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Machu Picchu with kids is a rewarding, wonderful experience! Follow this guide to best prepare for your trip from Cusco to Machu Picchu, the exact Machu Picchu cost in 2020, and interesting Machu Picchu facts for kids! Your whole family will a day at these famous Incan ruins!
Taking your kids on a trip to Machu Picchu will be one of the highlights of your family vacation to Peru! The Incan ruins from Cusco are amazing, and a great learning opportunity and cultural experience for everyone.
In this article we’ll show you exactly how to get to Machu Picchu with kids. We’ll cover:
- Should kids hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
- Day trips to Machhu Picchu from Cusco
- Machu Picchu trip costs
- How to arrange your Machu Picchu trip
- What it’s like to take a day trip to Machu Picchu with kids
- Fun Machu Picchu facts for kids
Should kids hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu?
First of all, yes- children absolutely can hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu!
The hike isn’t very technical, and ultimately considered easy to moderate, with gentle inclines and rare instances of obstacles. The trail is closed for annual maintanence to keep it safe and walkable, which makes it great for kids.
Not only is the hike itself “doable”, it also passes incredible landscape and wildlife children would love! You’ll wind around rivers, pass llamas and alpacas, and the indigenous groups who farm them. Hiking the original Inca trail to Machu Picchu with kids would be a great opportunity to teach them about Incan culture and architecture, modern life in Peru, and about the local environment.
But should YOUR kids hike to Machu Picchu is another question. Here are some facts to consider before making arrangements:
- Do you have enough time? A hike to Machu Piccu typically takes 4 days, but could take 6-7 depending on the speed of your children.
- Are your children old enough? While there is no set age limit, it’s generally recommended not to hike the Inca trail with children younger than 6. Safety is of utmost concern, since it’s nearly impossible to turn back or bring in emergency care for distracted hikers.
- Do your children enjoy hiking? Let’s be honest here. It’s a lot of walking. In the wild. Will your children complain or enjoy it?
- Do your children enjoy camping? Sleeping on the trail is rudimentary, and does not include hot showers or charging stations. Do your kids enjoy this rudimentary lifestyle, or will they be grouchy all day from a lack of sleep?
- Has your child acclimated to the altitude change? You’ll need to add a few days before your hike to allow your kids to adjust to the altitude. Reportedly the most difficult part of the hike is doing it with less oxygen, which affects adults, too!
If your child enjoys hiking, can be responsible on the trail, is able to carry a small backpack with their personal essentials, and enjoys the outdoors then you would all probably love a family hike to Machu Picchu!
Take a day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco
We answered no to a lot of the above questions. Our 7-year-old does not like hiking and doesn’t sleep well in a tent, so we anticipated 4-6 days of whining and complaining. I wasn’t willing to shell out at least $500/ person for the opportunity to roll my eyes at my child every 5 minutes.
Luckily the other option to get to Machu Picchu is much easier- on a day trip from Cusco!
A day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco is the better option for people who don’t enjoy hiking or camping, may not be physically fit enough to overcome the alitiude or stress of walking, and for those with limited time. And don’t worry- you can still hike a smaller portion of the original Inca trail once you arrive at the Machu Picchu ruins!
A day trip to Machu Picchu isn’t as straight forward as other tours from Cusco. It involves a lot of different transportation, standing in lines and waiting, and an early morning and late night. Here is what our 16-hour day tour to Machu Picchu looked like:
- 2-hour bus ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo
- 90-minute train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes
- 30-minute bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu mountain peak
- 4 hours at Macchu Picchu
- Reverse bus, train, bus back to Cusco
Read about the best-reviewed day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco. See what it involves and how much it costs here.
Machu Picchu Trip Cost:
While the cost of hiking to Machu Picchu depends greatly on the amount of time you need and the company you book through, you can plan on spending at least $500-1,000 / person. This cost includes a porter, nightly camping, and entrance to the Machu Picchu park.
The cost of Machu Piccu day trips is much more straight forward! There is some flexibility based on the ease of hiring a tour service to plan the entire excursion or the luxury you experience along the way, but, in general, here is what you can expect to spend on a day trip to Machu Picchu:
- Taxi to Cusco bus station: $1.50
- 2-hour bus ride from Cusco to Ollantaytambo + 90-minute basic train ride from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes combo ticket: $70/ person
- 30-minute bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu mountain peak and back: $24
- Macchu Picchu entrance: $45 (children under 8 are free!)
- 90-minute luxury train (same car and seats, but includes performances and snacks) back to Cusco: $70/ person
- Local colectivo (comfortable bus but smaller than PeruRail’s) from Ollantaytambo to Cusco: $3/ person
The combined cost for our trip to Machu Picchu was $212/ adult and $167/ child.
You can make this trip cheaper by not upgrading to the luxury train on your way home and choosing a local bus to take you to Ollantaytambo, but the savings would be minimal.
Unfortunately there just isn’t a cheap way to get to Machu Picchu! Even though it’s more expensive than a day at Disney World, going to Machu Picchu is still an incredible experience you must do if you find yourself on a trip through Peru. It’s absolutely stunning! Read on for what we loved most about our day trip to Machu Picchu!
How to Arrange your Machu Picchu Tour with Kids:
While you can arrange everything in-person once you arrive in Cusco, it can take time and be a frustrating experience for non-Spanish speakers. You could opt to buy your Machu Picchu tour tickets in advance to make your travel day a little easier.
After carefully reviewing the reviews and inclusions of each Machu Picchu tour, here are the ones we most highly recommend (and used ourselves!) for your day trip from Cusco.
- Buy your Machu Picchu entrance tickets in advance here. Note, this is for the entrance ticket ONLY. You’ll still need to arrange transportation to and from Machu Picchu.
- Round-trip bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu ruins. These tickets are for the mountain bus ONLY.
- Round-trip train tickets from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes with PeruRail. These tickets are for the tain portion ONLY. You’ll need to book separate bus tickets to Ollantaytambo and to Machu Picchu. We rode with PeruRail and the experience was amazing! The train is really comfortable and the views are unbelievable.
- Arrange your entire travel day to Machu Picchu with this tour. This tour includes pick-up in Cusco, all transportation to and from Machu Picchu, entrance to the ruins, a 2.5-hour bilingual tour guide, and a Peruvian lunch. It’s more expensive than figuring everything out on your own, but the convenience is incredible.
- Book this top-rated Aguas Calientes hotel for families if you want to stay the night after an afternoon trip to Machu Picchu
If you’d prefer to purchase each leg separetely you can do so once in Cusco. Visit PeruRail’s office in Cusco for train and bus tickets, buy your Machu Picchu entrance tickets on their website, and get your bus tickets fro Aguas Calientes to Macchu Picchu in person once you arrive. It isn’t too difficult to arrange, but will take a long time and may be frustrating!
What it’s like to take a Machu Picchu Day Trip with Kids:
6:00 am: We took a taxi to the PeruRail bus station. We were encouraged to be there at 6:00, but the bus doesn’t leave until 6:30 so we’re hoping the few extra minutes at home isn’t a problem.
6:10 am: We arrive at the bus station. We’re at the back of a line of foreigners, but at least we’ll get on the bus!
6:20 am: We get on the bus, which I now notice was one of many waiting this morning. Those who were earlier in the line got on and left on busses before us. Our bus ride was included in our train passes by PeruRail, but it would have been cheaper to take a colectivo to Ollantaytambo.
8:23 am: Roll into Ollantaytambo, almost exactly meeting the 2 hour estimate. The small town is crawling with hikers and other Inka Trail tourists heading to Machu Piccu this morning. We have to leave the bus station and follow a PeruRail guide to the train station nearby.
9:27 am: After waiting in the PeruRail train station, our 8:45 trains rolls out of the Ollantaytambo station. We’re thrilled to have a very comfortable set of 4 chairs surrounding a table to ourselves. We chose the cheaper train option, E, for the ride to MP and the more expensive train car, Vistadome, on the way back, but we can’t imagine what the difference would be. This train is wonderful!
The train ride is so gorgeous. It follows a trail behind all the towns, so the view is of unimpeded river and mountains. Ben can’t stop recording the rushing river as it winds around mountains and Inkan ruins, convinced this is the most beautiful trail in the world and we’ll want to watch these moments for years to come.
10:58 am: I wake up from a quick nap to our arrival in Aguas Calientes. We walk through a maze of covered craft stalls before crossing a bridge into the actual town, where we’re greeted by promises of tourist lunches and umbrellas.
11:10 am: Whit and I stand at the end of a long line of people while Ben buys or final bus tickets, expecting it to be a line to take the bus the 40 minutes nearest the peak of the mountain. An official tourist guide tells us we’re in the 11:00 entrance line and need to stand in a farther line for the 12:00 entrance. How long is this going to take?!
11:55 am: Board our final bus up the packed-dirt switchbacks up the Machu Picchu mountain. This ride feels more like our ascents to zip line destinations than a mountain peak. The majority of the ride is covered on both sides with thick foliage which obscures the river and valley below.
12:20 pm: arrive at drop off area and have no problem scanning our entrance tickets from our phone – Yay! It takes around 10 minutes to walk to the ruins, where we take quick pictures on the left corner of the lookout point. It’s crowded, but the pictures are worth it! Even if we did get yelled at not to use our GoPro stick…
1:00 pm: We decide to bypass the ruins for now and begin a hike to sun gate since it closes at 3:00. The hike only takes 33 minutes, but we’re exhausted by the top! It’s a lot of stairs on a hot, humid day!
There are a handful of people at the Sun Gate already, perched atop the ruins and hanging out in the only open space. The guard tells us not to sit down on one portion. He must not be able to see the people sitting on the ruins.
Back at the main ruins we head to the sections we walked past before. The view from the far left is even better than the more popular view from the right / sun gate, and I can’t resist asking Whit to take a photo of Ben and I. What can I say? All the people around us are listening to their tour guides, and I already have a ton of pics of just Whit and Ben or Whit and I. I want one pic from this view with my hubby!
It was at his point Whit began to whine earnestly. I couldn’t really blame him- we’d spent 6 hours on 4 different vehicles to get here, waited around 90 minutes in 2 different lines, and hiked a fair distance in humid heat for him to see his 9th set of ruins in 2 weeks.
The ruins are nearly exactly as I imagined, but the setting is incredible. These tall, steep mountain are so beautiful set around the winding chocolate river below, and we’re even treated to a double rainbow after a brief must storm.
We’re never stopped to hire a tour guide as we expected to be, so we spend the next 2 hours wandering every inch of the upper and lower ruins on our own until I begin to agree with Whits whining that we should head back down. It’s been a really long day on very little sleep, after all.
4:15 pm: A row of busses are waiting at the top to bring tourists back down, so our fear of waiting in another long line and potentially missing our train home was in vain. We’re on the bus within minutes- in three different rows- and back at Aguas Calientes 20 minutes later.
We get back to Aguas Calientes in time to have a hot meal and make it to the nearby train station for our 6:15 train.
6:30 pm: Our train home takes off. It looks exactly like our train earlier, but with decorative covers on the table. Within minutes employees are placing cakes in front of each passenger and take drink orders. After the snack service we get a dance from someone in indigenous clothing and a fashion show of different pieces of alpaca clothing. I can’t help but be embarassed for them, but since it’s dark outside it’s nice to have something to watch!
8:07 pm: We’re off the train and within seconds a man has approached offering us a drive to Cusco. He quoted 15 soles/ person, which I urged Ben to accept since the bus cost us 10 soles/ person from Ollantaytambo before, and the extra 15 total would get us a private car where Whit could fall asleep and we could go straight to our door. He walks us to a colectivo, though, and excitedly told the operator we were three passengers for 15/ each. Um, NO! As embarrassing as it was, I’m,glad Ben refused to get on until they accepted the original price.
10: 15 pm: We’re finally back in Cusco, and have to carry an asleep child into a taxi back to our apartment. It’s been a long day and we are so tired, but it was worth it!
Fun Machu Picchu Facts for Kids
While visiting Machu Picchu is a dream of many adults, most kids probably couldn’t care less. In fact, they’ve probably already been dragged to plenty of other historic Incan ruins by well-meaning parents on their extended trip to Cusco, and might be sick of it.
These 10 Machu Picchu facts should help them find the trip more interesting, at least! Visit this page for even more fun Machu Picchu facts for kids!
- No one knows for sure what Machu Picchu was supposed to be! It may have been a summer retreat for the king, the capital of a regional society, or the trading center for different Incan towns.
- In July 2007 Machu Picchu was named one of the New 7 Wonders of the World (though it had been on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list since 1983)
- Machu Picchu is considered the “lost city of the Incas.” Built in the 1400’s, the Spanish never found it when they conquered the Incan Empire in the 1500’s. It wasn’t even discovered by modern-day archeologists until 1911!
- The Incas constructed their buildings with a dry mason technique- without mortar! They simply cut rocks to fit so perfectly that nothing could slip between them. These rocks were incredibly heavy- some weighed over 55 tons! and were pushed up the side of the mountain by hundreds of men.
- Incans are considered some of the strongest historical beings. Mail carriers, for instance, would run long distances to relay messages to far-away leaders. A message or gift could travel 240 km/ day on the relay system from Peru all the way to modern-day Colombia!
- Intelligence tests were administered to Incan children. Based on their results they were taught a trade, sent to school to become leaders, or were sent to live with nobility.
- Beware of ghosts! Legend tells that spirits rise from the ground to take people away at night. For this reason local porters will sleep with a mirror or shiny piece of metal beneath them!
- The Incans didn’t keep any written records. It’s estimated that up to 1,000 people lived at Machu Picchu, but no one knows for sure!
- Machu Piccu was abandoned after only 100 years of use. We don’t know the exact reason why, but it may have been due to an outbreak of smallpox or to better protect themselves against the Spanish invasion.
- The terraces along the sides of Machu Picchu weren’t used for farming, they were a protection against earthquakes! The terraces helped protect the main ruins from sliding down the side of the mountain.
Other fun things to do in Peru with kids:
- You’d be surprised at all the fun things to do in Lima with kids!
- Visit the Huacachina Peru Oasis, sand dunes great for sandboarding and dune buggies!
- See which are the top 6 Cusco ruins to visit and how to get there