Traveling to Machu Picchu is a big enough task for adults- traveling with kids requires a whole other level of planning. Fortunately, many families travel to Machu Picchu with kids every year and make wonderful memories together, and we’ve gathered all of their advice to help you prepare for your journey! Below we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions we see about Machu Picchu travel with children, as well as listed travelers favorite kid-friendly tips.
How Hard is Machu Picchu for Kids?
Visiting the ruins at Machu Picchu itself is quite accessible for children of almost any age. Travel in this region is safe, and the ruins have been made to be accessible for just about any type of visitor. Beyond that, the age and athletic ability of your kids will simply be a factor when deciding on additional trekking and hikes (and of course, you’ll want to consider the impact they will have on your experience). Read below for the different aspects of Machu Picchu travel and ages that each are suitable for.
How to Prepare Kids for Machu Picchu
This most important part of preparing children for Machu Picchu will require thoughtful planning- from there it’s all downhill! This means making sure to pack accordingly, as well as prepare the children themselves.
In terms of packing, you’ll want to make sure that you prepare for a long day. Bring clothing and shoes that are comfortable and durable for the outdoor adventure, and all of the the items mentioned under “Additional Tips”. You know your kids and any additional things they need- Bring anything and everything you need to keep them comfortable so you can enjoy a long day at the ruins!
In terms of physically preparing, the biggest factor to consider will be the altitude. This can easily be dealt with by properly acclimating to the altitude before beginning a trek or arriving at Machu Picchu. We recommend at least a day or two spent in Cusco or other high altitude areas nearby so that children can adjust to the elevation comfortably (this is important for parents, too!). You can read even more about altitude acclimation (for adults and kids) right here.
Getting to Machu Picchu
The two most common ways to reach Machu Picchu are by train and trek.
The train is the easiest route, and great because kids can sleep or rest on the journey. If you’re coming with older family members as well, this is definitely the route you will want to take. It takes several hours, and there are different trains and classes so you can pick the one most comfortable for your family (but even the most basic are comfortable and come with some food and drink service). Read more here about the different train options.
Trekking is a very popular option, but requires a minimum of two full days of walking to reach the site. This is a great options for families with active teenagers, and is always a good bonding experience. We have spoken to some travelers who have trekked the classic Inca Trail with children as young as 10 years old, but it’s important to consider what your children are like and how much they will enjoy it and be able to do, only you can know what they’re up for. Keep in mind that there is no shortcut back once you’ve begun the trek.
There are a variety of treks available, the Inca Trail being the most popular. Make sure to research the level of any trek before booking so that you know your kids will be up for the challenge. You can read more about the various treks here.
After you have taken the train or trekked to the town of Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes), you will still need to get from the base of the mountain to the top where the ruins are on the day of visiting. Here, you will have the option of climbing the stairs up the mountainside or taking a bus. Very athletic teens and parents will be able to do the climb, but those with small children or less athletic family members will find it more comfortable to take the bus up.
At Machu Picchu
Once you’ve arrived, there are a variety of things to do that will be interesting and educational for every age. You can take a tour to learn about the ruins like most visitors do, as well as exploring on your own. Young children will love weaving through the maze of passageways, homes and stone walls, as well as climbing along the grass farming terraces. There are so many structures here that will be fascinating to see for adults, and endlessly fun for children to explore.
Beyond wandering through the many structures, you can also use several guided routes of exploring with young children. A fun thing to do with younger kids is to inspect the waterworks together. There is a series of stone fountains and channels that take water from the Caretaker’s hut at the top (you’ll see it on your map) all the way through the ruins and exiting by way of a small fall at the bottom of the hill. Young kids will love searching for and tracing its course, and adults will get the chance to see the incredibly advanced Inca architecture in action!
Once you’ve explored the ruins themselves, you will see that there are also many hikes on top of Machu Picchu, with a range of difficulty levels. All young children can explore the shorter trails that don’t involve climbs, such as the wraparound trail to the Inca Bridge.
Young teens can join their families on walks up to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu Mountain, which require a bit of incline but nothing too challenging.
Older teens can enjoy most of the same treks on top as adults will be climbing – Huayna Picchu is the most famous trek on top of Machu Picchu, and one you don’t want to miss if you have kids who are old and fit enough for it. The trek is steep but short, however it has a few vertigo-inducing points to keep in mind.
Again, the age at which kids are able to do any of these treks depends greatly on the interest and activity of your children. Kids who are able to do any of the treks to Machu Picchu will likely be interested in and comfortable doing everything that can be found atop Machu Picchu.
Tips for Machu Picchu With Kids
Come prepared! It’s a long day and you won’t be able to go back to your hotel in the middle of it, so make sure to pack a day bag of essentials. Don’t forget items to protect from the heat (hats, sunscreen), bugspray, plenty of water and snacks for hungry kids, jackets and rain coats in case of rain, and extra camera batteries to capture all of the wonderful memories!
If you have very active, young children that can be hard to keep an eye on, keep in mind that it gets very crowded. Some families choose to go closer to lunchtime to avoid the biggest crowds and tours of the morning, and if you know your child is one to dart out of your sight, consider dressing them in a bright shirt for the day so you can let them explore some of the maze areas without stressing.
Machu Picchu a great destination for parents and children to visit together, and once you arrive you’ll see why it’s such a wonderful experience for the entire family!
Have other tips or questions that we didn’t mention? Please, share them with us below in the comments!