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Peruvian Culture

Food and Drink
Peruvian food stems from a blend of indigenous and Spanish influences, with each of the country’s geographical regions possessing its own native delicacies.

Coastal cuisine, known as comida criolla, focuses on fresh seafood and shellfish, with ceviche -- raw fish marinated in citrus juice and spices -- praised as a star dish. Cevicherías usually serve several types of ceviche as well as other coastal favorites like escabeche (a zesty fish concoction served with peppers, eggs, olives, onions and prawns), scallops and sea bass. In the Amazon jungle, fish such as river trout and paiche (a huge river fish) are featured. However, adventurous palates might opt for more exotic fare like caiman, wild boar, turtle and piranha.

In the Andean highlands, corn, potatoes and meat are diet staples that hail from Incan civilizations. Lomo saltado -- strips of beef mixed with onions, tomatoes, peppers and french-fried potatoes -- is served with rice and found on most menus. In the countryside, you may be tempted to sample pachamanca, a roast cooked over stones in small holes in the ground, or cuy (guinea pig) -- typically served roasted or fried with head and feet upturned on the plate.

Quench your thirst with a refreshing pisco sour, a cocktail mixed with the indigenous pisco (a powerful grape brandy), egg whites, lemon juice, sugar and bitters. Peruvians also drink chicha, a tangy, fermented brew made from maize and served warm. The nonalcoholic variation, chicha morada, is prepared with blue corn and sipped chilled. While in the Amazon region, you likely will come across masato, a beer made from yuca.

Peru’s extremely rich architectural legacy can be seen today in the ruins that remain. Of all pre-Columbian civilizations, the Incas were most renowned for their superior building techniques, including the 20,000-mile road system that crisscrossed the entire empire from Chile through the Andes to Quito. Building with huge stones and no mortar, and creating agricultural terraces on steep mountainsides, were two other perfected skills of the Incans. They held nature in high regard by erecting the environmentally sensitive structures seen at Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Moray and Pisac. As stonemasons using only primitive tools and no machinery, they established the impeccable defensive walls at Sacsayhuamán and the exquisitely curved exterior at Coricancha in Cuzco.

Peru’s music is a fusion of Spanish, Andean and African styles and rhythms. The harmonious sounds of Andina (highland) music, such as the bouncy huayno tunes, incorporate wind instruments like bamboo panpipes, quena flutes and guitar-like charangos. The country also beats to música criolla, or Creole music based on a mix of European and African influences that’s comprised of a variety of genres including Peruvian vals, tondero, festejo, polka, zamacueca, landó and the favorite marinera, as well as others.

The 5,000-year-old craft of textile weaving is among Peru’s artistic traditions. Luxurious handcrafted textiles, made using natural alpaca, llama and vicuña wool, were indicators of social status and power that were traded as commodities in pre-Columbian times. Today, you still can find many Peruvian artisans using the drop spindle technique -- weaving done with a stick and spinning wooden wheel -- among other weaving traditions inherited from ancestral civilizations.