Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World, an Inca citadel located in the Peruvian Andes, a magical and mystical place formed by plazas, farming areas, royal buildings and narrow paths. This wonderful Sanctuary seduces many visitors from all over the globe, including families with kids. Thus, your vacation in Machu Picchu will be an extraordinary and captivating travel experience.
This bucket-list family vacation could be filled with many questions such as “do I need to plan my trip?”, “what season is better to go?”, “Are there many ways to go from Cusco to Machu Picchu?”, “can I do my Machu Picchu tour on my own?”, “do I need a guide?”, “where can I get the Machu Picchu tickets?”, “How can we deal with the altitude of the Andes?”, “do I need some medical requirements?”, “is it possible to go with kids?”, “is it safe to travel with them?”.
We know it is really important to take care of the details, so we will offer you some tips for planning your best vacation in Machu Picchu.
Understanding Andean altitude
First of all, you have to know about the high altitude in the Peruvian Andes and how to deal with it before you start your vacation in Machu Picchu.
Set at almost over 8,000 feet above sea level, altitude sickness can hit anyone badly. Its symptoms can include headache, stomachache, nausea and dizziness.
We recommend to spend a couple of days in Cusco or go directly to the Sacred Valley, especially if you are arriving from Lima. The Sacred Valley’s altitude is less than Cusco’s altitude, it can provide you with a better chance to acclimate to the Andean altitude, and you will feel strong enough to start your trip to this great archeologic destination.
There is a local and natural remedy for altitude sickness you can take before your Machu Picchu adventure, the famous Coca leaves. You have to place a small handful inside your cheeks and chew until they get mushy or just simply suck it, they are not digestible so spit them out after a while.
This energetic Andean remedy was used by the Incas since immemorial times. Its taste will probably be strong for some people, so you can also drink it as a tea. Thus, you won’t have any complications visiting Machu Picchu. But consider consulting with a doctor or a paediatrician about what kind of medicine you can take if you are not into natural medicine.
Keep in mind health is something really important, so make sure you also have good travel insurance coverage before starting your journey.
Best time to visit Machu Picchu
Cusco has two stations: The dry season, which starts in April and goes on into October, and the rainy season, from November to March.
The dry season, where there are no rains and the sky is completely blue, used to coincide with the high season of tourism, especially June which is the month of the Inti Raymi or Festival of Sun. So, it is the best time for your vacation in Machu Picchu. However, during the rainy season, there are fewer crowds and Machu Picchu has a beautiful greener landscape.
Book your Machu Picchu tickets in advance
Booking ahead is always a great idea. We highly recommend buying your entry and train tickets before starting your trip to find availability. Remember that pre-planning your vacation in Machu Picchu is essential, particularly during the high season.
Last year, the Peruvian Government established crowd control measures. This new system consists that every traveller must get a timed ticket and opt for a specific entry time (hourly from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.). The maximum time of permanence in the citadel is four hours.
You can get your Machu Picchu tickets directly through Machu Picchu’s official website, but, at the same time, you can also buy them or a travel package through a travel agency. They are not sold at the entrance. Remember dates and entry times cannot be changed, so if you miss your timed entrance, you will be forced to buy a new ticket.
There is also a strict new rule that you must follow, which consists that all the visitors have to hire an official guide for the Machu Picchu tour. You could hire one on the spot as well.
In addition to that, if you would like to show everybody that you have been in one of the seven wonders of the world, do not forget to get your passport impressed with the Machu Picchu stamp. It will be terrific! You can get it in a small office close to the entrance.
How to get to Machu Picchu from Cusco
There are several ways to go from the vibrant city of Cusco to Machu Picchu.
If you like treks and outdoor activities, this will be the best way to get to Machu Picchu. This trail is a 4-day hiking trail, an intense hike through a mountainous area.
This route is the easiest way of getting Machu Picchu. It combines travel by bus and train. You have to take a car from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (in the Sacred Valley of the Incas). Then, take a train (Peru Rail or Vistadome train) from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (known as Machu Picchu town, the last stop before Machu Picchu).
Aguas Calientes offers a wide variety of bars, restaurants and accommodations.
By bus + walk
This is the longest but cheapest trip route, going by car from Cusco to the Hydroelectric station. When you have arrived there, you can take a train or walk to Aguas Calientes, any way you will witness the privileged mountain views. Many visitors spend a night in Aguas Calientes before starting their visit to the Inca citadel, in order to relax and prepare very well all the details. And the next day, get an early start to the citadel.
For all the routes, once you have arrived in Aguas Calientes, you can catch a bus up to the top of the ruins, it will take around 30 minutes. You can buy your bus ticket in the same town of Aguas Calientes and do not need to buy it in advance, but remember pre-booking it during the high season.
Another alternative, if you like to hike, is walking up by stone stairs. It will take around 1 hour depending on your physical condition.
At the entrance door, you will get a map of Machu Picchu specifying all the routes you can take. We consider that the best time to arrive in Machu Picchu is before the sun comes up. You will contemplate the Inca citadel in all its splendour.
Is it possible and safe to travel to Machu Picchu with kids?
Visiting Machu Picchu could be an interesting and rewarding experience for everybody, including kids. Even when some parents prefer to “hold-over” until their kids are older, the reality is that your trip with them will end up being an incredible, enjoyable and educational travel experience for all the family members.
There is an area inside Machu Picchu called “The citadel ruins”, this kid-friendly area is the favourite for them, they can climb the stones and have fun in the natural playground.
At the same time, wildlife in Machu Picchu is interesting for kids, many birds, vizcachas and friendly llamas are everywhere. They will love it!
Some more useful tips for your vacation in Machu Picchu
- If you come from a far destination, we do recommend staring your trip with a flight into Lima and stay there for a couple of days before continuing toward the Inca citadel. It will allow you to handle with the jet lag and take a chance to rest, more if you are travelling with kids.
- Check with your doctor what kind of medications you can bring for altitude sickness or food poisoning.
- Machu Picchu is also part of the Amazon, so it is completely necessary to bring some insect repellant.
- Even when special vaccines are not mandatory, consider a rabies shot for your kids.
- You will make an intense physical effort, so do not forget to stay well hydrated with bottled water and get plenty of rest.
- The sun is much stronger at the altitude, the pretty strong rays can hurt the skin badly, so bring a sunscreen is a must-have.
- The weather in Cusco can change quickly, bring a sweater or a jacket just in case.
- Nights at the Andes use to be really cold. So, make sure you pack proper cloth to keep yourself and your family warm at night.
- During the rainy season, it is recommended to carry a waterproof clothing and non-slip shoes.
- Long trips could be boring for young kids, so try to find the best spots for them on the bus or train. They will love to see the beauty of the Peruvian Andes and its unusual magic.
- Food is not allowed in the Ancient City, so try to eat a good meal before you take your bus trip to Machu Picchu.
- There are not hygienic services inside the Inca citadel. You will find some toilets just at the entrance.
- We always recommend to bring some cash with you, but at the same time, you can find many ATMs easily in Cusco and Aguas Calientes.
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