Why visit Cusco with kids?
A trip to Cusco with kids is the perfect opportunity to create a memorable family holiday. The sheer diversity of Peru is amazing. The opportunities to learn while enjoying yourself are huge. Few places in the world allow you to show so much diversity in a short space of time. And Peruvians love kids. You will be made welcome wherever you go.
What age should children be to visit Cusco?
We recommend waiting until the kids are 8 years old to travel, to allow them to get the most out of your trip. All of the tours below can be done by an 8-year-old who is used to being active. This includes the trekking and rafting- but not all 8-year-olds are made equal so consult us if you are not sure.
Is it safe to visit Peru with kids?
Cusco and all of Peru is full of kids of all ages. They live here. So it is entirely possible and safe to visit Peru with kids of any age. 8 years is simply our recommendation to get the best out of a once in a lifetime trip.
If going to the jungle make sure you all have Yellow Fever vaccinations. And if your kids are prone to petting dogs, a rabies injection is a wise idea. Cusco is full of dogs, but some are friendlier than others.
Bring a means of purifying water to ensure a supply of clean drinking water. This Grayl Purifier is our family favourite and the kids have no problem using it themselves. A good tour operator should provide clean drinking water throughout your tour, but the purifier is useful for times when you are not with them, such as in the airport or at night in the hotel. While all hotels will provide drinking water, some still insist on giving plastic bottles, which you should try to avoid. When travelling in Peru with my kids, the Grayl Purifier means we never use any plastic water bottles, even the ones left for free.
Exposure to the sun
Sun hats and sun cream are a must. The sun is deceptively strong here, remember you are 3km/ 2 miles closer to the sun than at sea level.
As with any travel to a foreign country, people can get sick from eating things they are not used to.
Read on for our top 5 things to do in Cusco with kids
1. Hike the One Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
If you want to visit Machu Picchu, this is the best way to do so with kids. The 11km trail takes between 6 and 7 hours including lunch. It starts with a 1-hour train journey to the small Inca ruins of Chachabamba. Then it climbs to the beautiful Inca site of Winay Wayña, with an array of terraces and buildings clinging to the hillside. Finally, it traverses the hillside, through the cloud forest to arrive at the Sun Gate, the entrance to Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu itself is busy and thus not the ideal place for kids to learn about the Incas. By walking the One Day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, your guide can explain things bit by bit along the way, interspersing information with activity. Plus, the lack of people and stunning scenery makes it a much nicer classroom. The trail is steep in places, so you should do some practice walks before travelling to Peru with kids. If they cannot hike 11km at home, they will not enjoy it here. Our kids hiked it when they were 8 years old and had no problems. The achievement of reaching the Sun Gate will take a special place in your family memories.
2. Go overnight whitewater rafting on the Apurimac River
Perhaps rafting is not the first thing you think of when you picture Peru. But this trip, on the headwaters of the Amazon, allows you to access a world hidden to most visitors and locals. A world of clear water, sandy beaches, otters, and condors. This is best suited to families visiting Cusco with kids aged 12 or older although our kids have done it since they were 6.
This 2 Day Apurimac rafting trip gets you away from cell phone reception for a night and allows you to spend quality time together as a family, without the distractions of modern life. Sat around a campfire on a beach, beneath the Andean sky, you have no choice but to talk to each other. Working together to paddle the raft, and navigate the rapids will be one of the highlights of your Peru vacation. It is a great opportunity to learn about yourselves all under the safe guidance of expert raft guides and safety kayakers. Not only are they superb professionals, but they are a lot of fun to spend time with.
The rapids have just the right mix of thrills without being too hard, and they are broken by plenty of flatter sections where you can jump in. There is also the chance to explore a small waterfall along the way. The scenery is spectacular, the guides knock up Pisco Sours in camp for the adults and you return home with great memories.
3. Search for Jaguars in the Amazon rainforest
You have seen it on TV, studied it in school and seen pictures in magazines. The Amazon rainforest is perhaps the most important place on our whole planet. Not only the most biodiverse place on earth, but the place that allows us all to breathe, its trees purifying the air and storing much of the carbon we create.
Tambopata Research Center is the place to go in our opinion if you have 5 days to enjoy it fully. Even the journey to get there is fantastic, the view out of the window on the short flight from Cusco or Lima to Puerto Maldonado gives you some idea of just how big the Amazon is. And then a boat ride down the Tambopata River, with an overnight stop at Refugio Amazonas Lodge really lets you feel you are far away from civilisation. We saw jaguar from the boat as well as a Tapir and a huge variety of colourful birdlife.
The guides are first class, and there is a great choice of activities for all the family. The lodge itself is comfortable and the staff extremely friendly. Everything is done with the utmost respect for the natural environment and this is a great opportunity to engage kids´ interest in the importance of preserving our natural world.
Monkeys and wild pigs can be spotted from your bedroom. A whole host of birds, insects, reptiles, mammals, butterflies and plants with fascinating stories can be found on the trails that you will explore with your guide. A visit to one of the nearby clay licks is a must-see, the colourful parrots and macaws make for quite a show. The rooms have one wall open to the forest, allowing you to fall asleep to the sounds of the Amazon. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience.
If you cannot spare 5 days, a quicker option is to visit Sandoval Lake Lodge. The facilities are more basic and you are not as remote, but there are still some great wildlife spotting opportunities and experiences to be had.
Make sure your family all get Yellow Fever vaccinations. And the best way to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes is to cover up and use repellent. You can get a natural citronella bug spray at the lodge, as some of the ones you buy can be too strong for kids. The lodge is mmalaria-freethey say, and we certainly had no problems, but best to be cautious. And malaria or not, just getting bitten by mosquitoes can lead kids to scratch their bites a lot, so best to avoid getting bitten in the first place.
4. Create your own piece of Cusqeñean art with the help of local artists
If you are visiting Cusco with kids who have any artistic inclination, this is a fantastic way to spend a few hours in Cusco. You will work alongside local female artists from Totemiq and create your own Pucara bull. The bulls are an essential part of local culture. Originating from the small town of Pucara, between Cusco and Puno, they are placed in pairs of the roofs of houses to bring good luck.
You will learn how to apply bronze leaf, a delicate process used by the Cuzqueñean school of art in the religious paintings you see across the town. They used gold leaf rather than bronze but the effect is the same. And you will use modern acrylics to add colour.
Not only do you take home something you have made, but you help to preserve traditional techniques which were in danger of dying out. This is a fun and relaxing experience, where you can quite literally lose yourself in concentration. And the artists are really great with children. Even adults who have not tried art since school will have a great time with their help.
5. Shop in a local market in Cusco with kids
The local markets in Cusco are full of life and colour. They are a great way to show kids where food comes from. The meat section, for example, has every part of the animal there to see. There are no plastic-wrapped chicken breasts here. Offal is still widely eaten, with recipes for every piece.
The fruit section has fruits from the Andes and the Amazon- including many delicious fruits you have probably never seen. Make sure you buy a variety of local fruits to give your kids the opportunity to try new flavours. Chirimoya is a favourite with many kids. You break it open and suck the soft white flesh. You do not eat the seeds. Lucuma is used in ice cream. Granadillas are full of a sweet jelly-like mass which you slurp down. Many people call it monkey brains as it resembles that.
Every local market in Cusco has a juice section where you can try one or a mixture of the local fruits in a tasty format.
If you are visiting Cusco with kids the above list is just some of the many things you can do. Peru as a whole is a great country to visit with kids. People will take an interest in them wherever you go, and show patience perhaps not shown in other countries. They really do love kids here and it is a great place to travel as a family.0