The Peru­vian site is mak­ing a bid to con­trol tourist num­bers

Friday - - Travel News -

It’s one of the world’s most fa­mous an­cient sites – the re­mains of an Inca citadel in Peru’s Sa­cred Val­ley – but as vis­i­tor num­bers have boomed a visit to Machu Pic­chu has be­come as­so­ci­ated with tourist crowds and selfie-sticks, rather than as a place of mys­ti­cal beauty.

This sum­mer, un­der pres­sure from Unesco, which has threat­ened to add Machu Pic­chu to its list of world her­itage sites in dan­ger, the Peru­vian gov­ern­ment has brought in mea­sures to con­trol the flow of tourists.

From to­mor­row, vis­i­tors will only be able to en­ter the site with an of­fi­cial tour guide, and tick­ets will grant en­try for a spe­cific time, ei­ther morn­ing (6am-noon) or af­ter­noon (noon-5.30pm). Group size will be lim­ited to 16 peo­ple. Vis­i­tors must also fol­low the routes around the site, a change from the present setup where it is pos­si­ble to ex­plore rel­a­tively in­de­pen­dently and stay the en­tire day.

Ticket prices to the citadel will re­main the same (about Dh170 for adults, half that for chil­dren) but vis­i­tors who wish to stay for the day will have to buy two tick­ets. It is hoped that the new rules will im­prove the flow of vis­i­tors around the site and re­duce con­ges­tion, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing peak sea­son.

Vis­i­tor num­bers have grown rapidly at Machu Pic­chu in re­cent years, hit­ting a new record, 1.4 mil­lion, in 2016 – an av­er­age of 5,000 peo­ple a day dur­ing the sum­mer months, dou­ble the 2,500 vis­i­tors recommended by Unesco.

Al­though the new sys­tem of two en­try times will cre­ate a more even dis­tri­bu­tion of peo­ple, it will also see the over­all num­ber of vis­i­tors in­crease, al­low­ing 3,267 in the morn­ing and 2,673 in the af­ter­noon. The new rules will be in place for two years.

Peru travel spe­cial­ist Jour­ney Latin Amer­ica wel­comed the change. ‘The ma­jor­ity of vis­i­tors head­ing to the site aim to take the first bus from the vil­lage of Aguas Calientes just be­low Machu Pic­chu so they can be one of the first to ar­rive,’ said Laura Ren­dell-Dunn, des­ti­na­tion spe­cial­ist for the tour operator. ‘Dur­ing high sea­son [July-Au­gust], queues for the bus are usu­ally two hours and it is not un­com­mon to then queue for a fur­ther hour at the site en­trance.’

As the morn­ing is gen­er­ally the most pop­u­lar time to visit the site, due to bet­ter av­er­age weather con­di­tions, Ren­dell-Dunn rec­om­mends vis­i­tors book ahead in or­der to guar­an­tee a ticket for an early en­try slot.

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