Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

When we were planning our 16 day South America trip, other than making sure to include Machu Picchu Peru in the plans (read about it here), we also wanted to sample the new world wines at the source. The plan was to sample the award-winning Malbec in Mendoza (since we were starting in Argentina), but the airport was closed for maintenance then and i didn't want to waste too much time on the roads. So we looked to Chile for inspiration!
There was a time when Chilean wines were considered cheap and pedestrian, but that is not the case now. Do you know that Chile produces more Cabernet Sauvignon than the U.S.? The ideal climate allows for the production of exceptional reds at very affordable prices! 
Also, Chile has their unique Carménère, a savory medium-bodied red with a red bell pepper note. The vegetal red goes very well with greens of course and works for those who likes some spice in their wine. This grape was thought to be Merlot when they first imported the grape cutting from Bordeaux in the 1800s. It was not till 1994 that they found out that it is actually a Bordeaux variety Carménère. This varietal is nearly extinct in Bordeaux now and and thus is exclusive to Chile.
Cusco Peru is the center of the universe according to the Incans and it was without a doubt an unchanging component of our South America trip because of Machu Picchu! Check out our South America itinerary here). Well, Cusco is a lot more than just Machu Picchu and we found out through trips to the various museums and ancient sites. So here is what we did in Cusco in 4 days
To get to Cusco, you'll have to fly in from Lima. There are flights throughout the day and will only take you about 1.5h to get to the Inca capital. We took LATAM airlines for our flights in South America. 
You are likely to experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness in Cusco, more so than at Machu Picchu which is at a lower elevation. Take it easy for the first day when you arrive. 
Have your meds ready, and drink lots of Coca tea to help relieve dizziness and headaches. The tea is available at your hotel (for sure), and all around town and the sights.
We stayed at Hotel Eco Inn Hotel Cusco. It's a 3 star hotel that is spacious and clean. It may be some distance from the main town area but it wasn't much of an issue since we were always picked up and dropped off from our tours.  We were surprised by the quality of the food when we had several quick meals at the hotel before and after our tours. The breakfast spread is also quite substantial and yes to guacamole and other Andean fare for breakfast!
We spent an afternoon in the city, visiting the Main Square, the Cusco Cathedral, and the Coricancha (Qorikancha) temple (the Christian monastery of Santo Domingo was built on top of it). We marvelled at the Inca architecture all around town and were enriched by our guide's commentary as we went around the cathedral. I'll definitely recommend going on a guided tour. 
Cusco itself was laid out to represent a jaguar and Coricancha was located at the tail. Coricancha contains the Temple of the Sun which the most sacred site in the Inca religion and it is also considered the very centre of the Inca world. Massive walls of the complex were built from large stone blocks finely cut and fitted together without mortar. 
In Inca symmetry, the second most important sacred site in the city - Sacsayhuaman - was located at the head of the jaguar. It's a short drive from the main town and we were wowed by the massive construction here.
We continued with our small-group tour to the Sacred Valley the following day. Star attractions are the markets and the cities of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. There are plenty of tour companies around the Plaza de Armas in Cusco offering these tours costing between US$15 to 25 for a big group of up to 30pax (meals/entrance fees not included). Tours operate on market days i.e. Tue, Thu, and Sun. I'd recommend you do this if you only have a day for this. Alternatively, hire a taxi and take a guide for US$150 onwards. If not, try navigating the local bus but be warned that it'd be very tiring.
Sacred Valley's climate and fertile soil is perfect for agriculture then and now. 
The colorful Pisac market where you can buy silver, alpaca fur, and traditional weaves among other knick knacks. I bought a Machu Picchu sun hat which proved to be the best buy for going about Cusco (careful of the burns)! The tour will bring you to a lunch stop in Urubamba.
Then it was off to Ollantaytambo. We wondered how these massive rocks were brought up the mountain to construct this site without the use of wheels back then. 
Our tour ended with a transfer to the Ollantaytambo train station for our train ride to Machu Picchu town (Aguas Calientes). 

The ride takes about 90 minutes. You could either take the Incarail or Perurail. Both offers different class of service. We went with Incarail's Expedition Train and they offer complimentary beverage and interesting Andean cookies. I was quite impressed with Peru coffee brew that was offered. 


We stayed at El Mapi by Inkaterra, which is a cheaper and more contemporary option from the luxurious Inkaterra. It reminded me a little of Point Yamu by COMO. Breakfast spread was more than sufficient though the dinner we had at the restaurant on-site was far from mind-blowing. Good news is that there are plenty to eat around town where the hotel is conveniently located. 
The plan was to wake early and catch the first bus (5.30-6am) from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. We were supposed to climb Huayna Picchu which will give us a view of Machu Picchu (you need a ticket for this). However, by this leg of our trip, we were sick of having to wake so bloody early to catch our transfers and all so we decided that we could always go later.  
Be prepared for the bus queue wait!
Well guess what, we completely missed Huayna Picchu because 1. We "climbed" the wrong thing (ended up touring MP on our own) 2. We realized at the end of our little tour that Huayna Picchu entrance is only open at certain hours so if you miss the window, you can't enter even if you have a ticket. 
Well good news is that we thoroughly explored the citadel, once on our own, and a second time with our private guide. HUR HUR.
Give the walk at least 2 hours. It's a huge compound and there's plenty to see. It's good to go with a guide so that you'll learn more about the place.
Part of the Ican trek route
As you can obviously tell, we did not do the Incan trek (there's a 2d1n and a 4d3n option) as we took a while to plan our itinerary and by the time things were firmed, there were no more passes to do the trek. If you'd like to do that, make sure you book it in advance online. 

We had the most exciting train ride back from Aguas Calientes to Poroy (3h 45mins). Hello train fault! We thought it was a 'Train to Busan' moment when the lights went out and we were stuck on the tracks for a really long time. Thankfully our local escort was super on the ball and they appeared miraculously on the tracks and 'rescued' us and sent us back to our hotel. We didn't even have to call them. Book your land package with Peru Interact guys! FYI they settled all the logistics for us- accom, transfers, sightseeing for our South America trip, according to how we planned it. I'd say it's a semi-private and exclusive tour. Not sure what happened to the rest of the people on the train. Maybe they were eaten by zombies.
Now about food. There are plenty of options to eat in Cusco, but make sure you check out Chicha by Gaston Acurio (we dined at his Amazonian restaurant Amaz and it was AMAZing). There are also outlets in Lima and Arequipa if you missed this. Of course if you have the change in Lima, get a table at Peru's most celebrated Chef's flagship restaurant Astrid & Gaston. Traditional Andean cuisine is served here, think superfoods and flavorful meats. End your meal with a queso helado, a cheese ice cream flavored with cinnamon. And don't miss the pisco based cocktails.
Next, Pachapapa was also recommended by our Lima food guide and they serve traditional Peruvian dishes in a homey courtyard. They are best known for its cuy horniado con hucatay y ají panca (whole guinea pig roasted with Peruvian herbs and hot yellow peppers) and Pachamanca (assortment of tubers, corn and meats baked in a traditional ground-oven). located in the heart of Cusco’s San Blas neighborhood, directly in front of the San Blas Cathedral. 
Enjoy a variety of Peruvian dishes on a buffet spread at Tunupa. We were brought to this restaurant for lunch while on our tour to the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo. The buffet spread is very extensive and there were more than enough options to give us satisfied. Jr have seconds of the ceviche that is made on the spot, while i kept going back for the Aji de gallina, a classic Peruvian chicken dish cooked in a creamy amarillo peppers-ground walnut-cheese sauce. They also serve guinea pig in some form (carpaccio and terrine). They also have another outlet in Cusco city main square.

After our Machu Picchu trek x 2, we were starving by the time we got back to Aguas Calientes. A quick search online brought us to Indio Feliz, a charming restaurant that serves Franco-Peruvian food in ridonculous portions. We ordered a 3 course set meal and a quiche (because I wanted something small), and I swear it could feed a village.
The main dish of Mango and Chicken was made with half a chicken and came with a full plate of roasted vegetables, and another plate of chips. The French Onion Soup also came in a mini pot as opposed to a regular soup bowl.

This 4 day 3 night Cusco itinerary will work if you are fine with missing the Incan trek. There is still a fair amount of activity in this one if you're not all that couch potato as well!

Looking for a place to stay in Buenos Aires Argentina? This #travelerintransit recommends Hotel Clasico in the trendy Palermo Hollywood area.
The boutique hotel is within walking distance of many restaurants and cafes that i was dying to check out and i also absolutely love the design of the hotel. Bed was firm and comfy with 250 Egyptian cotton threads bed sheets, feather cushions and duvet; 42” Smart TV set; strong air-conditioning; minimal street noise, natural light filled room in the day through the full length windows; and wifi connectivity through the hotel. In short, all you need for a good rest.
#Bathroomgoals Obviously archiving all these for the future home. :)
Food is always a huge part of my travels and the first thing that i pin on my map when planning a trip. Given that we had little time in Lima, Peru, which i heard to be the gourmet epicenter of Peru, I thought the fastest way to get acquainted with Peruvian cuisine is through a food tour and we booked a private food tour with the highly raved Lima Gourmet Company.
With only the evening available to us before we fly out to Cuzco, we made sure to save our precious stomach space for a night of feasting with our guide, Lourdes Montoya.
We started the night with the iconic Pisco Sour at CALA, which is possibly the best place to enjoy a glass of this refreshing cocktail. There's the great debate about where Pisco Sour originated from (it's Peru vs. Chile) but we don't care as long it's tasty.

Just enjoying the sunset with cocktail in hand.
We then headed to Ámaz, one of the South America's 50 Best Restaurants for an Amazonian feast. Dishes here are made using jungle sourced food.
The meal started with a Shapshico cocktail (made with barsol pisco, siete raices, cocona and camu camu juice), We then worked our arms by making our jungle ceviche, a kick-ass plantain salad. 
Dishes here are meant for sharing and we enjoyed the variety of food which included a cane sugar marinated grilled chicken stick served with coconut and peanut foam; Sacha Chaufa, an Amazonian version of Chinese-Peruvian fried rice which has sweet plantains and cecina (a sun-dried pork); corn balls with chili salsa, and more fried plantains. 
Other snacks included the cassava with parmesan cheese bread; fermented cassava and chili sauce made with the Charapitas chilies; and Cocona, a Peruvian corn pancakes served with sour cream and pico de gallo.

Non-stop eating continues at another well-known Lima classic, the prestigious Huaca Pucllana restaurant, which is located within an archaeological site with ruins dating back to 500 A.D. 
How cool is this restaurant really?! 
Some exciting dishes we had were the Anticuchos (cow heart) with corn, causa (mashed potato) with salmon tartar and scallops with Parmesan cheese.  
More ceviche for us because it's iconic Peruvian! This earned Jr's stamp of approval. 
Then, a dessert platter of lucuma mousse (kinda like Chiku, which has a flavor of maple and sweet potato), Suspiro de Limeña (aka Sigh of Lima, a super sweet caramel pudding), gooseberry cheesecake (cheesecake de aguaymanto) and a rice pudding. 
Make sure you reserve an outdoor table so that you can enjoy the view of the Incan ruins as you dine. 

We ended the night at the bohemian streets of Barranco with more desserts! Do check out this neighborhood for their bars, restaurants, and views of the water. The restaurant El Tio Mario seems to be very popular. 
Love the vibe here. There's a Bridge of Sighs (Puente de los Suspiros) here too and word is that those who set sight on the bridge for the first time are entitled to a single wish if they can cross its 30-meter span without taking a single breath. Lame but we did it. And I think it works. Haha.
Can't remember where we had our parting gelato but it's near the square. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our night with the Lima Gourmet Company and i'll definitely recommend a food tour with them if you're in Lima. Do try to make a little more time for this city if you can!
Beef is synonymous with Argentina. The county has been raising cows since the 16th century and Argentines are the second-highest consumers of beef in the world (after Uruguay, and ahead of Hong Kong). The steaks are high when it comes to picking a Parrilla (steakhouse) to dine at because of limited calories and the fear of gout. To prevent any mis-steak, here are some tips on how to order your meats, and where to enjoy them in Buenos Aires.
Bife 101
You will not find steaks on the menu, only Bife (“Bee-fay”). The most popular cut in Argentina is Bife de chorizo (sirloin). Next would be Vacío (flank steak, around the belly), a cut is rarely served outside of Argentina. Asado de tira (short ribs) and Entraña (skirt steak) are the next popular cuts.
The Argentines prefer to have their meats slow smoked over briquettes, also known as the asado style. Thus, it is wiser to have a slice with more fats, hence the popularity of sirloin. Ojo de bite (ribeye) could work too. Or if you really must, the bife de lomo (filet mignon).

Degree of over-doneness
Argentina meats are more often than not, over cooked. I really like my meat medium rare and it has been suggested that you order it jugoso (juicy). However, the chefs often have different ideas on what jugoso means. Well, in most cases, blue (vuelta y vuelta) will turn out medium rare, and medium (a punto) will come medium well or well done (bien cocida). You could always try bien jugoso or rosado con y bien jugoso for a medium rare steak; and a punto pero todavia jugoso for medium.

10 Best Parrillas in Buenos Aires
Most upmarket- La Cabrera
José Antonio Cabrera 5099
Tel: +54 11 4832 5754
Daily: 12.30 - 4.30pm, 8.30pm - 1.30am
La Cabrera is tipped as Buenos Aires top steakhouse. Make sure you make your reservation and dress to the nines if you intend to dine in this trendy Palermo restaurant. Rosemary-flavored steaks are served in 200g or 400g portions (yes they are massive), accompanied by delicious sides. Try your luck at the sister restaurant La Cabrera Norte if you can't score a table.
South America has been on my travel list since like.. FOREVER. I was supposed to explore this continent back in 2014 but due to some misadventure, it did not happen. I guess it was a blessing in disguise since ideally, it would make a lot more sense to visit a couple more countries in one trip. Let's face it, we don't have the luxury to go on holiday for months. 
After setting our minds on the trip, we were faced with bigger problems! Where should we go? Should we just do one country extensively or visit a couple more? How much time should we spend at each city/country? How do we get from one place to another? Is it going to cost an arm and a leg, or both?

One good way is to Google 'Best of South America travel' and start from there. This should give you a general idea of the different types of experiences SA has to offer.
How about a grass fed Argentinean steak?
City lovers will have much to enjoy in Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, and Rio de Janeiro. Great food, music, and dance. You'd be thoroughly spoilt.
If you're into nature, flora and fauna, the Amazon rainforest is a must. Waterfalls are your thing? Get wet at Iguazu Falls. Weather too hot for you? Head down to El Calafate for the glaciers and trekking at Torres del Paine
Love your wines? Drink to your fill at one of the many vineyards. We think it's absolutely possible to drink your way through Chile (check out the Chilean wine region here) and those amazing Malbec in Argentina
Amazing breakfast and coffee at Coffee Town, San Telmo Market Buenos Aires.
If coffee is your poison, may we remind you that SA is also the coffee producing continent and all them single origins are easily within reach? 
Did you think we forgot Machu Picchu, one of the new seven wonders of the world? Hell no, we started the post with that!
For your reference, here is our itinerary. We wanted a mix of city, culture, nature, and wine experiences and finally settled on this mix.
Argentina- Buenos Aires: 4 nights 
Chile- Santiago, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and 3 wineries along the way: 3 nights
Peru- Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu: 4 nights
Argentina & Brazil- Iguazu Falls: 2 nights
Flights- To South America
Next, check out where is the best to fly in and out from. Buenos Aires is a good spot to start/end your trip given the generally good air connectivity to the surrounding countries. Otherwise, Sao Paolo is a good option as well (sadly SQ discontinued their flights there). You may also want to consider an open jaw option if the price works out to be right.

Flights- Within South America
Given the limited time we have, the best mode of transport is by flight. We flew with Latam Airlines (under oneworld® alliance) and it was safe, comfortable, and reliable. Plus we could easily book multi-city trips easily on their website. 

We chose to book directly instead of getting the oneworld® Visit South America Pass. It may or may not be cheaper to book through oneworld® given that the tickets are priced by zones. You are also required to book your return travel on a oneworld® partner to South America in order to enjoy these fares. 

Booking these tickets is also very troublesome- only the oneworld® partner you're traveling with can book the tickets for you; and they need to know the exact flights that you want to be booked on. There's a lot more work on your part, and the turnaround may not be that quick, so tickets may run out in the meantime.. Anyway, just check both. It may save you some money either ways. 

International flight on Qatar: 7+ hours to Doha, and another 17 hours to Buenos Aires with a stop in Sao Paolo in between. Cost: S$2400
6 flights within South America on Latam: US$850 (the prices can fluctuate a bit depending on the timing that you pick so just keep playing with the timing)
Have a drink! It'll help with the planning anxiety. HAHA.
Free & Easy or Guided Tours
The crazy research and planning drove me crazy and i started looking around for tour operators who could help with the logistics. We went with a customized tour only because they could provide me with all the experiences that I wanted e.g. visits to specific wineries, food tour; group tours and private tours to sites and entrance fees (we learned a lot more about the culture with these tours in fact); booking of hotels (that we specified); and airport transfers. Well it's a free and easy with some help and convenience i'd say. But in short, if you want a great experience out of this trip, you need to do the ground work regardless. 
Private food tour in Lima Peru. Dining at Huaca Pucllana, which is located on an ancient site.
Cost wise, it can vary a lot, depending on how exclusive and luxurious an experience you are looking at. I'd say that our was a mid-range experience at a super low-end price. It would probably cost me more if i booked the exact itinerary myself. Also, the other tour operator that provided me with a similar itinerary was charging about US$800-1000/pax more. I was also quoted US$6k/pax (land tour) in another case. #sorrynothoneymoon #honeymoonalsowontpaysomuch #okmaybewillifigotomars

So if you wanna do a customized tour that is super value for money, go with Peru Interact Trails. They are based in Peru (duh) but are quite on the ball when it comes to working with the other local operators in the other SA countries that you wanna visit. Hell they even saved us from our broken down train from Machu Picchu back to Cusco. #notsponsoredbutidontmindalso
We stayed in a mix of boutique and chain hotels. This is Hotel Classico in Buenos Aires.
We paid about US$1900/pax for 10 nights of accommodation and activities (we chose to do Buenos Aires on our own since it's just another city). Super value for money really. I'll share with you guys more on the exact things we did as part of the tour.

Hope this helps a little with your South America travel planning! More to come soon.