Ah, Machu Picchu — one of the new seven wonders of the world. No doubt, this Incan citadel in Peru’s Sacred Valley is a bucket list destination for travelers worldwide. However, this ancient site has brand-new regulations. Due to mounting pressure from UNESCO to deem it as an endangered world heritage site, the Peruvian government has issued new laws for visiting the world-famous monument in the clouds.
As of July 1, 2017, you must enter the site with an official tour guide for a specific time slot — either in the morning (6 a.m. to noon) or afternoon (noon to 5:30 p.m.).
“You cannot pre-book a guide,” says Giuliana Valle of Peru Tourism. “To hire a guide, you must do it the same day at the entrance to Machu Picchu, where the guides are from 6 a.m. On the other hand, it is not difficult to hire a private guide or join a group.”
Before, you could explore independently and unfettered. Now, you’ll have to follow defined pathways around the site — three circuits, to be exact. The route is specified by which ticket you purchase, but each trail is comprehensive, taking an average of two to three hours to complete.
According to the Ministry of Culture, circuit one is the most challenging as it covers the upper-sector of the citadel, and circuits two and three span the lower to middle sections and are fairly easy to traverse.
Admission will remain the same price (about $45 to $70, depending on the ticket type); however, if you wish to stay the entire day, you’ll have to buy tickets for both time slots. Only 2,500 visitors are allowed per day and there is a no re-entrance policy.
There is one loophole in the mandatory guide escort edict: if you have a two-day ticket, you will be allowed to enter unaccompanied on the second day, as long as you show both your day one and day two tickets and they have been stamped by your guide.
Be advised — there are new rules within Machu Picchu as well. Here are some of the most important ones that may affect your visit:
- Only small backpacks are allowed. If your bag is larger than 16 by 14 by 8 inches, you’ll have to leave it in the storage rooms near the entrance.
- No food or drink (including alcohol). Only water bottles are permitted.
- Respectful behavior only: No nudity, singing, jumping, stealing stones or climbing walls.
- No bulky equipment. Whether it’s a stroller, drone or camera tripod, leave it in your hotel.
- Walking sticks are only allowed in special circumstances. Due to age or disability, walking sticks are permitted, but only special rubber-tipped ones.
- Sensible footwear only. This seems like common sense, but any shoes that would damage the site (like high heels) are not permitted.
For more local insight into these preservation measures, we spoke with Angie Clavijo, the general manager of Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, a luxury property at the base of the ancient site.
What is the reason behind the new regulations?
This measure has been taken in order to preserve and safeguard cultural heritage. These new visiting schedules will help to improve the experience and contribute to the sustainability of the environment.
Is there a waiting list to secure a guide? How much advance booking is required to get a guide?
The limit isn’t with guides; it’s with the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu and other sanctuary mountain sites. There are roughly 50 site guides available at the entrance. However, you need to reserve your admission ticket one or two months in advance.
What’s the easiest way to buy a ticket to see Machu Picchu?
Reserve it online from the government’s official site.
How many people do they allow per guide?
It used to be 16. Now you can have 20 visitors per guide. More than that and you have to hire two guides.
Do the same tour guide restrictions apply to the other nearby sites?
The new regulations — requiring a guide — apply to Machu Picchu and the surrounding mountains (Machu Picchu Mountain, Huayna Picchu and Inti Punku). But you don’t need a tour guide to visit Putucusi Mountain or Mandor Valley.
Can Sumaq’s concierge reserve a guide for you — or do they only offer guides in conjunction with the special packages (like the full-day, half-day and shaman tours)?
Sumaq books guides in conjunction with its packaged tours. Otherwise, you must hire one when you get to the citadel.