Take the kids to deepest, darkest Peru, birthplace of the famed Paddington Bear, and they’ll leave knowing there’s more to this region than duffel coats and marmalade sandwiches.
Zip-lining through rainforests, climbing ancient Mayan pyramids and playing on pristine beaches: for the young at heart, there’s a lot to love about South America.
Often disregarded as too far or too exotic, more and more families are choosing to travel to Central and South America according to Matt McMillan, director and co-owner at Eclipse Travel.
He said the combination of increased air access, comparative safety and an abundance of ‘real’ adventure and educational culture makes South America a truly viable option for family holidays.
Air New Zealand flies to Buenos Aires three times a week from Auckland, Chile’s LAN Airlines flies once a week from Sydney to Santiago (via Auckland) and Qantas increased its direct flights between Sydney and Santiago from three to four in February this year. Flights to South America also take the same amount of time as flights to the US, around 17 hours, something often overlooked when it comes to thinking about the overseas family holiday.
With trips to Central America, flights will typically go via the US, which means families can add in a stop at Disneyland or Hawaii, on their way to discovering the rainforests of Costa Rica or exploring the Mayan ruins and beaches of Mexico.
Eclipse Travel offers a range of family-friendly trips to Central and South America from the 8-day Peru Family Adventure and the 13-day Mayan Empire trip to the 18-day Incas, Amazon and Galapagos Adventure.
Eclipse Travel currently has a ‘kids go free’ special with Australis expedition cruises to Patagonia in December. Three and four-night departures are available on round-trip and one-way voyages departing from and arriving into Punta Arenas and Ushuaia where children aged 17 and under can cruise for free with one adult. The deal is for a maximum of two children per booking and available until October 31st for travel in December. A three-night Wild Patagonia round-trip cruise from Punta Arenas starts from $1,604 (USD1,189) per person.
The Peru Family Adventure, popular with spectacled bear-seekers is priced from $2,680 per person and includes chocolate making, canoeing and hiking the Royal Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Additional activities include cycling along the River Urubamba to Pisac market, a visit to the old Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman above Cusco and Ccochahuasi animal sanctuary, where visitors can see first-hand the size of a Condor’s wingspan as it swoops, or maybe even a relative of Paddington Bear.
The 13-day Mayan Adventure is priced from $3,562 per person and travels from colonial Antigua in Guatemala to the pristine beaches of the Mexican Riviera. Families will be able to enjoy the allure of the Mayan ruins of Palenque, Chichen Itza and Tikal and savour the delights of colonial cities and busy markets. Along the way families can spend a night in the jungle, snorkel in cenotes, underwater sinkholes, or just enjoy the excellent beaches of Tulum.
Meanwhile the popular 18-day Incas, Amazon and Galapagos Adventure costs from $8,854 per person and combines the cultural highlights of Peru with the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rainforest. The trip begins in Lima before flying to the ancient Incan capital of Cusco where families can explore the city including the ruins of Sacsayhuamán and the Sacred Valley and witness the sun rise over magical Machu Picchu. The trip then continues to Quito with its many cultural sights before heading to an exceptional Amazon lodge and completing the trip with a small ship cruise taking in the spectacular wildlife and landscape of the Galapagos.
McMillan said: “Central and South America offer an abundance of culture and history, with vast temples, sacrificial sites and ancient ruins all waiting to be discovered by explorers young and old. The destination is also rich in natural beauty, offering stunning beaches, volcanoes and lakes, that would delight any family looking for their own outdoor adventure.”
McMillan said getting around wasn’t a problem with many families opting to take private trips with English speaking drivers and guides, or hiring a car and self-driving in areas like Patagonia, the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico) and Costa Rica.
In the Galapagos Islands, he said some cruise operators even focus on specific departures being family-friendly allowing kids to make their own friends along the way.
Child restrictions vary according to the specific trip and operator, according to McMillan with Galapagos Island cruising generally recommended for children above the age of five, and Antarctica expedition cruising recommended above the age of 10.
All prices as per person, land only and include accommodation, some meals, and some internal flights. For more information go towww.eclipsetravel.com.au/popular/family-holidays/ or call 1300 575 752.