Machu Picchu is on many traveller’s bucket list. Machu Picchu is one of those incredible places you want to experience in Peru. The special beauty and the magic of the Inca ruins seduce even the most experienced traveller.
But will your kids enjoy Machu Picchu too? Is it a good idea to visit Machu Picchu if you are travelling in Peru with (younger) children, or teens? Is it recommendable to do Machu Picchu with kids?
First of all: no doubts that your kids will LOVE every corner of Machu Picchu: the scenery, nature, the surroundings, the views, the stones, the history, the endless Inca steps and last but not least….. the llamas! If you want to visit the Inca City, start preparing your trip and read our tips for Machu Picchu with kids, to make your experience as comfortable, safe and pleasant as possible.
|Proclaimed as Peruvian historical Sanctuary in 1981, declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and enunciated as World Wonder in 2007, it is no surprise that Machu Picchu receives massive amounts of visitors each year. According to Peru Telegraph, the Inca citadel received the incredible amount of 1,578,030 visitors in 2018, which is 12 per cent more than the year before.|
1 – WILL THE ALTITUDE BE A PROBLEM?
The altitude should not be a bigger issue for children, but take time to acclimatise.
The first part of a Machu Picchu family adventure travel is acclimatising to the high altitudes in the Peruvian Andes. Fortunately, Machu Picchu’s altitude of 2,430 m should not be the biggest issue, but as you will arrive first in Cusco (3400 m), we recommend you take some time to acclimatise in Cusco.
Others prefer to descend first and go to the lower located Sacred Valley of the Incas directly after arrival in Cusco, which lies significantly lower. Besides being lower and therefore more convenient, it is a beautiful place, full of amazing villages and full of ruins. The temperature is generally a bit higher than in Cusco.
Many travellers (with or without kids) choose to spend a night (or more) in Urubamba 2870 m or Ollantaytambo; here is the train station where you can take the train to Machu Picchu located. While exploring the Sacred Valley at ease, your body will slowly adjust to the altitude. This way, you can leave the visit to Cusco for after your Machu Picchu trip.
How to get to the Sacred Valley from Cusco airport?
- Make pre-arrangements and organise your transport with a local travel agency in Cusco
or with your hotel in the Sacred Valley
- Take a taxi at Cusco airport (this might be the most expensive option). You can pick up a taxi outside easily. The taxi takes about 1.5 hours.
- Travel by local bus. Take a taxi to the city centre of Cusco where you can take the bus to Urubamba. The bus trip takes +/- 1,5 hour and busses usually leave constantly between 7 am and 8 pm, seven days per week. Depending on how old your kids are and how tired they will be, this is the most ‘complicated’ option but certainly do-able.
|Guidelines from the Harvard Medical School for those who go above 3050 meters include making sure that you do not force your body into too much activity, take to rest and drink a lot of water! Minors should drink at least 1 to 1,5 litre of water a day. Make sure to provide them healthy and light meals since digestion goes slower as well. You might have heard of coca tea and its benefits at high altitude, but it’s not recommended for you kids. A good alternative is lemon juice.|
2 – HOW TO GET TO MACHU PICCHU: TRAIN OR TREK?
Machu Picchu Treks – kids are allowed, but it is advised to go directly by train.
Machu Picchu by train
There are many ways to reach Machu Picchu and the most popular ones are by train or doing a Machu Picchu hike. With children, the easiest and recommended option is to go by train. The train from Ollantaytambo leads directly to the Inca citadel with a 50% discount for kids younger than 11 years. With ages between 0 and 2 years, it is allowed for them to enter for free, if they occupy the same seats of their parents.
Machu Picchu Hike
If you love trekking and you feel that your kids are prepared to do this do, you can choose a Machu Picchu hike. The most popular ones are the Classica 4 day Inca Trail, the Salkantay trek, and the Lares trek. Although there is no official age to join these treks, most tour operators in Cusco will not accept visitors under the age of 8/9 years.
In case you want to do a Machu Picchu trek, consider hiring an extra porter to carry the backpack(s) of your kid(s) if you do the Inca trail, while there are extra horses available on the Salkantay Trek and Lares trek. First aid equipment is always available on all the treks.
|Remember the Inca Trail Permits are often sold several months before so doing the Inca Tail is only an option if you can arrange this between 5 – 8 months ahead. Learn here how to book the Inca Trail.|
3 – VISITING MACHU PICCHU
Watch your step – the Incas did not have strict safety standards!
It seems that the Incas did not have strict safety standards, so the golden rule with (and without) kids is: watch your step. Is Machu Picchu safe to travel with kids? Yes, but keep an eye on them, don’t let them explore the ruins by themselves Visiting Machu Picchu is not a walk in the park. Some roads are unstable, not sealed and slippery; you do not want them to fall.
Huayna Picchu – Not for Kids under 12
Standing out with 350 meters above Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu offers amazing views over the citadel and the surrounding landscapes. However, the path is steep, and the (official) minimum age to climb is 12 years. If you do consider to climb up and your kids are older than 12, just be sure to stay close to your kids and walk far behind other people to prevent any risks. The hike to Huayna Picchu is very steep and nicknamed: the stairs of death’ which, probably, says enough.
4 – GENERAL TIPS FOR VISITING MACHU PICCHU WITH KIDS?
- Take two days for your Machu Picchu visit: book a hotel in Aguas Calientes and visit Machu Picchu the next day.
- Make sure you book the Machu Picchu Ticket, the train and the bus tickets (from Aguas Calientes up to the ruins) all for the correct dates because no changes are allowed and the rules are very strict. Buy your Machu Picchu ticket in advance! Kids under 6 go for free!
- Do not forget to take all passports (including kids under two years old).
- If you want to avoid the hassle of booking all the different tickets online, you can book a complete Machu Picchu Tour with a travel agency in Cusco.
- If you travel with a baby or toddler under two, you have to go to the desk of the rail company with the passport of the baby half an hour before the train leaves.
- You may travel with approx. 8 kilo of luggage and you can store the rest at the train station
- Most hotels in Aguas Calientes offer a free pickup from the train station, but you might have to ask for it
- The buses between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu leave every 15 minutes; the ride takes about 20 minutes.
- The bus goes winding up its way up the mountainous road to Machu Picchu. If your kids suffer from nausea, make sure to give them medication against travel sickness.
- There is normally a big queue for the first buses to Machu Picchu (the first bus leaves at 5.30), but if the sunrise is too early for your kids, the buses around 7.00 and 7.30 are less crowded. After that it gets busier again (from the moment the trains arrives with the people that do a one day Machu Picchu tour
- 2 to 3 hours is a good amount of time to explore Machu Picchu with kids: within this time you can walk around the site, take photos and hang out with the llamas and alpacas.
- The only toilets at Machu Picchu are at the main gate entrance. Make sure use them stop before you enter the ruins. Once you are in, you can leave (and re-enter) the ruins (to use the toilet) only once. Make sure to have some coins to pay for the toilet.
- Bring plenty of water.