Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel

As top Peru specialists, we have spent almost three decades honing our craft. Today, our luxury travel takes in some of the country’s most tremendous wonders and hidden treasures, but place alone is not enough. Our longevity derives not from our ‘where’ and ‘what’ but rather our ‘who’ and ‘how’.

Who are the faces of Aracari?

As many know, Aracari is the brainchild of Marisol Mosquera, who, after becoming disillusioned with the corporate world of investment banking, founded Aracari in 1997 on a quest to share the brilliance of her birth country with likeminded, astute travelers. Marisol remains at the helm of our business, steering our ship – but there are many other faces who without, Aracari would not be nearing its 30th birthday.

The Aracari family is made up of scholars, artists, historians, architects, designers, well-connected locals, chefs, conservationists, and many more. They are first and foremost subject specialists, and as a by-product of their respect for our business and founder, have become Aracari guides. Their unrivaled knowledge and expertise open doors to our travelers. It is the luxury of access to places and experiences understood in human stories – and not just recited facts.

So who are these people? And how do we tell you the stories of our trailblazing family? Paint a picture of those you will meet during your time in South America before you get there. Because whilst the bespoke itinerary might be pure magic, on paper it is only half the story – brought into vibrant color by the faces of Aracari.

Introducing the people who make us top Peru specialists

Meet Raul Varela: Our wonderful Lima-based Concierge

Raul has been with Aracari since day dot. He is the welcoming smile that greets each of our clients in Lima, escorting them to their private transfers and onto their hotel. For some, an airport transfer is more necessity than experience, but Raul’s warm conversation and unrivaled knowledge of his home city – make what could be an A to B journey a special part of every Aracari trip, one that our clients remember with incredible fondness. Raul is an exceptionally special asset to us as top Peru specialists, and it’s been a complete privilege to have him as part of the Aracari family for so many years.

“I am delighted to be part of this wonderful family – I love Aracari, the dream team. What I love is the way we work with our guests, we don’t treat them like tourists but family invited into my home.”

And a standout memory over a quarter-century career with Aracari? Hosting Robert De Niro on his travels to Peru with Aracari. “Maybe one of the experiences most treasured was when I met one of my movie heroes on his travels with Aracari: Mr Robert De Niro. It was an extraordinary experience to meet someone so famous yet, so unassuming and nice. This was simply one of the most special days of my life.”

Having Raul form such an integral part of our client’s first impression of Peru is essential. He is what sets each trip off on exactly the right note, cementing our reputation as top Peru specialists.

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Meet Raul Varela: Lima local and our extraordinary Concierge


Meet Susan Wagner: Celebrated Peruvian Fashion Designer

Peruvian fashion designer Susan Wagner has been a friend of Aracari for many years – with her innovative work having been showcased on Aracari Shop since October last year. What makes Susan’s work exquisite beyond their gorgeous aesthetic is that the culture and ancient techniques of Peru are deeply intrinsic to her designs.

My pieces are woven with the story of all the different places of Peru,” Susan explains. “You are entering different communities and cultures that have such deep traditions in the most remote places – ethnic groups from the highest part of the Andes to those deep in the rainforest. As a Peruvian brand, telling this story is vital so that people understand more about the producers and artisans who are teaching us so much about their part of the world.”

“I have always looked for alternative materials; natural cotton, alpaca, native cotton – things that are very traditional, and native to Peru,” talking of her latest CEIBO collection which can be found on Aracari Shop. “I am now developing a new vegetable silk made from Ceibo tree fibers found in the dry forests in Bolívar, Northern Peru.”

“I started this unique fabric by mixing the fruit fibers with regenerative organic cotton that uses only rainwater to grow, produced by a little factory near the remote San Martin rainforest in Peru.

Once collected the fiber is hand-woven by women in Lima, before the garments are naturally dyed in the communities of Chinchero in the Andes and Nomatsigenga, in the Amazon of Peru.”

Susan’s meticulous process makes for a compelling story, there’s no doubt about that. But imagine hearing it directly from the designer herself as she ushers you around her studio in Lima. Available exclusively on request and as per her busy schedule, Susan makes time to host astute Aracari clients to retell the story and purpose behind her innovative fashion designs. It’s a completely unique and absorbing experience that tells you about far more than fashion alone, but in fact, the story of Peru itself.

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Meet Susan Wagner: Celebrated Peruvian Fashion Designer


Meet Joaquin Liébana: Esteemed Artist and prominent Art Collector

Tucked away in the bohemian district of Barranco you’ll find Casa Liébana, home to one of the finest collections of Peruvian art. Our dear friend, the late Jaime Liébana, was the owner of this exquisite family mansion and its many rooms brimming with one-of-a-kind objects. Today that legacy is continued by the wonderfully charming and charismatic Joaquin Liébana – one of Jaime’s sons.

Jaime began collecting art in the 1970s and is now considered to be one of the most important collectors of Peruvian folk art – both traditional and contemporary. Our clients will hear from Joaquin as he leads them around eclectic curations of tapestry, paintings, and sculptures – this is thought to be one of the best art collections in Peru, yet there are still standouts. Such as the particularly revered pieces from the mountainous highland regions which span back many generations.

Like his sons are today, Jaime Liébana was himself an artist and master carpenter – receiving critical acclaim for his work, especially his wooden furniture designs. One of the first rooms visited inside Casa Liébana will be a space showcasing the owner’s original pieces, some of which are available for sale. Alongside them, there’s a selection of contemporary artworks by both Joaquin and his brother Mateo, who followed in their father’s creative footsteps as a sculptor and painter respectively.

Because of Aracari’s longstanding friendship with the Liébana family, our guests are afforded the luxury of visiting this appointment-only art collection, accompanied by the inimitable knowledge of Joaquin in private. A result of Aracari’s inimitable connections to the art world and the influential characters of Lima who helped build it.

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Meet Joaquin Liébana: Artist and prominent Art Collector


Meet Franz Grupp: Director of the Museum of Viceregal Art in Arequipa 

Isn’t there something extraordinary about learning a history from the person who helped uncover it? Franz Grupp is the Director of the Museum of Viceregal Art, a small yet prestigious institution found inside the monastery of Santa Teresa in Arequipa, Peru.

First a little background. From the early days of the Spanish conquest, several religious orders established themselves in Arequipa, building temples and great cloisters to accommodate priests and nuns. The Dominican order first founded Santa Catalina Convent, a magnificent structure and one of the largest of its kind in the world. And soon after the Carmelites followed, founding Santa Teresa Convent.

Franz Grupp has personally restored several of the artworks and sculptures in both monasteries – on top of a career built around the cultural preservation of art across Lima, the Colca Valley, and almost every church in Arequipa. In fact, so intertwined is his career with the culture of Arequipa that in 2000, Franz was part of the team that successfully pitched the city to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage City.

“I am a restorer of cultural property by vocation, I am passionate about cultural heritage,” says Franz. “Being able to work on what I like is already a great blessing and I chose to work with Aracari because the company allows me to act naturally and freely, without sticking to an inflexible script and without time pressure. With Aracari you work at the pace set by your clients, and your clients are friends who are a pleasure to be with. What more could you ask for?”

“Taking a tour with Aracari clients is like walking with a group of friends, and friends who are knowledgeable and interested in art, history and our culture. For me, they are the ideal visitors, I think I have taught them things that they were interested in learning, and I, without a doubt, have learned from talking to them.”

Visit these mesmeric sites in Arequpa with Aracari and you’ll have the privilege of being guided by Franz himself – an experience that made it onto our hotlist for 2024.

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Meet Franz Grupp: Director of the Museum of Viceregal Art

Meet Lisy Kuon: Savant of Colonial Art in Cusco 

“Knowing Aracari via Marisol Mosquera for more than 15 years has been one of the most important experiences in my personal and professional life,” began Lisy Kuon, an unequivocal expert on art and history in Cusco, contributing to our 25th birthday celebration two years ago. It’s a sentiment that is entirely mutual, a result of Lisy’s contagious passion for her home city of Cusco and its fascinating history.

Lisy has spent more than 40 years dedicated to unearthing the secrets of colonial art in Cusco and Puno. Hailing from Cusco itself, Lisy studied Humanities and Anthropology at the National University of the City, before enrolling at the University of Washington in Seattle. Here she specialized in the visual culture of the Southern Peruvian Andes from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.

“Tourism isn’t my primary occupation, and there are many tour agencies with unethical practices for whom I would not want to work with,” explains Lisy. “I agreed to Marisol’s invitation to join her as a specialist guide on the cultural and patrimonial heritage of my region almost 18 years ago since I understood that her vision was very different, far from what is common in the industry – that which I have always been severely critical of, considering my conservationist position.”

Lisy brings the duality of Cusco and its history to life exclusively for our travelers. As she puts it, “I know that many visitors come to Peru for the pre-Hispanic attractions, but it is important to show the cultural expressions from the colonial period which was dominated by the Spanish as it’s an important part of our history and mixed heritage.”

“I believe the best way to understand the history of Peru is through the ideology of our villages, as seen in the colonial architecture and pre-Hispanic iconography. The way the two cultural traditions were represented and co-existed is fascinating and these original churches bring to life the identity of Cusco and its people”.

As a scholar, we are always endlessly grateful to Lisy for taking time away from her research and spending it with our clients – and in fact, ours are the only travelers with whom she shares her priceless knowledge.

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Meet Lisy Kuon: Savant of Colonial Art in Cusco


Meet John Alfredo Davis: Acclaimed Textile Artist and “the Lima Encyclopaedia”

John Alfredo Davis is name interwoven in Lima’s history. As John Alfredo guides our guests around Peru’s capital city, he modestly mentions his family’s role in its development – buildings constructed by a great uncle, and streets bearing his name. Having known John Alfredo for many years, it’s safe to say he has continued his predecessors’ vested interest in Lima’s past, present, and future – making him one of the best guides one can wish for when exploring this sprawling metropolis.

The son of two prominent artists, the creative gene runs strong too. John Alfredo studied Fine Art and is a designer and artist by trade – whose work is showcased on Aracari Shop – with a lifelong interest in the revival and promotion of Peruvian folk art and textiles.

Indeed, he is one of few authorities on the subject, co-founding “Picaflor,” an organization that supports and exhibits the work of craftspeople in traditional Peruvian arts, as well as Kuntur Huasi, a traditional Peruvian arts and crafts gallery, and La Tienda Del Museo, which creates jewelry collections inspired by pre-Columbian designs.

“To come to Peru without an interest in textiles is to miss out on the most representative elements of Andean cultures”, John Alfredo explains. “Our culture is an asset, but we must protect it.” As top Peru specialists, it’s that premise that entirely summarizes what makes John Alfredo such a special asset to the Aracari family. And turns out he thinks equally highly of those he’s met along the way.

“Aracari has niche clients. They are interested in a more holistic view of culture. Aracari is setting a new standard of sustainable and responsible tourism. The team is fantastic, and it’s been a pleasure for me to work with.

They have given me a lot of freedom to interact with the guests and share my passion for Lima in different ways, according to the interests of the guests rather than following a set programme.”

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Meet John Alfredo Davis: Acclaimed Textile Artist and “the Lima Encyclopaedia”

Meet Ignacio Barrios: Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and Peruvian food guru

As top Peru specialists, we know that one of the most magnetic pulls to the country, especially its capital, is the food. Made even stronger when Central Restaurant secured the top spot in the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2023. So as top Peru specialists, having an authentic foodie insider in our corner is essential.

Aracari has been connected to Peru’s culinary scene long before it became so sought after, from the city’s best chefs to those who fought to put it on the map many moons ago. We take it so seriously in fact, that we even have our own in-house gastronomic advisor to curate all things food-focused: Maria Julia Raffo. And it’s well-connected friends like Ignacio Barrios who ensure we are always at the forefront of what is interesting and undiscovered on the foodie scene of Lima.

Native to Peru’s capital city, Ignacio was always passionate about food, spending time in London, where he studied at Le Cordon Bleu, before going on to work at some of the city’s most vibrant restaurants such as Wild Honey (one Michelin star), York and Albany, and Daylesford Organics. Ignacio then traveled to Madrid, working at Astrid & Gaston, Gaston Acurio’s first restaurant in Europe. After almost five years away from Peru, he returned home with the idea of showcasing the brilliance of Peruvian cuisine to its visitors.

Ignacio is the lead chef on our experience Friendly Foodies: The Social Chefs of Lima. Designed to be far more interesting and hands-on than any ordinary foodie experience in Lima, Aracari guests are guided around the culinary arteries of the city: its local markets, where together with Ignacio or another of his chefs they will collect ingredients that will later form part of a delicious dish.

“I love working with Aracari clients because they enjoy different experiences, and that’s what we try to do; experiences that you don’t find anywhere else,” says Ignacio. “We celebrate Peruvian food, yes, but in a very personal way, and that fits well with the kinds of people that travel with Aracari.

I met Marisol and Maria Julia many years ago and I love that Aracari trusted us with their customers! It’s a privilege.”

Like many of our top Peru specialists, Ignacio is incredibly popular with our clients thanks to his knowledge, contagious energy, and passion for Peruvian cuisine. It’s undoubtedly an authentic glimpse into Lima’s culinary world away from the headlines.

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Meet Ignacio Barrios: Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and all-around foodie guru


Angie Pelosi: Our Lima Lifestyle Insider and Friend in the City

Born and raised in San Miguel, Lima – Angie Pelosi is a real expert when it comes to the diverse districts of Peru’s capital city, credentials that make her an exceptional person with whom to explore the city. Angie’s name often fills the reviews of our clients – including those of Megan Spurrell, Editor of Conde Nast Traveler, who noted the passion and energy of Angie when recounting her time traveling with Aracari.

It’s Angie’s love for her hometown and its people that has led to her unwavering commitment to showcasing the multifaceted sides of Lima in a way that only a local can do. “I enjoy guiding Aracari clients because they are always polite and genuinely interested in Peruvian culture, food, and history – they are always happy people.”

As you’d expect from a guide working for top Peru specialists – alongside sharing the undiscovered foodie spots of Lima, local market vendors serving traditional Peruvian dishes, charming bars and cafes, plus the interesting ateliers and boutiques of bohemian Barranco, Angie has also dedicated her time to putting poorer and lesser-visited parts of the city on the map.

In 2016 Angie became a driving force behind Callao Monumental, an initiative that encourages those living in Lima’s more disadvantaged areas, to turn to art over violence. Incredibly – the result in Callao has contributed to a 90% reduction in crime, and this commendable accolade has put Angie’s philanthropic work in world-leading publications, including National Geographic, The Guardian, Donna, and most recently – Conde Nast Traveler.

“I choose to work with Aracari because they are such an organized team and always ahead of their time. More than most, Aracari know how to do their job in a way where everyone gives their absolute best to make guests have the best experience possible during their vacation.”

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Angie Pelosi: Our Lima Lifestyle Insider and Friend in the City

Luis Villacorta: Professor of Architecture in Lima and our expert guide since 1997

With a lifelong passion for his home city, particularly architecture in the historic center of Lima, and the entwined relationship between modern times and pre-colonial history, Luis Villacorta has been a part of Aracari since our inception in 1997.

Luis is a professor of architecture who first met Marisol through a mutual acquaintance back in the mid-1990s, when having just begun her venture into luxury Peru travel, was on the lookout for people with special knowledge and interest in Lima to show guests the city from unique perspectives. With his academic credentials and charisma, Luis immediately fit the bill, instantly becoming one of Aracari’s top Peru specialists in Lima.

Throughout his career, Luis’s authoritative voice in the world of Renaissance Architecture has led him to lecture at universities in Spain, Italy, and the United States, as well as to publish several acclaimed articles on Spanish colonial religious and secular and pre-colonial architecture in Peru. Having lived, studied, and lectured in many different countries, he draws parallels between Lima and other places, many of which Aracari clients have also visited, an insight that puts Lima into a much broader historical and social context, which is always wonderfully received by our guests.

“It’s not like a job at all,” says Luis of his work with Aracari. “I love sharing my passion and have met the most fascinating people during my time”.

“I enjoy guiding Aracari clients because they are usually people very interested in knowing the local culture and the context behind that culture, how it originated, its uniqueness, and its relation with other cultures. I am an architect born in Lima, so I enjoy sharing the history and the traditions of my city with the people who choose Aracri to visit this part of the world.”

The thing I like the most is the big diversity of clients of Aracari. I really enjoy walking in the city and talking with the different people, trying to answer their sometimes unexpected questions, and communicating the relations between Lima architecture and Ancient Greek philosophy or Italian Renaissance, as well as, for example, showing a seven years old boy the design of the rabbits in the tiles of an old monastery in the Historic Centre. Every visit is an enjoyable challenge for which I am very grateful!”

It’s that personableness, paired with unrivaled knowledge and expertise that makes Luis so much more than a guide. He is a locally based expert, a leader in his academic field, a friend, and an important part of the Aracari family as a longstanding top Peru specialist.

Top Peru Specialists: The Faces of Aracari, Aracari Travel
Luis Villacorta: Professor of Architecture and our longest-serving expert


Experience the difference made by our top Peru specialists

It’s no secret that we take our clients to some of the most remarkable corners of the continent. But can’t any travel provider do that? Behind every great trip are great people. A synergy of skill, knowledge, experience, and charm. It is what makes Aracari tick.

So, explore our Peru itineraries and book a call with our Travel Designers today to begin your adventure with us as top Peru specialists.

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