Peru Reopens Machu Picchu To Visitors

The South American country of Peru has reopened its top tourist attraction, Machu Picchu, following nearly 2 months of closure. Built by the sun-worshipping Incas atop a near-vertical, thickly forested mountain 2,430 meters above seas level, mudslides and flooding in late January this year damaged the railway connecting the 15th Century ruins with the rest of the country, stranding tourists until they were airlifted out by helicopters.

 

The damaged railway to Aguas Calientes has been repaired and is now operational, while the asphalt road between Cusco and Ollantaytambo is being widened to accomodate tourist buses. A Northern Route, connecting Ollantaytambo to the railway station at Estacion Hidroelectrica, is being repaired and expected to be operational by July 2010. The Inca Trail, a 3-day trekking route in the Andes mountains, is still accessible but not recommended by Peruvian authorities due to safety concerns for the bridges on the route. 

 

Tourists, amongst them Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon, wandered the UNESCO-listed World Heritage site discovered by American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. Constructed in classic Inca style, Machu Picchu attracts nearly 2,000 daily visitors drawn to its exotic location and well-preserved architecture, of which primary buildings include the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun and the Room of Three Windows, while the nearby mountain of Wayna Picchu is also popular with trekkers.

 

Peru seeks to recover from the loss of tourism revenue, with tourists paying almost USD 200 per person to visit the ruins. The authorities have plans to build a new road to Machu Picchu, which is notoriously difficult to reach, making it more accessible to tourists. However, there is concern that greater access to the site will increase the risk of damage to the ruins and Peru is under pressure to strike a delicate balance between preservation and tourist access. In a bid to restrict access and protect the ruins, the country’s Instituto Nacional de Cultura is rationing the quantity of entry tickets to Machu Picchu.

 

Despite being home to other archaelogical sites such as the Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca, the Colca Canyon and the Kuelap fortress, Machu Picchu remains the main attraction for first-time visitors to Peru. For more information, visit www.peru.info.

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