Dhe dream of visiting the world-famous Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru has turned into a nightmare for many tourists in recent weeks. Reason: You are traveling to the region but do not have a ticket to visit the 15th-century citadel. The tickets for the coming weeks are already sold out – and nobody will be allowed up without a ticket. The tourists’ disappointment turns to frustration. There have been repeated protests in recent weeks, including in the past few days, when the rush was particularly great because of two public holidays in Peru on Thursday and Friday.
In the small town of Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu, visitors spent the night on the streets and in front of the office of the Directorate of Culture on Monday to get tickets. Dozens of tourists of different ages and backgrounds took to the streets to protest. On Wednesday, an angry group even blocked the railway line that runs from the city of Cusco to Machu Picchu. The Independence Day celebrations had to be canceled in the district because of the protests.
No last minute destination
Many tourists arrive without tickets. Others report scams: they were sold or promised tickets. Upon arrival in Cusco or Aguas Calientes, you will be made aware that there is no reservation or other way to get a ticket. Local authorities report that several hundred tourists arrive daily without tickets. Cusco tourism agencies point out that Machu Picchu is not a last-minute destination and must be well organized. Tourists without tickets should not arrive.
In order to protect the Inca ruins, which have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, only a limited number of visitors are admitted each day. Tickets are usually fully booked weeks in advance, especially in high season when many tourists arrive from Europe. According to the Ministry of Culture, the entries are currently fully booked until mid-August. In view of the extraordinary rush during the holiday week and the recent protests, the authorities have now increased the number of visitors allowed from a good 4,000 to 5,000 per day “exceptionally”. The number of visitors allowed had already been increased by a thousand people per day in mid-July.
Criticism of too high visitor numbers
However, the abrupt increase in the number of visitors has now called the International Decision-making Committee for Sites under Monument Protection (ICOMOS) onto the scene. In a statement, it warned Peru against giving in to public pressure to increase the capacity of the Inca citadel without technical support. UNESCO declared Machu Picchu a World Heritage Site in 1983. Since then, the organization has required Peru to comply with a number of site conservation guidelines. Around 1.5 million visitors visited Machu Picchu in 2019. In the first half of this year there were around 400,000 visitors. A ticket costs $40 for foreign visitors and $16 for Peruvians.
With the shortage of tickets for Machu Picchu, the existence of a “ticket mafia” has also come to light. Allegedly, employees of the Cusco cultural department, which organizes the sale, have made common cause with some local agencies. Massive tickets are said to have been reserved ahead of time and diverted away for local sale at overpriced prices. The allegations are now being investigated. The Director of Culture said that possible evidence had been handed over to the prosecutor. Within the cultural department of Cusco, there was also a shift of employees. In future, reservations for Machu Picchu will only be possible for a specific date and under a specific name.