A new airport under construction in Peru has drawn international outrage, with charges that it will lead to the destruction of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cusco has outgrown Astete International Airport (CUZ). Its single runway cannot handle widebody aircraft and its lack of space limits flights options. Recognizing that the Sacred Valley, home to the Peruvian Andes, Machu Picchu, and other Incan relics is an ever-popular tourist attraction, the Peruvian government has embarked upon the construction of a new airport in nearby Chinchero that could handle widebody aircraft and usher in an era of increased tourism to the region.
That is exactly what has angered many. Archeologists, historians, and environmentalists from all over the world have signed a petition against the airport, which warns:
An airport in the surroundings of the Sacred Valley will affect the integrity of a complex Inca landscape and will cause irreparable damage due to noise, traffic and uncontrolled urbanisation.
Chinchero is 30km from Cusco and home to its own Incan ruins, including a palace, aqueduct and terraces.
One travel agent, Rachel Williams, who specializes in Machu Picchu tours for Aussies and Kiwis, told Traveller:
Plane landings into the guts of the sacred valley is simply a bad idea. Air traffic in the area would create a lot of disturbance not only physically but the noise will shatter the peace degrading the whole sacred valley experience. More day trippers or “tick box tourists” could start visiting Machu Picchu, creating a theme park out of a sacred place.
Are these simply routine objections from voices holding conflicting interests or legitimate outrage? Time will tell.
The new airport is scheduled to open in 2023. Thus far, the Peruvian government seems 100% behind the project.
As for me, I’m torn. My own trip to Machu Picchu was one of the best trips of my life. I want to take my wife and son here and I’d hate to see it turn into an “amusement” park. But I also cannot blame the Peruvian government for wanting to bolster revenue where it can…there’s a fine line, isn’t there? Visiting Machu Picchu should not only be for the wealthy or those with extra time on their hand to make the costly and time-consuming back-and-forth trips via train from Cusco.
For someone who proclaims that his trip to Machu Puchu was “one of the best of his life” I am struck by the author’s profound disrespect for the site and the Sacred Valley itself. Machu Puchu is already overcrowded. I was there on a recent Friday and Saturday. Friday was plenty crowded, but Saturday was, without exaggeration, human gridlock. Traffic through Ollantaytambo is already gridlocked; more traffic is just not possible. Bus traffic in Agua Calientes for the 20 minute switchback road trip to Machu Puchu is already massive. And now this writer and the Peruvian government want more. Are they nuts?? The environmental, scientific, and archeological degradation will be enormous. The beauty and peace of the whole area will be ruined. The very fact that Machu Puchu is difficult and costly to get to is the only thing that keeps massive overcrowding and environmental despoliation at bay.
So keep it as a monument to the rich?
If it were inexpensive and easy to get to, it would likely be ruined. Look at Venice and defend the perspective that mass tourism doesn’t ruin the local culture and character of many places. Dubrovnik is along that path but, luckily, their local government is taking steps to reduce over-tourism, especially from day-tripping cruisers.
And I don’t believe he was implying that it should be a “monument to the rich”. There’s a little economic concept called price elasticity of demand – if something is inherently expensive, the demand goes down. That doesn’t mean it is ONLY for the rich but, rather, for people who REALLY want to go there. They will invest the time and save funds as necessary to commit to a challenging trip. Having genuine concern for protecting unique places may not be at the top of the list for a travel blogger who lives off clicks to travel company banner adds but it is very important for a lot of us.
I’m amazed by all these people who raise their voices here. You guys have no clue. The fact of you were in Machupicchu a couple of times in a fun trip doesn’t make you understand the core of the situation about this Sanctuary whatsoever. I am a Tour guide who have lived, explored, studied and worked in Machupicchu during the last 25 years. This Citadel has been popularized by the National Geographic and rapidly became another fascinating destination mainly for North-Americans and later on for travelers from all over the world. Peru is a country with dozens if not hundreds of superlative heritage sites as impressive as Machupicchu. The problem here is the way the Peruvian government manages this UNESCO site. Irresponsibly, Machupicchu has become the goose that lays the golden egg for the Peruvian government.
Undoubtedly, Machupicchu is in obvious danger since the 80’s. Machupicchu was NEVER built for more than 300 people living on the site all at once, however the Peruvian government fits till 8 thousand people in just one day while high season. The speech of making accessible for more people paying cheaper airfares to land in the Sacred Valley is not only stupid but unrealistic and unfeasible. The fact of having a World heritage site doesn’t mean that the whole world has to be there once in a lifetime. Machupicchu sooner than late is gonna be shut down. People won’t be able to access neither walk through the Citadel but just contemplate the site from outside. I have seen through the years how many places within the Citadel have been closed and marked as inaccessible to be visited. The damage in Machupicchu is terrible. It is irreversible. There is way too many people already there. People need to be educated when going to these places. A World heritage site has a worldwide importance. It is ok if countries receive financial benefits from promoting cultural heritage sites but the importance of Machupicchu goes beyond the Peruvian government financial expectations. Places like this SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED for people to walk through but contemplating it from safe distance. Wrong Tourist Management have been applied to many World Heritage sites. You should know what have happened with other outstanding sites like La cueva de Lacaux in France or La Pirámide de Kukulkán in Mexico….it is gonna happen in Machupicchu…it is coming. Money, money, money….
Machupicchu will never be accessible to everyone. It doesn’t need to be.
Do you know how many Peruvians know Machupicchu?… Moreover, how many Cusqueños know Machupicchu?…If you are thinking to make it accesible for more travelers because you are raising the flag of social equity then you should think (first of all) of those Peruvians who will never be able to get to Machupicchu even if the Peruvian government builds ten more airports. Money, money, money. It is always about money. Machupicchu doesn’t need more people or more airports nearby. Machupicchu needs respect and care. Needs a well organized plan to manage the number of tourists coming everyday. That’s what it needs. So, your kids, grandsons and great-grandchildren are gonna be able to learn about where we come from. Respect dude. Respect.
What does building a corruption laid airport have to do with making Machu Picchu accessible to others., Nothing the airport only benefits the rich companies . Like many writers outside of Peru you have no idea of the reality here. It will destroy the Chinchero valley as well as the sacred valley. The corrupt PPK, his prime minister Savalas sister is legal manager for the company building the airport. Even President Vizcara will be in prison for his involvement in Chinchero. The majority of Cusco people want no part of this corrupt airport. If you are so worried about the less fortunate maybe you should think about the citizens of Chinchero that were lied too. Once again it’s a case of people like you writing about things you know nothing about.
“….Everyone engaged in practical work must investigate conditions at the lower levels. Such investigation is especially necessary for those who know theory but do not know the actual conditions, for otherwise they will not be able to link theory with practice. Although my assertion, “No investigation no right to speak”. ( Mao )
I am pretty sure the Author of this article have never heard about this quote…
Perhaps google or internet will give you better ideas to bring more people to Machupicchu.
‘fools rush in where Angels fear to tread’
Wasn’t that Machu Picchu’s original purpose a royal estate for the Inca elite?
Hey tourists across the world let’s boycott Machu Piccthu all together.
Ola turistas al rederdor del mundo, boycotamos Machu Picchu, y ya.
Oi turitas do mundo inteiro, boycotamos Machu Picchu de uma vez por todas.
I think it’s a stretch to say that this airport will increase accessibility for those less fortunate. The cheapest way to travel will still remain that which offers less convenience. Flying to Cusco and taking the train will likely be far cheaper than taking a flight directly into the valley. I think there are plenty of examples of other places where there are airports close to a desired destination, but the more economical option remains to fly to a less convenient airport and utilize ground transportation.
The new airport would be able to accommodate intercontinental traffic. I have to imagine it would put downward pressure on pricing.
Do you work for Kuntiwasi? The airport is for people from other Latin America countries, not a true international airport. The land where the hotels and restaurants will be are now owned by Chilean companies
No I don’t.
Only time will tell, but I don’t see convenience will make things cheaper. Historically, people have always paid more for the convenience. As of how if one really wants to and is on a budget, they can visit Machu Picchu under $1,000 including flight from North America. This involves taking buses and collectivos to towns. Using the unofficial hidroelectrica hiking route to aquas calientes. Obviously this takes a lot more time, but as we know we pay less for the inconvenience.