When it comes to Peru travel, Machu Picchu tends to get all of the attention, and with good reason. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983, this ancient Incan citadel was added to the roster of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007 after a global internet poll. Now, how’s that for popularity?
Yet, just as there’s more to France than the Eiffel Tour, Machu Picchu’s just the beginning when it comes to what to do in Peru. Beyond this ancient monument’s polished, dry-stone walls and classical Inca-style architecture lies a whole world of Peruvian landscapes and culture to be explored.
From the colonial architecture of Lima and Cusco to the well-preserved ruins and rich history of Ollantaytambo, check out these awe-inspiring places to visit in Peru with kids.
1. Lima’s Plaza de Armas
During the colonial era, Lima functioned as the capital of the largest Spanish Viceroyalty in the region. This transformed Lima’s Plaza de Armas into a major trade hub and center of Catholicism. Today, the president of Peru still lives and works in the Government Palace at the Plaza.
Every day at noon, the Plaza comes alive with drums, trumpets, and cymbals during the changing of the guard outside the presidential palace. What’s the best way to enjoy the festivities with kids? Buy some ice cream cones and scope out a bench to watch the action. Besides the changing of the guard, you’ll marvel at the beauty of the magnificent buildings surrounding the square.
2. The Inca Ruins of Ollantaytambo
Just 60 miles north of Cusco sits the ancient fortress and temple of Ollantaytambo, one of the best-preserved Inca ruins in Peru. In former times, it served as the estate of the Emperor Pachacuti. It also marks the site of one of the only Inca victories against the Spanish in 1536. The ruins remain a popular tourist destination, boasting impressive views from the top of the terraces.
But don’t stop at the ruins alone. The current village of Ollantaytambo is a picturesque settlement built atop the foundations laid by the Inca, ancestors of today’s indigenous inhabitants. This means a firsthand look at Inca urban planning still in use. What’s more, you and your kids will delight at the vibrant folkloric costumes worn by locals who maintain the traditions of their ancestors including alpaca wool weaving.
3. Puerto Maldonado, the Gateway to the Peruvian Amazon
While Amazonia may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think Peru, it could be! You see, the Amazon rainforest spans nine different countries, and Peru boasts its own expansive swathes of this lush jungle terrain. Puerto Maldonado, known by locals as the gateway to the Amazon, is one of the best places to access this magical land.
It’s an easy trip from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. From there, enjoy a motorized canoe ride upriver into the heart of the Amazon as the marvels of nature unfurl before your eyes. For an optimal stay, spend a couple of nights at an eco-friendly rainforest lodge where you and your kids will have the chance to venture out on nature treks, learning about the jungle’s spectacular biodiversity.
4. Cusco’s Coricancha
Like Lima, Cusco boasts a colonial Plaza de Armas full of history, charm, and daily happenings. It’s a lovely place for an easy stroll as you and your family adjust to the extreme elevation of the city (11,152 feet above sea level). Once you adjust to life tens of thousands of feet above the rest of the world, don’t forget a visit to captivating Korikancha.
The Coricancha once served as the Inca Temple of the Sun, and its walls were lined with impressive gold sheets. During the annual Inti Raymi Sun Festival, this temple served as an important central location for sacrifices and ceremonies. After the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, the temple was ransacked and a church erected atop the ruins. Today, the contrast between the temple’s foundation and the historic church remains, an impressive visual representation of how Inca and Hispanic cultures fused over the centuries.
5. The Maras Salt Pools
Hidden deep within the Urubamba Valley, the Maras Salt Mines represent a remarkable jewel. A myriad of salt-encrusted terraces, they glitter in the sunlight, beautiful beyond imagination. In use since the time of the Incas, the evaporation pools sit precariously nestled against steep mountainsides.
A steady stream of mineral-rich water still feeds them, stalwartly defying the passage of time. Visitors are no longer permitted to access the crystallization pools due to concerns about salt purity. But you can still enjoy a tour of the area culminating in a panoramic view of the renowned salt mines.
Fascinating Places to Visit in Peru
From the elaborate architecture of Lima’s and Cusco’s colonial plazas to the archaeological marvels of Ollantaytambo and the astounding biodiversity of the Amazon, there’s something for everyone in Peru.
Ready to learn more about places to visit in Peru? Check out our ultimate family travel guide to Peru. Then, join us on an 11-Day Peru Family Adventure, an immersive, authentic way to experience the Land of the Incas with children.
At Our Whole Village, we craft transformational trips for curious families who want to create lasting memories while making a difference. We’re here to help you and your family experience the world, its people, and its cultures. Contact us today to learn more about the unforgettable experiences that we curate for curious families just like yours.