With towering mountains around, lush gardens and quaint villages, there are a lot of reasons to spend a few days in the Sacred Valley Peru with Kids. Not only are there lots of kid-friendly activities but there is an eminently practical reason as well. Spending a few days helps with acclimatization to altitude. (At around 2,900m/ 9,514ft in Pisac / Urubamba or 2,792 m / 9160 ft. in Ollantaytambo you are substantially lower than Cusco, which is one of the highest cities of its size on earth).
For considerations about WHERE to stay in the Sacred Valley check out our blog post Where To Stay In The Sacred Valley With Kids (This covers the pros and cons of each of the Sacred Valley villages).
In order to minimize traveling, do consider what activities you will want to do, and where you want to stay. (Feel free to email us to comment on whether your order of activities makes sense. Or check out our recommended Peru itineraries here) (this one will come soon!!!)
This post may contain affiliate links, from which we would earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you. More info in my disclaimer.
- If you fly into Cusco and want to travel directly to the Sacred Valley, take the Pisaq route which doesn’t take you to a much higher altitude. Often, the fastest and most direct route is to go via Chinchero, a whopping 3,762 m /12342 feet
- These suggestions are based on kids under 6, as that is what we have first-hand experience with. Ariana (author of this article) is also the Co-founder of a travel agency in Cusco, and has also organized trips for older kids, those suggestions are at the end of the post.
With 5 main villages scattered through the Sacred Valley Peru, and a plethora of other little communities and hamlets, the Sacred Valley is a place where the descendants of the Incas live lives not much changed since the time of their ancestors. Mostly reliant on agriculture, those along the “main road to Machu Picchu” may have cashed in on the tourist dollar. However, the remainder live simple lives in tune with the seasons. We strongly encourage you to get off the tourist route! That’s why we have tried to offer some slightly “off the beaten track” suggestions. This article is aimed at people with smaller children but obviously the older they are and the hardier traveler you are, you can have more unique experiences.
Experience The Markets
The most famous markets are found at Pisaq (on a Tuesday or Sunday) and Chinchero on a Sunday. Pisaq’s Sunday mass is given in Quechua, should you want to quietly worship at the back of the ancient, dark church. The local portion of Pisaq and Chinchero markets are now seriously reduced to corners of the whole area where mostly bemused locals bear the brunt of photo snapping tourists. As tourist markets, there are lots of things to buy that will be great memories of your trip to Peru. Tip: You can get the same things in Cusco at half the price!
If you are more interested in a market experience to see the produce and people you could ask to stop at the Urubamba or Calca markets, or the Ollantaytambo one is just off the main square and are very used to tourists.
The Sacred Valley Peru is famous for its markets and its ruins, and for these reason I’ve included them at No.1 and No.2 of this post. The ruins at both Pisaq and Ollantaytambo are both stunning and worth a visit – for the adults. For the kids, some creativity and ingenuity will be required, as they are definitely not places for hide go seek or chasey. A good guide will be worth his weight in gold if he can bring the sites alive. Obviously the older the kids are, the more engaging it will be.
If you visit one museum while in the Cusco region, we’ve heard reports that the Museo Inkariy is kid friendly. We plan to visit in 2018 to give you our honest review. Having some context prior to a Machu Picchu visit would be extremely useful!
Agriculture, And The Incan Way Of Life
There are a number of places that give you and your littles insight to the agricultural way of life of the Sacred Valley Peru.
- Chichubamba community, on the outskirts of Urubamba, have organised a unique community tourism project where locals have been trained to do short tourist demonstrations about their enterprises, including raising guinea pigs for eating, bees, ceramics and cut flowers.
- Amaru Community is a well organized indigenous community who run Tierra de los Yachaqs. Depending on the season, you can ‘yapuy’ (turn the earth) or plant crops. Most importantly, you get an insight into a traditional way of life.
- Stay at one of the horse riding ranches (see names below) for a romantic and a bit glamorous experience reminiscent of the conquering Spanish than the local indigenous. However it would still be fun and agricultural related!!!
- For people looking for a high altitude, eye-opening, and sometimes challenging experience, homestays are a fledgling industry for a number of different indigenous communities. Conditions tend to be rustic and you should be a resilient traveling family. Contact Apus Peru for options in Huilloq or Patacancha, above Ollantaytambo.
Connecting With Your Creative Side
Synonymous with a trip to Peru are the colorful textiles of the Cusco region. It is no wonder that a visit to this area can be filled with creativity possibility
1. Learn about Peruvian weaving at Chinchero. There are many Awana Wasi (weaving houses) where they do demonstrations of how the weavings are made, and – more interesting to kids – how native plants and the bug cochineal make some extremely vivid colors!!! Even small kids can wonder at this interactive demonstration!
2. Visit world-famous Seminario Ceramics, and if pre-organised, you can make your own pot and then pick it up later.
Note: This changed recently, please email us firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to do this and we can find out if it is on or off at the moment!!!
Cuddle A Camelid (That is Alpacas & Llamas)
As expected, there are alpacas and llamas all around Peru and your kids are likely to get pretty excited when they get to cuddle one. To give them the best opportunity, these are some suggestions:
For us, this is a must stop place – also a souvenir shop. You can stop and feed a big herd of alpacas and llamas kept here. About 45 minutes from Cusco en route to Pisaq.
- Llama Pack Project
For families with animal lovers this is a must do activity.
3. Alpacas at some hotels
Many hotels have Alpacas kept for the tourist’s enjoyment. We’ve personally enjoyed them at the Aranwa Sacred Valley out of Lamay. Check here for more information and current rates.
Also the Pakaritampu hotel in Ollantaytambo. Check here for more information and current rates.
Get Your Boots On For Short Hikes
With fresh air, stunning scenery, the opportunity to see day-to-day life in the Sacred Valley and even the odd ruin or two. For us, doing a short hike is a MUST!!! If you are planning to attempt one of the multi-day treks, then doing some practice hiking at altitude is also highly recommended.
- Maras to Moray to Salineras to see the salt mines. For little legs we would ask our driver to drop us at the top of the Salineras path, just out of Maras. Straight downhill, passing mule trains loaded with salt and then arriving at the photographers dream – Salineras – this is a winner for kids.
Hiking: Moray – Maras 2 hours, Maras – Salineras 2 hours. Have a car meet you at Salineras.
- Downhill from Pumamarca to Ollantaytambo. Getting a car up to the little known ruins of Pumamarca, then heading downhill through the terraces. Allow 2-3 hours to walk back down.
- Chinchero to Huayllabamba… another trek that is all downhill, but longer than the other two. Ruins and great scenery along the way. Allow 4 hours and make sure a car is meeting you at the end.
Important note: We have NOT done any of these hikes with kids, but plan to do them during 2018 with an 8-year-old and 4-year-old who have had quite a bit of hiking experience. All should be done with a guide unless you are experienced outdoors.
Learn To Kayak
How cool would it be to say that you learned to kayak on a high mountain lake, surrounded by snow-capped mountains? We were blessed to take our 5-year-old and her 70-year-old grandmother kayaking on the stunning Lake Huaypo. This was a fun excursion for a couple of hours followed by a delicious lunch in a hearty outdoor setting. With glass like waters and lots of sunshine, this was a wonderful place to learn to Kayak. For older kids there is stand up paddle boarding – SUP is also a winner at Lake Huaypo.
We recommend Amazonas Explorer; a high quality outfitter who have raised their children in Peru and are very aware of children’s needs.
Enjoy Lunch At A Quinta
Quintas are typical Peruvian restaurants, set among lush gardens and the place that local families will go for a long lunch, and a celebration. The local delicacy, roasted guinea pig, is always on the menu – will you dare? With gardens (and sometimes play equipment) for kids, a Quinta is a great place for a play, while throwing gold coins at a frog in a local game known as ‘sapo’ is a winner for everyone. If you are up for it, ask your guide to stop at a Chicheria where you can sample the local fermented corn brew!!!!
Activities For Older Kids/Tweens/Teens In The Sacred Valley Peru
With a little horse lover on our hands, our itineraries are being strongly factored to include horse riding. These stables all feature the stunning Peruvian Paso Horse. This horse is not only is very ‘pretty’ but has a unique, inborn, four beat lateral gait, and the Peruvian Paso horse is described as the smoothest riding horse in the world.
Cusco for You offers a hacienda plus a short 2 hour horse rides in their area. We’ve always had rave reviews for their trip to Pinchingoto.
Hacienda Del Chalan also gets good reviews for their short 2 hour rides in the surrounding area, and might be a good place to start for beginners. (We hope to make the trip to Naupa Iglesia in 2018).
If you are a horse lover or with intermediate riding skills, then Perol Chico’s multi day rides might be something you can aspire to!
The Urubamba River offers some gentle rafting for people wanting to raft for the first time. What could be better than floating along with stunning mountain views all around you? Of course, weather can mean that river conditions change at any time. We respect the folks at Amazonas Explorer and wouldn’t do this activity with anything but the best operators.
Shop around to be sure you are confident with your operator’s safety record.
Downhill Mountain Bike Riding
Anything is possible in the Andes, and Downhill mountain biking is no exception. From relatively easy/safe downhill in the Sacred Valley area, to challenging single track hair-raising descents, there is something for everyone. Don’t under-estimate the terrain and be sure your kids have sufficient riding ability for the activity you are looking into! Check here for more information.
Learn The Weaving Basics
For the more crafty youngster, consider organizing them a weaving class; you might start a lifelong passion. Founded by Nilda Callanaupa who put the Peruvian textile tradition in the world spotlight, these classes are based in Chinchero.
If you would prefer to be based in Ollantaytambo (lower altitude) then Awamaki come recommended.
Do A Zip Line
We’ve stopped on the road and watched these guys do their stuff. You would have to be an adrenaline junkie, and your kids would need to have no fear. This is no ordinary zip line, zipping through the lush jungle canopy; this is out there, zipping along a sheer rock face!!! The zip line and Via Ferrata are operated by Nature Vive who state that the minimum age for Via Ferrata: 9 years old and Zip Line, 6 years old. (I can’t imagine our 6-year-old doing it!!!)
We are reluctant to ever recommend something we don’t have first hand experience of, but we do realize that this would appeal to adrenaline junkie families. So – watch the videos and do your research. And, if you are going to do it, why not sleep up on a cliff face on the seriously fascinating Skylodge adventure suites. Check here for more information and current rates.
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