Machu Picchu, the jewel of South America, top destination of Peru, UNESCO World Heritage Site and bucket list item of travelers throughout the world, including ours! We have long dreamed of going to the lost Incan City and have planned to go there eventually. This is the year! We are set to go to South America on a 6 month tour that includes Carnival in Brazil and Machu Picchu in Peru. Once we began researching the logistics, we realized that Machu Picchu isn't for us.
The Challenges of Hugely Popular Ruins
We have been all over the world and have been to tons of ruins. Chichen Itza presented its challenges with hawkers and vendors. Tikal was at times logistically hard to get to and from. Angkor Wat was crowded with Chinese tourists. The logistical nightmare that is Machu Picchu, just became more complicated this year. We understand that there is a fine line between the promotion of an immensely important historical site and preserving it for future generations to enjoy and learn from. We understand that it's walking the tightrope of tourism dollars and preservation, however we feel that Peru and it's policies for visiting this location is headed in the wrong direction, a direction we prefer not to follow.
Why The Changes?
The CEO of the Latin American Tourism Association said, "Machu Picchu is one of Peru’s most important tourist sites, attracting thousands of visitors every year. We anticipate that the new system introduced by the Ministry of Culture will regulate the flow of travelers entering the site and help to preserve the authenticity of this national treasure." We are not so sure this is the only reason for the changes. Is it really about regulation of the" flow of travelers" or an increase in a revenue stream that is already a juggernaut in historical ruin money generation?
Let's look at the numbers.
Machu Picchu has around 2,500 -3,500 visitors per day and reportedly up to 5,000 per day recently. (breaking their own rules and regulations). Assuming that Machu Picchu has 300 days of operation per year,( in a conservative estimate) that is 750,000 -1.2 million visitors per year. In 2016 that number climbed to a reported 1.4 million. The previous ticket price for a full day in Machu Picchu was around $40-48 dollars depending on the conversion rate and tour package you wanted. That would be an estimated 30 -60 million USD per year in ticket sales alone.
Now, this doesn't take into account how many of the visitors are foreign or domestic travelers, which can be half the cost if you are from neighboring countries to Peru or Peru itself, nor the money in ticket sales for the shuttle up the mountain or train to Aguas Calientes (all Government run). However, this isn't the point.
Here is the point!
Prices for Machu Picchu 2015-2016:
- Machu Picchu (standard ticket): 128 soles (approx. US$41)
- Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu: 152 soles (approx. US$48)
- Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain: 142 soles (approx. US$45)
Prices for Machu Picchu 2017
- Machu Picchu (standard ticket 1st or 2nd group): 152 soles (approx. US$46.86)
- Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu: 200 soles (approx. US$61.65)
- Machu Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain: 200 soles (approx. US$61.65)
Where things get interesting is that there are two tour times to visit daily. Travelers will be allowed to enter Group 1 - 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Group 2 - 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.. However, the government is also only allowing you to enter with a paid guide that will be instructed to have no more than 20 per group. These guides must be approved with appropriate government IDs to conduct a group and will have to stay within roped paths based on the "circuits" (one of 3 ticket groups above) they correspond to.
This brings up a few questions.
How much are the guides charging per person? Can you then be lumped in with a group of other tourists, potentially a slow-moving elderly couple or 15 kids on a field trip, to maximize traveler-to-guide ratios? Does this mean there will be two groups of 2500 people daily or two groups of 1250 each? There are reports that the numbers will actually double or more at 3,267 in the morning and 2,673 in the afternoon. If they have brought in 5,000 per day in the past, what will keep them from bringing in 10,000 in one day? Are they using the guides as a mean to control greater numbers of people or maximize greed by allowing twice as many people in per day with the premise that they will have less of an impact due to the guides showing them around? These are all questions that have popped into our heads on the logistics of the new rules.
Now the money.
So with an increase in ticket prices, increase in frequency of visitors by double, how much more money does the Peruvian Government stand to make off these changes? How much more will it cost the average traveler to get the same bang for the buck? It will now take 1 and a half days to see all that Machu Picchu has to offer, when technically it could be done in a day. Total cost for three tours to see it all… the cost of the $25 round trip shuttle from Aguas Calientes, $150.00-$241.00 USD roundtrip train fare from Cusco on the Government Monopoly Express, you are looking at $350 USD just to the government of Peru each person simply to see it all.
Compare this to a $70USD ticket to Angkor Wat for 7 days ($37 for one day), Tikal at $20USD per day, and Chichen Itza at $14USD, The Pyramids at Giza $5-11USD (outside or inside the pyramid), or $80USD for a three-day pass to Petra in Jordan, the price of Machu Picchu is astronomical! Considering that there are no facilities in MP for using the bathroom, no ability to take water in with you, and lack of any amenities other than a $45 dollar per meal buffet, where is the government of Peru spending all the money from Machu Picchu?
If the average traveler to Machu Picchu only spends the bare minimum to go to Machu Picchu for the HALF DAY, they will spend $222USD each (150 USD roundtrip train, 25 round trip shuttle, 47 USD admission), assuming they pack the place with two tour groups per day of 2500 visitors, the yearly revenue from Machu Picchu will top 400 Million Dollars in just ticket sales alone. This doesn't include the fees they charge to make tour guides “approved”, taxes from the surrounding area, airport fees in Lima, souvenirs, buffets etc. This also doesn't include the fact that if you want to see the entire park in the allotted time, you will have to spend 1 and a half days there to complete all three "circuits".
So what is this article all about?
Are we not skipping Machu Picchu due to the money that the Peruvian Government will make off us? No, it is much simpler than that. We are not going to Machu Picchu because we can’t enjoy the ruins like we want to enjoy them. We can’t feel the experience of exploration and discovery. We can’t be afforded the freedom to walk around, take pictures from where our artistic minds dictate, relax, connect, or feel Machu Picchu’s magic in a way that makes it a special experience for us. It’s more than spending over a thousand US dollars (minimum) to be herded around like goats through an ancient ruins, with complete strangers in our tour group, and no freedom to explore the ruins and connect to it in our own unique way. Rather, it’s about the freedom to enjoy on our own terms the place we have dreamed of.
This is the magic of going to places like these. The ability to experience it uniquely and allow it to manifest itself to you in a way that is personal. The government of Peru has destroyed this aspect from many travelers through greedy ticket sales in the name of “preservation” of the ruins. Surely, there are other ways to ensure the preservation of the ruins without robbing the travelers the ability to explore a ruin on their time schedule and desired route. However, I am sure that these new regulations are not solely in place to preserve the ruins as much as they are to preserve their pocketbooks and profits at the expense of a personal connections to a unique place in the world.
At its best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views, cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit, make us broader minded and more understanding.
Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of the experience.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Nothing can be compared to the new life that the discovery of another country provides for a thoughtful person. Although I am still the same I believe to have changed to the bones.
To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.
Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.
A wise man travels to discover himself.
Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.
Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you- it should change you.
I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.
You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that reveals you with yourself.
To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.
The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a f@$%ing tourist.
Make voyages! Attempt them… there’s nothing else.
Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.
Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.
Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you travelled.
No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.
If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears.
There is no unhappiness like the misery of sighting land (and work) again after a cheerful, careless voyage.
…to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.
For the born traveller, travelling is a besetting vice. Like other vices, it is imperious, demanding its victim’s time, money, energy and the sacrifice of comfort.
One’s destination is never a place, but always a new way of seeing things.
Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.
Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.
And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.
I am a passionate traveler, and from the time I was a child, travel formed me as much as my formal education.
I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.
How you live your life is up to you. You have to go out and grab the world by the horns. Rope it before it ties you down and decides for you.
I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God.
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.
Live life with no excuses, travel with no regret.
To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, To gain all while you give, To roam the roads of lands remote, To travel is to live.
I finally felt myself lifted definitively away on the winds of adventure toward worlds I envisaged would be stranger than they were, into situations I imagined would be much more normal than they turned out to be.
Traveling. It leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
A great way to learn about your country is to leave it.
The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.
Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted
Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.
Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.
It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you.
We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey
Experience, travel – these are as education in themselves.
All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.
Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.
The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
I travel not to cross countries off a list, but to ignite passionate affairs with destinations.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
If you’re… physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.
Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.
Not all those who wander are lost.
Traveling outgrows its motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you – or unmaking you.
The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.
NOT I – NOT ANYONE else, can travel that road for you, You must travel it for yourself.
Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.
The journey not the arrival matters.
Too often. . .I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover
What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds. When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going.
Change In Perspective
When we first started traveling it was about seeing things. Getting the mental snapshot of a place for memory's sake. Now that he have done a fair bit of traveling, we feel different. Going to Machu Picchu is not about just seeing it. Will not be making the trek to merely see it, only to pay in upwards of a thousand dollars for 3-4 hours, herded around like domestic animals, standing in lines all day while souring our dream of a peaceful place where we can get away from the crowds and appreciate the incredible significance of a place like Machu Picchu. No thank you! We will spend our hard earned money elsewhere, where we can connect, explore and appreciate the world on our own terms, because this is what travel is about, not just seeing places, but feeling places. How can feel what we need to feel, with such impersonal, rushed, money hungry policies in place?
Here is the PDF for the new regulations in Spanish