Peru’s extravagant celebrations of the centenary of the rediscovery of Machu Picchu descended into farce this week, after a bureaucratic wrangle that saw hundreds of tourists from around the world barred from entering the Inca ruins.
Last week, the local branch of Peru’s National Institute of Culture (INC) abruptly ruled that no more than 2,500 people could visit Machu Picchu per day, a move aimed at preventing damage to the site.
On Tuesday, hundreds of frustrated tourists began picketing the official ticket office in downtown Cusco, the former Inca capital that is three hours from the archaeological site.
After widespread condemnation – not least from Cusco’s army of tour operators – the INC bureaucrats backtracked and raised the limit temporarily to 3,300.
But on Wednesday, authorities were still having trouble clearing the backlog of visitors.
“We have had a wonderful reception in Peru. The people have been fantastic. But when it comes to Machu Picchu, we have been treated disgustingly,” said Koen Cherlet, 31, from Belgium.
The new daily limit of 3,300 visitors itself came in for criticism from archaeologists and other tourism experts who warned that it was unsustainable.
The problems are the latest in a series of alleged management errors. Two years ago, the ticket office at the site entrance was closed. No warning was given and many tourists continue to make the mistake of arriving at the entrance only to discover that they have to make an hour-long trip back to the ticket office in Aguas Calientes, the nearest town.