You should do Peru!

river rafting in Peru, South America

Interest in South America, and especially in Peru, continues to grow, and for good reason. From its shimmering coastline to its intense bio-diverse rainforest and in between, Peru has a staggering variety of topography; Lake Titicaca the “birthplace of the sun,” with its floating islands, the majestic Andes mountain range, the Nazca lines, sand dunes and, of course, its major tourist attraction, Machu Picchu. Here you will find a world of outdoor adventure primed for a memorable family vacation and punctuated with delicious trendy Peruvian cuisine.

Your return flight from Peru will have you wanting for more time to explore this beautiful and diverse country, especially if you, like many travelers, focus on experiencing the bucket list Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, as we did this past summer. However, active families can find plenty of adventure in the Sacred Valley en route beforehand, offering a nice balance between ruin viewing and adventure. For example, horseback riders will love saddling up and absorbing the spectacular scenery in the Sacred Valley of the Incas while spending the day riding and picnicking.

Also, the breathtaking views and Incan ruins can be enjoyed while river rafting on mostly class three rapids, a mild and perfect two hour excursion. Lunch along the bank was a highlight for my boys as the river guides joined them in playing a soccer game while the delicious meal was being prepared.

Although hard-core trekkers prefer the multi-day hike on the Incan Trail, families with children of all ages can enjoy the easier, faster, more gentle approach with a comfortable train journey to Machu Picchu lasting only 90 minutes.  During the return on the Vistadrome, we were pleasantly surprised when the attendants traded in their aprons for costumes, performing Peruvian dances, followed up by a fashion show.

The aura of seeing the 15th century Machu Picchu, for the first time is an unforgettable moment for anyone.  Our guide made the ruins come alive with his descriptive stories about the Incans. The next morning we climbed the mountain that towers over the ruins, Waynapicchu at 9100 ft., a one hour vertical hike on an ancient narrow trail that is not for the unfit. We were all pound of our accomplishment after reaching the summit, rewarded with a stunning view down on Machu Picchu.

Finally, while in Cusco, we asked our guide to take us to a local school. We stopped and bought candy for every student and teacher and connected with the children by practicing our broken Spanish in front of the classroom. The students sang to us from their desks and we returned with singing “You Are My Sunshine.” After my boys passed out the candy, the students ran around them with beaming smiles. Peru truly is our sunshine! 

Cynthia Bartlett