Peru without Machu Picchu? is it possible? Backpacking Around Peru is a fulfilling experience which invites a unique opportunity to explore all of the natural richness and culture from this vast South America Sweetheart!
From the raw natural beauty of the Nazca desert to treks along the Gigantic Andes which descends into the vibrant and colourful Amazon Jungle!
So can you really trek around Peru without heading up Macchu Picchu?? The answer is yes, and there is so much more to see and do in Peru.
5 Reasons why you should AVOID Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu used to be this ancient mountain steeped in history, culture, hiking it used to feel like you were a real adventurer heading back in time!
These days thing’s are very different and why i think you should definitely avoid this mountain on your next trip to Peru…there are so many better options!
1. Too Touristic
Many years ago Machu Picchu was a must go experience for any backpacker or vacation tourist alike. However, since it’s massive increase in popularity over many years it is now a completely manufactured Tourist trap!
If heading up the Inca trial you must be part of a tour or have a guide (it is illegal to do so without) (see point 2) .
When you get to the top you will come to a ticket barrier (That’s right an actual ticket barrier) (see point 3).
Then you will be surrounded by hundreds of tourists and tour groups all taking selfies for Instagram and not even taking in the immense scenery and history. You will be get a clear photo of the ruins without hundreds of tourists in it.
The “selfie” situation has now even gotten so bad that as of July 2017 the Peruvian government has now banned “Selfie Sticks”! This ban was a good sign for many however it has also affected professional photographers with tripods being banned! Some people call this collateral damage for the social media boiling pot.
According to the Peruvian Times:
Visitors will not be allowed to use “tripods, mono-pods or extensions for cameras, cell phones or any other stabilizing equipment or extension for filming and/or photography, unless authorized by the Department of Culture of Cusco (DDC Cusco).” That’s according to the ministerial resolution that was published in February approving the new Regulations of Sustainable Use and Touristic Visits for the Conservation of the Inca City of Machu Picchu.* “In effect, the article that you cite refers to ‘every extension.’
Among those extensions are selfie sticks,” a spokesman for Machu Picchu Park director Fernando Astete wrote in an emailed response to Peruvian Times’ request for clarification.
“The use of such extensions greatly disturbs the flow and free circulation of visitors by generating terrible congestion,” the spokesman wrote.
“Most of the arteries, ascents and descents in the Inca Sanctuary of Machu Picchu are narrow and very steep and the circulation is impeded, generating a lot of annoyance to those who, for the most part, want to contemplate the sacred city of the Incas in tranquility.”
Most of the rules about visitor conduct are carry-overs from the previous regulations, even if they weren’t always strictly enforced. The Peruvian Government have also other new rules in place to combat other issues.
There will be no tolerance anymore for flagrant conduct, such as unfurling giant political banners, as Greenpeace did in December 2014, by stripping naked for a photo or to streak across the sanctuary’s main esplanade, as was a growing fad that same year.
Smoking or vaping are also out, as are running or hopping, or making “loud or annoying noises” such as clapping, screaming, whistling or singing “because it disturbs the tranquility and the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.”
Machu Picchu is currently receiving double the number of visitors Unesco recommends as a sustainable limit. A whopping 1.5 million people visited in 2017.
Update: May 2019 – Things have gotten worse…
The Peruvian government has took the decision to build a brand new international airport specifically for Machu Picchu. It will allow direct flights from major cities across Latin America and the USA, to the doorstep of this ancient site.
Some may see this as a good thing, but to others they see it as just “too much” for the site to handle.
According to Justin Francis from Responsible Travel. “It’s not just Machu Picchu itself which will suffer.
The airport is being built in Chinchero, at the gateway to the Sacred Valley, once the heartland of the huge Inca civilisation.
Bulldozers are already tearing up the landscape, and the finished development will annihilate an ancient built landscape, shaped by the Incan people with terraces and routes.
“Critics also suggest that planes flying low over nearby Ollantaytambo and its large archaeological park could cause incalculable damage to the Inca ruins there, and destroy the peace and beauty of the area.”
So maybe just this reason in itself is why you should choose to avoid Machu Picchu and instead experience an amazing trip to Peru without it. See our perfect three week itinary for Peru (Without Machu Picchu) /
Machu Picchu do’s and don’ts (Official)
Visitors to Machu Picchu will not be allowed to:
- Carry backpacks, bags or handbags larger than 16 x 14 x 8 inches (40 x 35 x 20 cm). Items that exceed these dimensions must be deposited in the cloakroom storage outside the entrance.
- Enter with food and/or utensils.
- Enter with any illegal substances or under the influence of any illegal drugs.
- Enter with any type of alcoholic beverage or in a state of inebriation.
- Carry umbrellas or parasols. (Caps, hats and raincoats are allowed.)
- Carry tripods, monopods or extensions for cameras, cell phones or any other stabilizing equipment or extension for filming and/or photography, unless authorized by the Department of Culture of Cusco (DDC Cusco).
- Enter with animals, except for guide dogs when strictly necessary.
- Enter with any type of aerosols.
- Enter with any type of musical instrument, megaphone or speakers.
- Use virtual applications with cell phones or mobile devices along any narrow arteries, trails and points of congestion (the use of such technology is allowed only in large open spaces and designated explanation areas).
- Enter with heels or hard-sole shoes (entrance is allowed only with shoes or sneakers that have soft or rubber sole).
- Enter with baby carriages or strollers (only baby backpack carriers with non-metal frames are allowed).
- Enter with sharp instruments and/or weapons of any kind.
- Enter with banners, posters and/or placards, among other objects of this type. (The use of pennant are allowed exclusively for tour guides leading groups of at least 5 visitors and are limited to the model and dimensions determined by competent authorities in coordination with the respective guides).
- Cause disturbances, hop, jump or generate disorder along the entry path to the Machu Picchu Sanctuary and/or at any point within the complex.
- Enter with clothing intended for advertising purposes.
- Climbing or leaning on walls and/or structures.
- Touch, move or extract lithic elements.
- Perform any type of graffiti.
- Disturb, collect or extract native flora or fauna and/or cultural elements.
- Carry out activities that distort the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, such as fashion shows, dances and social engagements, ceremonies of any kind.
- Enter with portable stools or seats, among others.
- Enter with trekking poles with metallic or hard tips (Canes and poles are allowed for use by elderly people or people with obvious physical handicaps, and in general as long as they have rubber tips).
- Carry out any type of activity that implies the impairment or deterioration of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary, its natural environment and/or facilities.
- Obscene acts contrary to morality and good manners.
- Undress, wear costumes, lie down, run and/or jump.
- Smoking or vaping.
- Make loud or annoying noises such as clapping, screaming, whistling, singing, among other actions, because it disturbs the tranquility and the sacred character of the Machu Picchu Sanctuary.
- Make any kind of fire.
- Dispose of waste of any kind.
- Disrespect the established circuits and routes.
- The commercial sales in the interior of the Sanctuary of Machu Picchu and spaces the Puente Ruinas bridge.
- Feed the domestic and wild animals of Machu Picchu Sanctuary.
Source: peruviantimes.com/machu picchu
The simple fact that such rules and regulations have been enforced shows that tourism is clearly booming but in a negative fashion!
2. It is illegal to not pay for a tour/guide on the famous Inca trial!
As crazy as it sounds it’s now officially illegal to walk the famous Inca trial without a guide. On the Inca trail, a guide is mandatory. You need a permit, and only licensed agents can buy permits. Now why? The Peruvian government says this is because of “safety” .
However, there are plenty of mountain trials for much more dangerous mountains in which you don’t need a guide. Even if your hiking the world’s tallest and most deadly mountain “Everest”, you don’t have to pay a guide (although strongly advised in this case!
So why else do they insist on having a guide, two reasons. Money and PR (Public Relations). Of course any guide or tour requires paying, if it is a must have this creates a trap where people must pay for a tour or guide. Next PR, so if the unforeseeable did happen this would be a PR nightmare and really affect tourist revenues!
There are other trails which you can take which don’t need a guide…. see this great article .
3. Ticket’s for a Natural Wonder?
Call me crazy but isan’t Machu Picchu a natural wonder and not a theme park like Disneyland! However, like any “natural wonder” once lot’s of people start heading up to admire it’s beauty suddenly a ticket barrier will appear, with someone asking for money!
Now let me get this straight it’s not the “cost” of the ticket which is an issue to me but the principle that one person or government suddenly decides a natural beauty is their’s to call the shots on. This reminds me of when i wen’t to Koh tao island in Thailand.
After, trekking for a few miles to find a viewpoint on a dirt road i was greeted by a sign “Pay for entry”…it wasn’t much but then again it’s the principle this is a dirt road and forest not owned by anyone but mother earth.
Also what if you didn’t have change does that mean i have to walk all the way back to town…it’s ridiculous. I wonder if back in 1953 when the famous New Zealand explorer “Edmund Hillary”, wen’t through an gruelling seven week climb to finally get to the top.
Then he was greeted by a ticket barrier and a women who said he can’t come to the summit without paying $20! I think he would have jumped off!
Tickets are not sold at Machu Picchu, so if you do make the trek without out one (you actually won’t be allowed in!) This actually happened to a friend of my whom had to trek all the way back!
Here are some tips to avoid getting caught short if you decide to go:
Tip 1 – To visit Machu Picchu, it’s vital to have an entrance ticket and passport. Tip 2 – You MUST have a ticket beforehand. Don’t go right up to the entry gate at Machu Picchu thinking you can buy your entry ticket there.
You must get it it the near-by town of Aguas Calientes(where your train will stop, if that’s how you get there), in Cusco, or in advance on the internet.
Tip 3 – There are a limited number of tickets available per day. In the high season (June to September) tickets can sell out fast! So booking in advance is advised.
4. Tight Tour Schedules
Imagine, you’ve just got to the top of Machu Picchu, sat down to relax and then Boom you hear the dreaded phrase “times up” “everyone back down!”.
For some tours who are very busy during peak season this is a common occurrence for some badly run tours which very tight schedules to adhere to!
So yeah, we need a tour or private guide a ticket (which must purchase beforehand) , money for food (As brining your own is officially not allowed on the mountain!) Ticket prices come in three types depending upon how “high” and to which peak you wan’t to go up the mountain.
Ticket Type 1 (Standard) – Entrance to main grounds.
Adult: $47 USD (152 Soles) Student (up to 25 years old): $24 USD (77 Soles) Child: $24 USD (77 Soles) This provides entry to Machu Picchu which includes the main ruins, terraces, and temples.
Ticket Type 2 – Machu Picchu and Montana mountain included.
Adult: $62 USD (200 Soles) Student (up to 25 years old): $38 USD (125 Soles) Child: $38 USD (125 Soles).
Ticket Type 3 – Includes Machu Picchu, Huyna Picchu and temple of the sun.
Adult: $62 USD (200 Soles) Student (up to 25 years old): $38 USD (125 Soles) Child: $38 USD (125 Soles)
Total Cost estimate:
Cost’s to travel up Machu Picchu without a guide.
Accommodation: ~$12+ USD hostel dorm, $35+ USD private staying in Aguas Calientes,
TOTAL COST: ~$238+ USD (based on 1-night dorm bed stay, Sneaking own food in)