Is there a better way to celebrate the return to relative normalcy than rounding up the extended family and heading for the Galápagos, the Amazon, or the Andes? While we might be a little biased, we really don’t think there is…
Many of us are itching to see both our family and the world again. And how better to do this than to get the whole family together and venture to far-off lands?
Even before the pandemic, multigenerational travel was the world’s fastest growing travel trend, making up around 35% of the global leisure travel industry. It’s become increasingly common for families to travel together to celebrate milestone birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions.
Nothing can top sharing priceless vacation moments with your loved ones. (Photo: Christian Declercq)
We know our destinations backwards. And we believe that our combination of customizable, private tours facilitated by expert guides who are local to each region you visit, hits the sweet spot between independent travel and package tours. What’s more, our local guides know their regions so well that they can easily adapt what happens on any given day to suit your family’s needs and interests.
Read on for a rundown of our top picks for a multigenerational adventure…
It goes without saying that the Lower 48 has loads of great options for multigenerational escapes. One of our absolute favorites is Bryce Canyon National Park, which features on our 7-day Southwest National Parks Tour. Bryce Canyon has tons of heavier hiking for the actively inclined, but at the same time most major sights in the park are accessible by vehicle. It’s hard to beat running through the hoodoos, unique sandstone spires created by millennia of wind and weather beating down on the landscape. Parts of Bryce Canyon are like a giant playground, suitable for ages 0-99.
Another local option that is bound to keep the entire family happy is the peerless Yellowstone National Park. While you might associate the birthplace of conservation with long hikes and days spent searching for wildlife, you’ll be pleased to know that it also boasts a bunch of interactive tours like snowshoeing and educational visits. Besides, who doesn’t love a geyser?
If it’s otherworldly experiences and wide-open spaces you’re after, it's hard to beat the Peruvian Andes. Even more so now that the Inca Trail has reopened. While the full four-day trail might be a bit much for most multigenerational groups, there are a range of shorter and more glamorous options for every age group and fitness level. Here’s a quick summary of two of the more popular options. For a more detailed examination of the pros and cons of each trek, as well as a couple of alternative options, check out this journal entry.
For a truly unforgettable family bonding experience, why not try hiking with llamas? (Photo: Christian Declercq)
The Short Inca Trail is a great option for families who want to experience the thrill of hiking one of the most iconic pathways on the planet but who want to skip four days of grueling ascents and descents and three nights in (admittedly comfortable) tents. This seven-day itinerary includes several days exploring the wonders of the Sacred Valley, the enigmatic and evocative heartland of the Inca empire, and another day uncovering the many splendors of Cuzco, the ancient Inca capital. The highlight of the adventure, however, is a full day spent hiking the final stretch of the Inca Trail to the famed Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu. From here you will be transported to your luxurious Machu Picchu accommodation before returning the next morning for a full-day guided tour of the majestic ruins complex.
Another fantastic choice for multigenerational groups is SA Expeditions’ unique Great Inca Trail day hikes itinerary. This is especially great for active groups, as it replaces the conventional Sacred Valley tours contained in the itinerary above with a series of day hikes in and around the Sacred Valley. Like the Short Inca Trail, it also includes the iconic day-hike to the Sun Gate and the full-day guided tour of the incomparable ruins at the citadel of Machu Picchu. Another thing that sets this adventure apart is the full-day cultural experience in the Choquechaca Valley, a truly magical place which is in many ways the reason SA Expeditions was founded. Read about our longstanding relationship with the people of Choquechaca here.
Located 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador the Galápagos Islands are, arguably, the most famous and spectacular wildlife destination on the planet. The islands’ incredible biological diversity and plethora of hyperendemic species (the archipelago boasts 10 sub-species of tortoise) planted the seed for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (he visited the islands in September 1835). Perhaps the best example of this is the ‘Galápagos finches’, which developed from a single ancestor into 13 separate species, adapting their beaks and other features to suit their lifestyle and habitat.
The Galápagos Islands are like a real-world zoo + water park + summer camp combo. (Photo: Nick Stanziano)
But quite apart from its ecological importance, the Galápagos is also a fantastically fun and easy place to get up close and personal with creatures great and small. Nick Stanziano, our founder and chief explorer describes it as being “like Hawaii on steroids”. In this journal entry he explains why it is his favorite place to holiday with his whole family. We’d highly recommend reading the entire piece before booking a trip, but here’s a taster:
The Galápagos reminds me a lot of the big island of Hawaii where I was born. But the wildlife experience is on an entirely different level. Unlike birdwatching in the Amazon or going on safari in Kenya, the animals in the Galápagos don’t stray far from their usual haunts, which makes them a real hit with kids. My five-year-old son Vasco absolutely loved the baby sea lions, the tortoises and the marine iguanas.
It almost goes without saying that the Galápagos is equally entrancing for the older generation. Activities range from active (snorkeling, nature walks and SCUBA diving) to more sedentary and cerebral: there are few better places in the world to indulge in birdwatching and photography. Whether you opt for a multi-day cruise, a land-based adventure, or a combination of the two read this piece for a breakdown of the pros and cons of each option), you can bank on there being something for everyone.
The Amazon rainforest is another once-in-a-lifetime destination for nature lovers. The Amazon River is the world’s largest river by volume. It’s roughly 4,000 miles long and in the rainy season it can reach 120 miles in width. No bridges span it. Despite the (tragic) fact that the Amazon rainforest is getting smaller every day, it is still by far the largest rainforest in the world. In fact it represents more than half of the world’s rainforests. A staggering 10% of the world’s species live in the Amazon rainforest. One in five of the world’s bird and fish species live in the Amazon. A quarter square kilometer (62 acres) of Ecuadorian rainforest supports more than 1,100 tree species.
Now’s the perfect time to show your family what “Amazon” really means. (Photo: Jean Wimmerlin)
The Amazon rainforest spans eight different countries. Brazil has the jaguar’s share, but we prefer to take our travelers to the Peruvian or Ecuadorean rainforest. Both countries boast incredible, eco-luxury lodges in especially pristine sections of forest (the Tambopata National Reserve and the Yasuni National Park respectively) and luxurious air-conditioned riverboats ply the waterways near Iquitos in Northern Peru. While you’ll see slightly different wildlife at each location (Tambopata is famed for its river otters, Iquitos is one of the few places where you can see manatees, and Ecuador is renowned for its incredible birdlife), all three will knock your multigenerational socks off. This journal entry on four ways to experience the Amazon rainforest is useful as is this one which compares staying in a lodge and going on a cruise.
Often logistics dictate which part of the Amazon you’ll end up visiting. The Peruvian lodge experience combines extremely well with a Machu Picchu adventure, while a visit to an Ecuadorean Amazon lodge is the perfect way to round off a lifechanging Galápagos cruise. The cruises in Northern Peru tend to be more of a standalone attraction. But remember, all of our tours are 100% customizable, so do speak to your Destination Expert about crafting the South American family adventure of your dreams.
Read this article for a full appreciation of the many benefits of traveling in private with SA Expeditions. And then contact a Destination Expert about booking the Galápagos, Amazon, or trekking adventure of your entire family’s dreams. Header photo: Mary Blackwey.