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Peru Closes Machu Picchu To Visitors Indefinitely — Here’s Why

TravelAwaits 1/24/2023 Jim Fulcher
3523studio / © TravelAwaits 3523studio /

People have traveled to Machu Picchu — the famous Inca ruins in Peru — for centuries. Now, however, those visits have been stopped by the government due to ongoing civil unrest.

“In view of the current social situation in which our region and the country are immersed, the closure of the Inca trail network and Machu Picchu has been ordered, as of January 21, until further notice,” Peru’s Culture Ministry said in a statement. The closure is necessary “to protect the safety of tourists and the population in general.”

The events that spurred the decision to close the ruins, which typically draw around 1 million visitors each year, are continued violent demonstrations by protestors demanding the resignation of President Dina Boluarte. The protests began last month after then-President Pedro Castillo, Peru’s first leader who is from the rural Andean area, was impeached and sent to prison for trying to dissolve the country’s congress, according to the Associated Press.

So far, more than 55 people have died in the unrest. Then, on Saturday, the police arrested more than 200 protestors who were illegally on the campus of a university in Lima, according to Reuters.

At the same time, 417 visitors, 300 of whom were foreigners, had been stranded at Machu Picchu, explained Tourism Minister Luis Fernando Helguero, according to the Associated Press. However, since then, the Culture Ministry said it had safely evacuated those visitors.

Why Machu Picchu Is Famous

The ruins known as Machu Picchu, which date back to the 15th century, are located in the Cordillera de Vilcabamba area of the Andes Mountains. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983.

“It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height; its giant walls, terraces, and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments,” according to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

“The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is among the greatest artistic, architectural, and land-use achievements anywhere and the most significant tangible legacy of the Inca civilization,” the UNESCO World Heritage Convention continues. “Recognized for outstanding cultural and natural values, the mixed World Heritage property covers 32,592 hectares of mountain slopes, peaks, and valleys surrounding its heart, the spectacular archaeological monument of ‘La Ciudadela’ (the Citadel) at more than 2,400 meters above sea level.”

Machu Picchu is believed to have been abandoned when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spaniards in the 16th century.

Today, visitors can see approximately 200 structures “making up this outstanding religious, ceremonial, astronomical, and agricultural center,” the UNESCO World Heritage Convention explains.

What You Need To Know

While Peru’s government has closed Machu Picchu, train service to the area has been closed since last week because protestors damaged the train tracks. The airport at Cusco was also briefly shut down last week due to demonstrations.

In response, the U.S. State Department has issued a “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” advisory for Peru. U.S. travelers should, “Exercise increased caution due to civil unrest,” in the area, according to the State Department.

“Demonstrations occur regularly throughout the country,” the State Department explains. “Demonstrations can cause the shutdown of local roads, trains, and major highways, often without prior notice or estimated reopening timelines.”

In the meantime, Peru’s Culture Ministry explains that tourists who already bought tickets for Machu Picchu for dates from last Saturday, January 21, until 1 month after the end of the protests will be able to obtain a full refund.

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