Peru is one of the most authentic and culturally rich countries in South America, a place where ancient tradition, archeological wonders and a serious food scene come together in one itinerary. But planning a trip requires a bit of know-how, and a lot of preparation. Here’s what to know before you go. - Monique
Altitude sickness is no joke, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason for those who become sick. Respect the rules, and you may get lucky: drink lots of water and coco tea, and lay off the Pisco Sours. But the best way by far to avoid the flu-like side effects is by slowly acclimating, start at a lower altitude and working your way up.
Coming and Going
When traveling with kids, start with some time in Lima. The Peruvian capital is an easy overnight flight from the US (Los Angelenos, you have a daytime, lucky ducks), and it sits at sea level, so altitude is a non-issue. Spend a day exploring the city, then head to Sacred Valley, accessible via a short flight to Cusco and 45 minutes in the car. The remainder of the trip can be customized based on how adventurous you are, the ages of your children, any particular interests and your time frame, but the general framework would be: Lima, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco. Possible add-ons include the biologically-rich Peruvian Amazon and the beautiful Lake Titicaca (best for kids ages seven and up), the other worldly Atacama desert in Chile, laid-back jet-set hot-spot Jose Ignacio in Uruguay (only a 4.5-hour flight from Lima), or bucket-list Galapagos in Ecuador.
Peru is not a trip you want to tackle on your own. Working with someone on the ground is the key to a memorable and stress-free experience. A recent trip we helped plan for Passporters ran into a cancelled flight that could have disrupted the entire itinerary, but thanks to our badass partner, they tackled the issue and had them back on track in hours. A local guide also provides an opportunity to take advantage of special access: staying in private casonas, spending time with local families, enjoying authentic home-cooked meals, and more.
No Sleeping In
Peru is not a relaxing vacation; go to the beach if you want to relax. This is a trip with lots of moving around and unpacking and packing again, so you (and the kids) have to be game. If you’re into mind-boggling ancient history, learning about centuries-old Andean traditions, and having an experience that is truly authentic, both culturally and spiritually, it’s a trip that you and the kids will never forget. But if you’re looking for a kids’ club and a nap by the pool, reconsider.
When to Go
High season is in June, July and August, when Machu Picchu will be dry and hot. December, January and February can be cold and rainy but are still popular times to travel so require ahead planning. Because of its high altitude, Cusco has cool weather and will require a jacket at night year-round. For couples who aren’t restricted by school schedules, the shoulder seasons of May and October are a great time to avoid the crowds.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
You'll need a bit of it all to get around Peru, but the main thing to know is that the primary airline is LATAM, which emerged from the combination of LAN and TAM airlines. Planes are new, seats are comfortable and the food is actually edible, unlike on most flights we've taken recently. If you can splurge on business class, seats lie flat and are perfect for logging hours of sleep on the way and back. I'd do it again in a second. (Note from Henley: Monique is six feet tall, so when she says something on an airplane is spacious, I listen!)