If you are looking for outdoor adventure close to Lima it’s hard to beat an overnight stay in Lunahuana. In this sunny green valley just 2 hours south of Lima, you can enjoy river rafting, quad running, hiking to ancient ruins, pisco tasting, and miles of bike riding. All levels of accommodations are available from backpacker’s hostels to three star family resorts.
What makes Refugio de Santiago special is owner Fernando Briceño’s passion for the preservation of both the natural biosphere and unique cuisine of this fertile region.
A tour of the refugio’s grounds reveals numerous native trees and plants, along with a charming circular organic herb garden. The grounds contain 90 different varieties of native fruit trees, 300 medicinal plants and even 17 pre-Hispanic vegetables plants. Señor Fernando is an expert on the uses of all of these native plants for dining and health.
The restaurant’s menu is both tempting and educational. On the menu local ingredients are pointed out and a description of how they are used in each dish is included. Each plate is carefully prepared and beautifully garnished with edible flower blossoms and herbs from the garden. Fernando boasts that his kitchen is the only one in the valley that serves fresh water river shrimp, camarones, without the head, which makes for a less messy meal.
Packed full of river shrimp, local veggies and a whole egg, the chupe de colas de camaron was heavenly. During our two night stay we ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the lodge. From the locally-made marmalade and warm rolls in the morning to our dinner of duck in purple corn sauce in the evening, every meal was delightful.
The Refugio sits on top of a hill looking out over the valley. The rooms are comfortable, with lots of rustic old world charm. After a long day of exploring the valley, the terrace in front of the lodge is the perfect place to enjoy a pisco sour made with juice of purple corn and watch the sunset. After dinner, Fernando will light the bonfire and be more than happy to enlighten guests with stories of the medicine men he has known and, if you are lucky, directions of where in the valley you can find the lost fruit of the Incas.
To get to the hotel be prepared to climb some stairs. The parking is below the hotel next to the central square in the tiny center of Paullo, just off the main road to Lunahuana. The restaurant is open everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
El Refugio de Santiago