Travel Stories: Machu Picchu with a Toddler

Many many thanks to Manuela Anamaria for sharing this awesome travel story with us. Machu Picchu (or as Bub likes to call it, “Nacho Picchu”) and hiking the Inca Trail are inexplicably on my bucket list, even though I’m afraid of heights and don’t like camping 🙂 Please join me in being inspired by Manuela and her quest for her daughter to be the world’s most travelled baby — are you ready to visit Machu Picchu with a toddler?!

machu picchu with a toddler, machu picchu with a baby

Manuela Anamaria and her family…

Machu Picchu for us was a long time dream, a dream we knew would have to wait with the impending arrival of our baby. I imagined it, I visualized it and I even researched it for years, yet when I became pregnant, I knew instantly that it would be even longer before I’d get to go. It was a long three years after the birth of our daughter when we finally felt that it was time to conquer this new world wonder.

Our main issue with waiting this trip out was the altitude sickness some people experience at high altitudes. It is not a precise science who experiences altitude sickness and who does not. We felt we needed to wait until she could express herself as Cusco, the main city where the airport is located, sits at an altitude of 3400 meters. Most of our research indicated that people have no issues breathing under 2500 meters but anything above that might pose a risk.

We love doing vacations on our own terms and piece everything together ourselves, so a ready-made tour was not an option. From hours of research, I found out that the best way to visit Machu Picchu with a toddler is to slowly acclimatize to the altitude. What most people do not know is that Cusco (where the plane lands) is at a much higher altitude than Machu Picchu. Most tour groups start in Cusco, which is why people become ill since they go from sea level to 3400m within hours. Acclimatization takes a few days, so the best thing to do, especially when travelling with a child, is to descend to a lower altitude and not remain in Cusco.

We took things extremely slowly and made sure our daughter was used to the altitude before we got to Machu Picchu by taking her to Bogota first (2640m above sea level), followed by Quito (2800m) above sea level. Machu Picchu itself sits at 2430m, as do many of the towns in the Sacred Valley.

For our first day in the area, we rented a private car from our hotel to pick us up in Cusco and drive us to a lower altitude in Ollantaytambo, about a two-hour drive away. Ollantaytambo is a small place with ruins of its own. Our quaint hotel was situated on a cliff facing the ancient ruins, and it allowed us to breathe a different pace of life. In places like this, it really feels as though time stands still. The native population still wears traditional woven clothing, and their genuine and beautiful smiles made me feel like I could lose myself in this world. Our three-year-old daughter was equally fascinated by the bright colours of the clothing and the gentle nature of the locals who always seemed to smile at her.

We saw a few llamas around, but our child was a bit afraid to approach them. The next day, we woke up early to catch the 5 A.M. train to Aguas Calientes, the city at the bottom of Machu Picchu and the starting point to the twenty minute bus ride up the mountain.  In order to reach Aguas Calientes, we must board the early morning train to try to avoid the later crowds. I must mention that train tickets and entrance tickets to Machu Picchu were all purchased online ahead of time, with a wide selection of trains and times to choose from. Keep in mind that the Peruvian government only allows a certain number of visitors per day, making it important to purchase tickets in advance. Kids under five years of age do not have to pay for an entrance ticket.

machu picchu with a toddler, machu picchu with a baby

The entrance to Machu Picchu ©Manuela Anamaria

The train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes is two hours long and it was still dark outside. We reached the station and left our bags at the hotel. From there, we lined up for the bus to reach the mountain and purchase tickets at an adjacent booth. The road up is extremely steep and I am amazed that the buses manage to go up and down the curbs. We chose to go in March, which is the end of the rainy season. In February the Inca Trail is closed due to weather (we did not want to attempt the Inca Trail with a child).

machu picchu with a toddler, machu picchu with a baby

©Manuela Anamaria

From where the bus stops to reaching the ancient ruins, it is about a ten minute easy walk. Our daughter never liked the stroller so we always use the Ergo child carrier to get around when she is tired, which basically means my husband ends up carrying her most of the time. This was the case for Machu Picchu as well; though she did walk parts of it, she saw most of it from her Ergo.

Machu Picchu turned out to be everything I expected it to be and so much more. It is amazing how an entire city was built in the middle of the mountains with extremely difficult conditions to reach it. In fact, this new world wonder was only discovered in 1911, though it was built around the 1400s. Even with the many pictures as I had seen and as much as I felt I knew what to expect, being there took my breath away. Though she didn’t understand much of it, our daughter seemed fascinated as well as she posed for the camera. The llamas around and the many tourists kept her interested in the scenery. We walked for hours and attempted to take in as much as possible. Only seeing Machu Picchu does it justice, no words can adequately describe it.

If children get tired, there is a restaurant and facilities right by the entrance gates. Bringing large backpacks is not allowed, however, we had a small backpack with a few things we needed for our daughter that did not seem to pose an issue. There are lockers by the entrance for larger belongings.

machu picchu with a toddler, machu picchu with a baby

©Manuela Anamaria

After having seen the wonder, we descended to Aguas Calientes and embarked on the train to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley. Here, there are numerous five star hotels to indulge in. We spent a few days in Urubamba (you must take the Ollantaytambo train and then a shared bus or private car to reach Urubamba), enjoying the outstanding traditional local food and spoiling ourselves at a gorgeous hotel surrounded by green valleys. Nothing is too much to ask for, and the locals are extremely friendly and kind.

We conquered Cusco on our last two days and chose to stay in the center of the city. Though it is 3400m above sea level and many people get altitude sickness here, we had no issues since by the time we reached it we were fully acclimatized. To survive high altitudes, it is very important to keep well hydrated and well rested. We made sure to bring electrolytes for our daughter should there be a need, and fortunately we didn’t need to use them. Coca tea is widely available, and is said to help with the altitude.

Visiting Machu Picchu with a toddler was an incredible experience and I believe that, with enough planning, children of all ages should be able to thrive. Conquering the world with a child has never been easier, as in the face of globalization, everything we need is widely available around the world. Our daughter turned four a few weeks ago, and we are fortunate to say we have never had an issue in any of the 24 countries she has travelled to around the world. People are kind and always helpful, especially when they see children. Follow your dreams, and take the kids along;  there is no lesson more valuable than travel.

Many thanks again to Manuela Anamaria, whose book, Global Citizen Unwrapped, will be published soon. Stop by her site Your Global Family in the meantime.

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46 Responses to Travel Stories: Machu Picchu with a Toddler

  1. Christine in PA at 06:55 #

    What a great family travel story! Thank you for sharing.

    • Corinne at 12:36 #

      Thanks for your comment, Christine! My goal by sharing these stories is to motivate and inspire others to strike out on their own adventures.

      • Kasia at 06:36 #

        I hope to see more of the stories from families traveling with kids in different parts of the world. We must inspire parents and show them that having kids or babies does not mean to sit at home all the time. And here I would like to share with you a story of our trip to Japan with our 5 months old daughter. We are actually still in Japan traveling around, and enjoying our parental leave 🙂
        Here I invite you to read the blog we have created:
        http://www.hannalovelog.tk

        • Karen Chamblee at 19:00 #

          Hi Kasia,
          just read your blog.. I want to travel to Peru with my 10 month old but he has not received all his vaccinations. mmr, varicella, hep A. He cannot get them until he is one year old. Do you think I should worry about it? I’m from Peru and we will be visiting family and some site seeing but mainly visiting….

      • Maribel at 11:28 #

        Hello…we are planning to go to machu Picchu in January …I heard so many things about the altitude and I’m a little scare. ..but really want to experience it …any tips ? Wanted to travel with my 3 kids 2 15 yr old and a 7yr old …but concerned for my 7yr old … Might just go with my husband …but I would of love for our kids to be there as well

        • Vivian at 00:37 #

          Do you carry a car seat for your toddler? Or rent one at car rental? Or simply carrying her on lap?

          • Corinne at 19:47 #

            Hi Vivian!

            If your child is a lap infant, you can either rent a car seat at your destination, or bring yours with you. If your baby does not have their own seat on the plane, you will have to gate check it.

      • Great blog! i have a question. are you allowed to use a toddler backpack carrier in machu picchu?

        • Corinne at 13:04 #

          Hi Kristyna!

          The author of this piece used a front carrier. I know it says that large backpacks are not allowed, so that might also include the large backpack carriers that have a big frame and canopy. A smaller-profile one might be ok. I guess it depends on the size of your toddler and/or if you want to risk not being able to use it!

  2. Katie at 13:31 #

    My husband visited Machu Picchu last year and loved it. I want to go!

    • Corinne at 12:35 #

      Me too!

    • Manuela at 08:57 #

      hope you make it, let me know if I can help with any of the planning 🙂

  3. Jody Robbins at 21:24 #

    So incredible and inspiring! I’ve never been and can’t imagine tackling it with a toddler, but it just goes to show you anything is possible.

    • Corinne at 12:34 #

      I know, right?! I want to go!

    • Manuela at 08:57 #

      hi Jody, in all honesty, it’s the adults who suffer more on vacation, as the little ones are easy at this age… it’s only as tough as we make it be, I hope you get to go on all your dream vacations, and thank you 🙂

  4. Raising Travelers at 10:23 #

    So inspiring! We’re starting a bit smaller and starting with big cities with our 3yo and 5 month old. But I can’t wait until only one needs to be carried and we can go on bigger adventures!

    • Manuela at 08:55 #

      adventures are fun, I hope you get to go on all the ones you are dreaming of… we’re thinking of Sri Lanka and India now… and she just turned 4 🙂

  5. Allison at 22:17 #

    What an amazing family trip! Definitely a bucket list adventure.

  6. Machu Picchu is definitely on my list. I’ve heard many stories of adults having problems up there with the altitude and if my husband and I had kids, then we would probably think twice about a trip up there with them. Beautiful story and hopefully very inspiring for other travelers with children.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Colleen Lanin at 13:32 #

    Isn’t Machu Picchu on everyone’s bucket list?!

  8. Adina M at 10:57 #

    I think this kind of trips will help the kid in time to broaden her horizons and be open-minded. Thumbs up for the parents and thak you for sharing!

    I really enjoyed it.

    Adina from FamilyVacation

    • Manuela at 08:54 #

      Thanks Adina, hope more parents get inspired to do these kinds of trips… 🙂

  9. James at 00:46 #

    Nice Post. I have to say that Machu poicchu is the best destination for toddler and also want to say that this trip will be giving a refreshment from their broaden.

  10. Jasmine at 19:50 #

    wow the trip looks amazing. It is so great to see families taking their children on this trip, i have never before seen family or photos of children doing this trek – i always had it in my mind that it was a super strenuous trek – will email this link to my sister whose only child has just turned one a few months back 🙂

    • Manuela at 08:53 #

      Hi Jasmine, I would be glad to help with any details when booking this trip, best of luck! 🙂

  11. Ely at 19:42 #

    Hi Manuela,
    You have inspired me to want to plan a trip with my 17 month old to Machu Picchu, my husband and I have been wanting to go for a long time, but once our son was born we felt it would be a long time before we could attempt this trip. With the little research I have done, its been overwhelming…do you mind telling me which hotel you stayed in Ollantaytambo, and through which website you purchased the train tickets to Aguas Calientes. Were the bus tickets you purchased to go up the mountain, purchased online as well?
    Thank You so much!

    • Manuela at 14:00 #

      Hi Ely,
      For precide details, you can check out my reviews on TripAdvisor profile here http://www.tripadvisor.ca/members/GlobalCitizenM . Tripadvisor is my travel bible so at the time we booked the hotels we chose were all highly recommended. We stayed at Hostal Iskay in Ollantaytambo and La Capilla Lodge as well as Tambo del Inka in Urubamba, all of which I can highly recommend. As we booked everything ourselves, we liaised with the hotels for transportation and they were able to offer us private chauffeurs. As for the train tickets they were purchased here http://www.perurail.com/ and the Machu Picchu entrance tickets here http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/ Let me know if I can be of more assistance, in the meantime please follow our family travel by liking our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/yourglobalfamily and visiting our website http://yourglobalfamily.com to read our world stories on travel with a child 🙂

  12. Such an adorable Family. I am hoping someday I could travel to Machu Picchu. Thanks for sharing your wondarful experience.

  13. Agatha at 15:42 #

    Great article very informative Thanks for sharing! Beautiful picture of your daughter at Machu Picchu I like how you said that people are friendly and helpful especially if they see you traveling with children there are so many countries/cultures that are so family friendly!

  14. teresa at 13:55 #

    Do you think a one year old could do the trip??

    • Corinne at 11:14 #

      Hi Theresa! A one-year-old would not be able to communicate or verbalize if they were feeling unwell due to altitude sickness. Personally, I would wait until then.

  15. Veronica at 13:55 #

    Hello Manuela,
    thank you so much for your story. I’m originally from Ecuador, and I have not been home in almost 18 years. My husband, is so excited to go visit my country but we are not sure if we should wait a little bit longer before we take our child to Ecuador. Our prince will be 14 months by the time we go there, any information you can offer me please?
    Thank you so much!!!

  16. Amar at 13:18 #

    Great write up. I was pretty exhausted when I did the trek. I wish they had adult carriers 😀

    Amar

  17. Michael at 10:54 #

    I love the way you travel with your family. Thank you for one more great story!

  18. Rashod at 00:37 #

    Me too a not fan of camping.But this place looks amazing.

  19. Pernille at 01:50 #

    Thank you for this inspiring story. We’re planning to visit the Machu Picchu next summer with our 4 kids ranging from 7 years old to 2 years old. We were wondering about the altitude, but think we’ll use your itinirary to acclimate everyone. So a big thank you! And yes indeed nothing better than to travel the world with your kids.

  20. Monica at 15:16 #

    Hello! My husband and I are planning to go to Peru in February (our little one will be 20 months). We would like to go to Lima, Cusco/Machu Picchu and perhaps Lake Titicaca. Would you suggest we start or end in Lima to help the little one with acclimatization? Any other tips? Its our biggest concern.
    Thank you!
    Monica

    • Corinne at 15:53 #

      Hi Monica–that sounds like an awesome trip! Lima is the lowest elevation of your destinations, so it might be a good idea to start there and work your way “up” to Lake Titicaca. Please make sure you discuss possible altitude sickness with your doctor before you go. Have a wonderful trip!

  21. Silvia at 10:28 #

    Hi Manuela, I plan to go to MP with my husband and our 4.5 and 3 year old boys in Nov 2016. Are there any green areas to rest? Thank you!

  22. Samantha at 19:41 #

    I found this article because I asked the question of google can you travel to Machu Picchu with children? Asked because we have 4 children aged 11 to 3 years old and I have always dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu. Will need to wait until our 3 year old isn’t so much of a runner! We’ve travelled with all of the children and moved internationally a few times. Started full-time travelling in April 2016 and going to work our way very slowly around the world for as long as possible. Unschooling as we go!

  23. Darryle at 22:40 #

    Hello, we are planning a trip to Peru next summer and are bringing our what will be 2.5 year old. I’m considering hiking Machu Picchu with her, as we don’t want to leave her behind, and want her to experience it. We actually want to the trails the hike there, based on your experience, what would your opinion be on doing that? Thanks!

    • Corinne at 08:56 #

      Hi Darryle–I actually didn’t write the post, but I think the full hike with a toddler is a little too ambitious. I might try to do one of the train/hike combos, with the caveat that you need to be prepared to train the whole way if things go pear-shaped. Also, please take care to acclimatize your child to the altitude before attempting anything strenuous. Good luck!

  24. Claudine at 20:14 #

    Hi! I wanted to know if you climbed the Wuayna Picchu mountain whith your 3 year old? We are traveling to Machu Picchu in may whit our 2.5 year old son and we are note sure about purchasing the site+mountain ticket.

    • Corinne at 19:07 #

      Hi Claudine! Unfortunately this is a guest post but I can reach out to the writer if you like?

  25. Bina at 08:12 #

    #richpeople

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