Ever since Paddington Bear put “deepest, darkest” Peru on the map for millions of children, this country has held a special allure for young explorers. We have already planned this Peru tour especially with children in mind, so all you need to do is relax and enjoy your time together as a family, discovering new cultures and journeying through some of South America’s most spectacular landscapes.
The route is specially designed to provide a gentle acclimatisation to altitude (although children actually usually feel the effects of this less than adults) and also avoids any malarial zones. We know that airports can be stress points in family travel as well, so this itinerary, while covering a wide variety of destinations and experiences, also aims to keep domestic flying to a minimum.
The twelve-night trip will first take you to the highlights of the Peruvian Andes before ending on the desert coastline south of Lima. The famous sights of Machu Picchu and Cusco are of course included, but we have also worked in several unique participatory experiences that should fire up your little ones’ imaginations much more than just traipsing around museums or ruins. These include visiting an active dig with a working archaeologist in the Sacred Valley, sharing lunch with a local family from a remote hill village and learning how to weave on a traditional loom, visiting a spectacled bear rescue centre (the original Paddington!) in the cloud forests around Machu Picchu and also taking part in an Andean music workshop and traditional Inca ceremony with a genuine shaman in the hills above Cusco. Lake Titicaca provides a great opportunity for more cultural as well as outdoors activities before the vacation winds down in a fabulous luxury resort on the arid coastline of the Paracas Bay.
What’s the route?
On arrival in Lima you connect straight to Cusco from where we drive you out of town to the small village of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. After three days acclimatising to the altitude and enjoying the relaxed rural setting you take the train to Machu Picchu (or those with older children might want to hike the last section). You spend one night at Machu Picchu allowing for a full second day to explore the ruins before taking the train back to Cusco for two nights in the capital of the Incas. It is another train journey from here on south to Lake Titicaca where you have three nights to explore the geography and cultures of the world’s highest navigable lake before you take a flight back to Lima to finish the trip at a luxury resort on the coastline just to the south of Peru’s capital. This also happens to be the setting off point for aerial flights over the mysterious Nazca lines – a unique experience to end your Peruvian adventure.
Arriving in Lima you will connect on to Cusco where your guide and driver will be waiting. You will then head out of the city and down to a slightly lower altitude in the Sacred Valley to begin the trip. Depending on how you are feeling after the journey there will also be time to explore a little today including a visit to a llama farm as well as the market and ruins at Pisac from where you can enjoy some of the best views of the valley. You will be staying at a private villa at our favourite property for families in Urubamba, which has a large area of gardens running down to the river as well as their own resident baby llamas. Children are welcome to help feed the llamas - always a popular activity!
We will tailor your activities in the Sacred Valley depending on the age of the children but today we suggest first of all a visit to the fascinating circular terraces at Moray where you will be met with mountain bikes for a flat but scenic ride across the high altitude Andean plains to the village and salt pans of Maras. You will learn how salt has been extracted from the mountain in the same way for the past five hundred years before enjoying a gourmet private picnic with views of the mountains on the far side of the valley.
Again, we look forward to discussing both you and your children’s interests to make sure the activities are best suited to your family. Today for example we could organise a hike and visit to an active archaeological dig far off the tourist trail - an inspiring moment for budding historians who like getting their hands dirty. Or else if learning about unusual local foods is more your thing, we could arrange for you to experience preparing and eating a traditional “pachamanca” which involves baking vegetables underground in a hand-built earth oven. Other activities on offer include horse riding, white water rafting or even paragliding!
Today you will head off early in the morning for a short visit to the town of Ollantaytambo, much of which has remained completely unchanged since the days of the Incas. Children will love visiting one of the traditional houses where guinea pigs roam free! You will then board the train to wind up to the head of the valley and the small town of Aguas Calientes which is the setting off point for Machu Picchu. For keen hikers we would suggest taking an earlier train and embarking on the “Royal” Inca Trail, which is a one-day hike that will take you directly to Machu Picchu on foot via the Sun Gate. A very memorable experience that is well worth the effort and also easily accessible to most children from around age seven and up.
You will have your first visit of Machu Picchu in the golden late afternoon light. Your expert guide during your stay at Machu Picchu will be a professor from Cusco university who will bring colour to the life the original inhabitants of the citadel, whilst also explaining about
the latest research, helping to separate fact from fiction in this one of the world’s most mysterious sacred sites.
If you can convince the children to wake up early (or vice versa!) we recommend that you start today with an early morning hike up the precipitous Huayna Picchu mountain, adjacent to the citadel providing spectacular birds eye views of the whole site as well as the surrounding valleys and mountains. You will then have a little more time to wander the main ruins with your guide before heading back to your hotel for lunch. That afternoon we will arrange for a visit to a spectacled bear rescue centre where you will be able to visit a couple of beautiful and well cared for bears that have been rescued from captivity and learn about the threats facing this iconic Andean species. If you are very lucky you might even spot wild bears feasting on the bromeliads in the surrounding forest. You will then board the evening train back down the valley to Cusco.
Enjoy a well-earned lie-in today and perhaps a morning swim in the hotel pool before your guide will meet you for a relaxed walk around Cusco’s historic centre. You will have our extensive list of recommendations for favourite lunch spots and then in the afternoon we have arranged for a special meeting with a shaman at the ruins of Sacsayhuaman that sit above the city. The shaman or “paqo” as they are known locally, is the inheritor of the spiritual guardianship of Ausangate mountain and a living testament to the indigenous beliefs that are still alive and strong in the Andean populations of today. As well as explaining about the traditional belief systems and rituals that are still practiced to this day, he will also have a selection of traditional Andean musical instruments for the family to try out.
Today it will be time to leave Cusco. You will take a short flight to Juliaca from where a driver will bring you to the luxury Titilaka lodge set on a private peninsula on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
The hotel’s excellent guides will help you plan activities during your stay, but we highly recommend the boat trips to visit the floating Uros islands (the concept of “floating islands” is always a hit with children!) as well as the island of Amantani. Other activities on offer including kayaking, SUP and sailing on the lake; hiking, horse riding or mountain biking on the mainland; as well as a wide range of cultural and historical visits, designed to take you away from the usual tourist routes and immerse you in the way of life of the ancient civilizations that populate this high Andean region.
Departing Lake Titicaca you will take a short flight back to Lima where our driver will meet you with an executive minivan for the three hour drive south to Paracas and your luxury resort overlooking the sea. We suggest you spend this afternoon relaxing and settling into the hotel which has two large swimming pools (one of which is set aside for families), three restaurants, a range of water sports equipment and also an excellent kids club.
Today will be a busy day exploring the best that Peru’s southern coastline has to offer. You will start off with a private motorboat trip out to visit the Humboldt penguins of the Ballestas islands before coming back via a perfectly preserved candelabra shaped geoglyph, carved into the sand dunes. This will be a small taste of things to come as that afternoon you will be driven a short distance to a landing strip to board a private light aircraft that will fly you low over the world-famous Nazca lines. These are mysterious giant drawings in the desert dating back to 500BCE that depict a dazzling range of figurative designs from hummingbirds, spiders and trees to an eerie alien-like giant. Children will love discussing the different theories of why they might have been created, as well as drawing their own versions in their travel journals.
After a morning free to relax and enjoy the resort facilities our driver will meet you at the hotel to bring you back to Lima in time for your flight home.