The clouds dramatically drifted apart, opening the sky to reveal the famous lost city of Machu Picchu. Filled with the wonder of this perfect moment I turned to my 5-year-old daughter, with an expectant smile on my face. “So, this is Machu Picchu, what do you think?”
She frowned: “Where are the Incas? There are no Incas!” More petulance. “ I thought that there would be people dressed up as Incas.”
Our Top 8 Hints – Visiting Machu Picchu with Kids
Yes, the reality of travelling with kids is usually different than we imagine. Wonderfully fulfilling- but not even remotely the same as if you were travelling alone.
These are my top tips for traveling to Machu Picchu with kids. Its a long way to Machu Picchu, and for many a once in a lifetime experience – make sure you do it right!
- The steps are BIG for a 5 year old.
After an hour of climbing these HUGE steps, our Miss M was exceptionally tired. To be honest, I also was fairly tired carrying around 22-month-old Master L, who weighed in at 14 kg and was becoming frustrated by the constant stream of people looking at him, the many stone walls, and the painstaking slowness of the climb. (Normally if he gets frustrated in the backpack I can divert him by jumping, playing and moving… but this is not feasible at relatively crowded Machu Picchu.
- Plan your visit.
Get a map or plan your day, preferably with a guide that knows the site. We divided our visit into a couple of different sections (with breaks in between) and this made it much easier on the kids and on us.
- The grazing Camelids are cool!
They were the most exciting thing at Machu Picchu for the kids, who really enjoyed them. Don’t be like some of those less well informed visitors, though, poking a range of different foods and snacks at the llamas while trying to get selfies.
- Find a grassy area to rest.
There are a few grassy areas to run and play – but you have to look for them. We found that there were a number of grassy areas roped off, and more that had steep precipice falls on one side (not good for a 22-month-old eager to explore!). Finally we found a safe place, had some snacks, and soaked up the atmosphere… it was in a less visited section of the ruins, which made it a pleasant break.
- Get a good lunch, rest, and then return to the ruins.
We lunched at the Tinkuy Buffet restaurant. While it wasn’t cheap, it provided another great break for the kids (e.g.; not looking at ruins) and offered a fantastic range of food and drinks. We really enjoyed this meal, there was so much variety. Also, the restaurant has bathrooms, a vital piece of info for families traveling with children: there are no rest rooms inside Machu Picchu, which can be inconvenient when you have small kids. After this break, we returned to the closer sector of the ruins, and were able to enjoy another hour at Machu Picchu.
- Be Realistic.
Don’t set your expectations too high, as far as how much history you’ll be able to soak up with the kids. With a 5-year-old and 22-month-old, we enjoyed the ruins and the experience but truly didn’t get lots of the history. If this is important to you, consider taking turns caring for the kids with your partner!
- We loved the train trip!
The Train Trip to and from Machu Picchu was the highlight for the kiddos. They both loved it, especially when a kind man gave up the front seats on the Vistadome carriage and we got amazing views of the tracks. Miss M was transfixed by the sight of the rails and mountains, and we all loved the journey. It was an awesome experience.
- Consider a kid friendly splurge.
We stayed at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel – not only is this easily the most atmospheric hotel in all of Aguas Calientes but it has a kids’ program, and a small heated pool. The kids’ program is targeted to youngsters a little older than Miss M (5 years old) but includes a variety of activities, some of which she could participate in. They also provide an eco-guide (nanny) service and we noticed that more than one family left their children in the care of the eco-guide doing activities around the hotel while the parents went to Machu Picchu for a second day, thus getting the best of both worlds: time as a family AND time as a couple. For complete property information please take a look at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
For a more complete list of recommendations this our list of The Best Machu Picchu Family Accommodation.
Thinking about Visiting Machu Picchu with Kids?
consider asking a travel agent for help for some of the logistics. Apus Peru Adventure Travel Specialists have plenty of experience in offering treks with young people!
This post was originally published on the Apus Peru Blog, and has been adapted by the author, Ariana Svenson, coincidentally a CoFounder of Apus Peru!