Many people have already heard of the new regulations regarding entry into Machu Picchu that are going into effect starting July 1st, but there is also a fair amount of bad information circulating regarding these changes as well, so I thought I would share what I currently know about these changes with my readers.
Split day – Starting July 1st of 2017 entries into Machu Picchu will be split into two separate sessions. This is the one certain aspect of the changes that will be taking place effective July 1st of 2017, as this has been published on the government website and the Machu Picchu site has been modified to indicate this.
For those that have not yet purchased entry tickets, you will have to choose between the first or second entry times, with the first entry time being from 6:00 am to noon and the second entry time being from 12:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Visitors will now have only 5-1/2 or 6 hours in the site (depending on the session) and it is not yet clear how they will ensure that those who enter during the first session, will leave prior to the start of the second session.
For those that have already purchased tickets, the site indicates that you will still have the full day at the site, and be allowed to enter at any time of the day.
Requirement to have a guide while at the site – At the moment I would put this into the rumor category, the only source for this at this point in time has been guides and tour agencies. This is based on a program that is intended to ease the congestion and help to preserve the site, and is supposed to be implemented by 2019. It is possible that they are planning on requiring a guide while visiting Machu Picchu, but there have been no official notices that we have seen that would indicate this, so we may just have to wait to see what they actually do come July 1st.
The Reasons – The main reason that has been given for the split in the entry into 2 separate sessions is to reduce the congestion on the archeological site. There are those that say this is just a ploy to get more money, which may also be true, especially if you consider that they did not reduce the cost of entry (considering visits will be shorter), and they appear to have increased the daily quota for visitors. It can be hard to calculate the exact number of available entries, especially in the middle of the year when some tickets have already been sold, but they appear to have increased the standard entry to about double what it previously was.
The reason for the suspected requirement to have a guide while visiting Machu Picchu is simply for control, and this is one I can actually see a bit of need for, and a typical case of a few bad eggs messing things up for everyone else. I have visited Machu Picchu 5 times since moving to Cusco, and during every visit I have seen people crossing ropes and entering areas that they are not supposed to be in. Sadly I do believe that his will eventually be implemented, even if not at this specific point in time.
My thoughts – Despite splitting the entry into 2 separate session I think that lines will be worse, and the site just as crowded. In the past the flow of people going up to the site from Aguas Caliente has been fairly spread out, and while a lot of people would try to get into the site early, there were a fair number of visitors (like my wife and I) that would wait until late morning to go up to Machu Picchu, with plans on staying in the site until the end of the day. Now that the day has been split and visitors will be more limited on time, I suspect that there will be a mass rush of people trying to get into Machu Picchu when it opens, which will be followed up at mid-day when there will be some 3,000 people wanting to leave the site and another 3,000 or so people that want to enter. Personally I feel sorry for anyone that is planning on visiting Machu Picchu during the first few months, as I think this is going to be the period that will have the most confusion and be the least organized.
As I mentioned in “The Reasons” above, the requirement to have a guide has become almost a necessity, between people crossing barriers and not following the posted rules, more control is really needed. The big question here is going to be “how will they implement this?” Considering the proposed reasoning for this is to provide more control, I would guess that when implemented, groups will be formed before, or after, entering the site. Once the guided portion of the tour is finished, I would guess that visitors will not be allowed to have any free time within the site. I have heard some people speculate that visitors will be allowed free time after the guided tour portion, but this seems illogical as it would go against the reasoning given for the guide requirement.
The Plan – In April of 2015 a new plan was approved for the conservation of the archeological site of Machu Picchu, and is set to be fully in place by 2019. This plan calls for several changes to the way visitors experience the site, as well as a few physical changes, some of these changes include;
- Moving the entry point to the base of the mountain, closer to Aguas Calientes.
- Construction of a new exit ramp.
- Construction of a new help center.
- Construction of bathrooms inside the archeological site.
- Establishing set routes that visitors will follow.
- Limiting the time that people will have at certain locations.
- Controlling the flow of visitors “Groups of 100 visitors will leave approximately every 10 minutes (from the visitor’s center) toward any of the possible options, easing up the congestion on the heritage space with the aid of interpretive signs and a more efficient action by the guides.”
While I am unaware of any specific wording that indicated guides would be required in the 2015 plan, there was the mention that “Certified guides will affirm and complement the official scientific talk given at the start in the visitors’ center.” but more recent resolutions may have added a requirement for guests to have a guide.
The division of the day into two sessions was not specifically mentioned either, but again, more recent resolutions may have spelled this out.
Summery – At this current point in time, some of the 2015 planned changes have gone into effect, like the set routes, the new exit ramp and the limiting of time that visitors can spend at key points, like the Intihuatana. Now that they have split the day into two sessions it would be safe to assume that more changes are in the works, and it is very likely that if guides are not going to be required after July 1st, that this will likely be a requirement in the near future.
Due to the large number of visitors that Machu Picchu receives each year, more controls are going to be needed in order to protect the site from damage, but the government really needs to be careful how it implements theses changes. Considering this most recent change shortened the time visitors can spend in the site, without making the entry any cheaper and seems to have increased the total number of visitors allowed in a day, the impression is that money is the driving force and not site conservation.
The other risk that the ministry has to consider is that if the visitors experience is negatively impacted enough, they may see a dramatic drop in the number of people that actually visit the site, and overall tourism in general.