- See sunbathing sea lions on the shores of Isla Ballestas
- Go sandboarding along the shifting sand dunes of Huacachina
- Take a deep dive into Peruvian cuisine with a family cooking class
- Walk among the sacred ruins of the Inca empire at Machu Picchu
- Play archaeologists among the temples and plazas of Pisac
|Day 1||Arrive in Lima, Explore||Lima|
|Day 2||Guided City Tour & Larco Museum||Lima|
|Day 3||Bus to Paracas, Sun & Fun at Paracas Bay||Paracas|
|Day 4||Family Excursion to the Ballestas Islands||Paracas|
|Day 5||Transfer to Huacachina Oasis, Dune Buggy & Sandboarding||Huacachina|
|Day 6||Fly to Cusco, Free Afternoon||Cusco|
|Day 7||Guided Cusco City Tour, Family Cooking Class||Cusco|
|Day 8||Self-Guided Exploration of Cusco||Cusco|
|Day 9||Chinchero, Maras & Moray, Train to Ollantaytambo||Ollantaytambo|
|Day 10||Train to Aguas Calientes, Discover Machu Picchu||Aguas Calientes|
|Day 11||Machu Picchu Mountain Hike, Transfer to Pisac||Pisac|
|Day 12||Pisac Archaeological Site & Market Tour||Pisac|
|Day 13||Fly Back to Lima, Free Afternoon||Lima|
|Day 14||Depart Lima|
Day 1: Arrive in Lima, Explore
Welcome to Peru! Your flight lands in the capital city of Lima, a vibrant metropolis and one of Peru's largest cities. Your driver will collect you from the airport and transport you to your hotel, and after your family has a chance to regroup, you're free to get out and explore all that the city has to offer.
Start at the cliffside walking paths of El Malecón de Miraflores. This is a great place for the whole family to stretch their legs after the long journey, and there are bike rentals available, as well as guided bike tours. This is also home to the eclectic Parque del Amor (Love Park), which includes a huge statue of a couple kissing and beautiful mosaic walls, and Huaca Pucllana, a large clay pyramid built around 500 CE, with seven staggered levels. Make your way to the uppermost section for great views of the city!
If your family is looking for a break from the hustle and bustle, Parque Kennedy offers a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere while offering plenty of room for the kids to roam. You can stroll through the park and admire the beautiful flowers and trees or sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of the park's central fountain. This is also a great place to shop for souvenirs, as local vendors set up here daily to sell their handmade crafts. Browse the stalls and find the perfect memento to take home before you head back to your hotel.
Day 2: Guided Lima City Tour & Larco Museum
See more of Lima today with a family-friendly guided city tour. You'll meet with your guide and head to the historic downtown center and Plaza Mayor de Lima. See notable sights such as Paseo de la República, San Martín Square, the Government Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, the Cathedral Basilica, and the City Council Palace as your guide explains the history of each building and its importance in relation to the city's culture.
Continue to the Larcomar district, making your way to the Larco Museum, where your family will have the chance to explore more than 3,000 years of Peruvian history. See the large collection of ceramics in the Gallery of Ancient Cultures and colorful fabrics in the Textile Room, and learn about the ancient rituals of Peru in the Sacrificial Ceremony Room. Musically-inclined teens in the family will also enjoy seeing the ancient flutes, whistles, and drums, which were often used as an accompaniment during wars and battles. After the tour, grab dinner at a local restaurant and enjoy an evening stroll around the city.
Day 3: Bus to Paracas, Sun & Fun at Paracas Bay
Your next destination is the city of Paracas, the gateway to Paracas Reserve and the beginning of the vast Ica Desert. Check out of your hotel in the morning, and head to the bus station, where you'll board a private bus for the three-hour drive. Upon arrival, you'll check in at your hotel, then you're free to spend the day taking in this picturesque coastal town.
If the kids are clamoring for some beach time, you've got your pick of beautiful stretches of sand. Start at El Chaco, one of the main beach areas, with a boardwalk, vendors, and plenty of restaurants. You can also visit La Mina, a popular spot that sits in a small cove and has gorgeous blue waters, or Playa El Raspon, which is located right by La Mina but is usually less crowded. And for a real off-the-beaten-path experience, visit the stunning La Playa Roja, a red-sand beach that's easily one of the most photographed in Peru. There are no amenities here, so be sure to bring your own snacks and water.
For families who want something more active, you can rent bikes and venture into the nearby desert or cruise around town. There are also several places that offer equipment rentals, such as Jet Skis and paddleboards, or you can take a kitesurfing lesson or a paragliding tour! Later, head down to the pier to watch the boats go in and out of the bay, and enjoy a sunset dinner at one of the restaurants here.
Day 4: Family Excursion to the Ballestas Islands
Take a guided excursion to the Ballestas Islands, otherwise known as the "Little Galápagos" of Peru. A private transfer will collect you from your hotel after check-out, and you'll head to Paracas, where your luggage will be stored at the tour offices before you head to El Chaco Port and climb aboard the fully equipped luxury speedboat. Your guides will share information about the islands and history along the way, and you'll make a stop to see the Candelabro de Paracas, a nearly 600-foot (180 m) tall prehistoric geoglyph etched into the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula, only fully visible from the sea.
Your boat will cruise around the island's caves and rock formations, carved by the wind and sea, as you and your family watch lounging sea lions and seals sunning on the rocks, Humboldt penguins and Peruvian boobies going about their day, and a wide variety of seabirds such as gulls and terns. While landings on the island are not permitted, you'll definitely get close enough to take plenty of photos, and you might even get some curious seals swimming near the boat! Return to the pier for lunch afterward.
Day 5: Transfer to Huacachina Oasis, Dune Buggy & Sandboarding
This morning, check out of your Paracas hotel and take a private transfer to the desert oasis of Huacachina. Set amid the sand dunes, this charming village surrounds a gorgeous green lagoon, the waters of which are purported to have therapeutic properties. Along the way, you'll make a stop at a local vineyard to learn about the production of Peru's national spirit, pisco. This strong brandy is what makes up the popular pisco sour cocktail, and you'll tour the facility, learning how the fermentation and distillation process works, with samples for the adults at the end.
Upon your arrival at Huacachina, you'll start your desert excursion! Your guide will meet you, and you'll have the option of a 40-minute desert walk or buggy ride to your campsite. Here, you can tour around on the dune buggy, let the kids try their hand at sandboarding, or simply relax and watch the ever-shifting desert sands. Tonight, enjoy a barbecue as your hosts share the stories and legends of the region, and your family watches the beautiful colors of the desert sunset.
Day 6: Fly to Cusco, Free Afternoon
It's back to the city today as you make your way from the desert to the Lima airport via private transfer and catch a flight to Cusco. Once the capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is known for ancient architecture that showcases the history of the region, combining Inca ruins with Spanish-colonial buildings. After arrival and check-in at your hotel, the rest of your day is free. Cusco does sit at a high altitude, so if you or the kids don't feel sufficiently acclimatized yet, it might be a good idea to take it easy this afternoon.
If you do want to get out and see this walkable city, a self-guided tour is an easy and fun way for your family to explore. Start at the main square, Plaza de Armas, and the Cusco Cathedral, which was built with stone blocks brought from Sacsayhuamán, an ancient religious site, and features incredibly beautiful examples of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles. Nearby you'll also find the ruins of Qoricancha (Temple of the Sun), once an important Inca religious center.
From here, head to the neighborhood of San Blas, an old bohemian quarter known for its white walls, blue doors, and creative artisan community. Walk up the steep streets and stop to rest at the Plazoleta de San Blas, where you'll find the Coca Museum, the Hilario Mendivil Museum workshop, and the San Blas Temple. San Blas also has a wide assortment of restaurants and cafés, making it a great place for lunch or dinner.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Guided Cusco City Tour, Family Cooking Class
Today's tour takes you around the most historic sites of Cusco and deep into the heart of the Inca empire. Your guide will collect you in the morning, and you'll start at the magnificent Inca monument of Qoricancha. Here, you'll observe the stunning and intact architecture, with temples dedicated to the moon, rainbow, stars, lightning, and thunder. Next, head to Sacsayhuamán, featuring immense stones that are a testament to the incredible engineering skills of the Inca people. Although originally built as a religious site, the Spanish considered it a military fortress because of its location and the way it was built.
Visit the mystical Qenqo, built into a natural rock formation that represents the Andean constellations and the concept of the three worlds, and see Puka Pukara, which served as a shelter for travelers coming to Cusco from the Amazon. Make your final stop at Tambomachay, or the Temple of Water, where the Inca practiced religious traditions tied to water to rejuvenate the land. Your family will be able to see the intricate stonework and learn about the impressive water management system.
Day 8: Self-Guided Exploration of Cusco
Explore more of the city on your own today, taking advantage of the free time to either return to some of the sites your family especially enjoyed during your earlier tours or stroll the city streets and check out local shops and cafés. You can also take in some excellent views of Cusco and the surrounding countryside with walks to Santa Ana Viewpoint, which has a lovely plaza, or Cristo Blanco Viewpoint and its 32-foot (10 m) statue of Jesus that overlooks the city.
If yesterday's cooking class sparked the kids' interest in Peruvian food, consider a tour of the local markets and tasty street food. Your guide will collect you in the morning and take you to the popular San Pedro Market, where you'll find fresh produce and meats, food stalls, and souvenir stands. The kids can sample fresh-squeezed juices, locally made breads, fruits, and the more adventurous eaters might even like to try some sheep's head soup!
After strolling the market, you'll head out into the side streets where the action and true tastes of Cusco lie. Your guide will share information on the history of the dishes and ingredients as you try traditional foods such as choclo con queso (roast corn with cheese), anticucho (meat kebabs), or traditional Peruvian tamales. Finish with some delicious picarones (fried sweet potato doughnuts), a sweet treat the whole family will love!
Day 9: Chinchero, Maras & Moray, Train to Ollantaytambo
Journey into the heart of the Sacred Valley this morning. After an early breakfast, your guide will meet up with you, and you'll make the drive to your first stop, the Ollantaytambo Fortress. This ancient site sits in the northwest section of the valley and is known for being one of the last Inca bastions in the Andes. You'll have a chance to walk around these awe-inspiring ruins as your guide shares the history of how the fortress was built, and your guide will also have mountain bikes available for anyone who wants to use them.
Afterward, you'll visit two other Inca sites, Moray and Maras. Moray consists of three groups of circular terraces built on a natural depression and descending 490 feet (150 m), creating an incredible view against the backdrop of the towering Andes. It's believed that the ruins were once an agricultural research station where the Inca studied irrigation, altitude, and the effects of temperature on crops.
Continue to Maras, a salt extraction complex composed of hundreds of small ponds. Walk around the pure white pools and see the accumulated salt. Local people here still collect and sell salt, creating a variety of products made from this precious spice, even chocolate! Your tour ends in the weavers' village of Chinchero, where you and the kids can learn about weaving and wool-dying techniques. Later, you'll board the train to the village of Ollantaytambo, where you'll overnight.
Day 10: Train to Aguas Calientes, Discover Machu Picchu
After breakfast, your family will be transferred from your hotel to the train station, where you'll catch the train to Aguas Calientes, a small town nestled at the base of the historic Machu Picchu. The train ride is an experience in itself, as you and the kids are treated to stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Once you've arrived and checked in at your hotel, you'll start your exploration of one of the most well-known symbols of the Inca empire.
Take a bus to the site and meet your guide, who will provide a detailed history of the citadel and explain how the Inca people used the nearly 200 structures here. Visit the Royal Residence, the solar clock at the Intihuatana Pyramid, and the Grupo del Cóndor temples, where religious ceremonies were held. Let the older kids climb to the terraced agriculture areas and see the huts where farmers likely lived, and see the larger residential houses. Machu Picchu is also home to wildlife such as Andean foxes, deer, and pumas, nearly 400 species of birds, and the largest collection of wild orchids in the world.
After the tour, you'll head back to Aguas Calientes, where you can relax for the rest of the day or have dinner at one of the many restaurants and cafés. The kids might also enjoy a visit to the hot springs for which the town is named, which come from a natural spring of volcanic origin and are thought to have been used during the time of the Inca.
Day 11: Machu Picchu Mountain Hike, Transfer to Pisac
Take a guided family trek along the mountain of Machu Picchu, one of the most spectacular hikes in the region. After check-out from your lodgings in Aguas Calientes, you'll meet up with your guides. The trail takes you along gorgeous greenery and agricultural terraces, with awe-inspiring views of Machu Picchu and the Putucusi mountains, making a slow and steady ascent to the top. Families should keep in mind that while this isn't considered an overly challenging hike, the combined altitude and upward ascent require at least a moderate level of fitness.
Your driver will collect you after the hike, and you'll make the four-hour drive to the village of Pisac, which is known for its markets and proximity to Pisac Archaeological Park, home to ancient Inca temples, plazas and the Intihuatana, a stone structure that the Inca possibly used as a sundial. Your driver will deliver you to your hotel, where you'll have time to rest and regroup for the evening.
Day 12: Pisac Archaeological Site & Market Tour
Start the day with a guided tour of Pisac's bustling textile market, where you and your family can visit with the locals, try some traditional foods, and select from a wide assortment of colorful fabrics and unusual souvenirs. Afterward, you'll head up to the archaeological park, where you can explore the ancient Inca burial grounds, learn about their irrigation systems, see the astronomy center, and walk around the Intihuatana structure. As an added bonus, the views here stretch across Quitamayo Gorge and the surrounding valleys, making for stunning visuals and photo ops.
Day 13: Fly Back to Lima, Free Afternoon
Your driver will collect you in the morning and drive you to the Cusco airport, where you'll catch your flight back to Lima. Make the most of your last full day in Peru by seeing some of the sights you might have missed during the first part of your trip.
If you're looking to relax with some beach time, head to the popular beach at Ancón, located about 30 minutes outside of the city. This peaceful resort area offers lovely stretches of white sand, gentle waves, and restaurants nearby. Or, if you want to stay closer to town, head to the Miraflores district and enjoy the beaches there, which are part of what is known as the Circuit of Beaches of the Costa Verde. These beaches do get busy in the summer months, but they make for a fun and lively afternoon.Later this evening, your family won't want to miss a visit to Lima's Magic Water Circuit. The park has 13 different fountains that incorporate lights, music, and other interactive elements and is considered the largest water fountain park in the world. See the light and water shows, with shooting streams and colored lights that are all timed to "dance" with the music. The show also includes lasers that project various symbols pertaining to Peruvian culture, offering a virtual tour of Peru's history. End the night mingling with locals downtown, where you can grab a bite to eat at one of the many award-winning restaurants.
Day 14: Depart Lima
Your family adventure in Peru comes to a close today as you take a private transfer to the airport and catch a flight home or to your next destination. Safe travels!
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