News machu picchu in peru

Published on July 18th, 2014 | by Alyssa Daniells


Machu Picchu Extending Opening Hours Creates Controversy

Ruins are being ruined? Those who are protesting a new proposal by the governor of Cuzco think so.

Peru’s Machu Picchu is a coveted tourist destination and an increasingly popular one, particularly after 2007 when it was named one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World. Lower airfares to Peru and awareness about how remarkable this ancient Inca site is, have contributed to its popularity. Machu Picchu is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In a bid to attract an extra 5,000 tourists to the historical site, Cuzco’s governor Rene Concha Lezama wishes to extend Machu Picchu’s opening hours an extra three hours to meet the huge tourist demand. Current hours are 6am to 5pm, Lezama wants it open until 8pm.

Alexandra at Machu Picchu

Historians and conservationists, both local and international, are insisting that the quantity of visitors to Machu Picchu is already compromising the ruins. More would put unnecessary strain and further damage this important site. Right now the number of people allowed to see ruins is capped at 2,500; the additional three hours could possibly double that.

Daily maintenance is already required to prevent damage by tourists. Endangered lists are not restricted to flora and fauna; in 2012 the World Heritage committee considered including Machu Picchu to world heritage sites at risk of destruction.

The UNESCO World Heritage website acknowledges the Machu Picchu controversy, describing it as “a double-edged sword” as it is beneficial to the economy, yet also can had negative cultural and ecological impacts. It goes on to say that the growing amount of visitors to Machu Picchu “must be matched by an adequate management regulating access” to minimize the effects.Chantal in Peru

A new international airport in Cuzco was approved this year, bringing more people closer to this alluring mountaintop destination. As UNESCO suggests, working on the site’s infrastructure, is crucial.  While Machu Picchu tops many travellers’ “bucket lists”, being a “pot of gold” for the economy certainly poses a grave conservation concern.

Should Machu Picchu welcome more tourists with extended opening hours? If not, would you change your mind if you knew proper management was in place? We welcome your comments below.

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About the Author

Alyssa Daniells

Equipped with good grammar, a laptop and sense of humour, Alyssa curiously explores the world, whether it involves traversing oceans to anything historic, artistic or beautiful, or crossing the street for a dark roasted coffee refuel. Curating and creating compelling content (and the occasional alliteration!) is something she loves. Her phone storage is almost at capacity due to countless photos of Toronto, her toddler and other people's pets.

One Response to Machu Picchu Extending Opening Hours Creates Controversy

  1. There are 2 different issues here. One is extending the hours. The other is increasing the number of visitors per day. It’s possible to do one without the other.

    The idea is that by extending the hours, more visitors could be spread out over longer period of time.

    If the hours were extended, visitors would have more time to return to Aguas Calientes and go back to the ruins for a 2nd visit in the same day. This might generate more revenue for the shuttle buses. ($20 USD pp for RT) And many visitors would want to see the ruins after dark. Unless the train schedules change, this means visitors would have to overnight in hotels in Aguas Calientes. The village is not in a position to expand to accommodate more overnight visitors.

    Staying open til 8 pm means visitors would be in the ruins after dark. This creates a whole new set of questions. The ruins have plenty of uneven stone steps, open landings and terraces without guard rails and it seems that the risk for tripping and falling would be greater. There is also the issue of reduced visibility after dark. Even if surveillance cameras and artificial lighting were added, it would be difficult to monitor visitors acting inappropriately. (remember the recent naked tourists fad?)

    One way to reduce those problems would be to require all visitors to be accompanied by licensed, trained local guides. (who could presumably keep an eye on everyone in their group) That might not go over well with all the independent travelers.

    Extending the hours might sound good at first. But without the infrastructure to support more visitors, the quality of one’s visit would be diminished. And that would not help promote the site at all.

    I think it’s wise to keep the status quo for now. After the new airport is built and the train service and accommodations are analyzed & updated, the authorities will have a better idea of how best to move forward to retain the harmony that ensures every visitor has the best trip ever.

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