Machu Picchu to reopen to tourists – but children are banned

Emma Featherstone
·4-min read
Visitor numbers at the Unesco World Heritage Site will be drastically reduced - Getty
Visitor numbers at the Unesco World Heritage Site will be drastically reduced - Getty

Machu Picchu, the Inca citadel which attracts around 1.5 million visitors each year, will reopen on November 1 after a seven-month closure.

This year marked only the second time that Peru's biggest tourist draw has shut since 1948; in 2010 it was forced to close during extended and torrential rain storms. 

The 125.8-square-mile site, which sits 7,972 feet above sea level in the Andean mountains, overlooking the Urubamba Valley, will, at first, limit admission to 675 people a day. The first round of tickets has already sold out.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, it saw average daily visitor numbers of 2,000-3,000.

"We have a limited 30 per cent admission capacity in compliance with biosafety measures and protocols," said Jose Basante, director of Machu Picchu archaeological park.

There will be temperature checks on entry and visitors will be required to wear face masks and keep a distance of two metres (6.5ft) from one another. 

Groups will be limited to eight, people will have to stick to four predefined routes, and children under 12 – who, under Peru's Covid rules, are only allowed out of the house for 60 minutes a day – will not be granted entry.

For those that can visit the country – Peru has reopened to international flights from a limited number of countries, but is expected to expand this in the coming weeks – a package trip to the World Heritage Site is now significantly cheaper. A package tour usually cost around $750 (£579), now prices have been cut to $250 (£193). 

The return of foreign tourists to Peru is a significant step forward for a country which imposed one of the world's strictest lockdowns – yet still saw one of the highest Covid death rates. 

In the first 15 weeks of the country's coronavirus crisis, Peruvians were only allowed to leave their homes to buy food or receive medical attention. 

People were banned from using private vehicles, and face masks were made mandatory in public. There was also an 8pm curfew. 

The lockdown hit Peru's economy hard; it contracted by 30 per cent in the second quarter of 2020. By June, some restrictions had eased; however, the country's state of national emergency has been extended until November 30. 

Ongoing restrictions include a curfew from 11pm to 4am each day, compulsory use of face masks outside the home (plus a facial protector on public transport), a ban on using private cars on Sundays, a ban on social and family gatherings, and limits on movement for under 12s and over 65s.

However, the Peruvian government approved an economic reactivation plan between May and August, which involved relaxing restrictions and reopening some sectors, including tourism. The industry accounts for more than 1.4 million jobs.

The country has recorded 897,594 cases of the virus to date, but its seven-day infection rate is now relatively low at 56.4 per 100,000 people. 

Ahead of its official reopening, Machu Picchu recently welcomed a single Japanese tourist who had been stranded  in Peru when the country closed its borders and imposed its draconian lockdown in response to the pandemic.

Jesse Katayama at Machu Picchu -  Jesse Katayama/Instagram
Jesse Katayama at Machu Picchu - Jesse Katayama/Instagram

Jesse Katayama, a 26-year-old boxing instructor from Nara, waited seven months to see the ruins before he was granted access after submitting a special request. 

He was escorted to the site by the head of the park, becoming the first tourist to set foot inside the citadel since March.

Now Peru has reopened to flights from seven countries within the region, and on November 1 it is opening to 25 more international destinations, including the US, several islands in the Caribbean, and Mexico. 

The country requires air passengers to wear a face covering and a face shield or visor on board flights. 

Arrivals must also have proof of a negative Covid-19 PCR test results taken within 72 hours before their departure. Those who arrive in Peru with suspected symptoms of the virus will be told to quarantine for 14 days.

Alongside Machu Picchu, a number of other archaeological sites in Peru reopened to visitors on October 15, including Saqsaywaman, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Tipon, Moray and Pikillacta.

These sites are offering free entry to Peruvian and international visitors. There are strict protocols in place, including social distancing, and tickets must be secured in advance for a set time slot.

No details have been released on the further resumption of international flights; as it stands, it is limited to destinations with a flight time to Peru of eight hours or fewer.