Peru: Machu Picchu, Arequipa, and the Sacred Valley
Back in 2012, when our son Ben was 20 months old (and Emma had not yet made her appearance in the world) we traveled to Peru for two weeks. It was Ben’s first international trip and our introductory visit to South America. It was a great experience: we visited Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and of course, Machu Picchu.
In November 2017, when we were roaring through Peru, we elected to bypass the places we’d visited previously, choosing instead to pop into Bolivia and spend an extra week in Santiago, Chile.
That said, Peru has some incredible towns and monuments; if you haven’t visited, they are well worth your time. I mean, it’s MACHU PICCHU, for god’s sake. 🙂
Here was our 2012 itinerary for two weeks in Peru. At the bottom there are additional city write-ups with pictures and hotel specifics.
Two Weeks in Peru with a Toddler
The white walls of Arequipa, the high deserts of the Altiplano, and the tropical mountains of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.
We took our son to Peru when he was 20 months old. Our parents (his grandparents) were not entirely enthusiastic about their only grandchild galavanting off to South America and we were worried about the long plane ride from Seattle to Areiquipa, Peru (with stopovers in Los Angeles, Miami, and Lima). We were also concerned about traveling with a toddler in a foreign country where we spoke only basic spanish.
In the end, we shouldn’t have worried. Peruvians as a whole are extremely generous, friendly people and they loved our child. Ben appears in hundreds of photographs taken by local residents who wanted their picture taken with the little American niño.
Like any vacation with a small child, there were stressful moments along with the good (temper tantrums on the plane and a stubborn cough) but that’s all part of travel and overall it was a wonderful trip. We’d love to go back.
We did this trip with a toddler but it would work for a family with children of all ages. We found Peru safe, easy to navigate, and entertaining for both parents and children alike.
Here is our itinerary.
Two Weeks in Peru with a Toddler
Arequipa – The White City. (2 Days) Famed for it’s light colored volcanic stone that form the building blocks of this city’s foundations, Arequipa is a city devoted to history. Tour the old cathedral, meet Juanita the sacrificial Incan mummy, and explore Santa Catalina Convent, where nuns once lived in their secluded mini-city.
Colca Canyon and the high deserts of the Altiplano – (2 Days) Prepare for some high mountain passes as you explore the vast Altiplano and try to spot the famous Andean Condor in the mile deep Colca Canyon. See flamingo, wild vicuña, and herds of alpaca and llama. Take the entire family down for a dip in the hotel’s natural hot springs.
Puno and the Floating Isles of Uros on Lake Titicaca – (2 Days) Drab Puno sits beside the dazzling Lake Titicaca, near the border with Bolivia. Explore a pre-Incan burial site and tour the interesting, but very touristy, Floating Islands of Uros.
Cusco – City among the clouds. (3 Days) Often seen as simply the jumping-off point for Machu Picchu, there is so much to this city that is overlooked. Spend the day exploring cathedrals and museums, or, if you need something a bit more invigorating, a trip to Incan ruins of Sacsayhuaman on the outskirts of town is not to be missed. (Note: We spent two days in Cusco; the third day was a 10-hr train ride from Puno to Cusco).
Machu Picchu – (2 Days) The reason most folks come to Peru. The famed Incan ruins are sprawling, spectacular, and crowded. Prepare yourselves.
The Sacred Valley – (3 Days) After the bedlam of Machu Picchu, spend a few days relaxing in the Sacred Valley before heading home. There are ruins to explore and towns to mosey.
See below for links to individual city posts.
If Blessed With Additional Time:
Lima– Known as an up-and-coming gastronomic paradise, Peru’s largest city is luring tourists with world class dining and upscale living. Stay in the posh Miraflores district and prepare to gorge yourself silly.
The Amazon Rainforest – It is in Peru, near Iquitos, that the mighty Amazon River begins her long journey to the Atlantic Ocean. Stay in a jungle lodge, track elusive forest animals, and catch a glimpse of village life deep within this vast wilderness.
A note about the Amazon: We consulted with our pediatrician before planning our trip to Peru and ultimately decided that we’d visit the jungle when our children are older. Dengue, a nasty mosquito-born illness, has a firm foothold in the Amazonian region and we weren’t sure that our toddler would tolerate daily baths in repellent. Or be able to keep it out of his eyes, mouth, and nose. Also, malaria medication is advised in this region and while several of the anti-viral drugs are approved for children, we were again hesitant to pursue this course of action. Hence the avoidance of the Amazon. But rest assured, we will be back!
If I’d had older children, I would have skipped Puno/Lake Titicaca and instead headed into the forest. The Amazon is..well…the Amazon, and simply not to be missed.
And if I’d had older children and an additional week, I would have included the Galapagos Islands into our itinerary. But three weeks of straight vacation isn’t feasible for our family so we’ll have to visit them on another trip in the (hopefully) not too distant future.
Let’s Begin: Part 1. Arequipa – The White City.
Part 1. Arequipa
Part 2. Colca Canyon
Part 4. Cusco
Part 5. Machu Picchu
Part 6. The Sacred Valley