Planning a trip to Machu Picchu?
Peruvian officials are announcing that in April 2016 parts of Machu Picchu, along with its less renowned but still impressive neighbor mountain Huayna Picchu, will be closed two weeks each for restoration and maintenance work. The citadel, the main tourist attraction, and other sections will remain open.
Fernando Astete, the head of the National Archaeological Park of Machu Picchu, told Andina news agency that while his crews do an excellent job maintaining the delicate historical site, the large number of tourists that visit at the ruins – an estimated 5,000 per day during the high season – makes it almost impossible to keep Machu Picchu intact.
"In April 2016 we will do comprehensive maintenance, for that we have ordered the suspension of visitors to the mountain Huayna Picchu from April 1-15, and the mountain of Machu Picchu from April 16-30 of the same year," Astete said.
Peru's Ministry of Culture has also approved the ban on visitors to certain sections during that month and Astete has asked businesses that make trips to the site to make the proper adjustments to ensure the satisfaction of their customers.
"There has been a thorough technical assessment of the condition of the stairs, walls, enclosures and platforms, reaching the conclusion that a comprehensive maintenance is needed," Ricardo Ruiz Caro, the director of the Department of Culture of Cusco, according to Peru This Week.
The closure announcement comes three months into a four-year plan that will open to the public many more structures that are part of the vast complex located in the southern province of Cusco.
The plan also includes diversifying the routes that visitors can roam within the site. At the moment hikers are allowed on just one of the Inca roads, despite there being six known routes within the preserve.
"Only Machu Picchu and part of the network of the Inca Trail has been used [for tourism]," said José Carlos Nieto, the site's director. "But we have evaluated the potential and will set up other archaeological sites such as 50 Gradas, Intipunku, Incaraccay, Wiñayhuayna, the mountain of Machu Picchu, the Temple of the Moon," he added.
The existence of Machu Picchu, approximately three hours by train from the mountain city of Cusco, was made public by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in the early 20th century.
Most experts agree that the citadel was the last Incan city (some say it was a royal retreat) and that it was abandoned around 1570, possibly after a smallpox epidemic brought by the Spanish conquistadors.