We spend a lot of time touting Peru’s romantic side: The comforts of a cozy cottage in the shadow of Machu Picchu; the mystic Andean countryside; a dynamic Lima nightlife interspersed with leisurely evening strolls along the coast.
And when we’re not singing the sweet praises of South American luxury, we’re emphasizing Peru’s rugged environment. Bone dry deserts. Head-spinning altitudes in the Andes. Dense jungle in the Amazon. Cosmopolitan chaos in the capital.
And it’s all true. But, Peru isn’t just for lovers and thrill seekers. When planned correctly, Peru is a wonderful place for family travel. Traveling to Peru with children can be an enlightening and exciting experience for the whole family.
Part of making your family trip to Peru a success is foresight. If you don’t have the time or the resources for detailed research, you may want to contact a company familiar with both Peru and family excursions (our destination experts are experienced with both). Either way, if you’re traveling with a cohort of minors, your time in South America will flow better if you book all your hotels, flights, and transfers in advance. Though taxis are regularly available in Peru, you are likely to appreciate the convenience of private transfers, operated in vehicles large enough for the whole family and complete with seat belts.
When selecting hotels, consider what room arrangements will work best for your family. In Lima and Cusco there are various room layouts to choose from, such as adjoining rooms, triples, or rooms with two double beds. Casa San Blas Boutique in Cusco has a lovely set up in their suite apartments with a queen bed in a loft area and a sofa bed down below. They also have triple rooms with two double beds and one single bed, able to sleep two adults and three children.
When planning a family trip to Peru, the adventure can start long before you leave home. With its rich human history, archeological adventures, and bursting biodiversity, a Peruvian vacation is a great educational opportunity for everyone involved. Get your children excited about spotting wildlife in the Amazon, climbing stairs built by the Incas, and observing the delicate process of handmade Andean crafts. There are numerous books, videos, and online resources you can access before you ever get on a plane.
The Shah family traveled with us earlier this year.
In & Around Lima Lima’s capital city is a wealth of culture and a showcase of a Latin America’s developing economy. An attraction enjoyed by adults and children alike is the Magic Water Circuit. Located in Parque de la Reserva, this water park features 13 elaborate fountains that shoot streams of water through the air in complex patterns lit by multicolored laser lights. Several times a week a traditional dance is performed, included in the price of admission.
Another highlight for those of all ages is the San Francisco Monastery. This beautiful colonial church is impressive, but below is the real thrill. Catacombs filled with bones are open to the public—an extremely interesting though creepy experience. If your children are squeamish you may want to skip on this option.
A Chocolate Museum in Miraflores is another treat for the whole family. Take a mini class and make your own sweets, or enjoy a short presentation on the chocolate making process Tasting obviously encouraged.
In & Around Cusco Simply walking around Cusco will be an adventure. The streets are lined with handicraft shops, and parades with twirling dancers in traditional dress are almost a daily occurrence. Walk about Plaza de Armas and admire the elaborate center fountain and surrounding buildings.
Sacsayhuaman is a massive Inca complex located on a hill overlooking the city. There are many rock formations (including slides!) and areas to explore. If visiting Sacsayhuaman with energetic children, you may want to plan ahead with your guide to have some free time at the site. This way the young ones aren’t restricted by a set tour schedule. Another fun family outing is a visit to Pisac in the Sacred Valley. If you visit on a market day you can spend hours wandering up and down rows of stalls looking for the perfect tapestry or patterned hat. The ruins above town will be appreciated by older children as well.
And of course, the biggest attraction near Cusco is Machu Picchu. We suggest that before after you visit Machu Picchu that you spend the night in Aguas Caliente or Ollantaytambo. Machu Picchu is a big day and the long train ride back to Cusco can turn tired kids into cranky kids.
In & Around the Amazon The most convenient place in the Peruvian Amazon to visit with kids is Tambopata, the jungle surrounding Puerto Maldonado. Here, there are several lodges tailored for family visits. Activities are tailored for various ages and skill levels, and educational support allows visitors to walk away with an increased understanding of the environment they just experienced. Short hikes and nature walks are popular with traveler of all ages, as the guides are skilled at pointing out intriguing plants and animals. Canopy walks and canoe rides are other favorite activities.
As a parent, safety rules the day. There are some things you will want to consider and plan for when taking your children to South America. For example, ceviche is the pinnacle of Peruvian cuisine. And while you’ll certainly want to try this South American raw seafood dish, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not consume raw or undercooked shellfish or fish.
There are not any vaccinations required for travel to Peru. However, in addition to standard medicines and vaccinations, you may want to consider a Yellow Fever shot for those in your family 9 months of age or older if you are traveling to Amazonian regions. You'll also want to pack plenty of bug spray, and lightweight pants and long-sleeved shirts to avoid bug bites.
When traveling to high altitudes, your children have the same chance of being adversely affected by altitude sickness as you do. You should try to slowly increase your elevation and when this isn’t possible, schedule extra time to rest and adjust in new high altitudes areas. It is recommended that infants under 3 months not be exposed to high elevations.
Many places in Peru, especially in the Andean region, feature paths and ruin sites with steep stairs and deep drop-offs. You will want to keep a close eye on your children and explain the risks and the correct way to behave in these areas. However, this does not mean you should avoid these attractions entirely. For example, although tackling a trek like the Inca Trail as an adult might sound difficult and with children impossible, more than one intrepid family has risen to the challenge. Need proof? Watch the video below.