Soaring mountains, incredible wildlife and beaches, the greatest natural and manmade wonders in the world, and spectacular cultural highlights from food to art—with so much to offer, it's easy to see why South America is at the top of many family travel wish lists. This treasure trove of fascinating countries has plenty of options that are easy to visit with kids, ranging from the wildlife of Ecuador to the foodie scene of Rio de Janeiro. Here are a few of our favorite trip ideas for every type of adventurous family.
Train to Machu Picchu in Peru
Who it's for: Families who want to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The ancient city of Machu Picchu high in the Peruvian Andes is high on many adult travelers' bucket lists, but it's an easily attainable adventure trip for families, too. A well-established train and bus route up into the lush green mountains makes it easy to ascend up to the Lost City of the Incas. The Inca Rail is especially great for kids—spring for the luxury option and you'll receive a full meal on the scenic glassed-ceiling ride! Once up top, you'll encounter spectacular views, the sacred Temple of the Sun, and a llama or two, too. Hiring a private guide will add dimension to the ruins and help kids picture the civilization that existed in this arcadia. Round out a trip to Peru with a stay by the beaches of Lima in the Miraflores neighborhood where colorful hang gliders fill the sky.
Ideal age range: Although it's easy to reach the entrance to Machu Picchu, once you arrive there's a lot of walking and climbing; because of this, the trip is best for kids who don't need a stroller and have some stamina, ages 6 and up.
Know before you go: Both Machu Picchu and the neighboring city of Cusco are at high altitudes (8,000 to 11,000 feet), so make sure to keep you and the kids hydrated and plan on slowly acclimating to the area. Note that you'll receive a visa (free) when you arrive in the country; yellow fever vaccinations are recommended, but not required.
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Explore Nature in Ecuador
Who it's for: Families who want to travel with experienced guides
Ecuador is a natural paradise filled with animal and plant species found nowhere else on Earth. Kids will be amazed by the gigantic tortoises, blue-footed boobies, and playful sea lions that fill the equatorial waters of the Galápagos, but to see all the wonders, you need to travel by ship with a group of other travelers. That's where Adventures by Disney comes in. We're big fans of their small group travel that caters especially to families, and on an Ecuador trip, they'll lead you to spots such as the Galápagos Tortoise Reserve and also to jungle canopy walks and nocturnal rainforest excursions in the Amazon; adventures your kids will remember forever.
Ideal age range: To truly experience all the wonders of the Galápagos and the Amazon, you'll need to immerse yourself in a watery cruise experience where kayaking, snorkeling, and expedition hikes are all part of the excitement; big kids, 8 and up, will enjoy these types of adventures the most.
Know before you go: No visas or inoculations are required to visit Ecuador, however, some vaccinations—like hepatitis A and typhoid—are recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Be Immersed in Argentina Lifestyle
Who it's for: Families who want to create their own organized itinerary
Traveling through Argentina is an adventure-filled experience that will deepen both your family's appreciation of natural beauty as well as introduce a unique new culture. From the Patagonian steppe, with its age-old gaucho customs, to the surging waters of Iguazu Falls, to the cultural hub of Buenos Aires where you can immerse yourself in the essence of the Argentine lifestyle through the taste, sounds, and rhythm of the city, there's something for everyone in the family. Naya Traveler creates tailored trips to the South American jewel so that your itinerary can be as wild—say hiking through the vast wild Patagonian landscape—or as mild—imagine picnicking in the verdant Lake District—depending on your family's interests and disposition.
Ideal age range: If you're sticking to the cities and the Falls, this trip is good for all ages; if you're traversing Patagonia, kids should be able to hike without getting easily tired, so think more 8 and up. You don't need to get a visa or any special vaccinations to visit Argentina, though some are recommended depending on where exactly you're traveling.
Know before you go: The weather in this Southern Hemisphere country is best for exploring in the sunny "spring" and "summer" months, September through March (in other words, don't go in the "winter," our summer, June through mid-September).
Relax on the Beaches of Uruguay
Who it's for: Families who want to soak in the surf and sand
Considered one of the safest spots for families in South America, the coastline here stretches for 410 miles with beautiful beaches everywhere you look along the water. In Montevideo, the kids will especially be excited to see La Mano, the massive hand sculpture that reaches up out of the sand at Playa Brava, a white sand beach that's fun to visit even after you've gotten the shot for the 'gram. Base yourself at the family-friendly Sheraton Colonia Resort which has a kids' club and massive pool and offers easy access to the beautiful beaches as well as all the cultural highlights of Uruguay.
Ideal age range: A beach vacation is easy for everyone, so this South American getaway is good for kids of all ages.
Know before you go: You don't need a visa or any vaccinations (though hepatitis A is recommended for most travelers) to visit Uruguay, but take note: The Southern Hemisphere's reversal of seasons means it's a balmy 80 degrees in December, making it a great holiday warm-weather getaway.
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Eat Your Way Through Brazil
Who it's for: Foodie families and adventurous eaters
Do you and the kids love to try new food and explore your surroundings by sampling the local cuisine? Then a trip to Brazil will tantalize your taste buds while introducing you to a fascinating new culture. Culinary tours based in Rio de Janeiro also lead you to sites such as Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain, while showcasing the hidden gems of the region. You'll find local wine or craft beer for grown-up palates, and savory pão de queijo, sweet brigadeiros, and bean-based feijoada stew for all of you. Have the experts at South America Travel help you create your foodie itinerary so you'll be able to experience all the delicious tastes without having to do any of the legwork.
Ideal age range: For foodie explorations, non-picky eaters ages 5 and up would be perfect for this trip.
Know before you go: You don't need a visa to visit Brazil, though some inoculations are recommended by the CDC. And, as with other South American countries, the weather is warmest in our "winter" months, but with this itinerary, you won't need perfect weather.