steal my vacation

A Not-Too-Planned Trip to Lima and Lake Titicaca

Ceviche lunches, alpaca knits, and remote peninsulas.

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist: Photos: Tessa Tran
Photo-Illustration: The Strategist: Photos: Tessa Tran

Everyone knows that person who spends weeks sniffing around travel blogs, going deep into Tripadvisor rabbit holes, collecting Google docs from friends of friends, and creating A Beautiful Mind–style spreadsheets to come up with the best vacations and itineraries possible. In this recurring series, we find those people who’ve done all the work for you and have them walk us through a particularly wonderful, especially well-thought-out vacation they took that you can actually steal.

When Tessa Tran, CEO of accessories line Chan Luu, and her husband began thinking about their first big trip post-COVID, they knew they wanted something new and unknown. “We had never been to Peru,” Tran says, “let alone South America.” They decided to look into flights and booked their tickets only two weeks before the trip. “Peru has always been on my radar, specifically its rich biodiversity, from the Andes to the Amazon rainforest to all the way to the coastal regions,” she says. While there were certain bucket-list experiences Tran was excited about, like visiting Lake Titicaca and checking out the food scene in Lima, they didn’t make any concrete plans ahead of traveling. “Whenever I visit somewhere new, I like to stay put for at least three nights to get to know the area,” says Tran. “I don’t love having a packed itinerary with plan after plan. I like to wander and see where the day takes me.” The one caveat to spending a week 12,500 feet above sea level? “Altitude sickness is a real thing.” Here, Tran shares her favorite local craft markets, morning tennis spots, and the Andean chowder she now re-creates at home.

Day 1

4 a.m.: Check into the hotel

We touched down in Peru at 4 a.m. — flights were not the most convenient. We ended up booking a flight from L.A. to Dallas, then Dallas to Lima. (There are direct flights through Latam Airlines, however.) We checked into Hotel B (Jirón Sáenz Peña 204) and were greeted with a glass of Champagne (followed by a pisco sour), which was the earliest and latest drink we’ve ever had. The hotel is located in the Barranco district, right on the water. When we got to the room, I noticed the circular bath mats with delicate crochet trim. The next day I asked the hotel to help source a dozen more to bring home with me.

11:30 a.m.: Squeeze in an early lunch

We slept almost until our 11:30 a.m. reservation at Kjolle (Av. Pedro de Osma 301). After booking our flights, I did a quick search of spots in Lima. I landed on this New York Times article featuring chef Virgilio Martinez and searched for a reservation at his restaurant. As to be expected, nothing was available at Central, but I snagged the single last reservation at its sister restaurant, Kjolle, located one floor above Central. I think the most memorable part was seeing Virgilio’s botanical garden of dried herbs. The food and service were excellent, and the cuisine was thoughtful and creative; I also indulged in red wine before noon. As we left, we ran into the chef. He caught me pointing at him (while I was trying to show my husband), gave me a smile, and came over to chat.

3 p.m.: Visit Museo Larco

This was probably a highlight of our Lima visit. Museo Larco (Av. Simón Bolivar 1515) showcases pre-Columbian art housed in an 18th-century royal building. The storage room has thousands of ancient pottery artifacts and is open to the public. The Erotic gallery was a surprising element and is not to be missed. The museum also has a charming café in the garden, where we shared a snack and an espresso.

Day 2

8 a.m.: Hit the clay courts in Miraflores

Every morning we rode bikes along the Miraflores bike path. December is summer in Peru, so it was 75 degrees and sunny. We passed by clay tennis courts situated on a cliff with an incredible coastline view. Once we found these courts, we knew what our plans would be each morning in Lima. We felt like we were playing at Roland Garros.