Article by James Bridgeford II, an avid photographer and travel writer, originally from Kansas City, who has spent the last five years living in South America. He loves finding places off the beaten path and living among the locals. James wrote this article for Peru for Less, experts on developing custom family tours to Peru and elsewhere in South America.
If you are planning your next family vacation and want to visit an exciting destination with rich culture and an assortment of family oriented activities, Peru is the perfect place, a safe country with a wide variety of experiences for travelers of any age.
The best times to travel:
Peru is a year-round destination, however it is important to note that there are two primary seasons in the Andes Mountains: dry season (from May to November) and wet season (from December to April). If you are planning a family adventure that involves hiking to Machu Picchu, you should avoid hiking late December through mid-March.
The best places to visit:
Lima, The Magic Water Circuit (Parque de La Reserva)
Open Wednesdays thru Sundays from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Parque de La Reserva is an exciting spectacle that features gushing fountains perfectly choreographed with dynamic lighting displays and music. Stop by after sunset when you can really experience the park at its best. It will take you about an hour and a half to explore the park in its entirety and admission is only 4 soles (about $1.50).
Paracas & Islas Ballestas
The tranquil village of Paracas is about a three-hour drive down the coast from Lima. From the bay of Paracas, you have the option to embark on a half-day adventure of Islas Ballestas, home to an assortment of marine life and bird species, including everything from sea lion colonies to endangered penguins. The Islas Ballestas has been nicknamed the "Galapagos of Peru" due to the abundance of wildlife.
Ica and Nazca plus Huacachina
A three-hour drive from Paracas will take you to the city of Ica. It is from here that you can catch the hour and a half flight over the Nazca lines. The flight departing from Ica is longer than the one that departs directly from Nazca. Flying from Ica allows travelers more airtime and less road time, by avoiding the additional six-hour road trip from Ica to the city of Nazca. For a young adventurer, flying in a small plane over the Peruvian desert and seeing iconic images such as The Spider, The Monkey, and The Astronaut, which are only visible from the sky and have been etched in the land for more than 2,000 years, will definitely be a memorable life experience. I recommend flying in the morning as visibility tends to be clearer then.
For an afternoon activity, visit the nearby oasis of Huacachina, located 15 minutes outside of Ica. Here, you can take a dune buggy ride into the desert and also go sand boarding down some of the most impressive sand dunes in South America. Be sure to do the dune buggy adventure just before sunset, as watching the sun set from the top of the dunes is an absolutely amazing experience.
Amazon - Puerto Maldonado
If you want to introduce your child to one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, a trip to the Amazon Rainforest is a must. In the Amazon, you'll encounter an abundant variety of unique wildlife ranging from colorful birds like Parrots and Macaws to exotic animals like the pink Amazon River Dolphin. The pristine nature of the Peruvian Amazon in the Puerto Maldonado region offers visitors a glimpse into an extravagant world of extreme diversity in nature.
How to travel:
Whether you want to play it safe or be adventurous and get off the beaten path, it is in your family's best interest to book with a reputable tour operator. This will allow you to maximize your travel experience using expert advice to make sure you get to the right places at the right time, and most of all, minimize the risk of any complications.
Hotels recommended for families:
When traveling with more than one young child, finding a hotel with reasonable rates can sometimes be a challenge. One hotel that has a really good room policy is Novotel Hotel in Lima and Cusco. Some other good family oriented hotels include the Hilton Doubletree in Paracas, Las Dunas Hotel in Ica and Rainforest Expeditions in the Tambopata Reserve (Amazon), where they specialize in activities for children.