Peru is a fascinating mix of jungle, desert, rich agricultural valleys, and highlands packed into a small area. This family itinerary starts in Lima and explores the Amazon jungle, the Sacred Valley, and the highlands around Puno. Exploring Peru with kids is a rewarding mix of wildlife, outdoor adventure, and culture that is sure to delight families with kids of all ages.
This itinerary covers the best way to get around Peru, how to get to each location, what to see and eat while you are there, and what you’ll need to plan ahead to explore the major tourist sites in this beautiful peaceful country.
4 Weeks in Peru with Kids
Peru is a beautiful country in South America that is perfect for family travel. The people are friendly and welcoming, and there is so much to see and do in this relatively small country. From the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu to the vibrant markets of Lima, Peru has something for everyone. We’ve created a four-week itinerary for families that includes the best stops in this country that is packed with history and culture.
Lima- 7 Nights
Lima is a sprawling modern coastal city, that rises out of the desert. Throughout the city, you’ll find manicured green parks and tree-lined avenues. All of these are water twice a day, and many by hand, to keep the dry desert at bay.
Lima is a major metropolis where you can find anything you are looking for. We actually found the grocery store was overwhelming for us- there were two floors of food, including gourmet cheeses and imported brands.
Don’t miss the historic center of Lima- it has a very different feel from the other neighborhoods. You’ll find museums that look like palaces- watch for tall carved wooden balconies, and grand stone buildings. We loved watching the changing of the guard at the Presidential Palace, as well as touring the cathedrals decorated in intricate Spanish tiles.
The two most upscale neighborhoods where most tourists stay are Miraflores and Barranco. Both are on the waterfront and are connected by the Malecon, a long strip of park running along the cliff’s edge, with views of the ocean and surfers below.
Along the Malecon, you’ll find the upscale Larcomar mall, complete with H&M and Banana Republic, as well as playgrounds, a Chinese pagoda, and a place to watch paragliders practice with their chutes.
Don’t miss the colorful inventive fountains at Circuito Magico del Agua. This is a terrific place to beat the heat during the day or go at night to revel in the colors and see the main animated show.
They do a great job of mixing lighting, water, and video projections to create the presentation. There are four shows nightly starting at 6:50 pm. Admission is 4 sols per person, and free for kids under 5 (2022).
We also loved watching the Peru national soccer team play Paraguay on a big screen at the nearby open-air food court. The crowd was boisterous and full of team spirit, complete with chants and lots of air horns. Our kids loved hanging out watching the game, chatting with friends, and mostly, being in a space they could be as loud as they wanted and no one around them noticed.
Lima has a ton of international flights going in and out of its airport, it’s also the domestic hub, so you’ll probably find yourself in the Lima airport more than once!
The journey from the airport to Miraflores is approximately 45 minutes. You can hire a taxi as you exit the airport, we paid 70 sols for the journey.
Don’t Miss Hotel in Miraflores, Lima: Estelar Apartamentos Bellavista
This hotel has a wonderful location in Miraflores right near the Parque Kennedy. Our room had a sofa, chair, and coffee table, as well as a mini-fridge, microwave, and kitchen island with bar stools. With breakfast provided, we were also able to make some simple lunches in our room. It felt like halfway between a hotel and an apartment or larger suite. we would absolutely stay here again.
Puerto Maldonado: The Amazon Jungle- 3 Nights
From Lima, we flew to Puerto Maldonado to start a 4-day/3 night Amazon jungle excursion with Chuncho Lodge. This tour is based in the Tambopata Reserve on the Tambopata River and on Sandoval Lake. We spent two nights at the Chuncho Lodge on the river accessed via car and then boat. Our last night we spent in a different lodge on Sandoval Lake, so we had 1 1/2 days to canoe around the lake and see a different set of birds and animals.
The kids loved the walks through the jungle, seeing spiders, ants, parrots, monkeys, and tarantulas, as well as the animals we spotted from the river bank and the lake.
We choose this tour because we wanted to feel “deep” in the jungle, but also have a program that wasn’t too strenuous for kids and was also budget-friendly. We highly recommend this tour, it was great for adults and kids.
Alternate Location: Iquitos, Peru
Iquitos, Peru is an alternate location to explore the Peruvian Amazon. Iquitos is harder to get to than Puerto Maldonado- you must fly in or take a boat from Brazil. From this location, you are more likely to explore the area via cruise, than via land lodge.
Getting to Puerto Maldonado:
Fly from Lima to Puerto Maldonado via LATAM airline. Check-in at the Lima airport can be slow with long lines, and most flights officially board one hour before takeoff, so plan to arrive at the airport early.
The Lima airport can also be frustrating as most of the food options are outside of the security area, so we always end up rushing past to get through security and to our gate on time.
Note: We weren’t able to purchase LATAM flights from their website or app directly- they wouldn’t accept our credit cards despite messages saying that they accept foreign credit cards. We ended up buying them through BudgetAir instead.
Ollantaytambo – 5 Nights
Ollantaytambo is a small town, originally built by the Inca, at the convergence of three valleys. Centered around the Plaza de Armas square, most people transit through here on their way to Machu Picchu. The train station is an easy walk from the center of town and from there it’s an hour and a half ride to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.
Ollantaytambo is also known for its fortress ruins, which are extensive and worth exploring. There is a secondary set of ruins called Pinkuylluna which is a more strenuous hike. Most people visit for the quiet hike and the lovely views, rather than these ruins themselves. There is no entrance fee for Pinnkuylluna, unlike most of the sites in the Sacred Valley.
Many sites in the Sacred Valley require a Boleto Turistico to enter. Read Boleto Turistico: Your Ticket to Peru’s Sacred Valley.
We arranged to stay here for one week, to give us time to rest up from the jungle, explore the local area, and feel less rushed. We also choose our dates so that we would be taking the train to Aguas Calientes on a Sunday, to then visit Machu Picchu on a Monday, hoping to avoid the weekend crowds.
Coming from the jungle, the cool weather in Ollantaytambo will be a shock. Most hotels do not heat the rooms but rely on thick duvets and extra blankets. We found ourselves sleeping in long pajamas and socks as our bodies adjusted to the cooler temperatures. Carry rain jackets as thunderstorms can pop up unexpectedly.
Most families will not need a full week in Ollantaytambo, we recommend 5 days in this town if you are going to do various day trips from here. Many of these trips can also be arranged from Cusco if you prefer.
From Ollantaytambo, you can easily visit Moray, the salt pools of Maras, the town of Urubamba, as well as the ruins of Ollantaytambo.
Fly Puerto Maldonado to Lima, then transfer to a second flight to Cusco. Try to book your complete journey on LATAM so you don’t have to recheck your bags, or pay luggage fees twice.
Note: Transfers in the Lima Airport, even domestic, require you to exit through baggage claim and go back into the airport and back through security, so allow time for this.
We also found that most flights in Peru claim to board about an hour before the flight time, though few actually did.
We highly recommend leaving Cusco immediately for Ollantaytambo, as Cusco’s altitude is over 11,000 feet. It’s best to arrive high, then “sleep low” to acclimate to the altitude and avoid altitude sickness. Ollantaytambo, at just over 9,000 feet, is 2,000 feet lower than Cusco, and a great place to let your body adjust.
None of us felt any effects when we landed in Cusco, but we didn’t stick around to see if any would set in. We did feel slightly more winded than usual when exploring Moray a few days later, which is slightly higher than Cusco at 11,500 feet.
Getting to Ollantaytambo:
Cusco has a small airport, you’ll get your bags, and immediately exit to the outdoors. Our flight landed at 6 pm, we recommend pre-arranging a taxi to Ollantaytambo with Taxidatum. Their online form is easy to navigate and their prices are very reasonable (the private car was less than four bus tickets).
Taxidatum lets you book a taxi online, arranging for whatever stops you’d like along the way. They’ll give you a price in Soles and Dollars, so there’s no negotiating when your taxi arrives. The main parking area at the Cusco airport was closed when we arrived so we had to walk out to the main road to find our driver waiting for us.
Where to Stay in Ollantaytambo: Hotel Casa de Don David
This hotel is just down a cobblestone road from the main square. There are lovely interior gardens and a few places to sit and chat with other guests outside.
We had a wonderful family room with a large bed on the main floor, and two twin beds up in a loft. The kids always love then they get their own space.
Aguas Calientes- 2 Nights
Aguas Calientes is a small town that serves as the base for visiting Machu Picchu. Each morning, the buses run from town up the hill to the site of Machu Picchu and return in the afternoon and evening.
At first blush, this is not a pretty town, laid out with rail tracks running through it. As you explore higher you’ll find bridges crossing a rushing stream, and sculptures highlighting indigenous Quechua culture.
Don’t miss the hot springs at the top of the hill. At 20 pesos per person it’s a great way to relax before or after a hike. There is also a large market full of souvenirs and all sorts of soft temptations made of alpaca and baby alpaca wool.
We recommend arriving in town in the early afternoon. Get settled, have lunch, and explore this small town. The next morning, you’ll be up early to take the bus to Machu Picchu. After spending a few hours at the ruins, you’ll return for dinner, and to sleep at your hotel in Aguas Calientes.
In the morning you’ll take the train back to Ollantaytambo, then immediately board a bus to Cusco from the train station.
Getting There: Take the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. The train is expensive, but there is no other way to access Aguas Calientes. Several backpackers have tried to find a more economical way to get to this base town, but it involves several taxis and a long walk along railroad tracks. There are two train companies- Inca Rail and PeruRail.
Round trip train tickets should be booked well in advance.
Where to Stay: Hostel La Payacha
This hostel is right along the river, in fact, our train dropped us off right in front of it. The rooms are simple but clean, and you can watch the river rush by. The river is quite loud, it’s like a giant white noise machine. The staff is very friendly and breakfast is included.
Visiting Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This site has captivated visitors since Hiram Bingham discovered the abandoned city in 1915. Nested on top of a mountain, almost surrounded by a river, the site is very strategically placed.
You’ll need to book tickets to Machu Picchu for a specific date and entrance time well in advance. If you want to do any additional hikes at Machu Picchu such as Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain, you’ll also need to book those in advance.
Separately, you’ll also need to book tickets for the bus up to the entrance to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes.
Weekends tend to be more crowded and locals from Cusco can visit Machu Picchu for free on Sundays. So we stayed an extra day in Ollantaytambo to time our visit to Machu Picchu on a Monday.
Of course, you can also choose to hike into Machu Picchu- the standard hike on the Inca Trail is 4 days. Because you hike up over the mountain and down into the ruins, this is not recommended for children under ten years old.
A visit to Machu Picchu is accessible to most ages, there are steps involved, but it is generally safe, with rope barriers, and few steep drop-offs. Most visits last about 3 hours. If you hire a guide, they will make sure that you leave the site at about the three-hour mark.
Circuits through the ruins are one way only, with no backtracking, you’ll need to choose your route carefully. There are no bathrooms inside the ruins, so make sure to use them before you enter the site.
Getting There: Take the bus from the center of Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu. The buses run constantly in the morning. These tickets are for a specific day, but not a specific time. We arrived at the bus at about 7:10 and the line stretched up the block. Guides will use this time to talk to you and see if you want to hire them. The line moves pretty fast.
The bus ride does switchbacks up the mountain, with waterfalls and thick jungle on one side, and views of the mountains and river below on the other.
When you are ready to leave Machu Picchu, simply join the line for the next bus down the mountain. You can also choose to hike down the mountain, though the trail is quite steep.
Cusco – 5 Nights
The heart of the Sacred Valley, Cusco was the capital of the Inca Empire and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas.
You’ll find a mix of ruins, cathedrals, and narrow streets with a foundation of Inca Stones. You’ll also find signs of a more modern city including Patagonia and Starbucks sitting on the main Plaza de Armas.
From Cusco, you can visit many sites in the Sacred Valley, including the ruins and famous market of Pisac, Chinchero, and the ruins of Saqsaywaman.
Don’t miss the Museo de Arte Pre-Colombino which displays Pre-Columbian artifacts in rooms organized largely by material. The kids will love the last two rooms- silver and gold!
Cusco is easy to get to-you can easily fly into the city from Lima. However, due to the high altitude, it is recommended that you acclimatize in other cities in the Sacred Valley first, then return to Cusco.
Where to Stay in Cusco:
Don’t Miss Hotel: Hostal Corihuasi– Don’t be fooled by the term “hostal” this hotel had some of the nicest rooms we found in Peru. Modern bathrooms, big rooms around a courtyard, and in-room heating. It’s located just up the hill from the Plaza de Armas, so it’s easy to explore all that Cusco has to offer.
Puno- 4 Nights
Puno is a popular area for its access to Lake Titicaca. Spend a day visiting the floating reed islands of Uros in this large lake, as well as the larger islands of Taquile or Amantani. For older kids, you can arrange an overnight homestay on one of the larger islands to see how the islanders live.
There’s not a lot to do in the town of Puno itself- check out the main church, and wander the Centro while you adjust to the altitude (higher than Cusco).
There are two buses from Cusco- the overnight direct bus, and the tourist bus. We recommend the Inka Express tourist bus which leaves Cusco at 6:50 am and arrives in Puno at just after 5 pm.
The bus makes stops at several sites along the way including Andahuaylillas Church, Raqchi, La Raya, and Pukara. There are separate admission charges at each of these sites. A lunch stop at Sicuani is included.
Unfortunately, the day we took this bus a protest and bus strike delayed our bus until 2 pm. After we left Cusco we sat on the road for a few hours while the police slowly cleared barricades or tires and debris. We ended up only seeing one site before dark, and then arriving in Puna at 12:30 am.
Where to Stay in Puno: Colonial Plaza Hotel
In Puno, you’ll want to stay close to the main square. This hotel has a lovely central courtyard, a standard breakfast of eggs, fruit, cheese and meats, and yogurt, and is right on the main square. Our family room was large but basic.
Additional Stop: Arequipa
From Puno, you could continue southwest to the town of Arequipa, known for its swooping condors and the grand views of the Colca Canyon. Arequipa is known as the “White City” because many buildings are built of white stone. It has a beautiful historic center, surrounded by high volcanos, deep canyons, and hot springs.
Getting out of Peru
To leave Peru, you’ll most likely need to transit back through Lima. From Puno, you’ll need to take a car to the Juliaca Airport, just over an hour away. It’s easiest to have your hotel book a cab and tell you how much to pay.
We choose to spend a few days in a new neighborhood of Lima to see a different side of the city before our flight onward. From Lima, use Taxidatum for a painless ride to and from the airport. It’s great to arrive and immediately see someone holding a sign with your name on it, and know you’re still paying less than if you negotiated with a taxi!
Book an Airport Transfer: Taxidatum
When is the Best Time to Visit Peru with Kids?
We visited Peru in April and found lots of sunshine, very little rain, and a bit of a chill in the air depending on the altitude. The dry season is May through October, with the summer months of June and July being the peak of the tourist season.
The weather in Peru can be quite varied, depending on the altitude. In the lower elevations, it is typically quite hot and sunny, with very little rain. However, as you go higher in elevation, the temperatures can drop quite a bit and it can even be quite chilly in the evenings and early mornings.
For our April trip, we wore light sweaters in Lima (and then took them off in the warm sun). In the higher elevations of Cusco and Puno, we added lightweight winter coats and even gloves during the mornings and evenings. A lot of hotels outside of Lima do not have central heating- at best you will find electric heaters you can turn on. Plan to sleep in long pants and even socks.
Is it Safe to Visit Peru with Kids?
Yes, we found Peru to be a very safe place to visit with kids. In fact, we often saw a large police presence in city centers and main squares. There are some neighborhoods in Lima that you should avoid, but the main tourist track through the Sacred Valley is very safe.
One of the biggest dangers when visiting Peru is the high altitudes. When flying from Lima to other parts of the country which are significantly higher, you need to be aware of the symptoms and dangers of altitude sickness.
Altitude Sickness Symptoms in Kids
Plan your trip to Peru carefully to account for the altitudes of various cities. Mild symptoms of altitude sickness include shortness of breath and headaches. You will probably feel winded climbing stairs.
To minimize altitude sickness, go slowly the first few days, rest, and drink plenty of water. Symptoms of moderate altitude sickness can include nausea and dizziness. If symptoms get worse, you may need to be removed to a lower altitude to feel better.
Watch children carefully, as they may not be aware of their own symptoms, and can have trouble explaining how they are feeling.
Is there Uber in Peru?
Yes, there is Uber in Peru, though it doesn’t seem as heavily used as in other places. In Cusco, we attempted to call an Uber and found that having the hotel call a cab was much faster.
In many parts of Peru, the service Taxidatum was much more useful to us. You can create your own itinerary for the day, and they will give you a price for a car for the day. The driver will wait for you in between stops and then drive you to the next place.
This was a great “in-between” for us, allowing us to have a private car and visit several sites in one day, but not be beholden to the schedule of a larger tour group. With four of us, we found the Taxidatum (priced per car, not per person), to be more affordable than buying four tickets for a group tour.
Check Prices: Taxidatum Car Service
Travel Tips for Visiting Peru with Kids
During our time in Peru, we learned a few things to make your visit smoother. Here are our best travel tips for visiting Peru with kids.
Embrace the Flute
Throughout Peru, you’ll hear a lot of flute music! Usually, it is instrumental covers of popular music that range from Celine Dion to The Eagles.
WiFi is Weak
With the exception of Lima, where everything is world-class, Peru has pretty lousy internet. In almost every hotel, we’ve struggled to connect online. Even when WiFi is working, the connections is weak and unreliable. We’ve even seen this weak connection in sports bars, where sporting events suddenly stop, and you watch the connection spin.
A lot of places in Peru prefer cash over credit cards, and ATMs can be unreliable. You’ll often see lines stretching down the block outside banks and locals wait to do their banking. Stock up on cash when you find a working ATM and don’t assume smaller towns will have easy access.
Try Local Flavors
Some of our favorite flavors in Peru were Lucuma (a yellow fruit with a maple or butterscotch flavor), Algorobina (a syrup for ice cream or pancakes), Pisco Sours for the adults, and Chicha Morada (a drink made from purple corn and spices) for the kids.
Protests are Common
We saw many protests and even some lockdowns in our time in Peru. People were protesting rising prices on everything from fuel to food. This caused a complete lockdown in Lima a day or two after we left (no one was allowed to leave their homes), and a protest disrupted our travel to Puno.
Before and during these events, you’ll see a massive police presence in the main squares of tourist areas. In Cusco, there were approximately 20 police officers lined up on each side of the square.
There You Have It
This four-week family itinerary for traveling across Peru starts in Lima and explores the Amazon jungle, the Sacred Valley, and the highlands around Puno. You’ll find a mix of culture, history, and ancient ruins combined with towering mountains and dense jungles. We’ve covered what to do, where to stay, and where to eat when exploring Peru with kids