100 Years Of Machu Picchu, But For How Much Longer?
Friday, July 29, 2011
Travelers have been visiting Machu Picchu for 100 years now, ever since Yale University professor Hiram Bingham III rediscovered the site on July 24, 1911. But with increased traffic, site degradation, and bureaucratic wrangling, many are left wondering: How much longer will visitors be able to visit Machu Picchu?
Much has changed since that fateful discovery. Heck, much has changed in the last 15 years, as the LA Times discovered when its correspondent revisited nearby Aguas Calientes and found the hotel he stayed in — Gringo Bill’s — was now charging $75 a night, about $70 more than its going rate in 1988. And the rooms at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo, where the author had found $105 rooms in the mid-’90s, were now going for over $500. It’s obvious that more than just the adventurous travelers are heading there these days, which could mean problems for the site.
Today, in the name of preservation, access is being limited to stave of the hordes of visitors. Just last week, a ruling by the local branch of Peru’s National Institute of Culture (INC) decreed that no more than 2,500 people could visit Machu Picchu per day, “a move aimed at preventing damage to the site,” The Independent reported. A nice conceit, but problematic when put into practice for the thousands of visitors who make the trek to Cusco with hopes of visiting the ruins.
Just today, news leaked that this has resulted in hundreds of visitors being barred entry, which then led to hundreds of frustrated tourists to begin picketing the official ticket office. Bad publicity for a site looking to capitalize on the centennial of its discovery.
In response, to help alleviate the backlog, the new daily limit was raised to 3,300 visitors. But at what cost? The give and take between access and preservation is a balancing act, one with the livelihoods of locals and the interests of travelers at stake. One hopes that whatever the outcome, one of the great wonders of the world will still be around 100 years from now for others to experience.