Family By Jonathan Hermann

Machu Picchu & Beyond

WHY PERU SHOULD BE ON YOUR FAMILY'S BUCKET LIST

Ancient, awestriking, gloriously framed by the peaks of the Andes and regularly bathed in the sun-struck, early morning mist - it's easy to see why Machu Picchu is a bucket-list staple. But this mystic mountain fortress is just one of Peru's many profound treasures.

From its serpentine coastline and snowcapped highlands to its misty rainforests and sandy deserts, Peru is packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences that are ideal for families. Add in friendly people, engaging culture, intriguing cuisine and Inca history - along with VIP benefits for booking SELECT Collection properties through our agency - and you have a destination the whole crew will love. Here are some ideas to get you in a Peruvian state of mind.

Paragliders at Miraflores in Lima

LIVING LARGE IN LIMA

Not so long ago, Peru's capital possessed little appeal to the average visitor; but in the past decade, Lima has transformed into a thriving metropolis, complete with a revived colonial center, colorful neighborhoods and a growing roster of world-famous restaurants. Any Peru adventure should give you one or two full days in Lima - plenty of time to explore the city's highlights. First on that list is the Malec?n de Miraflores, a cliffside boardwalk perfect for strolling, biking and, for the adventurous, paragliding.

For those who wish to explore with their feet firmly on the ground, you can make your own mini chocolate bar at The Choco Museo; perfect your selfie game in the wild sculpture garden at M.A.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art; meet llamas, alpacas and Peruvian hairless dogs during a tour of the Huaca Pucllana pyramid; and check out the artists at Parque Kennedy, a festive park filled with friendly cats.

CONDORS AND CANYONS

Colca Canyon will make your jaw drop. Located in southern Peru near the city of Arequipa, this geological wonder is a jagged fissure slicing through the Andes mountains, carving out a space twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. And while hikers come here in droves to trek through verdant valleys and relish incredible view after incredible view, your kids will love it for the birds.

Not just any birds, mind you; Colca Canyon is world-famous for its Andean condors. These massive birds - some of the largest on the planet with wingspans up to nine feet - soar near the canyon walls, gliding on thermal uplifts that swell from the canyon floors below. While there are several spots to spy these amazing creatures up close, the cliff-top lookout at Cruz del C?ndor just may provide the moments your kids remember best from the entire journey.

Colca Canyon
Sea lions on Islas Ballestas

THE AMAZING AMAZON

Often overlooked on the tourist trail, Peruvian Amazonia is arguably the country's most fascinating natural wonder. The sights and sounds ambush the senses, fostering a palpable excitement as scarlet macaws light up the sky, sacred pink river dolphins splash through fast-flowing waters, caimans prowl on the riverbanks and sloths and monkeys watch the action from overhead.

The best wildlife encounters are found deep within Amazonia, far from the footprints of humans, and require time and an adventurous spirit to explore. While river cruises can safely shuttle your family through this region in style, eco-lodges near Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado may offer a better experience to Amazonia first-timers. Fishing for piranhas? Climbing up into a jungle canopy? Waking up to a cacophony of wild animal calls? This is a kid's dream come true.

THE PERUVIAN GALAPAGOS

As far back as the 1940s, Paracas - some 150 miles south of Lima - was branded as the "Hamptons of Peru," a place where Lima's socialites gathered to escape the bustle of the capital. Nowadays, the beachfront city maintains its importance in Lime?o society, but also serves as the gateway to one of Peru's hidden gems.

We're talking about Islas Ballestas, affectionately known as the Peruvian Galapagos, just a 30-minute boat ride off the coast. This rocky island teems with Humboldt penguins, sea lions and blue-footed boobies. Once back on land, you and your family hit the coastal sand dunes, driving over them in a 4x4 or sliding down them on a sandboard. For a unique experience, board a small Cessna plane and fly deeper into the desert, where you'll glide over the mysterious and mind-boggling Nazca Lines, thought to be a pre-Inca astronomical calendar.

Machu Picchu at sunrise

THE ONE AND ONLY

Machu Picchu, like only a handful of other truly world-class sites - Venice comes to mind, as do the Iguaz? Falls - satisfies all expectations. From the stunning Temple of the Sun to the numberless agricultural terraces to the handsome dwellings of the noble elite, it's a mind-boggling wonder of human endeavor and a masterpiece of construction. When the clouds swirl around the peak of Huayna Picchu and then break to let the slanted morning light strike the Intihuatana, a.k.a. "the hitching-post of the sun," kids and parents alike will get all mystical.

Aim to arrive at the great temple complex early - the first bus up leaves Aguas Calientes at 5:30 am - to wander through the deserted site at sunrise and explore before the crowds arrive. Another alternative, albeit one better-suited for families with older children, is to climb Machu Picchu Mountain. While a more difficult climb than the more popular Huayna Picchu hike, the view from the top - staring down at the magnificent ruins below, surrounded by the tree-blanketed spires of the Andes - is one you will never, ever forget.

The following hotels provide ideal home bases for your family adventure. Plus, you'll enjoy the bonus amenities available through SELECT Hotels & Resorts.