Will Machu Picchu Close?
Every so often someone asks me about the persistent rumor that Machu Picchu is slated to close. I guess people are afraid they will miss out on this new seventh wonder.
The truth is I can’t imagine the Peruvian government ever wanting to close Machu Picchu. It is simply too big of a draw.
Sadly, in early 2010, Machu Picchu was forced to close for two months when torrential rains wiped out parts of the Inca Trail and destroyed sections of the train tracks along the route to Aguas Calientes. (Aguas Calientes is the staging point for buses to Machu Picchu.) The damage effectively shut off access to Machu Picchu.
The impact on the economy in Cusco, the Sacred Valley, and Aguas Calientes was devastating. Even businesses one wouldn’t associate with tourism suffered. According to one report, the closure cost Peru between $160 and $416 million.
In fact, the situation was so dire that some enterprising travel companies in Cusco started to offer a Machu Picchu by car option. Unfortunately, this trip involved a harrowing drive along a poorly maintained road followed by a 12-km trudge to Aguas Calientes.
After Machu Picchu reopened, the INC (National Institute of Culture) began to ration tickets in the interest of protecting the site. Although that limits the number of tourists, I don’t believe Machu Picchu is in danger of closing anytime soon, weather permitting, of course.