori, and vegetables. Busan, known for its early sunrise, is the perfect place to enjoy this dish and welcome the new year. Recipe

Each of these foods offers a taste of the world’s diverse cultures and festivities, inviting you to explore traditions through culinary delights. Whether you’re cooking at home or planning your next journey, these dishes deliver a connection to global celebrations. For a whole host of holiday recipes, check Avanti’s holiday party e-cookbook: https://www.flipsnack.com/779977E569B/christmas-recipes-2022/full-view.html

About Avanti Destinations

Since 1981, Avanti Destinations has been selling custom-crafted independent travel vacations in Europe, Asia, North Africa/the Middle East, the South Pacific, and Central and South America. The Portland, Oregon-based wholesale tour operator offers a wide range of FIT components to travel advisors only, including air, rail, rental cars, hotels, sightseeing/attractions, transfers and hard-to-find experiential travel options.  Avanti specializes in hand-picked, locally-owned hotels in both large and small cities and in connecting all the pieces of complex or multi-destination itineraries. The company also creates complete packages for custom groups of 15 or more passengers. For more information: https://book.avantidestinations.com.

Savor the Journey:  5 Immersive Culinary Experiences for the Foodie in You 

If the thought of learning to cook a delicious dish in a local kitchen makes your taste buds tingle with excitement, this post is for you.  

By Dominique Ferrari, Collette 

Ever considered donning a chef’s apron on your next vacation? We’ve curated a menu of five immersive culinary experiences that’ll fill your belly (and heart!) and give you the ultimate souvenir to bring home: fantastic local cooking skills for life. 

Because there is truly no better way to travel than by diving in, fork-first, to learn the art of traveling by taste.  

1.     Cook (and taste!) Paella in Spain 

Our first stop takes us to the sun-drenched shores of Spain, where we go behind the scenes of one of the country’s most iconic dishes and learn the art of making it. In Spain, paella is more than a meal — it’s an event. From the first grain of rice to the last garnishes, you’ll learn so much about the history of this beloved dish and the cultural importance it holds. Buen provecho! 

Photo Courtesy of Collette

2. Discover the Magic of Coconut Candy in Costa Rica 

Next up: the breathtaking beauty of Costa Rica, where the vibrant local flavors are as colorful as the country’s diverse ecosystem. Our destination is a small village, once a bustling coconut plantation. And our guide, a local villager, is eager to share the history of his home. Watch as he expertly cracks open a coconut, revealing the treasure within— the foundation for the sweetest local delicacy of all: coconut candy. As you try your hand at making it yourself, the flavor, and the people, will leave you enchanted.  

Photo Courtesy of Collette

3. Go Truffle Hunting in Croatia  

Picture this: You’re in the lush, green forests of Croatia, surrounded by the rustle of leaves and the scent of earth and trees. A troop of eager, friendly dogs are ready to lead you on an adventure unlike any other — truffle hunting. Venture into the forest and become an active participant in a cherished local tradition. Every dig and triumphant discovery of these coveted fungi deepens your connection to this land and its culinary culture.  

Photo Courtesy of Collette

4. Prepare a Tasteful Toast to Peruvian Fusion  

Next, we’re heading to Peru, a land where the fusion of sea and mountain, old and new, all melt together and make for some of the most exciting dishes on the planet. Activate all your senses and step into a local kitchen for an interactive ceviche cooking class. Freshly caught fish, tangy lime, fiery chiles, and aromatic cilantro all come together as you chop, mix, and marinate a sensory explosion that perfectly encapsulates Peru’s coastal spirit. Next, shake things up with a hands-on lesson in making the perfect pisco sour — a refreshing cocktail and testament to the country’s rich viticultural history.  

Photo Courtesy of Collette

5. Taste Tuscany in a Hands-on Journey into the Heart of Italian Cuisine 

Finally, imagine yourself immersed in the rolling hills of Tuscany, where vineyards stretch out as far as the eye can see. Here, under the (ahem) Tuscan sun, we find the quintessential Italian villa. As the aromas of garlic, tomatoes, and fresh basil envelop you, tie on an apron; because in this family-owned kitchen, you’re not just a guest — you’re part of the famiglia. Each slice, stir, and simmer is an immersion in the art of Italian cooking. And as you sit down to savor the fruits of your labor, surrounded by new friends and sweeping views of the Italian countryside, you’ll realize this is more than a meal. It’s the whole point of travel. Buon viaggio e buon appetito! 

Photo Courtesy of Collette

About Collette

Since 1918, Collette has been a leader in guided travel. Today, Collette offers tours on all seven continents in a variety of travel styles, plus a comprehensive travel protection plan, flexible tour pacing, and unrivaled industry expertise. This third-generation family-owned business is dedicated to giving back in both local and global communities through their social responsibility platform. For more information, visit www.gocollette.comor call 1(800) 340-5158.   

Ten Countries for Crafts with a Cause

By Overseas Adventure Travel

In survey after survey, up to 76% of consumers say that they’d rather spend their money on experiences than things. They further cite “meaning,” “inspiration,” “fun,” and “learning” as outcomes they seek. Travelers can count on all of the above on one of Overseas Adventure Travel’s small group adventures. These include hands-on activities that connect them to the local culture, such as visits to workshops where local artisans demonstrate traditional crafts. Visitors can roll up their sleeves and join in, and if they like, purchase the local wares.

“It’s a win-win,” says O.A.T. Vice Chairman Harriet Lewis. “Our travelers get to engage with local people and learn something new, and our hosts gain support for the industries their families rely on.” Oftentimes, the activities occur during O.A.T.’s signature A Day in the Life experiences which are woven into the trips; or though visits to sites supported by Grand Circle Foundation, O.A.T’s non-profit charitable organization. Here are just ten of the local crafts supported:

1. Australia: Aboriginal Dot Paintings

Ultimate Australia

The distinctive Aboriginal dot designs are not random, but are filled with symbols that tell a visual story. Dot painting has been around for millennia, but exploded in the 1970s in Papunya near Alice Springs, where indigenous artists used it as a secret language. Other Aboriginal communities embraced the form, and today they adhere to strict rules about which techniques, symbols, and stories belong to which tribes. O.A.T. travelers are urged to only buy authentic, ethically sourced works that bear the official Indigenous Art Code seal, the “gold standard” among reputable merchants.

2. Laos: Traditional Weaving

Ancient Kingdoms: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, & Vietnam

While the men of the poor Laotian village of Tin Keo farm or seek jobs in the city, the women create fabulous, colorful textiles. It started as a way to be sociable with their neighbors. Today, these industrious ladies can earn a windfall of $70-80 a month selling their fabrics, all the while improving their skills and preserving an important cultural legacy.

3. Portugal: Azulejo tiles

Northern Spain & Portugal: Pilgrimage into the Past

Porto’s Banco de Materiais is an unusual bank: you can deposit antique tiles and withdraw some for free. Portugal’s signature blue and white azulejo tiles date to Moorish times. The Banco safeguards these treasures, and sometimes the fire department will even collect tiles off at-risk buildings and deliver them to the bank. Employees then study and catalog the tiles and preserve them in wooden boxes where visitors can admire or buy them.

4. Kenya and Tanzania: Maasai beadwork

Safari Serengeti: Tanzania Lodge & Tented Safari

A Maasai collar can be the shape and size of a dinnerplate, decorated with bold-colored beads in intricate patterns. But to the Maasai people, these aren’t just pretty baubles: they tell individual life stories, map out villages, indicate marital and social status, and represent the culture. O.A.T. travelers can purchase them directly from artists when they experience A Day in the Life of a local village such as Mto Wa Mbu.

5. India: Embroidery and Textiles

Heart of India

India’s Ranthambore National Park is famed as a sanctuary for Bengal tigers, and while some locals have resorted to poaching them, others have found a more ethical and sustainable enterprise. Through their Dhonk and Dastkar handicraft cooperatives, local Indian women teach artisanal skills so members may earn a living outside of poaching by creating embroidery, clothing, and gifts. Supported by Grand Circle Foundation, the cooperatives now celebrate the tigers whose allure attracts a steady stream of travelers—and crafts customers.

6. Morocco: Henna tattoos

Morocco Sahara Odyssey

Known as mendhi, the use of henna to paint the body with intricate patterns is a centuries-old Berber art believed to promote harmony and ward off evil. The (non-permanent) tattoos are also a symbol of female solidarity, as O.A.T. travelers discover when they visit the Imik Smik Women’s Association for Rural Development, which provides skills training for women in the Aït Benhaddou area. As a token of friendship, members invite women visitors to participate in a traditional henna ceremony.

7. Peru: Chinchero weaving

Machu Picchu & the Galápagos

High in the Sacred Valley, Chinchero was a 16th-century Inca emperor’s estate, as well as a resting place on the Inca Royal Road. Today, this small village is known for its weaving industry. It is entirely managed by the local women, who use plants (and in some cases, bugs) to produce their dyes. O.A.T. travelers converse with the weavers about village life and observe the process of designing and creating these vibrant garments.

8. Japan: Hakone woodcraft

Japan’s Cultural Treasures

Hakone yosegi zaiku is a form of marquetry that creates intricate patterns by joining together pieces of wood. The colors—red, white, yellow, black, and green—are not created through inks, but are the natural wood shades. Today, yosegi zaiku is popular all over Japan, but there are only about 50 artisans making it, all in the Hakone/Odawara area. O.A.T. brings travelers to the Hamamatsuya workshop to meet its fourth-generation owner, and see a demonstration.

9. Vietnam: Bat Trang Pottery and Ceramics

Inside Vietnam

The village of Bat Trang may lie on the Red River, but it’s the area’s rich white clay that has made its pottery renowned for seven centuries. O.A.T. travelers have plenty of time to browse the shops, but also visit the home and studio of an artisan family and get to make their own ceramic pieces.

10. Turkey: carpet weaving

Turkish Coastal Voyage: Greek Islands, Istanbul & Athens

Rug weaving in Anatolia began with the arrival of Turkic tribes from Central Asia, and was a prominent art form by the 12th century. Then as now, most carpetmakers were women who worked anonymously. The process is intensively laborious, and prices are based on the intricacy of the design, quality of the materials, and the number of knots per square centimeter.

Overseas Adventure Travel is the leader in personalized small group adventures on the road less traveled. Serving all travelers over 50, the company is known for its expertise in solo travel, and has recently published 101+ Tips for Solo Women Travelers which can be ordered for free here.

From mountains to deserts, from city to sea, Peru’s diverse landscape is as rich as its culture and has had many stories to share since ancient times. Join Kelley Ferro, travel expert and video journalist as she journey’s through Peru with USTOA tour operator Travcoa.

Known as a culinary capital of South America, Peru is the perfect travel destination for foodies. USTOA tour operator member Travcoa introduces travel expert and video journalist Kelley Ferro to local cuisine, markets, restaurants, bartenders and chefs.

Join travel expert, video journalist and contributor to Tripfilms.com Kelley Ferro, as she explores the culturally rich and historic capital city of Lima, the first stop on her private journey through Peru with USTOA tour operator Travcoa.

For more on USTOA’s Travel Together campaign in Peru, click here.

by Colin Roohan, AFAR Ambassador

Peru is a beautiful country where the topography varies drastically. When I flew into mountainous Cusco from coastal Lima the beauty (but mainly the altitude) took my breath away! My tour group was to visit some of the popular towns and archeological sites in and around what is called the Sacred Valley, which runs from Machu Picchu to Urcos along the Urubamba River in the south-central region of Peru. This valley encompasses a large area so trying to pick a feasible number of destinations within the valley can be daunting. Luckily my tour group was led by USTOA tour operator member Travcoa and partner PromPeru who provided an incredible itinerary which included visits to the following: the ancient city of Cusco, the colonial settlement of Chinchero, the agricultural sites of Maras and Moray, the small yet busy Machu Picchu Pueblo, and of course Machu Picchu itself.

Perhaps the best place to start exploring the area around the Sacred Valley is from the once capital city of the Incas, Cusco. Cusco is a beautiful city wherein the locals have a strong link to their Inca ancestors as most structures are literally built on top of old Inca foundations. Central Cusco seems like a complex maze of streets and alleys but it is surprisingly easy to navigate on foot. The Plaza de Armas which is both scenic and centrally located makes for a great place to start exploring Cusco. One structure that shouldn’t be missed is the La Catedral (and attached Church of Jesus Maria). The ornate cathedral that was built in the 1500s’ is a great example of the Spanish religious influence in the region. Another thing you’ll notice that has Spanish influence is the Portal de Panes – a covered area of sidewalk surrounding the plaza, where there are numerous handicraft shops and relaxing cafes that offer views overlooking the plaza. It makes for an ideal place to sit and have a drink or to simply do some people watching.

From the Plaza de Armas, our group headed southeast towards a major Cusco attraction – the Q’orikancha complex, a large and breath-taking temple of worship, of great importance to the Inca. The ingenuity of the Inca is apparent at Q’orikancha as its’ geographic location within the Cusco Valley aligns with hundreds of sacred monuments, significant stones, natural springs and prehistoric quarries. What’s even more impressive is that during the summer solstice the suns’ rays only shine into a specific area of the temple where only the emperor was allowed to sit.

Driving through the Sacred Valley was incredible; the Andes provide a very dramatic backdrop and the random livestock make you feel miles from civilization. We made stops at the Moray agricultural and ceremonial tiered-ruins and at the breathtaking, centuries-old Salinas salt pans, but for me the most moving local experience was our stop at the Chinchero Weaving Cooperative. As we entered the collective I felt bombarded by color. There were around 25 women of varying ages, most working on some type of loom. The woman who greeted us also gave us a very engaging presentation that explained how these women create such stunning, intricate pieces. We learned how the alpaca and llama wool are turned into yarn, how the yarns are dyed, and how some of the looms operate. It was a thought-provoking presentation and the women working at the cooperative were so welcoming and kind. I later learned that Chinchero means “Village of the Rainbow,” a perfect name and quite befitting of my experience.

Our next stop was the town of Aguas Calientes, or what is now called Machu Picchu Pueblo. As I stepped off of the train in Aquas Calientes, I was immediately surprised by the change in climate; the chilly breezes vanished and made way for a mask of humid air and a continuous sequence of fog and cloud seemed to roll through the small town perched above the Rio Aquas Calientes. The town itself is rather small and can be explored on foot in a couple of hours. Judging by a conversation we had with locals, most people only spend one night in the town. It is a beautiful quaint town but when you’re standing in the shadow of a giant (Machu Picchu) it’s tough to truly shine as an attraction. Additionally, Machu Picchu Pueblo is a challenging place to get to but I think this only adds to the allure of Machu Picchu, making the feeling of seeing the monument all the more special.

On the day we were to visit Machu Picchu, the group awoke early and joined the queue for the buses that drive up to Machu Picchu around 5 am. With a bus full of almost palpable anxiety, we ascended for the next twenty minutes traversing one switch-back after another into a thick blanket of clouds. We arrived at the entrance and made our way over to what is known as the Viewing Platform. Despite some light rain and overcast skies, the ruins of Machu Picchu looked glorious. Our guides from PromPeru gave us a very informative tour and I learned a lot about the former residents of the Citadel. However, after hearing about Hiram Bingham and the 11-year-old boy who led him around the area that first time I had a hard time replacing that image in my head. We spent a few hours walking around, giving us time to see all angles of the complex. It is such an incredible place that moves everyone in a different way; a rare gem of magnificent ingenuity that truly is a wonder.

Colin Roohan is a travel photographer interested in documenting experiences with culture and life. In addition to his work with AFAR, Colin has been published in Travel + Leisure, The Royal Geographical Society’s Hidden Journeys, and Groove Magazine, amongst others. In addition to journalistic pursuits, Colin captures portraits and documents events around Southern California. Hear more about his journey to Peru at AFAR.com.

by Kelley Ferro

I remember those history classes back in high school where we memorized dominant civilizations that shaped the world as we know it. Even in textbooks, the Incan Empire was particularly impressive with their communal practices, integration of other people and their (mostly) peaceful expansions across Western South America. But it’s hard to really grasp the magnitude of an empire that spanned across multiple countries and was made up of millions of people, especially when all of it happened hundreds of years ago. On paper these things can feel inaccessible. But one way to understand history is by going to the source, and one visit to Peru is all it took for me to fully realize the history of the Incas and Peru’s heritage.

You just want to frolic through these fields, trust me.

You just want to frolic through these fields, trust me.

I arrived in balmy Lima on an April evening on tour with Travcoa, and was surprised by how much larger and more vibrant the city was, compared to what I had expected. Shoppers strutted along the streets lined with contemporary boutiques, children played in parks, friends sipped Pisco at cozy cafes and surfers tackled the Pacific break along the city’s expansive coastline. I wanted to live here!

Lima skyline from one of the tallest buildings in the city

Lima skyline from one of the tallest buildings in the city

This city was very much alive and much more modern than my Incan history lessons had led me to believe.

Though Lima balanced its youthful exuberance with iconic cathedrals, museums and tributes to its world famous past, it wasn’t until touchdown in Cusco that I really understood Peru’s backstory.

Incan Temple of the Sun converted into The Church of Santo Domingo by the Spaniards

Incan Temple of the Sun converted into The Church of Santo Domingo by the Spaniards

Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire. The Temple of the Sun was where the Inca King addressed his people, adorned in all gold so his constituents could see his gleaming reflection from miles away. The temple was seized by the Spaniards, converted to a Spanish cathedral, and all traces of its Incan heritage were covered up. So much power, importance and strife were held inside these walls…walls that happened to be five feet from the doorstep of my hotel, the Palacio del Inka (which used to be an Incan Temple and later a Spanish Palace, naturally).

Filming inside the magnificent Temple of the Sun

Filming inside the magnificent Temple of the Sun

Here in Peru, history is not only something to be remembered, it’s also something you can still participate in today. You can touch the walls, and sleep in a former temple. Suddenly, the ancient past didn’t feel so ancient anymore.

Flora, the head of the Center for Traditional Textiles

Flora, the head of the Center for Traditional Textiles

Outside of the charming city of Cusco, we explored the small towns scattered across the daunting Andes. Towns inhabited by local indigenous people, such as the Quechua, many whose families have lived there for generations and are descendants of the Inca. We stopped at a women’s weaving cooperative, the Center for Traditional Textiles, where I was able to talk to the Quechua women and interview their coordinator. I learned that in the past, the Quechua culture revolved around agriculture and the Quechua women did more of the handicrafts and managed home life for the family, while men labored in farming, a typical scenario of many worldwide cultures. Now, however, since the Western world is changing things in rural Peru, the Quechua are losing some of their traditional culture for more modern alternatives. The goal of this women’s weaving cooperative is to have elder women teach younger women the highly skilled art of weaving, something that has been a part of this culture and this land since Inca times.

Flora, the head of the Center for Traditional Textiles

Flora, the head of the Center for Traditional Textiles

A bonus was travelers like me got to stop by, watch them work, learn about their craft and take home a scarf or sweater, with proceeds going back to the women. This seemed to be a beautiful balance of providing financial empowerment for Quechua women, educating travelers about traditional customs and preserving the ancient culture.

Machu Picchu

Machu PicchuStaring at Machu Picchu, I had to close my eyes as a gust of smoke was blown over my face. As the Shaman recited something in a monotonous rhythmic tone, I felt a splash of some sort of herbal potion on my face. I was participating in a cleansing ritual, something the native Quechua Indians have performed for centuries. Willko Apaza, the resident shaman from a nearby village, came to meet with me and perform this ceremony at the Sanctuary Belmond Lodge, the only hotel located on Machu Picchu. It was quite a picturesque spot, a landing area with a background view of the Andean peaks. A blanket had been laid out with the various natural instruments that Willko used to invoke the spirits of Quechua beliefs. And I silently stood – arms and legs out in shape of a star – as Willko talked to the spirits and used ancient practices to help improve soul. Sure, this is a service that you pay for, much like a spa experience, but Willko was a real local, practicing revered Shaman and he performed the ritual with as much seriousness and dedication as his ancestors had done many times before. I was honored to be able to partake in such a significant part of the Quechua culture. Not only was I witnessing the past, I was able to be a part of it.

Machu Picchu’s Famously Well Crafted Walls

Machu Picchu’s Famously Well Crafted Walls

Of course, Machu Picchu is the highlight of Peru and a MAJOR reason why travelers visit this spectacular country. And after experiencing it at dawn, getting lost among the well-constructed village streets and breathing in the high Andean air of this unbelievably well preserved town, I could definitely see what all the fuss is about. Machu Picchu is very close to exactly what it was, when it was a thriving town 500 years ago. To see it in person, you half expect villagers to walk out of their homes, Incan farmers to be harvesting the terraced fields or maybe to witness the Incan leader addressing his village from one of the highest altars. It’s not just breathtaking views and Instagram fodder, Machu Picchu is still very real. Being here reminded me that the Inca were real, living people that had real joys and struggles in their lives, like you and I.

Peru taught me that the history may have happened hundreds of years ago but it can still be present today. And understanding what Peru is today is crucial in fully grasping the destination’s past. Not only seeing it, but experiencing that the past is what will carry it into the future.

Machu Picchu is even better in person.

Machu Picchu is even better in person.

Kelley Ferro is a travel expert & video journalist living in NYC. She films her show, Get Lost, around the world–hopping on a plane at least twice a month She is also the executive producer for Tripfilms.com. For more on her travels, follow Kelley’s Facebook page.


by Colin Roohan, AFAR Ambassador

My plane landed on a warm and humid evening, the ocean’s fog in combat with light, city-smog. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Lima, but after a few days of guided, local experiences led by USTOA tour operator Travcoa, I fell in love with Lima’s charm. It’s an inviting city and one with ample signs of growth: western billboards line the streets, luxury automobiles cruise the streets and construction projects emerging EVERYWHERE. I found it to be an exciting city that is finding a fantastic balance between old-world charm and new-world comforts. It is a city of contrasts, inviting locals and there is so much to explore.

On our first day in Lima, we first started the day at the vibrant Mercado de Surquillo in south-central Lima.  As we entered we were stopped in our tracks by a plethora of unrecognizable fruits and with help from our local Prom Peru guide a vendor let us sample some: the custard apple, the yellow dragon fruit and the lucuma – with a texture akin to pumpkin but a flavor that resembled maple syrup! After our healthy fruit-filled tour of the market, we headed towards Señoria de Sulco in the Miraflores district of Lima where a cocktail and cooking demonstration awaited us. We were introduced to the head bartender who had the ingredients of Peru’s best known cocktail, the Pisco Sour, displayed in front of him. The bartender began to masterfully exhibit the process of making a Pisco Sour. Its ingredients are few: pisco (a grape derived alcohol), lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and a drop of bitters. The result was a very refreshing cocktail that is reminiscent of a margarita. Following the Pisco Sour lesson, we moved downstairs to watch a ceviche demonstration. Ceviche with its unadulterated simplicity, has always been one of my favorite meals. The chef chose sole, a mild white fish, and after mixing in a few other ingredients had crafted a light dish bursting with citrus and seafood flavors, all with a subtle underlying heat. It was some of the freshest and most well prepared ceviche I have ever had.

Later that evening we headed to the Larco Museum for an extremely insightful guided tour of the museum’s thousands of well-preserved ceramics. The museum is roughly divided into three parts: the main museum with tidily displayed exhibits, the warehouse museum – a mind boggling labyrinth of ceramics, and the erotic art museum which houses an intriguing selection of Mochica inspired, sexually-fused pre-Inca artifacts.  The Larco Musuem is absolutely packed with what is the largest collection of Peruvian antiquities on the globe and is a destination that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The following morning our group toured the incredible San Francisco Church in central Lima. The church and attached convent grounds provide enough material for hours of exploring. As you enter the church’s grounds, you notice the stone façade towering over the entrance. On the day we visited a group of school children waited in line to tour the church while they whooped in glee as a group of pigeons confusingly flew laps in front of the church’s towers. Tucked away in the churches depths we were led through the catacombs which were only discovered in 1951. The eerie tour takes you through winding tunnels underneath the church where you can see the human remains of an estimated 70,000 thousand people – very spooky as many of the remains are arranged into patterns or designs. Despite the catacombs, the church is architecturally stunning and I recommend visiting earlier in the day when the grounds are still quiet and you can walk through the vaulted ceilings and columns undisturbed.

One of our final activities in Lima was a visit to Hacienda Mamacona, a family run hacienda that offers guests a rewarding look into Peruvian traditions and culture. Once we arrived at Hacienda Mamacona we were given a frosty Pisco Sour then led to our seats near the performance arena. The host formally welcomed everyone in attendance then we watched the “Dance of the Devils,” a Peruvian folklore dance where a group of masked performers engaged in funny and quirky pantomimes. Next, we were introduced to the unique and indigenous Peruvian Paso horse. Through a series of routines, the Paso horse displayed its’ prized gait – one that is so smooth riders often hold a glass of liquid which will not spill. After the horses paraded around the ring a few times, Peruvian folk dancers came out and graced the ring with their elegant costumes and even more elegant movements. Finally, in an incredible display of skill, the Paso Horse “danced” with a female folk dancer, and even though they weren’t hand-in-hand the horse’s ability to mirror the woman’s movements was astounding.

We left Lima for a short time only to return for one last day, and for me (and I believe the rest of the group) that wasn’t enough. I was impressed by the city and truly wanted to explore more; I felt as if I had only began to see what this city offered. Lima’s pulsating energy was irresistible and once you’ve experienced some of its hospitality and charisma you will definitely crave more!

Colin Roohan is a travel photographer interested in documenting experiences with culture and life. In addition to his work with AFAR, Colin has been published in Travel + Leisure, The Royal Geographical Society’s Hidden Journeys, and Groove Magazine, amongst others. In addition to journalistic pursuits, Colin captures portraits and documents events around Southern California. Hear more about his journey to Peru at AFAR.com.