100 years of adventure
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s discovery of the ruins of Machu Picchu. The American explorer and historian’s incredible finding now means that around 300,000 visitors each year are lucky enough to view and explore this historic Incan site.
Framed by Andean peaks and surrounded by lush green forest, Machu Picchu’s temples, streets, staircases and terraces stretch between the surrounding mountains.
What’s more, the extraordinary Inca Trail, often described as one of the top five treks in the world, allows thousands of lovers of adventure travel, the opportunity to walk to Machu Picchu in the footsteps of the Incan pilgrims.
Visiting Machu Picchu
With the intricate maze of white granite ruins and walkways to explore your kids will have a field day wandering through Machu Picchu, soaking in the history, peering into corners and enjoying this area of outstanding natural beauty.
If you book a tour then a guide should be included in the price and will ensure that you don’t miss some of the best attractions, such as the Temple of the Sun, the Royal Tomb and the Chamber of the Princess.
Nature-loving little ones will enjoy keeping their eyes peeled for llamas working their way up and down the stairways, darting lizards, tiny chinchillas and elegant Peruvian Orchids hiding amongst the rocks and trees.
Trekking the trail
One century ago, while exploring the area in search of lost cities and hidden treasures, Bingham battled the altitude, fast-flowing rivers and thick Peruvian jungle to take his first glimpse of Machu Picchu.
Luckily, for those travelling to the city by foot today the path isn’t nearly as treacherous, thanks to the 26-miles of Inca Trail walking route that wind through various religious sites on the way to Machu Picchu.
The four day trek passes through historic and mystical archaeological sites and beautiful scenery, meaning that this epic journey is guaranteed to be a memorable one.
The journey can be tough at times, and many tour companies have age restrictions for children. The trek is too tough for toddlers, but hearty teens and adventure-seekers over the age of twelve will no doubt relish the challenge.
Tips for trekking
· As the area is protected by the Peruvian state, Trail hikers must be accompanied by a guide and a maximum of 500 hikers are allowed on the track per day
· You will need a permit, which must have been booked no later than 90 days before departure, but if you book a tour then operators will ensure that these details are organised on your behalf
· Make sure you give your family time to acclimatise to the high altitude before setting off on the Inca Trail – altitude sickness can be exhausting and is likely to hold you back on the journey. Spending a few days in Cusco before the hike should allow your bodies time to acclimatise
Taking the train
If you don’t think your family could manage the trek, or your little ones are too young then you can take a fun daytrip by train. A winding journey from Ollytaytambo station, about 40 miles from Cusco, or Poroy station, just on the outskirts of the city, takes visitors through farmland and thrilling jungle to Aguas Calientes at the base of the mountain.
From there buses carry visitors up the mountain, zig-zagging along the ‘Hiram Bingham highway’, straight to the gates of Machu Picchu.
Tips for taking the train
· Train tickets to Machu Picchu are likely to sell out several days in advance. Make sure to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment
· Details and prices for trains can be found at perurail.com or incarail.com
General tips for family travel to Machu Picchu
· The site opens from 6am until 6pm but is much busier when the crowds from the train are between 11am and 3.30pm
· Monday is the busiest day, and Sunday is one of the quietest. June, July, August and September are the busiest months
· You can take small bags into the ruins but anything larger must be left at the luggage store near the entrance for a small charge
· Keep toddlers and little ones close at hand – they will love exploring but there are some sharp drops and rocky paths where a child could trip and take a tumble
· Inca Trail tours are best booked at least a couple of months in advance to ensure you get a place on the trek. Gap Adventures offers a range of packages for 12 years and up that incorporate acclimatisation time, visits to local markets and the nearby Sacred Valley, with a four-day Inca Trail. For more information visit the Inca Trail tour page or call 0844 272 0000