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Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Inca Trail

Machu Picchu is almost 2,500 metres high up in the Andes mountains of Southern Peru. It is the site of the famous remains of an Inca city, abandoned in the fifteenth century before the invading Spanish arrived a hundred years later. Hidden high up in such a remote place, the ruins were discovered as recently as 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham. He paid local people to clear the site, hidden by thick vegetation, uncovering the remains of a great variety of buildings.

Machu Picchu (and the surrounding area of 32,000 hectares) was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983, one of just 18 across the world. Unfortunately it is beginning to pay the price for its fame with a dramatic increase in the number of visitors in recent years. There are just two routes to Machu Picchu. The traditional route is by foot along the Inca Trail, a four day hike from the railway station at Km88. Once it was rare to meet people along the trail. Today as many as several hundred arrive every day. However, most tourists are day trippers who take the train to Aguas Calientes from where it is just a half hour bus ride up to the ruins. There is also a small (32 room) hotel, built by the Government in 1940 and overlooking the ruins.

Both the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu are suffering from the increase in visitors. Paths are becoming eroded, litter is often left behind and sewage from the hotel and Aguas Calientes goes untreated into the River Urubamba. The Peruvian Government and Tourist Board are making plans for the future, but many people think that some of the plans could make the problems worse.
Machu Picchu Map
Click on the map for a bigger map

Future plans for Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail include:

  • Increasing fees for hikers along the Inca Trail, from about 10 to 30
  • Money raised from increasing fees to go directly to the upkeep of the Trail, not to the Peruvian government
  • Increasing the entrance fee to Machu Picchu from 6 to 20
  • Allowing organised groups only along the Inca Trail. Tour operators will have to have a licence.
  • Reducing the amount porters can carry and increasing their fees to 10
  • Limiting the number of people who can use the trail at any one time
  • Build a cable car from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu, able to carry up to 400 people per hour
  • Build a large new 6-storey hotel next to the existing hotel