A Multi-Generational Family Trip to Peru
By Brian E. Clark
The Chabris family of Cincinnati has international, intergeneration travel down pat. And then some.
In recent years, they’ve journeyed – mostly with the luxe outfitter Abercrombie and Kent (abercrombiekent.com) – to France, Italy, Mongolia, China, and Africa.
The most recent trip for the Chabris clan, consisting of a grandmother, son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren, was to Peru this past June where they visited Lima and Cusco. They also hiked the last leg of the Inca Trail to the ruins of Machu Picchu.
The latter was something of an achievement for grandmother Melody Sawyer Richardson, who is 78 years old. Her son lauded her and said, “She killed it.”
And her 15-year-old grandson, Crisper, described his grandmother as “pretty badass for hiking that day on the Inca Trail with us. Mimi takes us on the most amazing trips and I feel lucky to have seen so much of the world at such an early age.”
Peter Chabris said his mother “dreamed up the Peru trip, so she knew was she was getting into.”
Their section of the trail took them eight hours to complete, including a stop for lunch before they entered Machu Picchu through the Sun Gate (Intipunko) as the reddish orb was setting.
“It was magical,” explained Chabris, who said his wife and kids (their daughter is 18) also found the hike challenging. Chabris and his wife, Lynn, are 49 and 46, respectively.
“We had a total elevation gain of 2,500 feet and there was a lot of up and down. Our guide said the oldest person he’d done the trail with prior to my mom was 64. He was impressed because he’d led groups 160 times.”
Chabris described his family as “well-seasoned” wayfarers who love traveling with A&K.
“Their accommodations are great, food is excellent and they make the experiences special. They charge a premium, but it’s very enjoyable.”
He said the trip lasted 10 days. They arrived three days before the A&K adventure started in Lima. But first, they flew over the Nazca Lines, which are a collection of giant geoglyphs —designs or motifs etched into the ground — located in the Peruvian coastal plain about 250 miles south of Lima, Peru.
After that, they did a food tour in Lima. They then went on to Cuzco – once the capital of the Inca empire – and the Sacred Valley, which is about 30 miles from Cuzco.
“But the highlight of the trip for all of us was hiking the Inca Trail,” which he said was steep in parts, narrow, and with uneven stone stairs.
“It can take four days if you do all of it, but we did the last 8.5 miles, which was still great,” he said.
Chabris said he believes one of the most important things that parents should consider for a multi-generational trip is to “make sure the kids are engaged so they will enjoy being active participants.
“We’ve traveled with other intergenerational families where that wasn’t the case and it was a bummer for everyone. Likewise, you should include activities that the grandparents can appreciate with grandkids. That’s where the magic is.”
He also said families should make a conscious decision by the end of the trip to “show each other a bit of grace.
“Everybody gets a little weary for their own reasons and you need to be patient. If kids have been hanging out with adults for a week or two, that can be a bit of a grind for them.
“Similarly, grandparents are probably getting tired of traveling, and then parents are in the middle trying to juggle everyone else’s needs and keep them happy.”
Chabris said he would highly recommend visiting Peru, especially Machu Picchu because it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
There are also many other places for families of all ages to experience in Peru, said Angela Tuell, a spokeswoman for the Peruvian National Tourist Office.
“From eye-popping natural wonders to the remnants of ancient cultures and activities for all ages, Peru offers an unparalleled family vacation for all generations to enjoy,” she said.
She said the country consists of three distinct regions: a narrow, 1,500-mile-long strip of coastal desert; the Andean mountain area, which dominates 30 percent of the country; and the rainforest, which covers nearly 60 percent of the land.
“From the Pacific coast to the rugged high Andes to the biodiverse Amazon jungle, Peru offers something for grandparents to grandchildren,” she said.
Explore the Coastal Region
Tuell recommends starting or ending a trip with several days in Lima for an introduction to Peru’s rich culture and heritage.
She said the entire family can enjoy museums such as the Amano Pre-Columbian Textile Museum, Museo Larco, and the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History with their displays of fascinating artifacts and textiles crafted by civilizations starting in pre-Inca times.
Then visit the archaeological site of Huaca Pucllana, a clay-and-adobe pyramid with seven staggered levels built about 500 AD. It stands in sharp contrast to the Miraflores residences that grew up around this complex, whose existence first became known in 1981.
She said shoppers in the family may want to beeline for the neighborhoods of Barranco, Miraflores, and San Isidro to score some finds at under-the-radar boutiques and concept stores housed in wonderful old houses such as Dédalo, Puna, Indigo, and Morphology.
Surfers will find their perfect waves at beaches near Peru’s seaside capital. Below the Miraflores cliff, Waikiki Beach is the best beach for learners with a surf school that offers boards, lessons, and wetsuit rentals.
An hour south, there’s a string of great surfing beaches, including Pico Alto, known for some of the largest waves in the world (20 to 40 feet high). But it’s Chacama that’s most famous (370 miles north of Lima), worth visiting for the thrill of watching surfers ride almost two miles on the world’s longest waves.
For other coastal highs, she said outdoor lovers will relish the 828,000-acre Paracas National Reserve (200 miles south of Lima). This stunner features crowd-free sandy beaches beneath dramatic cliffs and uninhabited rocky islands loaded with birdlife and marine creatures, including endangered Humboldt penguins, Chilean flamingoes, sea lions, and otters, plus orcas.
She said visitors can join a boat tour around the Ballestas Islands for closeup views. They should also make time to visit the Paracas Museum, an archaeological gallery with outstanding textiles and relics from the Paracas civilization that thrived in this arid region almost 3,000 years ago.
A 90-minute drive from Paracas to the desert oasis of Huacachina promises the largest sand dunes in South America, some as high as 300 feet. They surround tiny Huacachina and its palm-fringed lagoon, 10 minutes outside the city of Ica.
The southern coastal region of Arequipa is another place for big adventures and outdoor wonder, as well as cultural treasures. Start in the colonial city of Arequipa whose grand 17th-century Baroque buildings were built of white volcanic stone. She recommends visiting the Monastery of Santa Catalina, a site popular with all ages.
This 16th-century convent only accepted the young daughters of wealthy local families to join its Dominican order of devout nuns. After induction, were never allowed to leave the red-washed walls of a massive complex full of chapels, living quarters, passageways, and courtyards.
If you’ve ever wanted to see an actual mummy, visit the Andean Sanctuary Museum, a block from the Plaza de Armas, where Juanita is the big show. Found frozen and well preserved atop Mount Ampato, the teenage girl was sacrificed to the Inca god and discovered 500 years later in 1995 by two climbers.
Arequipa is the jumping-off place for visiting Colca Canyon. The 62-mile-long chasm is one of the deepest places on Earth, 11,155 feet from the top of the highest peak to the bottom of the gorge — twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
And the Colca River that runs through the canyon is one of the sources of the Amazon. Choose your adventure here: rafting for all levels of experience from tame Class I to white-water Class V rapids; horseback riding; zip-lining over the canyon; soaking in natural hot springs; and watching Andean condors with their 10-foot wingspan soar majestically over the Colca Valley.
If you’re lucky, you’ll make other sights as the region is the best place in Peru to view grazing llamas, alpacas, and wild vicuñas. For a glimpse of Andean life, visit some of the small villages where for centuries locals have maintained their traditions, dressing traditionally, farming Inca terraces, and worshipping in small ornate churches.
Go for the Andean Highs
Peru’s most visited site, the iconic Machu Picchu has huge appeal for family vacations. Whether you take the train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo station or have hikers in your group keen to trek the Inca Trail, you’ll be close to the fast-running Urubamba River.
Allow four days for the Inca trail, but if that’s a physical stretch for your group or you don’t have enough days, you can experience some of the route by exiting the train at kilometer 104 and hiking to the Sun Gate entrance of Machupicchu. To make your family vacation even more memorable, spend the night in Ollantaytambo before boarding the final leg of the track to Machupicchu.
In the Sacred Valley between Cusco and Machu Picchu, there are dozens of hikes to other
Impressive archaeological sites from small Inca towns such as Ollantaytambo and Pisac; artisan markets and remote weaving villages that don’t receive many visitors; the pre-Columbian Maras Salt Mines terraced on a steep mountainside and still producing salt; and Moray’s concentric stone agricultural terraces, possibly used by the Incas to experiment with microclimate farming.
She said a biking tour is a great way to experience the Sacred Valley’s fertile farmland beneath impressive snow-topped peaks that exceed 20,000 feet, riding terrain from mostly flat to a combination of steep ascents and descents.
Witness Wonder in the Rainforest
No matter their ages, she said families should give high priority to visiting the Amazon region, which she describes as one of the most otherworldly places on the planet.
Imagine eight-foot-wide water lily pads, giant anteaters whose two-foot-long tongues make them easy to identify, glass frogs with translucent skin, seven-foot-long jaguars, lizards that can walk across the water on their hind legs, and tarantulas with pink toes. Naturalist guides that grew up in the Peruvian rainforest will point out surprising sights you’d never see or hear without their help.
Northern Peru is the only place you can swim with pink dolphins and cruise on the actual Amazon, as opposed to tributaries of this massive water system. To reach the northern Amazon, fly into Iquitos, the transit point for river cruises and wildlife tours.
In southeastern Peru, the Madre de Dios region of the Amazon (six to eight hours by road from Cusco followed by riverboat) is known for fabulous wildlife watching and 1,200 species of butterflies in Manu Biosphere Reserve and Tambopata National Reserve (two hours south of Puerto Maldonado by motorboat).
She said this is the best area to spot the elusive, top-of-the-food-chain jaguar and hundreds of colorful macaw parrots that congregate and peck at a 150-foot-high clay bank to satisfy their need for salt.
“With such a variety of sights and activities to choose from, a multigenerational vacation in Peru guarantees each family member will experience his or her own favorite moments, in addition to precious family bonding,” she said.
For more information on traveling in Peru, contact the official tourist information and assistance service at peru.travel/en/useful-data/iperu or (011) 51-944-492-314.