Ranked as one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, I visited this awe-inspiring site as a 15 year old and dreamed of doing Machu Picchu with kids when I had a family. This summer we had the fortune of making the trip into the cloud forests of Peru. From taking the train from Cuzco, to the switchback turns of the bus up the mountain, we were able to explore this wondrous Inca citadel. Traveling with our 5 children, ages 2-11, we learned a bit on the way. Here are our tips on how to do Machu Picchu with kids.
Your first job is to get to Cuzco/Cusco. We flew into Lima, slept a night at the hotel at the airport, and then flew domestically to Cuzco. What an amazing city!!!! I will save Cuzco tips for another time :). After Cuzco, you will need to get from Cuzco into the cloud forest via train.
Train from Cuzco to Aguascalientes
PeruRail is the only train that runs from Cusco to Aguascalientes. There are different levels of luxury, but we loved the Vistadome (windows on the ceiling!). When buying your tickets, you can choose your time of departure for each direction. You will get assigned seats (very strict), and all passengers are allowed one bag, unless you ask for special permission beforehand firstname.lastname@example.org (which we did, since we were staying in Peru for 6 weeks).
Bus from Aguascalientes to Machu Picchu
Consettur is the only official company that runs buses from the base of the mountain in Aguascalientes up to Machu Picchu. You must buy the bus tickets in person, either at the offices in Cusco (Av. Infancia 433/ Wanchaq, or Av. Sol 380/ Interbank) or in Aguascalientes (Avenida Hermanos Ayar). When we got into the train station at Aguascalientes, we sent my husband walking (ask around, it’s a little kiosk under the bridge) to get our bus tickets. They generally don’t run out of bus tickets, and there isn’t an assigned time or seat. We slept in Aguascalientes that night and woke up very early to wait in line for the buses up to Machu Picchu. The first buses leave at 5:30am, and we ran to get in line at 4:30. If you see in the video, the line was soooooo long that early in the morning!
Entrance to Machu Picchu with Kids
You cannot buy tickets at the entrance to Machu Picchu, so it is necessary to purchase them beforehand. We found that we could not purchase children’s tickets on-line, and had to have a friend buy them in Cusco. If that is not an option, you can pay the adult price for the kids. They do restrict the number of visitors to Machu Picchu per day to 2500. At the point of buying the ticket you will have the option to climb the famous green mountain often in the background of Machu Picchu, called Huayna Picchu. This is not recommended for kids under 12 years old, and we definitely couldn’t do it with a 2 year old!
The options to purchase tickets are:
- buy them online from the official government site before you leave.
- ask your hotel in Cusco to buy them for you (for a small fee).
- go through a trusted travel agency (for a fee).
- buy them in person in Cusco at the Ministerio de Cultura (Mon-Sat, 7am-8pm), on the Calle Garcilaso, just before the Plaza Regocijo. Bring your passport!
- buy them in person in Aguascalientes at the Machu Picchu Cultural Centre (Mon-Sun, 5am-10pm) at Av. Pachacutec (just off the main square). Bring passport and cash.
2. Pack: Don’t Forget these Items!
- several layers for very chilly mornings and warm afternoons
- over-the-counter altitude sickness pills from Peru (Sorochi pills) or prescription (ex. Diamox) from home are the most popular. At 2340m it is not as high as Cuzco, but we didn’t want headaches all day so we all had coca tea at the hotel like the locals do!
- water: helps with altitude, plus you’ll be climbing a lot
- sunscreen for faces
- bug repellant or long pants/ long sleeves
- smaller waterproof bags for cameras and phones
Bring your passport!
You must bring your passport to Machu Picchu and present it at the gate with your ticket. Added bonus: once you are inside, there is a little station set up on the left after the main gate for a special passport stamp!
3. Explore! Your Day at Machu Picchu with Kids
Tag your suitcases with provided labels from your hotel, and they can meet you at the train station with all of your suitcases after your trip to Machu Picchu.
The first buses leave downtown Aguascalientes each morning at 5:30am, so of course we woke up before 4am to wait in line starting around 4:45am! The earliest buses for the 20 minute ride up the hill bring the first people in line to Machu Picchu when it opens at 6am.
My biggest Machu Picchu with kids tip: When you first get up the mountain, quickly go to the restrooms, which are ONLY located outside the ruins. We missed them and had to re-enter wasting a lot of time waiting in the entrance line twice.
There are many guides wandering around the entrance that you are able to hire. With varying levels of English, French, (even Japanese!), and of course Spanish, and also a huge variety of prices, it is useful and economic to ask several people for their prices. We hired a guide for 2-3 hours, and then explored the site on our own as well. I will say that some of the stories our guide told were more on the legend side and- while entertaining- they were not exactly accurate.
Here is our take on Machu Picchu with kids:
To learn more, I highly suggest you teach your kids about the history of Machu Picchu and Inca culture before you go. I created this Machu Picchu packet for teachers and parents to use with kids studying the Incas.