The Inca Trail with kids

What does responsible travel recommend?

Parents need to really do their research before doing the Inca Trail with kids. Fit, active teenagers can undertake the hike - it's a fantastic chance to spend time together as a family, give an unbeatable, real-life education into both the history and indigenous cultures of South America, and provide them with memories that will last a lifetime, as it provides a sense of achievement that few other attractions can match. Younger or less outdoorsy kids are better off taking the train though - while those below seven or eight are unlikely to appreciate what they are seeing, and are better off waiting a few more years until their curiosity is piqued and they are ready to understand the incredible story of the Incas.

Family activities along the Inca Trail

What to do with little ones

Peruvian Paso horses are an Andean breed, well equipped for the steep terrain and thin air. Riding expeditions are offered through the Sacred Valley, reaching ruins and view points which would be too far to access on foot. Although horses are not permitted on the classic Trail, you can ride parts of the other routes: an unusual way to travel the Inca Trail with kids. The less brave can enjoy one of the many local horse shows.
Scenery and ruins will only amuse young minds for so long - for children who prefer something a little more interactive, a visit to a local Quechua village will be a brilliant learning experience. They can meet the local llamas and alpacas, learn about the spinning, dyeing and weaving of the fine wool, and discover an entirely new way of life.

Rafting may not be the first thing to spring to mind when planning your Peruvian adventure, but the Urubamba river has grade II and III rapids, suitable for those aged 10 and up, and harder grade IV sections for those over 12. Experienced, qualified instructors are on hand to guide even absolute beginners through the thrilling whitewater.

Tips for families on the Inca Trail

responsible travel asks the experts

Tim Winkworth is a family travel specialist with the Family Adventure Company. He travels regularly with his three young sons. Here are his thoughts on trekking the Inca Trail with teenagers:
"There's something special about doing a trek with your parents. It's normally the sort of thing you'd go off and do with your mates. It's not just about climbing a mountain; it's probably one of the most mystical places on the planet, so you're trekking up and passing Inca ruins every step of the way. You're staying in some incredible campsites, there's one small campsite that's actually above the clouds and you're there with your mum and dad!
Younger ones still have the excitement of traveling by train to the mystical city of Machu Picchu. Seven and eight year olds start to study things like Egypt at school - so they're primed, they're ready and interested. And if you want them to see some of the indigenous culture, you can always do that in the Amazon, rather than the mountains."

Tom Brown and Elena Larkin, from our supplier Natural World Safaris, discuss alternatives to hiking the Inca Trail with kids:
"Peru is very family-orientated. Obviously, young children can't do the Inca Trail - they'll have to go up by train - but in the Sacred Valley there are horse shows, there are llama farms, and there are traditional communities which demonstrate things like dyeing alpaca wool, so there are other things for kids to do around Cuzco and Machu Picchu where they can still get a sense of the culture."
Photo credits: [Child: Tinou Bao] [Horse riding: Andean Trails] [Alpacas: Saddle skedaddle] [Rafting: Andean Trails] [Dyeing wool: Ken Bosma]
Written by Vicki Brown
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