South American food is as diverse as the people and the continent itself. You could be tucking into flame-grilled Argentinian steak one moment and a fresh Peruvian ceviche the next. From dishes with humble origins to some of the world’s best fine dining cuisine, cutting-edge fusion food to traditional recipes and the most unique dining destinations you can imagine. It’s true, South America is an epicurean dream.    

Finding the top culinary experiences in South America is an endless edible task. Here, every country, region, city, remote village or isolated eatery has its own appeal, traditions and techniques to delight traveling gastronomes. Whether sourcing ingredients from the Amazon or picnicking beside ancient ruins, South America has it all.

So where to start? We take a look at 7 of our favorite food experiences in South America to get your ideas going and mouths watering!

1. Traditional Asado in a boutique estancia – Argentina

Argentinian Asado’s can be as rustic and traditional as you like, or refined and paired with wines and sides depending on where you are when you experience this culinary “must” in Argentina.           An Asado, Argentina’s national dish, is a coal or wood-fired BBQ or grill serving up flamed steak, sausages, pork ribs and chicken with sides like grilled corn and peppers, provoleta cheese or irresistible Chimichurri sauce.

The asado is a way of life for Argentinians, as can be experienced at authentic estancias and haciendas such as Los Chulengos in the foothills around Mendoza, or the elegant La Bamba de Areco in the Buenos Aires region. Here you can live like a gaucho by day and enjoy hearty Asado cuisine by night, with a fire roaring and glass of malbec by your side. And while many amazing restaurants produce exquisite steak and salsas in the asado style, at Atelier we think the real experience at a boutique Argentine estancia or hacienda is too good to beat.

2. Cooking class in Lima – Peru

In recent years Lima has become one of the food capitals of the world, so where better to don your apron for a private class with a top chef, or watch a live cooking demo and learn from the best? A Lima cooking class is a great way to immerse yourself in the rich culinary heritage of Peru, perhaps learning the secrets of ceviche, how to mix a perfect pisco sour and other varieties of Peru’s national drink, or delving into Peruvian-Asian “Nikkei” fusion food.

A big part of Peruvian cookery is using fresh ingredients with a mix of traditional and modern-day techniques, making a Lima cooking class or demo a lesson in local history and culture as much as anything else. Above all though, it’s all about the foodie experience in Peru and having sourced the ingredients from a local market and done the hard work yourself, the end result tastes all the sweeter!

3. Wine tasting in Chile – Chile

Wine tasting in Chile is a must. Chile’s Central Valley is home to some of the world’s finest wines, boutique vineyards and exclusive labels, all set amongst verdant rolling hills and a mountainous backdrop. Whether taking a day trip from the capital Santiago, overnighting in a luxe wine lodge, or passing through the Wine Region on your way to Chile’s western coast, a private wine tour and long lunch amidst the vines is a right of passage.   

And although the Central Valley is the most accessible and best-known wine region in Chile, including coastal Chiloe, there are in fact vineyards and wine valleys up and down the country. From the Copiapo Valley in the northern Atacama to the Cautin and the Malleco Valleys in Chile’s southern and Austral Region, no matter what route you take on your bespoke Chile tour there will be a wine tasting experience within reach.   

4. Farm-to-table dining in the Sacred Valley – Peru

The Sacred Valley is an unmissable part of any trip to Peru. The gateway to Machu Picchu is full of ancient ruins, stunning views, and traditional local communities. Some farming techniques here like the iconic stepped agricultural terraces date back to Inca times, and a love of the land/Mother Earth, Pachamama, runs through the culture and traditions across Peru.

As such, a farm-to-table lunch in the Sacred Valley is both a top culinary experience and perfect way to pay homage to the food this land produces. At Atelier, we believe in supporting the local communities and farmers who run rural haciendas as well as the high-end, fine dining eateries dotted around the Sacred Valley. So depending on your travel style, you could be getting served a rustic “one-pot” Pachamama meal beneath the façade of Sacred Valley mountains, or dining on world class, cutting-edge cuisine with elevated views all around.

Most important of all, ingredients are locally sourced and the renowned Peruvian hospitality will be served in abundance.

5. Chocolate tasting in an Ecuadorian hacienda – Ecuador

Known as the Golden Fruit, chocolate tasting in Ecuador will have chocoholics salivating. As with so many great epicurean experiences, a chocolate tour in Ecuador comes with a history and culture lesson too, with many believing this was the first country to domesticate the cacao plant thousands of years ago. Importantly, cacao production in Ecuador—even for export—is some of the most sustainable in the world.

Tempted yet? You should be! If traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos then taking the time to enjoy South America’s finest delicacy is well worth it. You can take chocolate tours to a traditional hacienda from Guayaquil on the coast, Quito, or the Mindo Cloud Forest and all will immerse you into both the production and all-important tasting of the world’s favorite treat. The chili chocolate is especially good!

6. Coffee farm in Colombia’s Coffee Region – Colombia.

Colombian coffee is known and loved the world over, and the country’s Coffee Region (West of the capital Bogota) makes for a wonderfully bucolic stop on any tour. These rich, verdant hills have hosted coffee farms for generations, and the seemingly endless coffee plants which blanket the region are still harvested in the traditional way when the beans are ready for picking, by hand.

Visiting a coffee farm in Colombia offers an authentic insight into the way of life and heritage of the people who farm this land and drive a major part of the country’s economy. The best way to experience it is by taking a couple of days in the Coffee Region to enjoy both the serene countryside and growing, farming, and harvesting processes at a local farm. Of course, there will be plenty of time for tasting too!

7. Feira de São Cristóvão Food Market, Rio de Janeiro – Brazil

South America is known for its popular food markets selling a kaleidoscope of fresh produce, towers of fruit and vegetables, herbs and spices, and Feira de São Cristóvão in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is one of the biggest and best.

With over 600 stalls, street food eateries, bars, florists, handicrafts and even live music—this is no ordinary food market. Much of the produce on show is from the Bahia region, though you’ll find influences from across Brazil and beyond as you wander the old velodrome past seafood shacks and restaurants, countless stand and shops, and so much more.

Make no mistake, Feira de São Cristóvão Food Market is not just for tourists, this is a local spot that people from Rio de Janeiro come to buy and sell their staples for the week, socialize, and showcase the full breadth of Brazilian cuisine under one gigantic roof.

No matter what your interests or group size, speak to the South America travel specialists at Atelier and they will craft your dream tailormade tour to South America.

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