Tips for visiting Latin America’s top cultural sites with kids
- Kids come first
Latin America embraces families and no country demonstrates this better than Brazil. When you travel with kids to the beach-loving, samba-swinging nation of Brazil, families have priority at airports, in supermarkets and, there’s no queuing for Sugar Loaf Mountain or Christ the Redeemer Statue in Rio.
- When to enjoy the Andes at their best with fewer tourists and pay less
- The easiest way to Cusco
Rediscovered by the explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911, the ‘lost city’ of Machu Picchu is one of South America’s most iconic attractions. The site is at its busiest during the high season months of July and August with visitors arriving by train or on foot. It’s not uncommon, particularly at this time of year, to queue for at least 1 hour to take the bus from Machu Picchu village (where the train arrives) to the archaeological site and back down again.
By travelling at Easter or during half-term, not only will you explore the ancient Inca citadel with fewer tourists but you’ll also enjoy the Andes at the start of the dry season when the mountains are verdant and lush. You also pay less for the international flights as you avoid the peak summer holidays. Families looking for the quickest journey to Machu Picchu will be pleased to learn that Avianca Airlines departs daily from Heathrow to Cusco (the gateway to Machu Picchu). The recently launched evening flight involves a quick change in the Colombian capital of Bogotá avoiding an overnight stay in Lima.
- Sleep in the village the night before to beat the crowds and the heat
- For added excitement don’t miss the light and sound show
Located two hours from Cancún in the middle of the Yucatán Peninsula, the vast complex of Chichén Itzá is arguably the most impressive Mayan sites in Central America. Popular with day trippers from the beach resort of Cancún and the Riviera Maya, we recommend travelling to the area the night before so you can be one of the first to enjoy the site with relatively few tourists. During the summer months from December to March, the sun is fierce, so another reason to arrive and explore the site early. To break up the two-hour journey, we suggest you stop at one of the various cenotes (underground sink holes) for a cool refreshing dip. Dzitnup is a favourite of mine.
Given that Chichén Itzá is a highlight for any budding explorer, a top tip is to enter the site for a special Light and Sound show the day before you visit. The evening event takes places daily and adds to the drama and excitement of your next day visit.
- Stay in Chichi the night before to beat the crowds and witness the preparations of one of Central America’s biggest spectacles.
Guatemala is famous for its colonial towns, volcanoes, Mayan temples as well as traditional indigenous markets. The country’s biggest and most famous is Chichicastenango market. Functioning Thursdays and Sundays, day trippers from the colonial town of Antigua and the lakeside town of Panajachel descend en mass to witness one of Central America’s most colourful and vibrant markets.
To make the most of this fascinating day, we recommend you stay the previous night in “Chichi”; not only you can be up early to explore the market stalls at a leisurely pace but also watch how this sleepy town transforms into bustling hub of activity, bursting with magnificent colours and exotic smells.