Definitely it´s very different to travel alone or accompanied by young people and/or adults than traveling with children,
When we travel with children in young age we must change our personal sim card; obviously if our purpose and what we are looking for, is for them to have a good time.
If we travel at our pace and “force” them to visit everything we want, it is more likely that the little ones won´t have a good time and they will end up exhausted and hysterical. As many of us know, a tired and cranky child can become uncontrollable!!!
A few weeks ago I made a trip to Cusco with my 3 and a half year old son. Although I have already traveled alone with him to the Chaparri Reserve and the Tambopata Forest, Cusco is very different destination and it means a greater challenge when traveling with kids, not only because the geographical altitude (which is another issue that must be prevented), but because this place offers many things to do and among all the range of possibilities, we must select the ones that could be appealing to the personality of our children and specially their age.
It´s very important to relate, in one way or another, the activities that we want to do, with something that could seem familiar to them. Undoubtedly, it is easier for them to get hooked and enjoy the activities if somehow they result familiar. Cusco is full of archaeological sites, but do not abuse in visit them. A child between ages 3 to 5 will not notice the difference between Ollantaytambo, Sacsayhuaman or even Machu Picchu. Visiting one of them with our children will be more than enough.
I spent a week in Cusco with my boy. Prior the trip, I analyzed what he might like and what he would not, what things suited him most and what did not. Here is a list of some of the activities we did together and liked the most. Do not forget that enjoyment is from both sides, let’s find a good balance.
The art in his hands – Ceramic Workshop “Legend in Process”
One of the things that Joaquín enjoyed the most in Cusco was, the craft workshop – Legend in Process by ART TRAIL COMMUNITY (Multidisciplinary project that creates unique urban experiences, based on the production of traditional and contemporary art and culture). This workshop was directed by the recognized artist master Julio Gutiérrez and the plastic artist Berenice Díaz founder of TOTEMIQ.
With Julio he first made some pieces of clay, then he varnished and painted a Torito de Pucará, the final finish was given by the master. With Berenice, Joaquín worked a totally different project compared to the previous one, and in which he laminated a colonial horse with gold and silver leafs and then he ended up the process painting the horse.
My boy was 4 hours “engaged” to the work he was performing.I was surprised of his capacity to keep the attention for so many hours, something not very common in a child of his age, a great evidence that he had a great time.
Paddling and Learning in the Piuray Lagoon
This incredible activity is done almost in a full day plan. It´s performed at the shores of the beautiful lake of Piuray, very close to Chinchero town.
The bussiness under the name of Piuray Outdoor Center offers an excellent experience for children. The activities they have created are wide and very appealing, the kids can share and spend time with the local habitants of the Pongobamaba community, they can do Stand Up Paddle and / or paddle a kayak accompanied and under close supervision of their parents. All of the above and more in this awesome lagoon.
However the visit doesn’t end up there, the children will also learn about the different variety of potatoes and other native crops that grow in Peru. They will have the possibility to see the ritual, elaboration and cooking process of the pachamanca (and of course they could taste it at their own choice), Also they will be able to feed guinea pigs and alpacas and finally they will paint stones with temperas if they want. A very complete and different day !!!
Train To Machu Picchu Departing
I confess that at first, I hesitated to take Joaquin to Machu Picchu. I didn´t know how I was going to deal with the irregular stairs and the big crowds that we found along our way today in the Inca fortress. It was my wife who convinced me to take Joaquin with me and she was right!!!
Anyway, the children experience (Joaquin in particular) begins earlier, when we boarded the train in Ollantaytambo (I recommend boarding in this station so the route is not too long). The face of my son when he saw a real train and riding it for the first time was indelible (Doesn´t the picture says it all? Hahaha)We ride the Vista dome of PeruRail, the panoramic windows gave the big plus to Joaquín experience because he could observe and enjoy the beautiful views. It was important to narrate to him what we were seeing along the route.
Obviously the second part of the experience was Machu Picchu, although at the beginning he didn´t pay much attention to it. His attention improved gradually, especially when I started to tell him, in a simple way, the story behind and the history of Machu Picchu when we were standing up right in front of the great fortress of Inca’s city. Then we talked about how the Incas lived, what they used to eat, what crops they harvested, what animals they raised and so on.
The fact that a kid named Pablito was one of the protagonists of the story were Hiram Bingham discover the Inca’s city caught his attention very much and he was fascinated. Beware, prepared and willing to lift up your children in arms or shoulders in some areas of many stairs or high steps.
I recommend to get in town a couple of hours before boarding the train, this way your little ones could explore, play and run through the narrow and beautiful streets of Ollantaytambo.
From a Salt Shacker to Maras Salt
Children same age of my son, recognized and already know very well how salt looks like and what it is. Showing them this huge and millennial white salt mine is a hallucinating experience for them! Possibly, the only salt image they have recorded until this moment, is salt inside a salt shaker or in a bag.
I started telling him about the salt journey to reach Maras and what is the role of the pools that conform the salt mine. Joaquín enjoyed Maras much more than I expected, he did not stop tasting the salt with his little finger (I had to stop him because he wanted to eat it all).He was amazed with this place!!!
The Multicolored San Pedro Market
Undoubtedly the farm markets dictate the pattern of the daily life in each city and San Pedro Market is not the exception. This market is an excellent place to show our children the different products and crops produced in this region. For Joaquin many of these products and crops were familiar because we consume them frequently at home; however there is a big difference seeing all these products in natural and bulk way with a wide variety of shapes, colors and tastes than when they are packed.
He was super interested in the vast majority of products I have showed him, but he was astonished when he saw and lift up in hands a giant Oropeza bread.
Before walking away this market to continue with your journey, do not miss to opportunity to have one of the fresh fruit juices of San Pedro. Joaquín and I had a strawberry one, prepared right there and in matter of seconds by Mrs. Alejandrina.
Beware and avoid passing through the area where the heads and visors of animals (bulls, pigs, cows, lambs, etc.) are shown for potential buyers and consumers. This fact could result very disturbing for our little travelers!
Maximum Adventure in The Moon Valley
Next to the road towards the archaeological ruins of Tambomachay passing through Quenko, we find the horses that can take us, in their backs in a very relax ride, to the Temple of the Moon.
As much as Machu Picchu plan along with the Train ride, I was sure that the horse ride was going to be an equivalent experience or even better than the Inca’s city itself. I wasn’t wrong, Joaquin really enjoyed the hour and a half of excellent ride.
In the Moon Temple what Joaquin enjoyed the most was, the cave which is located in the lower floor (the most important and the only one which has public access). I saw Joaquin as he was a little Indiana Jones exploring a great cavern full of treasures and mysteries.
Let’s Play in the Forest While the Wolf is Away
Many of the children stories and songs are related to the forest and it is unlikely for a city boy, under 5 years old, to have had the experience of playing in a real forest scenery And this is the reason why, I have decided to take Joaquín for a visit to the Eucalyptus Forest, which is located between the archaeological ruins of Quenko and Sacsayhuaman.
I narrated some interesting stories for him, we played hide and seek, we jumped and ran among the towering eucalyptus trees and I tried to keep his attention telling him how is the forest role in history and local stories!!! The time we spend there was incredible amazing and he had for sure a great time!
A Madness Called Fallen Angel
The parents who already have been at Fallen Angel restaurant-gallery or have heard about it , must for sure think that I am half crazy to recommend a place like this for children. Well, you don’t have any idea of how fascinating could be the psychedelic art for a children of Joaquin’s age. It was an amazing and interesting time in this Gallery – Bar – Restaurant of Cusco.
Glass tables with a bathtub bases which serve as fish tanks, then while you walk around the place you will find flying pigs, abstract pictures of animals with 4 eyes, women with 3 faces and many colorful figures that can make anyone hallucinate big time and even more for the imagination of a kid of Joaquin’s age.
Fallen Angel starts serving at 11 am. The best time I could recommend to visit it with children, is before 6 pm. After this time of the day, it operates as a bar which will make it harder to do the tour around all the creative spaces they have designed because all of them are usually reserved.
Joaquín and The Chocolate Factory
I did not have listed in my plans to visit a museum like this but a friend told and recommended me about it. The Choco Museo is located very close to Plaza Regocijo, just two blocks from the main square or commonly called Plaza de Armas.
Chocolate is very familiar to Joaquin, but he had no idea where it comes from nor less that it is a fruit that grows on trees. The tour is short, about 20 minutes and it ends up with an exhibition of chocolate sculptures and shapes of Machu Picchu, the Columbus Caravel and a couple of another distinctive monuments chocolate based off course.
They offer a short chocolate elaboration workshop, something particularly fascinating for children. Unfortunately, we couldn’t accomplished because lack of time basically, but this is an activity that many parents with children have suggested me to do while in Cusco.
Enjoying an Artisan Pizza
There is no child that doesn’t like pizzas, or at least the vast majority. Cusco is an excellent place for your children to try a different pizza, opposite to those consumed in the international pizzerias franchises.In the imperial city – Cusco, there are several pizzerias where you can enjoy the taste of a vast offer of handmade pizzas, using firewood and baked in clay ovens.
When I’m in Cusco, I always stop by Chez Maggy and I highly recommended for an artisanal pizza time. They have three locations now days, even though I prefer to go to the one at Calle Procuradores (farther from the main square – Plaza de Armas), in the same street are two locations but you can pick either one of them. Farther more, I think that the ambience is much better and you can see the preparation process of the pizzas from scratch. I am completely sure, you will enjoy it very much!
TIERRA VIVA EXPERIENCE
When I go to Cusco I usually stay at the TIERRA VIVA hotel Chain. In the city we picked the location situated at San Blas neighborhood, great location to take walks at evening time and explore this picturesque and unique neighborhood that is only few blocks from main square – Plaza de Armas.
We picked Yanahuara to stay in Tierra Viva hotel (nice hotel) at the Sacred Valley. It was the first time I stayed there and both us loved it. I particularly liked the activities they have created for children; such us , feeding with milk to baby alpacas, spending time in front of a campfire or bathing in the Jacuzzi SPA, just to mention a few of them.
FEAR IS OURS, NOT THEIRS
Many times our friends and family members give us suggestions based on their own experiences or others, or even worse based on what they have heard or what they think it could be like a trip with children in young age.
Many times we will hear arguments, such us, your children are too young to make this trip, they are too young to remember anything from it, they are exposed to a wide range of dangerous an inappropriate circumstances, etc. But the truth is that there is nothing compared to this experience, obviously you need to be cautious, responsible, loving and caring.
Don’t pay attention to those comments, if you have the opportunity to make a trip with your children, then do it. This is the best knowledge, life lessons and best legacy we can give to our little ones. Furthermore, the belief that children won’t have memories of the trip, is not true. All the experiences are recorded in the subconscious and it is scientifically estimated that more than 85% of our future decisions are taken based and ruled by our unconscious.
With this last premise, I ask you: Will be useful for our children to make trips at young age and live this adventures and new experiences?
Remember, fears are created by us and fears are only ours not theirs. Don’t transmit those fears to them!!!
Which of the plans do you think your son would enjoy the most?