Just a few weeks ago, we still believed that visiting Machu Picchu with kids was going be a challenge that we weren’t willing to take. It seemed like a lot to ask of our kids, to go on a difficult hike for several hours….and likely in the rain.
In addition, it seemed like a rather awkward journey to come as overlanders into a village that is literally a no-car zone. Our vehicle is our home and our life, and to leave it outside of this excursion felt uncomfortable and bizarre. To leave it parked in the jungle for a few days while we trekked into Aguas Calientes (the village of Machu Picchu) seemed risky and unreasonable.
And to add another insult to our planning, we learned that it was also not possible to bring our dog into either the village or the ruins. Machu Picchu is part of the reserve that for good reason does not allow dogs to enter. The only way into Aguas Calientes is by train, a train that says our dog is too large for boarding.
We were frustrated and actually canceled our trip to Machu Picchu, deeming it an unreasonable adventure for our family. Needless to say, we heard outcries from every corner of the traveling community. How on earth could we go to Peru and Cusco…and not see Machu Picchu?!
So, we started talking and researching. Putting our heads together with other travelers. And then we learned about one tiny loophole that could make it all come together! We found out that not only was it possible to walk along the train tracks that lead into the village, but that it was also a fantastic way to save a little cash on this expensive journey to Machu Picchu.
It would be an easy hike, they said…but a long one. Make that twice as long with the kids. But, we could get in with our dog, Dante, at least into the village. So, we took on that challenge, and we survived the 3.5-hour hike into Aguas Calientes. We found a beautiful dog-friendly and kid-friendly ecolodge that welcomed us for our 3-day stay.
And today, we took our kids to Machu Picchu.! Dante stayed behind at the lodge, although he escaped while we were gone and spent the day gallivanting around Aguas Calientes. 🙂
There was only one route that seemed even mildly feasible with kids, and that was the route to the Ciudad, the main portion of the Inca City. If desired the route there can be hiked, along with the masses who leave at 5 am to try to be the first to reach the top. Or, there is a very easy, very simple way to go about it. Like we did, we simply got on a bus that took us all the way to the top. We left around 8:30 am and had about a 20-minute ride. When we got off, we only had to walk a few hundred yards before we got our first glimpses of Machu Picchu!
It really was that easy! Then, we spent several hours casually meandering through the ruins. There were a lot of people, even in the rainy season. It was a Saturday morning after all. But, there was no real rush or sense of urgency. We didn’t spend a lot of time sitting around like other people did. We were happy to just keep walking along, stopping for photos here and there.
Machu Picchu is larger than the other ruins we have seen in Peru. And even though it is relatively high, the altitude did not bother us in the least. We have been in the Cusco area for a few weeks and it seems that those of us (myself and our daughter) who struggle with altitude sickness has enough time to acclimate. It was no problem at all for us to walk around for several hours before we were ready to descend.
It is possible to get a round trip bus ticket and to return to Aguas Calientes in the same way that we left. But, for the sake of adventure and experience, we decided that we must do the downward hike. So, we took to the trail on the downhill and rather enjoyed the hour that it took us to return to the village. It was a beautiful trail surrounded by lush, jungle foliage and many peek-a-boo views of the surrounding Andes mountains.
The trail has many stairs, of an awkward size and depth making it difficult to hold a real pace. Especially with the kiddos in tow. Our little guy honestly did not walk much of it. At 3 years old, many of the steps were as high as his legs. And the slippery, wet conditions only added to his struggles. He spent the majority of the hike on top of Daddy’s shoulders.
Mabelle is 5 and her legs are impossibly long for my baby girl. But, she is getting bigger and her endurance is impressive. She started off strong and walked a good while in the beginning. But, she tuckered out too and probably walked less than half of it. Daddy carried her, as well and I nearly had to jog to keep up with his pace.
We made it back to the village by early afternoon, and have had a good day reflecting on Peru and this major travel accomplishment. Tonight, we have a good meal planned out for us with reservations from the lodge restaurant. And, tomorrow, we say goodbye to these beautiful lands and head back up to Cusco to plan the next stage of our trip.
It means a repeat of our 11 Kilometer hike that will take us out of Aguas Calientes. I think we will be tired and ready for several days of doing nothing at all!