We have traveled extensively through Latin America and spent considerable time there over the past few years, both as tourists and whilst working. One thing we found difficult is finding good, local tour operators and authentic experiences with local guides. Your choice is large international tour operators or go it alone.
Many businesses in Central America lack websites, some do have a Facebook page, but finding them is the issue! And if you do locate them, you just hope they will respond to your enquiry, or for us gringos- speak English!
Obviously someone else noticed this opportunity, because finally there is a solution- LocalAventura! Operating in Chile, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil (and continuing to expand into other countries) the site is a great way to find a wide range of experiences with local guides.
Since we were back in Peru, we decided to try it out in Lima.
The Full Lima Culinary Experience with a Chef
One of our favorite activities when traveling is to explore the local cuisine with a visit to the market and, where possible, take a cooking class. It’s a great way to gain a better understanding of the ingredients and cooking methods of a country during your visit. It is also a fun activity as well as a convenient way to discuss all things food with a local expert, so you have a deeper understanding of what you are learning.
I knew we were in for one of the best local experiences in Latin America as soon as Gonzalo picked us up from our accommodation. Gonzalo is a very engaging person with a perfect command of English and highly knowledgeable on Peruvian food. As a chef, he worked overseas as well as in local, Lima restaurants. He is well qualified to teach us a few secrets of Peruvian cuisine.
Our first port of call was an excursion to one of Lima’s best local food markets, Mercado de Surquillo. What a fascinating visit. Full of local vegetables, fruit, meat and fish. Gonzalo showed us many of the most important ingredients key to Peruvian cuisine. Gonzalo is a wealth of knowledge and how nice to have a guide to ask any questions you want. The bottom line, with him by our side, we learned more than if we had traveled to the market independently.
As the tour was just for Elizabeth and I, our second port of call was to Gonzalo’s home for the actual cooking class. Yes, how nice, talk about a personal touch! For larger groups, Gonzalo uses the kitchen facilities of a nearby restaurant.
A Classic Peruvian Meal
On walking into his house, we could see all the prepared ingredients ready to go. The organization was impressive.
After making our Pisco Sours, we could turn our attention to such classic, Peruvian dishes as ceviche, a Huancaina-style potato causa (a molded, potato mousse) and Lomo Saltado, Peru’s most famous dish.
Using fresh and high-quality ingredients, the whole class and resulting meal was superb. And no need to take notes as the recipes were all forwarded to us by email at the completion of the class.
This tour was fun and a great addition to our time in Lima. What we really liked:
- Being picked from our accommodation.
- Gonzalo’s knowledge and passion for Peruvian cuisine. (If all the guides are this good you are in for a great tour!)
- The personal nature of the tour and being able to have your questions answered.
- The cooking techniques, such as the best way to dice an onion and a tomato! The food preparation tips were a bonus we can use for any meal!
- Visiting the market and learning about the ingredients- both how they were used in the dishes we made and in other, typical, Peruvian dishes.
Gonzalo is a fabulous host and we really enjoyed the market tour and cooking class. If food or cooking are not your passion- LocalAventura has a lot of other options, I am sure there is something you would find interesting!
Booking an Authentic Local Experience on LocalAventura
LocalAventura is a marketplace connecting you, the traveler, with a local guide. LocalAventura is not a tour operator. Each tour listed on the site is a unique experience designed by a local. Think of LocalAventura as a way to find and book a passionate local guide on your travels in Latin America for an authentic local experience.
The site handles the reservation, and the payment and allows you to see reviews of other travelers, as well as to leave your own review! After you make your reservation, the local tour operator takes over. They will contact you with all the details including where and when to meet, the duration and any other relevant information.
The contact details for the guide/tour operator are on your confirmation email from LocalAventura should you have questions or need immediate answers. Based on our experience, we recommend you give LocalAventura a try if you are looking to for an authentic local experience in Latin America.
We were a guest of LocalAventura, but as always, the opinions expressed on Compass & Fork are our own.