Last week I finally got the chance to return to Machu Picchu before the end of the year. I’d already made seven trips there in January and February of this year, but the pandemic and closure of the site kept me away for months.
I had been to Aguas Calientes twice already when the Sanctuary opened up this month, but hadn’t made a trip up to the ruins themselves until last Tuesday.
Needless to say, the new biosecurity protocols including severely limiting the number of visitors each day to only 675 instead of the previous thousands of daily visitors made it a very special day.
For those thinking about going soon, you must take a bus up to the ruins. Many of the iconic sections are closed off including Huayna Picchu, Machu Picchu mountain, the Inti Punku (“Sun Gate”), and the Puente Inca (“Inca Bridge”).
A mask and face shield is required on the bus (as well as the entire train trip if you choose to travel to Aguas Calientes that way), but not inside the ruins. Get ready for countless temperature checks on your trip and alcohol sprays on your hands, though once you are in the ruins you can relax. Face masks, like everywhere in Peru, is required at all times, though they’re patient and understanding if you take a quick selfie as most visitors do.
The most striking part of the entire visit was that Machu Picchu was relatively empty. I happened to meet my friend Joseph Baca who had booked a ticket for the same time as me because 6 am was the only available slot when we got our tickets at the last minute a few days before. It was a nice coincidence and we were able to take our time going through the site without worrying about hordes of tourists blocking photos or forcing us to rush through.
Here are some photos I took along the way. (As always, click on the individual photos to see a full-size version.)
When we arrived back in Aguas Calientes there was a protest march in progress against the PeruRail train company that continued for hours and eventually resulted in a blockade of the train station stranding both tourists and local people for whom the train is their only transportation.
Many travelers were trapped inside the station as police blocked both the entrance and the exit all day leaving them without access to food or water. It wasn’t until late that the trains were allowed to leave. Tensions were very, very high and for awhile I wondered if it could become violent. Fortunately, by the time I went got to the station for my morning departure everything was over.