Peru is the stuff travel dreams are made of; a beautiful country rich in history and culture, myths and legends. It’s a land where the geography is stunningly diverse, where the people are warm and welcoming and where the food is simply amazing! There’s something for everyone in Peru, including families. Kids will marvel at Machu Picchu, be amazed by the Amazon and might even be tempted to try guinea pig (not me!). It might not be an obvious destination for families but it’s becoming increasingly popular with parents and kids who want more from their family holiday than sun and sand. Here are five places to visit if you’re considering a family holiday in Peru.
1.The Sacred Valley
Peru’s Sacred Valley is a treasure trove of Incan sites, a veritable open-air museum of archaeological wonders. If you’re travelling with children, it’s also a brilliant place to start your Peruvian adventure – at 2,792m it’s significantly lower than nearby Cusco and a much better place to acclimatise. This are is filled with mind boggling ruins such as the spectacular terraces of Pisac, the white salt flats of Maras and Chincheros, where massive stone walls, seemingly built by giants, tower above you. There’s also the wonderfully-named Ollantaytambo, home to an incredible Inca fortress that once served as the royal estate for Emperor Pachacuti. The one thing these sites all share are spectacular views.
2. Lake Titicaca
According to legend, Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of the Inca civilisation; the first Inca, Manco Capac, rose from Lake Titicaca and established the Inca empire. Today, the world’s highest lake, straddles the borders of Bolivia and Peru and is a wonderful place to visit with kids. There are lots of activities both on water and dry land but some of the most popular attractions include the floating islands of Uros, 42 manmade islands that have been created with the buoyant totora reeds that grow in the shallow waters of the lake. To truly experience life on the lake, I’d love to try a homestay and I’ve heard of a great, family-friendly option that would allow my kids to get a real insight into the local culture.
3. Machu Picchu
Topping many people’s travel wish list, including many families, is the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Modern Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu. Not surprisingly, Peru’s most iconic landmark is also its most visited site. Built at the height of the Incan Empire in 1452, the mountaintop citadel was abandoned just over a century later and no one quite knows why. The remains of this ancient mountaintop city lay hidden within the jungles of Peru until American explorer, Hiram Bingham, stumbled upon it in 1911. It remains one of the world’s great archaeological finds as well as one of the world’s greatest mysteries – how on earth did the Incas build it and why?! See if your kids can work out what Machu Picchu is all about!
4. Nazca Lines
The mysterious Nazca lines lie within the Peruvian desert and are another one of the country’s inexplicable mysteries. The lines are found 200 miles southeast of Lima, near the town of Nasca, and include straight lines, rectangles, triangles, swirls as well as images of a monkey, a hummingbird, a spider and more. Because of their size, the lines are virtually impossible to identify from the ground and can only be fully seen from far above – which is why they were only discovered in the 1930s, by pilots flying commercial planes over Peru. Why they were created remains unknown although it’s generally believed that they are at least 1,500 years old and were part of a giant astronomical calendar.
The ancient capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco is a charming city rich in history and legends. Once upon a time, this city was the most important in the Incan empire and all roads led to Cusco; in Quechua (the official language of the Quechua people), the name is pronounced Qosq’o and translates as “navel” or “belly button”. Today, it’s one of the Peru’s most visited cities and is a lovely place to wander around soaking of the atmosphere of this beautifully preserved city and sampling lots of delicious Peruvian food. Don’t forget that Cusco sits at an altitude of 3,400m so altitude sickness is a very real possibility; take it easy when you first arrive or, if you’re travelling with kids, start your journey in the Sacred Valley instead.