A Getaway to the Ica Vineyards

After two months in our new locale of Lima, Peru, we took our first trip out of the gray, foggy city leaving behind the vestiges of the southern hemisphere winter along the coast and headed south to Peru’s sunnier wine region of Ica. Dan and I were and are still struggling to settle in and find our happy place in Lima, so a long weekend getaway was just what we needed to revive us and fill up our happiness cup, so to speak.

Bus travel in Peru is a far cry from the Greyhound buses of the States, with roomier seats that recline almost to 180 degrees in the sleeper camas for the overnight buses and individual entertainment systems to help pass the miles to your destination. You even get served a hot meal! In fact, it may be an even better value than some of the budget airlines if time isn’t a valuable commodity for your travels. It only cost us a whopping $64 dollars for two roundtrip tickets from Cruz del Sur, one of Peru’s top bus lines for travel within the country as well as a few destinations across the border. In some cases, bus transport is the only means of travel to some areas of Peru and other more remote or rural areas of South America.

We clambered aboard our bus, headed upstairs to the second level, and after an initially unsettling moment of having a man with a video camera filming us in our seats (we later found out that all passengers are filmed as a security measure), we settled into our seats all the way in the front so we had a wide-open view of the road the entire time. Both a good and bad thing. I don’t think anyone would dispute that driving in Peru is far from a “relaxing drive in the countryside on a Sunday” experience. Someone once described it to us as “aggressive anarchy” with rules of the road mere suggestions and an “every man for himself” kind of mentality. It’s not uncommon for someone three lanes over to the left to just cut across those three lanes to make a right turn halfway through the intersection. I once saw a car go against the direction of travel in a giant 8-or-so-exit roundabout to take one exit to the left of where he was. I can’t say I blame him though as the traffic here can be maddening and that trip around the óvalo probably would have taken him a good 30 minutes at least!

Needless to say, if you are a nervous passenger, sometimes having a front seat view of the chaos on the road can just leave you a bit on edge. The 6-hour bus ride hugging the coastline on the Pan-American highway for a good while was fraught with a few white-knuckle, seat-clenching moments of watching 18-wheelers and buses, including our own, being gutsy or just plain foolish and trying to pass slower vehicles on hills and blind turns on the one-lane stretches. I finally decided to just close the curtain and distract myself with watching a Spanish-dubbed version of Book Club. Jane Fonda’s Spanish voice-over was quite sassy!

As you head out of the city center the outskirts of Lima reveal a clear dichotomy of so-called haves and have-nots. Coming from California where every inch of coastline, overdeveloped or not, commands high property values it struck me to see beautiful stretches of undeveloped coastline with rough half-constructed dwellings, shanties for lack of a better word. Not long after the sun sank down we finally arrived at the bus station in Ica and hopped in a local taxi to take us to our accommodation for the weekend, Hotel Viñas Queirolo.

I had discovered Hotel Viñas Queirolo set amongst 500 hectares of grapes and the only hotel in Peru in the middle of a vineyard while perusing through other South America travel blogs and thought it would be a great spot to relax for a few days. The white-washed hacienda-style hotel draped in rich shades of bougainvillea with two pools, spacious rooms, cozy alfresco fireplaces to warm yourselves with a post-dinner glass of wine or pisco sour, a superb restaurant with outdoor tables overlooking the vineyard, and free bike rentals to pedal your way through the vineyard was everything we were looking for. 

Since we were traveling over a Peruvian national holiday, the hotel was offering a great package deal that included accommodation for three nights, all meals, a welcome drink, vineyard tour ending with a champagne toast at the mirador, and a wine tasting class. Sometimes the package deals can be detrimental to the waistline as we usually waaaay overindulge in how much we eat at each meal.

“I’m still stuffed from lunch and I wasn’t even hungry for lunch after having breakfast.”

“But we each get an appetizer and dessert with our entree!”

The breakfast buffet was hearty, the pisco sours on point, and the lunch and dinner menus offered plenty fresh and diverse dishes. While not the prettiest looking dish, the osso bucco-stuffed raviolis with creamy wild mushroom sauce were by far one of the best things I’ve ever eaten! Without any thought of what other potentially palate-rocking dish on the menu I might be missing out on, I ordered the ravioli two nights in a row. The Thai shrimp salad, pesto lasagna, chicken enchiladas, and causa, a Peruvian mashed potato terrine type of dish, were equally delicious. Thankfully I do not purport myself to be much of a food blogger as I am the absolute worst at remembering to take photos of dishes before diving in!

When we went in early October it was spring in South America, so the vines were early in their growth, but we could just see the start of a bottle of wine in the making. The vineyard tour and wine tasting were done completely in Spanish, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I understood a fair amount of what was being said. That or I was just able to surmise what was being said based on my time in California vineyards! After a tour of the vineyard at ground level, we piled into a hotel van and joined a caravan of vehicles to snake up into the mountain behind the hotel to toast the sunset with a glass of bubbly from the viewpoint overlooking the endless rows of vines.

We originally had planned to take a bus down to Nazca one of the days to do a scenic flight over the famed Nazca Lines, but we hadn’t accounted for the busy holiday travel and there were no seats left for the return bus trip back up north to Ica. So without regret we shelved Nazca for another time, ordered a pisco sour, and laid claim to two chaises by the adults-only pool. There was no disappointment, we didn’t need to be anywhere else but here.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about our ventures into the low Amazon jungle and cacao farms of Tarapoto and our ziplining and thermal bath soaking in Colca Canyon!