“Machu Picchu rules 2019, four-hour time limit… What?” Yes, it’s been a long time in coming and now it’s here. To preserve one of the Wonders of the World and ensure a quality experience for visitors from every corner of the globe, Peru’s Ministry of Tourism and External Commerce (Mincetur) announced this week that new rules at Machu Picchu will take effect starting on January 1, 2019. Here’s how the Machu Picchu news will affect tourists moving forward.
How long can I stay in Machu Picchu?
While there is currently a loosely enforced time limit for tourist over the course of two daily shifts, the new Machu Picchu rules dictate that tourists will be strictly limited to four hours stays. Most visitors really don’t spend more than four hours exploring the archaeological site, on average. Officials need to exercise more control over the amount foot traffic at any given time to preserve the Inca sanctuary.
When can I go to Machu Picchu?
The new regulations mandate three daily shifts: one in the early morning (6 am to 9 am), one in the late morning (9 am to 12 pm), and one in the early afternoon (12 pm to 3 pm). Within these three shifts, tourists must sign up to enter at a certain hour (7 am, 1 pm, etc). This will help not only to regulate the number of visitors in the Inca Sanctuary at any given time, but also to standardize the schedule to minimize wait times outside the ruins.
The number of people allowed to enter the citadel per shift will be limited — 600 may enter at each hourly interval, so no more than 2,400 people will be in the ruins at a given time. Besides preventing overcrowding, officials say, this will help mitigate the impact of tourists on the sacred paths and stone stairs that crisscross Machu Picchu.
Are they changing the cost of Machu Picchu entrance tickets?
Some have tried to argue that the base price of the entrance ticket to Machu Picchu is not changing, per sé, and that the ministry is only making some small adjustments to the pricing structure. That’s nonsense. There is a price change coming, and it will go into effect by 2020. Given the overflow of tourists earlier in the day, morning tickets will go up and afternoon tickets will decrease. This mechanism is meant to even out the flow of visitors throughout the day. The change will be 20 percent, so by 2020, morning tickets will cost around 197 soles (~$60 USD), and afternoon tickets will cost around 131 soles (~$40 USD).
Besides the lower off-peak price, park officials are contemplating ways to make the later entry even more attractive, offering entry to the Machu Picchu Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum for free during afternoon shift (from 12 pm to 4 pm) for all visitors.
Will the changes have any effect on the best season to visit Machu Picchu?
The short answer is no. There are no substantive changes to how many tourists can visit during high season (June-August) or how much tickets will cost during those months. However, the Ministry is planning a number of measures to diversify the number of touristic offerings around Machu Picchu in addition to the citadel itself, with the objective of spreading visitors out to improve everyone’s experiences. They are also making plans to incentivize Peruvian visitors to explore some of Peru’s other numerous attractions during peak season to make way for foreign visitors — an idea that’s already causing a bit of controversy.
As previously reported in this blog and in Peruvian Times, officials say that two additional access routes into Machu Picchu are in the works and could be open before 2020 to help disperse visitors over the full expanse of the Machu Picchu national park.
The first will offer a challenging high-adrenaline adventure trek through the Inca temple ruins of Inkaraqay, on the nearly vertical northeastern slope of Huayna Picchu.
The trek would begin by crossing the Vilcanota River at Km. 117 to begin an arduous journey of approximately five to six hours, not including time spent exploring the ruins atop Huayna Picchu. The trek would wend round the iconic peak to the Temple of the Moon and culminate in the Machu Picchu citadel, entering the sanctuary at the Sacred Rock.
The other new option is a gentler trail. It will start several hundred meters from Puente Ruinas, near the Mandor Gardens, before a short, but steep, ascent up to and through the Andenes Orientales (Eastern Terraces).
Similar to the stairs that bisect the switchback Hiram Bingham road to the current main entrance, this alternative route would take between 90 minutes and two hours to reach the citadel. It leads into the Machu Picchu citadel at the Temple of the Condor.
Study and debate continues about the possible installation of a cable car from Aguas Calientes, an option already opposed by UNESCO. The preferred alternative would be a rail car system starting near the Mandor Waterfall, behind the horseshoe bend of the Vilcanota River, out of sight from the citadel above.
“Visiting Machu Picchu is a wonderful experience. Entrance to the Inca City is by shifts. Verify on the upper left-hand corner of your ticket your entrance time and board the bus according to this time. In this way you will avoid unnecessary lines and help to keep the order of which you will be the prime beneficiary. All together we can make this journey unforgettable.”
~ Ministerio de Cultura Cusco