Any trip to Peru would not be complete without first enjoying a trip to Machu Picchu. The Inca citadel is full of history and incomparable beauty. Making Machu Picchu a must for any trip to Peru or South America. But if you decide to make the trip to Machu Picchu with kids, the experience can be even more pleasant. Children seem to see everything differently, with each new experience opening their minds. And the Inca archaeological complex can be a wonderful memory for the family. Therefore, together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we have prepared a small article about traveling to the citadel. Learn how to organize your wonderful trip to the Inca citadel with kids!
Everything you need to know about going to Machu Picchu with children
- Is it possible to visit Machu Picchu with kids?
- How to prepare a Machu Picchu trip with kids
- Prevent altitude sickness
- Dress them in appropriate clothing
- Best time to visit Machu Picchu
- Feed them adequately
- Check travel policies for minors
- How to get to Machu Picchu
- Best activities to do with kids in Machu Picchu
- Alternatives hikes to enjoy
- Relaxing in Aguas Calientes
Is it possible to visit Machu Picchu with kids?
It is maybe the most important answer to resolve in this article. First, you have to consider that Machu Picchu didn’t was built thinking in children. Pachacutec, the ninth ruler of the Inca state, ordered to build it in the middle of a rainforest valley of Vilcabamba, in 1450. Over a pre-existent citadel of rock for its Panaca (family, parents, and relatives) and soldiers, to 66 kilometers northwest of Cusco. Its purpose, besides being a real neighborhood, was being a sanctuary (remember that the Inca was considered as a son of the Sun) and a fortress (to spot threats that came from the west to Cusco)
As you can see, the unevenness of the land on which the houses, and temples were built, its very steep stairs, and its slopes leading to deep precipices are proof that Machu Picchu was not thinking for children. However, this does not mean that it cannot be visited by them nowadays. Happily, the Machu Picchu administration office prepared the park with wooden handrails for the high stairs, rope railings for the areas with precipices, adequate signage in the alleys, and rubber mesh in some areas to avoid slipping. If you ask us again, Nowadays, Machu Picchu is conditioned to receive children, too!
How to prepare a Machu Picchu trip with kids
Although it is true, there is no established age to start visiting Machu Picchu, due to the walking times that will take place in the citadel, we recommend bringing children who are over 6 years old. However, each child is different and who knows best the physical state of each of them are their own parents. Also, unfortunately, there is no transportation direct from Lima to Machu Picchu (to avoid the altitude), and always the visitors will have to pass by Cusco (3,555 m.a.s.l) For this reason, here, you’ll find our most important tips if you are planning a Machu Pìcchu tor with kids.
Prevent altitude sickness
Contrary to popular opinion, Machu Picchu (2,438 m.a.s.l.) is located lower than Cusco City (3,555 m.a.s.l) and this is important info at the moment of thinking about how to prevent altitude sickness in children in Inca lands. The only international airport close to Machu Picchu is located in Cusco and is probably that you arrive there as a first step (Unless you travel by bus to the imperial city) Either way, you would have to make a stop first in Cusco.
For this reason, the idea is to bypass Cusco and head immediately to the Sacred Valley (around 2,300 m.a.s.l.), once you get off the Airplane. In this form, the body will begin to acclimatize itself from a lower altitude. The sacred valley is located 57 kilometers (by highway) north of Cusco. If you come through a Travel Agency, the transport will be booked, but if you come by yourself, there is private transportation (Mini Van) in the Airport parking. The booking cost of these units usually is around $50 to $60 American Dollars.
The second tip is passing some days in lower altitude lands (like the Sacred Valley) before getting to Machu Picchu, so the body will acclimatize gradually and better to the altitude. Also, the Sacred Valley hotels have an infinite number of options for children, from storytelling and bird watching (Inkaterra hacienda Urubamba) to horseback riding, swimming pools, and mini chefs making artisanal pizzas (Relais & Châteaux Sol y Luna)
Dress them in appropriate clothing
Machu Picchu is a stone citadel, located 2438 m.a.s.l. (7999 feet), over the top of an eponymous mountain, in the middle of a cloud forest, in the jungle eyebrow of Cusco. The humidity, inopportune rains, and mosquitos (common in humid jungle environments) can be present at any time of the year. And, considering the hyperactivity and the curiosity of children, dressing them in adequate clothes like trekking shoes (with wide soles) to walk over stones, Cargo-style pants of quick-drying fabric, and long sleeve polo shirts (The fewer parts of the body exposed to the mosquito, the better), a windbreaker for the inopportune rains and a hat.
Of course, having at hand a broad-spectrum sunscreen and a repellent will be recommendable, too.
Best time to visit Machu Picchu
Another important factor is to realize when is the best time to visit Machu Picchu with children. The Inca citadel has two well-defined seasons during the year, the rainy season from November to March and the dry season from April to October. If you want to avoid slippery stones, muddy roads (fall prevention), rain with thunder, and cloudy views, we recommend you visit the citadel in the dry season. Believe us, the crowd of people has no comparison with the perfect photos you can take of a citadel with blue and clear sky, and the smile of your loved ones in the middle of the perfect frame.
Feed them adequately
The digestion process of any food slows down at altitude (as part of the acclimatization process) For this reason, the food to eat on the first days at the altitude cities will be crucial. We always recommend eating foods that are not highly seasoned, fresh salads, and chicken soup, at least on the first day at Sacred Valley or Cusco. And, avoid hard-to-digest foods like meats, and Andean fish (like trout). If you or the children follow face value this small diet, at least during the first or second days in Altitude, we will assure you that you will enjoy the best of Peru (including its cuisine) the next days with an organism fully conditioned at altitude. The same advice goes to the children.
Coca tea are homonymous leaves boiled in hot water, its properties help to relax the body and increase oxygenation in the blood for a quick acclimatization process. The leaves are the same that are used by drug traffickers to make basic cocaine paste, but this involves a complex chemical process, so you don’t have to worry about the consumption of Coca tea. Even, all hotels have little Tea stands in their lobbies where passengers can prepare themselves a relaxing Coca tea as many times as they want. Of course, the dose for children should not exceed one cup per day.
In the case of Muña, it is a digestive mate that helps the rapid digestion of food and should be consumed after each meal (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). This mate has no consumption limit, both for adults and children. In addition, this mate is also available at the hotel tea stands.
Check travel policies for minors
To get to Machu Picchu with children, take note of the travel policies for minors of each company involved in the visit of any Machu Picchu tours. In this sense, you will need a train service (from Cusco or Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes town), a bus service (from Aguas Calientes Town to Machu Picchu Archaeological Park), and an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu.
1. Peru Rail
It is one of both train companies in Cusco, besides being the oldest. Usually, infants (between 0 – 2 years) don’t pay for train tickets (as long as they travel in the same seat as the responsible adult). An adult can travel a maximum with one infant in the same seat. The second infant will have to pay for the next seat, the cost is 50 % of the adult price ticket train. The Child from 3 to 12 years old pay obligatory for a seat with a 50 % of discount regarding the normal adult ticket price. The price of the adult ticket varies depending on the season.
2. Inca Rail
The Inca Rail is the newest train company in Cusco and has similar travel policies for minors. From 0 to 2 years, the infant doesn’t pay for any ticket on the train (as long as they travel in the same seat as the responsible adult) An adult can travel a maximum with one infant in the same seat. The second infant will have to pay for the next seat, the cost is around 50 % of the adult price ticket train. The Child from 3 to 12 years old pay obligatory for a seat with a 50 % of discount regarding the normal adult ticket price. The price of the adult ticket varies depending on the season.
3. CONSETTUR Bus
This bus company is the only one that offers transport from Aguas Calientes town to Machu Picchu (Round Trip), once gets off the train in the town, the visitor will have to take these buses to go directly to the citadel (45 min). Infant from 0 to 5 years doesn’t pay for a bus ticket (as long as they travel in the same seat as the responsible adult), however, if they want to travel in a seat, the cost will be $7 USD (one way) From 5 to 11 years old, the child will have to pay for a seat, and this cost $7 USD (one Way). The adult price is $12 USD (one way)
4. Machu Picchu ticket entrance
The police entrance ticket for minors has other rules. From 0 to 7 years old, children don’t pay anything (as long as they are accompanied by an adult. If they are not, they will not be able to enter the citadel alone) From 8 to 17, all person is considered minor and pays an entrance of $20 (In the same way, as they are minors, they must be accompanied by a responsible adult). The adult entrance ticket cost $41.
How to get to Machu Picchu
Arriving at the site of Machu Picchu with children can also be quite an entertaining and fun experience. If the Inca Trail is a somewhat exhausting option (4 days and 3 nights, although there is also the option of 2 days and 1 night), the train trip will delight all children. You will find that there are several types of trains to choose from, all with different budgets departing from the same Cusco city (3 hours of travel to the same Aguas Calientes town), or departing from the Ollantaytambo town in the Sacred Valley (02 hours of trip). The Vistadome train, for example, takes you in style and comfort.
The train has a glass roof and panoramic windows to enjoy the view. In addition, there may be live shows with traditional music and live dance to help you enjoy the trip, besides snacks and the possibility of buying food onboard. Seats on the train are in groups of 4, facing each other, with a small table in the middle. Once on board, you can instruct the train staff to assign children seats by the window. The train ride to Machu Picchu is one of the favorite parts of every kid.
Tip: As we mention, we recommend staying in one of the various Sacred Valley hotels and taking a train from there (Ollantaytambo train station) heading to Machu Picchu. The child will depart from a low-altitude area and gradually climb toward Aguas Pueblo. Apart from the fact that the train trip will be short and not so boring for them.
Once you arrive in Aguas Calientes can opt to take the CONSETTUR buses to go immediately to Machu Picchu citadel (45-min trip, one way) Although others choose to spend one night in the small town before going to the citadel and enjoying the Inca wonder completely rested. If you take the CONSETTUR bus, make sure you buy both the outbound and the return ticket. There is also the option of walking to the entrance, although it can be a bit exhausting (At least the climb, because the descent is much easier) The climb can take 01 hour and the descent can take only 30 minutes. Whichever way you choose, you will surely enjoy a wonderful time in Machu Picchu with your kids.
Best activities to do with kids in Machu Picchu
An important archaeological worldwide center like Machu Picchu deserves to be visited accompanied by someone who knows very well the history of so important place, someone who goes to the children’s rhythm and tells them awesome Inca legends during the tour. (In addition, according to Peruvian government policies, the services of a tourist guide within the citadel are mandatory, whether a national or foreign tourist). In this way, the best things to do in Machu Picchu for kids will be many!
A. The commemorative plaques
In other words, booking a Machu Picchu tour with a private tour guide will be a wise decision. Your first stop inside the citadel can be the commemorative plaques to the rediscoverer of Machu Picchu, the American Hiram Bingham. There, the tour guide can entertain the children to say them that the American adventurer entered the Peruvian Amazon, in search of the mythical lost citadel of the Incas called Vilcabamba and spent very hard days, dodging exotic diseases and wild animals, to finally rediscover the fantastic citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911.
B. Interesting animals in Machu Picchu
The second interesting activity to develop in Machu Picchu can be discovering its fantastic animals that coexist with tourists in the citadel, like the Llamas that graze through the green areas, the Chinchillas (species of furry lead rabbit that usually take shelter in stone walls), and the lizards that usually come out of the holes between stone and stone and rest taking advantage of the sunlight.
C. The stone quarries
The Machu Picchu stone quarries where the private tour guide can explain to you how the Incas could build a citadel on the top of the mountain, in the middle of the Peruvian jungle. Where the stones were extracted from, and how they were shaped until they fit into the great walls of the citadel. While letting children use all their energy going up and down the stairs existing in place.
D. The Condor Temple
The guide will take you and the kids to the Temple of the Condor and see the large stone in the middle of the structure that is shaped like a Condor. Also, the main square of Machu Picchu is surrounded by houses, temples, a royal palace, and stone terraces where the kids will be able to explore the area by themselves. Although without a doubt, the most important building in the complex is the Intihuatana, a stone construction that the Inca priests would have used to study the stars and the heavens. These constructions used to exist in other important Inca sites but were destroyed by the conquerors, remaining almost intact in Machu Picchu.
E. The water fonts
Moreover, the guide will take the kids to explore all the water font features that Machu Picchu has to offer, the wonderful series of square fountains and canals that carry water throughout the Machu Picchu ruins will be a surprise for the children.
Alternatives hikes to enjoy
Among Machu Picchu facts, you will find that are many short walks to enjoy with kids in the same citadel or around it. Fun without much effort to create unforgettable memories for the little ones.
1. Intipunku hike
Among the free hikes is the short hike to Inti Punku or Puerta del Sol. This is a slow climb worth enjoying. The views you will have are wonderful, and you can do it without problems with the children. You only have to ask what path to follow any park rangers (who abound in the citadel), and they will gladly show you the way. The walk is not very steep, it is short, and you will have to climb a few steps. The return is by the same path to the citadel.
2. The short Inca Trail (2 Days / 1 Night)
The Inca Trail of 2 days and 1 night is an affirmative answer for those who wonder if the Inca Trail hike can be done with children. This route constitutes the last 6 kilometers of the complete Inca Trail of 4 Days and 3 Nights (40 km). A reminder, any section of this route is controlled, and your walk must be done through a travel agency and an authorized tourist guide (according to Peruvian government policies). You, the children, and the tour guide will have to take a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and get off on km 104 (previously showing to train staff the permission to stop in km 104.
Permission generated by the travel agency) The hike is developed only on the first day, with 4 or 5 hours of easy and slow hike heading to Intipunku (the Inca Sun gate), gently sloping. To finalize, you will enter the citadel of Machu Picchu and will have a tour with your private tour guide. After, you will go down in any CONSETTUR Bus to Aguas Calientes to spend a night and take your train back to Cusco the next morning.
3. Trail down from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes
Another great hike to do with the kids is to skip the bus (CONSETTUR) back to Machu Picchu. The path is downhill and offers interesting cloud forest scenery. You will find yourself in scenic places full of vegetation and a great variety of tropical flowers. The walk does not take more than an hour and is ideal for children to know the surroundings of Machu Picchu. You will arrive in Aguas Calientes in time to enjoy some relaxing hot springs.
Relaxing in Aguas Calientes
The citadel is a wonderful place to enjoy both as a family and as a couple. So enjoying a honeymoon in Machu Picchu is not a bad idea either. And if you have already tired of touring Machu Picchu with kids, in the town of Aguas Calientes you will find some pleasant hot springs. These are ideal for calming the aches and pains of the day. Enjoy an hour or two relaxing by the refreshing pools. In addition, you will find a beautiful market in the town of Aguas Calientes where you can buy gifts for the whole family. From traditional souvenirs to some unique creations to enjoy. You will also find a wide variety of restaurants where you can enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner.
You don’t have to worry about lodging either, as Aguas Calientes offers some wonderful options with service of childcare and entertainment for children such as the Inkaterra El Mapi and the Sumaq Hotel, both 5 stars. For this reason, some of the best hotels in Peru are located in Aguas Calientes, so you won’t have to worry about comfort. These include exclusive views, first-rate services, and facilities with all the comforts you can imagine.
“EVERY DAY WE MAKE DEPOSITS IN THE MEMORY BANKS OF OUR CHILDREN”
As you can see, Machu Picchu with kids can be an unforgettable experience for the whole family that you will remember and appreciate for a lifetime. Machu Picchu does not have to be a magical experience just for you, include your children on the next trip to Peru, even you will see that the Machu Picchu trip cost is not much with the discount for minors that offer the transportation companies that take you there.
Also, you will see how they enjoy and rejoice with all that this wonderful country has to offer. Our country has a lot to give the little ones. We hope together with the Machu Travel Peru team to have informed you a little. A visit to the archaeological complex is already wonderful in itself, so doing it as a family will only make it better. If you want to ask about our other tours around Peru, you can ask our team of advisers. They will be happy to help you organize a family trip to Machu Picchu!