The most vegan-friendly place in Peru
After spending a wonderful few days in Lima I flew to Cusco to relax a bit before my yoga retreat started. When I arrived I felt pretty dizzy and had a headache, but walked down to Green Point to have some food. It was a really good menu of the day with a salad bar, juice, soup, main dish and dessert for about $4. Later after eating there again and having a tummy ache, I would read and talk to locals that their food is known for leaving people feeling not so well, so I opted to try other places after that.
When I found myself vomiting a couple of hours later I couldn’t tell if it was food poisoning or altitude sickness. I curled in bed with some Netflix and literally Googled “do I have food poisoning or altitude sickness”. Turns out the symptoms can be very similar and many people have asked the same question! Having flown from Lima at about 5,000 to Cusco which is double that in altitude I set myself up for disaster. If I would have gone overland my body would have adjusted better to altitude. I chatted with a few of my fellow hostel guests and they confirmed it was likely altitude sickness and gave me some pills to take. I threw up another time and finally fell asleep. I was good to go the next morning with just some strong hunger pains and a slight headache. So no days lost!
As always when I get to a new town I do a walking tour. The one in Cusco is probably one of the best ones I’ve ever done! It included a trip to the local chocolate shop where we tasted many types of chocolate. Then we visited a local musician who makes traditional instruments, and teaches people how to play them. He played some beautiful songs. We got to see a beautiful view of the whole city and the tour ended with the other people trying pisco sour, the traditional drink of Peru (made with egg whites).
Now onto the food! There are plenty of vegan options in Cusco and coffeeshops that have plant milks (unlike the rest of Peru). Keep in mind that the food in Peru (and South America) overall is boring. Like you just eat to sustain yourself, so don’t expect to find anything the likes of Portland, Berlin, or New York. I’m giving you my honest opinion and telling you even about meals that I didn’t love because I want to show you the options available.
I ate at Vida Vegan Bistro twice while in Cusco. This was the one place I was expecting to be above par because I read great reviews and the menu is diverse. One day I got the menu del dia then the next night I got the mushroom ceviche and lasagna. A friend got the pizza and it was huge. Both meals were okay, filling, and not too expensive. The owner is really nice and will play whatever you request for music. It opens at 1 pm so a little inconvenient if you are an early eater like me. Nothing to write home about but a solid option in Cusco.
If looking for cheap and filling food in Cusco head to Loving Hut (seen below). The food isn’t exciting but their menu del dia is super filling and only $3 USD. This is your cheapest vegan option in all of town, just don’t go with high expectations. The plate below is called Tacu Tacu, which is a traditional Peruvian dish where they use up leftover rice and beans mushed together into a patty and fried.
I also had the menu del dia at Chia Vegan Kitchen, which was pretty good but the owner was playing a show on his phone really loud and it totally ruined my dining experience. You can get a really good personal-size pizza and veggie burger at NaturAle. And a few more choices are scattered about town. In San Blas, a coffee show called Qura has the best lattes, plant milks, and fresh baked bread for purchase.
My favorite meal was had in Pisac in the Sacred Valley. So not technically Cusco, but just a short bus ride away. You’ll want to visit the Pisac ruins and market during your trip to Cusco anyways so be sure to go on Sundays. It’s the only day this pop-up vegan restaurant, Sacred Sushi, is open (also known as Om Food)! I had an amazing, comforting curry and chai latte with soy milk. They also have the best granola and you can grab other things like chocolate peanut butter cups and kombucha.
After a few lovely days in Cusco I headed to the Sacred Valley to prepare for the yoga retreat. It was a very special time with the most amazing food (of course the food is good because I always plan the menus for my retreats!), beautiful yoga looking across the valley, and a very special time with some even more special ladies. There are too many precious moments to recap but it reinvigorated my spirit.
Just a few highlights: we had a Despacho ceremony with a local healer who read coca leaves and made offerings to Pachamama and the mountains which we later burned in a fire. We also had a beautiful day with some teenagers from a local shelter doing a yoga class and cooking a meal together. They were so sweet!
Then three of us went to Machu Picchu! We saw a rainbow when we left the guesthouse and saw a double rainbow on our way back so it was a very special day. It definitely is an epic experience to see the ruins in person. It’s one of the 7 wonders of the world for a reason. The weather was perfect in October and the train ride up was breathtaking. Totally recommend it!
We passed this mural above many times throughout the week and I finally snapped a photo of it as we were leaving the Sacred Valley for the final time. It’s the most beautiful art in all of Peru. Something about this traditional woman just pulls me in.
Have you been to Cusco or the Sacred Valley? What were your favorite parts of your visit and did you eat some good food?