Machu Picchu has put Peru firmly on the tourist trail but it’s also a great place to go on a family vacation.
In this Latin American wonder, there are plenty of activities for children and adults alike; our favourites include rafting down the Urubamba River, hunting for treasure in Cusco or having lunch at esteemed restaurant La Picanteria.
Here is our experts’ round up of the best ways to spend a family vacation in Peru.
For an active family holiday
Explore the Peruvian Amazon
Peru’s Amazon region is located just north of Lake Titicaca and is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. Teeming with wildlife, it is a fascinating place for the whole family to adventure through. The Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica or its sister lodge Hacienda Concepción are both great bases from which to launch your family vacation; both focus on minimising their impact on the environment, so guests feel close to the surrounding nature even from their bedrooms. Families can spend their time in this region kayaking the Amazon’s waters, visiting local villages or walking over thrilling treetop canopy bridges.
Private tour of Machu Picchu
Families wishing to visit bucket-list Machu Picchu will be glad to know that they no longer have to complete an arduous trek in order to see the ancient town. For families with young children in particular, the Vistadome train is a welcome alternative. Aptly-named, this train has large glass windows that allow passengers to bask in the glory of the Peruvian countryside as it whizzes by.
Traditional snack food is also served on board, so adults can get a real taste of the Andean cuisine and kids won’t go hungry. Once at Machu Picchu, you can learn all about the history, significance and myths surrounding this Inca citadel from a private guide. On the descent back down, travellers are able to watch live traditional dance performances, so little ones will be entertained for hours.
Raft down the Urubamba River
The Sacred Valley, once one of the bases of the Inca civilisation, is a valley steeped in history. The river that winds its way through the valley is thought to be aligned with the cosmos, so it is an apt setting for other-worldly excursions. Thrillseekers can explore this river on an exhilarating rafting experience. A safety briefing and a practice on the flatter parts of the Urubamba, alongside professional instructors, ease daring adventures into the activity.
During the heart-pounding experience, rafters will pass the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo through II and III class rapids, before navigating waves and whirlpools in the class III rapids of ‘El Resbaladero.’ Although unsuitable for young children, this is a unique way for adults and teenagers to get closer to each other, while exploring the ethereal Sacred Valley.
For a cultural family exploration
Visit the Willoq village and community
Aside from active pursuits, the Sacred Valley provides many an opportunity to learn about Peru’s ancient culture and heritage. Many indigenous people continue to make their lives here, dressing in traditional Peruvian garb and living in the same way as they have done for centuries. The Willoq community is one such group, made up of around 200 families. Here, the men spend their days farming while the women weave high quality-fabrics dyed with vibrant vegetable colourants. While visiting this undiscovered region, families are able to swap stories with locals and get a unique insight into the indigenous Peruvian way of life.
Hunting for treasure in Cusco
Cusco is a beautiful ancient city and was once the capital of the 14th century Incan Empire. This magical town is the gateway city to infamous Machu Picchu but it’s worth visiting in its own right. A treasure hunt through Cusco is fantastic for families, as young kids will be able to learn about the history of this fascinating city in a fun and interactive way.
A private guide will provide treasure hunting families with a map, a budget for purchases and a list of challenges to complete within a specific time frame. Navigating the city map, communicating with the locals in Spanish and solving trick questions will keep the whole family on their toes. A guide will accompany you throughout the treasure hunt, and with treasure located at different points across the city, the whole of Cusco becomes a playground for adults and children alike.
Ollantaytambo and Pachamama ceremony
Located in the ethereal Sacred Valley, the Inca fortress town of Ollantaytambo offers a fascinating insight into Inca culture. Built at the arrival of the Spaniards, Ollantaytambo is one of the most important Inca remnants, signalling how the Incas inhabited and functioned in their cities. Active families can climb the steps up to the top of the hill and wander through the hilltop fortress.
To get an insight into the Peruvian culture of today and keep children entertained, families can then take part in a Pachamama ceremony. With Pachamama meaning Mother Earth, this ceremony sees song and traditional offerings devoted to her. This ceremony feels as though you’ve travelled back in time, with sacred medicines and pre-hispanic instruments used during the devotional chanting.
Foodie family experiences
Tour of ChocoMuseo
The Latin name for cacao – theobroma – means ‘food of the gods,’ so it is no surprise that the chocolate exports from Peru are extremely high quality. After a day walking the cobbled streets of Cusco, adults can reward children (and themselves) with a ChocoMuseo tour. Here, visitors can learn about the history of cacao and the production of chocolate, as well as the role it plays in Peru. For a more hands-on experience, travellers can take part in a chocolate workshop that includes the preparation and tasting of your own chocolate; it’s a fun experience for both adults and children.
Market visit and lunch at La Picanteria, Lima
Peru’s capital city, Lima, has a bustling population of 9 million people and is one of Latin America’s foodie havens. Gastronomic excursions and fine dining experiences have earned this cosmopolitan city the well-deserved title of ‘culinary capital of South America.’ A market visit and lunch at esteemed restaurant La Picanteria is a great way for foodie families to acquaint themselves with Lima’s food scene.
Foodies can accompany a culinary expert, who will guide them through stands of exotic fruits and fresh seafood at a local market. Then, the whole family can spend time over a shared meal in La Picanteria, a restaurant owned by renowned chef Hector Solís. Reproducing the rustic and traditional feel of a picanteria, menus vary according to what fresh produce is available to buy in the market that day. A traditional Peruvian meal in a picanteria is a great way to round off any family vacation in Peru.