New 2017 Machu Picchu Entry Rules

In April 2017 Peru's Ministry of Culture announced a number of changes that will come into effect from 1st July 2017 regarding tourist visitor access to Machu Picchu.

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Changes have been expected for a number of years due in part to how popular Machu Picchu has become. In relatively recent living memory only a handful of tourists ventured into Peru's hidden valleys to visit Machu Picchu each day. It is only over the past few decades that Machu Picchu has become such a popular tourist destination in particular since Machu Picchu's inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List and subsequent growth in popularity as a result of the "Palin effect" (places visited by Michael Palin on his travel programmes become substantially more popular in subsequent years - Palin visited Machu Picchu during his Full Circle programme first aired in 1997).

In 2016 1.2 million people visited Machu Picchu and around 3000 people a day visit the site on the various entry tickets (standard entry ticket, Inca Trail ticket etc) and the new rules for 2017 are designed to improve the visitor experience so the site isn't as crowded at any one time as well as help to protect this important and iconic ancient site.

However the new rules are fairly complex and some of the changes are significant. Before making the trip to Machu Picchu here's our overview on the most important Machu Picchu entry rules from 1st July 2017 and how they may affect your trip.

Entrance to Machu Picchu

Some of the major changes to the rules are around access to Machu Picchu for visitors, with restrictions to the number of people that can enter the site and restrictions to the length of time that can be spent within the site. Here's our take on the major changes to be aware of:

Entry only with an Official Guide: As of 1st July 2017 entrance to Machu Picchu will only be possible if you are accompanied with an official registered tour guide, so don't just turn up and expect to be able to get in. In reality this means that all visitors will essentially have to pre-book tickets and tours before visiting which means forward-planning is key, but for something as important as Machu Picchu this is never a bad idea as it guarantees you an entry ticket.

Split Entry Times: In the past it was possible to enter Machu Picchu and spend the full day at the ruin, however from 1st July 2017 the authorities are limiting the amount of time visitors can spend within the grounds of the site. Times are limited to two entry windows: 6am - 12pm, and 12pm - 5.30pm. You can only enter within one of these two entrance windows, and you must leave the site before the end of your session. The tour guides will assist all visitors to ensure you don't stay longer than your allotted time.

Once you leave you cannot re-enter: In the past it was possible to come and go from Machu Picchu, however from 1st July 2017 once you leave you will not be able to re-enter the site. For most people this will actually make little difference, as it was rare for people to leave and return, however if you are feeling peckish it will no longer be possible to leave the site for lunch and return on the same ticket.

Tours of Machu Picchu

There are also changes to the tours themselves. Machu Picchu is a large sprawling site with much to see and do but the ancient winding stairways, small precarious terraces and labyrinthine pathways often meant the ruin could be over-crowded in parts, particularly as it wasn't unknown for tour groups and guides to follow their own routes in the opposite direction to everyone else which created crowding and bottlenecks. This affected the quality of visitor experience and enjoyment as well as risking damage to the ancient site, and as a consequence the Ministry of Culture has announced fixed set tour routes that all guides and visitors must follow:

Circuit 1: This is the classic Machu Picchu tour that most tour groups will follow that follows a large circular route covering the majority of the site.

Circuit 2: This route is similar to Circuit 1 although slightly shorter and it is worth noting you will not climb up as high when you first enter the site which may reduce the "post card" view opportunities during the tour.

Circuit 3: This is a shorter more easily accessible route that primarily visits the lower parts of the site and doesn't involve as much walking as the other options, so is possibly a better option for anyone concerned about accessibility or looking to avoid a more strenuous tour.

Further Rules and Restrictions

In addition to the above mentioned changes there are a host of other rules to be aware of during your visit to Machu Picchu:

Rucksacks / backpacks are restricted in size: If your bag is greater than 40x35x20cm you will not be allowed to take it into Machu Picchu (to protect the site). In these instances you will need to store your bag in the storage rooms near the entrance to Machu Picchu.

No food or drink (including alcohol): At the time of writing we believe bottles of water are allowed (which is sensible, given tours can last 3 hours in the sun!).

No smoking: This includes e-cigarettes.

Behave sensibly: Any disrespectful behaviour such as nudity, noise, advertising, singing etc is not allowed. Any climbing up walls or over rocks on the site, or any behaviour that risks damage to any part of the site is not allowed. Do not steal stones or remove any part of Machu Picchu from the site.

Stay to the marked routes: This may seem like an obvious one but stay to the marked routes which are there to protect the site for future generations (and to make sure you don't venture to more dangerous parts of the site).

No equipment: Any bulky item such as camera tripods, drones, umbrellas, push-chairs / prams etc are not allowed. If you are a photographer tripods will only be allowed under special agreement (e.g. for professionals with prior agreement) and if it is rainy you'll need to make do with a waterproof jacket / poncho / hood instead of your umbrella. If you are travelling to Machu Picchu with young children or babies you will not be allowed to access the site if you have a push-chair / pram (due to the uneven surfaces this wouldn't be possible anyway) so you will need to use a back-pack style baby-carrier.

Walking poles / walking sticks allowed only in certain situations: To protect the site it is not possible for anyone to take a walking pole or walking stick along with them during a visit to Machu Picchu. Only people in need of a walking stick (e.g. if you would use one for general day to day activities due to age or disability) will be allowed to take one into the site, and even in these instances only special rubber-tipped walking sticks are allowed to avoid damaging the site (this rule also applies for the Inca Trail).

Wear correct footwear: Hi-heeled shoes or any footwear that may damage the site is not allowed. It may seem like common sense but our recommendation is to wear a soft-soled waterproof comfortable pair of shoes such as trekking shoes.

Some of these rules may seem harsh or unnecessary (or strict!) but the reality is that they only exist to maximise your enjoyment of your visit (you don't want to get poked in the eye by an umbrella!) and are there to protect the site for future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although the new rules are actually issued in a lengthy official document issued by the Peruvian Ministry of Culture there are still many questions due in part to the complexity of the rules and also as the document does not necessarily cover all eventualities. The changes also prompted confusion and uncertainty, particularly for people who have already booked their trip to Machu Picchu, and the below frequently asked questions are the more common concerns people have had when contacting us:

I have a two day Machu Picchu entry ticket, how do I enter on the second day without a guide?

A two day Machu Picchu entry ticket is a common upgrade (which must be reserved at the point of booking, the ticket cannot be amended afterwards) which basically does what it says - it allows you to return to Machu Picchu for a second day. Usually visitors would tour the site on the first day of their visit with a guide, sleep overnight in Machu Picchu Pueblo in the valley below Machu Picchu itself, and return to Machu Picchu the following day for free time to explore the ruin without having to be on a tour.

Officially the new rules state that you need to physically be with a guide, however if you have a two day ticket you will be allowed to enter on the second day without a guide as long as you show both your Day 1 and Day 2 tickets and have had them stamped by your guide.

I want to stay longer at Machu Picchu, can I?

Unfortunately not, the length of time you can spend in Machu Picchu will be restricted to one of the two visitor times of either 6am - 12pm or 12pm - 5.30pm, so you will not be able to stay longer. It is the guides responsibility to sign all their visitors in and out of Machu Picchu and ensure their group has finished the tour and left before the end of their session (they may lose their guide license if they don't adhere to this!) so they will make sure you leave on time.

Do I need to reserve a specific entry time?

Yes you need to reserve a specific entry time (either 6am - 12pm or 12pm - 5.30pm). For all bookings with us we will make sure to coordinate your entry time and your train ticket times (for the train to/from the Sacred Valley and Cusco) to maximise your time in Machu Picchu.

I have already booked my train ticket from Cusco to Machu Picchu, will this affect my visit?

Most visitors will reach Machu Picchu Pueblo (the small town in the valley below Machu Picchu itself) on the train from the Sacred Valley or Cusco, and from Machu Picchu Pueblo it is a very short bus ride to Machu Picchu itself. This means it is important to reserve train times that correspond to one of the two entry windows to maximise your time in Machu Picchu, otherwise you may find you only arrive at Machu Picchu at 10.30am and need to be finished before 12 noon.

If you have already reserved your train ticket don't worry!... As these changes were only announced earlier this year the Peruvian authorities have stated they will be flexible for the first few months after 1st July 2017 (when the changes come into effect) to help people adjust to the changes and to acknowledge that some people will have already reserved train times. However in the future it is likely that there will not be much flexibility on this so it is important to get the correct train times for your entry ticket (we will take care of this for you).

Are there guides outside if I just turn up?

Thousands of people visit Machu Picchu per day and guide group sizes are limited to 16 people per guide, so the safest option is always to book in advance, this way you are guaranteed an entry ticket, a guide and a tour so you don't miss out.

Are tickets to Machu Picchu limited?

Yes all ticket types are limited per day and once they have sold out no more are issued. Our recommendation is always to reserve in advance to be sure of a ticket.

I have booked Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain - how does that work with the new rules?

Both Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are lengthy treks and it will not be possible to tour the site and visit these areas within the new morning / afternoon 4 hour sessions. Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain are booked on a combination ticket and these allow you more time in the site (2 hours for Huayna Picchu and 3 hours for Machu Picchu mountain in addition to the 4 hours standard ticket).

For Huayna Picchu you must start the climb either between 7am and 8am or 10am and 11am (depending on your ticket), and for Machu Picchu Mountain you must start between 9am and 10am.

If you wish to visit either Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain during your visit to Machu Picchu then it is important you reserve this at the point of booking as it requires a different entry ticket, and we recommend doing this on the second day of a two-day visit.

If I have booked with Go Andes which tour will I be doing?

Unless you specifically request otherwise our Machu Picchu tours will be the full "Circuit 1" tour. Each tour will last approximately two and a half hours (all tours run at the same speed as the park guards ensure groups don't linger).

It is important you let us know in advance if you would like to do an alternate route so we can coordinate for you.

Will I have free time to explore Machu Picchu by myself?

Previously it was possible to tour Machu Picchu with your guide then have some free time to explore the ruin by yourselves afterwards, however with the new circuits it appears that this is no longer possible and all visitors will leave the park with their guide immediately following the tour.

I booked my holiday with you months ago, will this affect me?

Although the changes are significant and the coming months will certainly be a challenge for everyone to adjust (train schedules, guides, Machu Picchu security staff etc) it is our expectation that this should only have minimal or no impact on your trip. Where needed we are amending train schedules to ensure you have sufficient time in Machu Picchu.

More Changes In The Future

It is very likely that further changes will happen over the next year or so, and we will update as and when we are able.

The authorities have a trial window of implementation of the new rules for the first few months during which time they will assess the impact of the changes to the environment and the visitors and may make further tweaks. Larger changes are also possible / probable in the future as the Peruvian Ministry of Culture reviews the situation.

It is worth noting that these proposed changes are new and in some instances there is still uncertainty around exactly how some of the rules will be implemented or applied. We've prepared this guide in good faith using the facts and information available at the time of writing but the information above is subject to change.

Finally: These rules may seem daunting, but in reality for the vast majority of visitors they will have minimal impact. Enjoy Machu Picchu, it is wonderful.

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