Taking the Family to Cusco’s Machu Picchu Museum

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum pin

Cusco is known as the gateway to Machu Picchu. Therefore, it is no surprise that it has an excellent museum containing the world’s largest collection of Machu Picchu artifacts. The Machu Picchu Museum at Casa Concha features a diorama of the ruins, videos, and Incan artifacts found during the restoration and building of Casa Concha. It is the perfect place for anyone who loves history and archeology.

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum scale

What You Will See

The location of the Casa Concha house was initially the residence of the royal lineage of Tupac Inka Yupanqui. The house was built on top of these foundations in the seventeenth century as the palace of Admiral Francisco Aldrete Maldonado.

Throughout the twentieth century, the house served as an army barracks and a police station. The government finally donated the house to the San Antonia Abad University. The National Institute of Culture lead the restoration efforts on the home. As an example of these efforts, those traveling through the central patio will first see the glass-covered excavation pit that reveals the buried Inca floor.

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum outside

Artifacts

Visitors will see over 300 artifacts and fragments excavated when Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in the early 1900s as well as pictures of the site from that period. Back in 1912, American explorer Hiram Bigham brought a team to excavate Machu Picchu, taking over 4,000 artifacts back to Yale University.

However, the Peruvian government recently campaigned for the return of these items, claiming them as stolen from Peru. After several years, the US government returned the artifacts in 2011. Today, the museum houses the largest collection of Inca objects in the world.

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum pottery

All of these artifacts are in excellent condition, which is astonishing. Most are complete and in their original form. Also, there are even more fragments from the excavations, but they are not on display so that national and international researchers can study them. However, this does mean the museum may display more artifacts in the future!

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum fresco

Other Exhibits

Besides the artifacts, there are videos to watch and a real “Inka house” to see. Guests can explore an exhibit room filled with bones found in the excavation, including several skulls and a full human body!

Curious travelers can also look at the “Inka” mummies and observe skulls showcasing evidence of advanced brain surgery for the time. Metallurgy and Metalwork were important to the Incans, and there is also a room that features the different metal tools found.

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum bones

Visitors can view the large scale model of Machu Picchu. This model also comes with an informative video from Yale University’s Professor Richard L. Burger. One can explore the ruins virtually in an interactive exhibit. There’s also the Ongoing Investigations Room.

This exhibit shows how modern archeology techniques continue to reveal more about the lives of ancient Machu Picchu residents. Today, archeologists identify Machu Picchu as a retreat for Incan royalty, occupied between the years 1450 and 1540 and boasting plentiful food and no hard labor.

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum screen

The top floor features a souvenir shop where visitors can see some buyable “artifacts” made in front of them.

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum person

Location, Hours, and Admission

The Machu Picchu Museum is located at 320 Santa Catalina Ancha.The museum is open Monday through Saturday from nine am to five pm and closed on Sundays.

Taking the Family to Cusco's Machu Picchu Museum display

General admission is 20 soles. However, there are exclusive discounts for Peruvians and Peruvian students, as well as international students.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The museum isn’t super hands-on, but there are a lot of interesting exhibits and videos to see and some touch screen videos
  • The museum itself has plenty of space for people to walk around and check out the exhibits.
  • Parents should expect to spend about two hours exploring all parts of the museum.
  • The museum is an entirely indoor location with air conditioning.
  • There are benches for visitors to sit down and take a break. Also, the slow paced videos give visitors extra time to absorb the information.

 

Family Fun at Cusco’s ChocoMuseo

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo pin

Most of us associated fine chocolates with Belgium and Switzerland. But as we found out on our last trip to South America, Peru has become a serious contender in the world of chocolates with cacao beans that are turned into artisanal delicacies.

Located just two blocks from the central Plaza de Armas in Cusco, the ChocoMuseo is a must visit for any family or chocolate lover. Part museum, part cafe, it is worth a trip.

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo tree

What You Will See

The ChocoMuseo is a chain operating in several Central and South American countries.
In the upstairs area, guests can view an interactive exhibit that details the history of cacao and chocolate. Perhaps most interesting is the history of chocolate in the Mayan and Aztec Empires (it was so valuable it was used as currency) and how they called it the “food of the gods.”
Downstairs, there is a cafe serving delicious hot chocolate concoctions.

But the part that most people come for, and that we most enjoyed, was the section where one can make their own chocolate.

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo chocolate

The chocolate making section is a two-hour hands-on experience that takes guests from the bean to the final delicious result. The workshop also details chocolate’s history to its students.
First, students make and taste drinks prepared with straight cocoa beans. Visitors also roast, peel, and mash cocoa beans. Guests are allowed to get creative with their final chocolate masterpieces, with all the toppings and shapes imaginable.
In the end, visitors leave their chocolates in the fridge to pick up at the end of the day. Those interested in more specific aspects of chocolate artistry can sign up for classes in chocolate sculpting or truffle filling.

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo bowl

Our son with autism loved mashing the seeds and observing the process. He didn’t appreciate the instructor’s joke about needing a drop of his blood to get the chocolate cooking. She even brought a needle and pretended to poke him.

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo mashing

At the end of the day, travelers can go to the cafe and get a table with a view. The cafe serves thick hot chocolate in a bowl that diners mix with warm milk and seasonings. The cafe also offers delicious chocolate truffles and a Mochaccino made with Peruvian coffee beans.

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo pieces

All the cocoa beans used in this location are grown in a jungle near Machu Picchu. Local Peruvian farmers work with the Choco Museo to provide the best quality beans.

We brought home our self-made chocolate bar as our souvenir for the day.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids chocolate

Location, Hours, and Admission 

The ChocoMuseo is located on the second floor at Garcilaso Street 210, off of Plaza Regocijo.The museum is open Monday-Sunday from nine am to seven pm, and the shop is open Monday-Sunday from eight am to eight pm. 

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo bar

The ChocoMuseo is free, but guests will likely spend some money to bring home their favorite chocolates or souvenirs.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • The shop has a couple of seats on a small balcony overlooking Plaza Regocijo. Guests get a great view of the plaza and the surrounding hills, but it might not be safe for children.
  • When ordering hot chocolate, diners get to mix it together themselves by adding the chocolate, milk, and any extras that come with it. The mixing can be fun for kids. However, children with dexterity issues might need assistance. 
  • The hands-on workshops are a great learning experience, but if two hours is too long, the interactive walk-through display is fascinating as well.
  • We recommend signing up for workshops ahead of time.

Family Fun at Cusco's ChocoMuseo chef

  • For clothing, no one in the family should wear clothes that stain.
  • Visitors can see the ChocoMuseo from the plaza. However, they have to go around to Garcilaso Street 210 and up the stairs next to the courtyard to get to the museum on the second floor.
  • Besides the steps to get to the second floor, there are also steps to get to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the area itself is not large. Therefore, it might be difficult for people with physical disabilities to get around.
  • Because the location is also a little café, there are tables and chairs to sit and take a break if necessary.

 

Exploring Peru’s Machu Picchu with Family

 

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family pin


Machu Picchu
is a well known UNESCO World Heritage Site in Peru, voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007. This archaeological site is a must see for anyone visiting Peru. It is a fascinating piece of history for any traveling family to explore.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family steps

History

Originally, history books stated that American Historian Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu. This fact is not true. Local farmers and Peruvian natives always knew of the site, since they lived and worked right next to it. Bingham just brought attention to Machu Picchu to the rest of the world through his book, Lost City of the Incas.

 

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family walled

The real history of Machu Picchu started in the year 1450. Modern archaeologists think the city was an estate for Emperor Pachacuti. Some theories state the city was a key hiding spot from Spanish invaders since the Spanish never mentioned the city in documents during the Colonial Period.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family inca

Today, the site is a famous tourist destination. Visitors can climb the mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley to see this fantastic site.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family famed

Getting There

While adventurous travelers can try to hike up the Inca Trail as part of a guided tour, most visitors take the train to reach the ruins. The train departs from three locations – Poroy, Ollantaytambo, and Urubamba (which only departs once a day). Travelers can choose from three train companies: PeruRail, Inca Rail, and Machu Picchu Train.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family blue

 

PeruRail offers various classes for different budgets. The Expedition is the most budget option at $77 each way per person. The Vistadome at $90 per person includes complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. The Hiram Bingham is the most expensive option at $475 each way and includes a brunch, dinner, a selection of Peruvian alcoholic drinks, and other fancy additions. All options feature cars with panoramic windows.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family red

The absolute cheapest way to get to Machu Picchu is via the Ollantaytambo train, with tickets as low as $52 one way.For those who do want to hike the Inca Trail, they will have to reserve a guided group tour costing about $450-$650. The hike is a four-day experience.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family hiike

What You Will See

The layout of the city divides an urban and agricultural sector as well as an upper town and lower town. The upper town was where the temples and royalty resided while the lower town was for common folk and warehouses. There are 200 buildings in this city and also three structures, the Inti Wantana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of Three Windows.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family wall

 

The Inti Wantana is one of the many ritual stones in South America. The stone is positioned and arranged to point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. It is seen as a tool to tie up the sun and is believed to have held the sun in its place along its annual path in the sky.
Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family peek

Another spiritual section is the Room of Three Windows. This room is considered to be a sacred place that represents the origins of the Inca civilization. Inside the chamber, visitors will see a stone carved with engravings that represent the three levels where the Inca civilization divided the Andean world. These are the levels of the sky spirituality (Hanan-Pacha), the earth surface (Kay-Pacha) and the subsoil or inner life (Ukju-Pacha). In the Room of Three Windows, people have claimed to have felt great spiritual presences as well as clarity.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family grass

 

The Temple of the Sun sits at the highest altitude in the entire city. It was purposely built this way for the temple to be as close to the sun/heaven as possible. In this temple, the most important and meaningful events of the city would happen here such as sacred rituals, religious sacrifices, and astrological events.

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family fog

Location, Cost, and Hours

Guests cannot buy Machu Picchu tickets at the entrance gate and must book them in advance. Visitors can get advanced tickets from the official government of Peru website. The government limits entrance to the ruin to 2500 people per day. We suggest booking early as visiting days frequently fill up two weeks in advance. Guests have to bring their original passport to show at the entrance.

 

Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family llama

Tickets to enter the city cost between $50 to $70. There are discounts for children, students with an ISIC card, and Peruvian nationals.Travelers can book packaged tours to Machu Picchu, such as the four-day Inca Trail Hike ($450-650), the half-day Cusco city tour ($10-15) or the Sacred Valley tour ($12-20).
Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family sitting

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Peru can get hot, especially during the summer. Parents of heat sensitive children should pack water, insect repellent, and a mini-fan.
  • Traveling through Machu Picchu involves lots of hiking on unstable slippery  ground. Furthermore there’s hunderds of steps to climb! Parents should make sure everyone wears comfortable and closed-toe shoes appropriate for hiking.
  • Traveling families should be aware there’s no shade or resting areas in the actual site.
  • Exploring Peru's Machu Picchu with Family us
  • Peru sees frequent rains. Traveling families should pack a waterproof jacket in case of rain.
  • Parents should book trains online in advance as they fill up quickly, especially the evening return train.
    Parents need to prepare their kids to the fact the train can get somewhat noisy with a ‘fashion show’ and musicians coming around entertaining the guests.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids

 

 

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids pin

Cusco, Peru is frequently a stopover for travelers on their way to Machu Picchu. However, Cusco is worth more than an overnight trip. There are quite a few activities for families with autism to do in the city itself. We have put together a great list of sensory activities in Cusco that the whole family will enjoy.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids family

ChocoMuseo

The ChocoMuseo, located just a couple blocks away from the central Plaza de Armas, has a great workshop where guests can learn to make chocolate from the bean to the nice final product – a chocolate bar! The smells and the hands-on experience is one visitors won’t soon forget and is fun for the whole family.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids chocolate

Autism Travel Tips:

  • We recommend registering ahead of time on the ChocoMuseo website.
  • The shop is on the second floor, accessible by a set of stairs, and the area isn’t very big, which could make it difficult for those with physical disabilities to get around.

Museo Machu Picchu at Casa Concha

Because most people get on the train to Machu Picchu in Cusco, it makes sense that there is a museum about the famous ruins in Cusco. The Machu Picchu Museum at Casa Concha will not disappoint – it has the largest collection of Machu Picchu artifacts in the world! In addition to the artifacts, the museum features an incredible diorama of the ruins, videos, and Incan artifacts found during the building of Casa Concha. It’s a great educational experience before heading down to see Machu Picchu itself.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids museum

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There are benches for visitors to sit down and take a break, and the videos are slow-paced, giving visitors a little extra time to absorb the information.

San Blas

San Blas sits up on a hill, making it a bit of a hike from the main plaza (even though it’s only a few blocks), or one can come downhill to it from the ruins of Saqsaywaman and the White Christ statue. Known as an artists’ area, San Blas has quite a few cute shops, cafes, and art galleries. There is also a market in the central square that is an excellent opportunity to get a one-of-a-kind, handmade souvenir. The plaza is also the perfect place to relax and sit by the fountain, especially for those who walked up the hill!

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids street

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Since San Blas sits on a hill, it can be difficult for those with mobility issues to walk up to it. We suggest downhill from Saqsaywaman if this is an issue.

Catedral Basilica de la Virgen de la Asuncion

 The Cusco Cathedral is the main centerpiece of the Plaza de Armas. Its grand architecture is amazing, and the artifacts blend the ancient Incan culture with the “new” Spanish Christian culture. A glance around the outside and one can find several Christian-themed statues. There is mass here for practicing Catholics, but even non-Catholics will enjoy seeing the gold and silver altars and paintings inside.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids building

Autism Travel Tips:

  • With so much to see, visitors should plan to spend a couple of hours inside.
  • The steps outside the Cathedral and the benches in front of the fountain in the middle of the plaza are a great place for a rest before going inside.

Saqsaywaman

Saqsaywaman (“sexy woman” is the joke of the name) is an amazing archaeological site of an ancient citadel above the city of Cusco. At Saqsaywaman, visitors can get up close to the stones and see how carefully they fit together. They can also understand how difficult it might have been to put the buildings together. It is wide open, giving visitors plenty of space, and there are special ceremonies held here on the winter solstice and the festival of Warachikuy, held on the third Sunday in September.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids park

 

Autism Travel Tips:

  • There is a fee to get into the site.
  • We recommend getting a tour guide to explain the significance of the structures.
  • Wear closed-toe comfortable shoes as the ground is uneven.

San Pedro Market

The San Pedro Market is an experience for the senses for sure, and a great place to stop and grab some lunch. Similar to a farmer’s market, this is a great place to learn about all the different kinds of foods available in Peru. Visitors can even find Andean art and textiles here. Many say this is the best market they’ve seen in South America, so travelers should make a point to stop by and find out for themselves. The market is open daily until five pm and is located in the Plaza San Francisco.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids market

Autism Travel Tips:

  • It can get crowded with tourists, so be prepared for those who might get overwhelmed.
  • Vegetarians/vegans and those with smell sensitivities should avoid the section with meats.

Planetarium Cusco

The Planetarium Cusco is not like most planetariums. Staff meet guests in downtown Cusco and take them to the location via van. Visitors learn about the role of astronomy in Incan culture as well as the stars they will see in the Southern Hemisphere. If the sky is clear, they will get to use the telescopes to see the stars for themselves.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids statue

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Visitors will need to make reservations online and confirm ahead of time.

Cusco Celebration Days

Throughout the year, Cusco has several traditional festivals and ceremonies. The festivals feature traditional Incan clothing and dancing, and quite often a parade through the main part of town.

Eight Sensory Things to Do in Cusco with Kids celebration

Autism Travel Tips:

  • While these events are tons of fun, they can also be quite loud and crowded.
  • Some of the masks can be a bit scary for younger visitors.

 

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