Machu Picchu with new Covid regulations

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November 5th 2020
Published: November 6th 2020
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The new Covid reality: Where are all the tourists?The new Covid reality: Where are all the tourists?The new Covid reality: Where are all the tourists?

The third day after Machu Picchu opened to tourists with new Covid-19 protocols, the place still feels like the ghost town it was when Hiram Bingham arrived in 1911.
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail opened again on November 2, after being closed since the State of Emergency and Covid-19 quarantine were announced in Peru on March 15th.

I had the amazing good fortune to be able to hike the Inca Trail on November 4th and visit Machu Picchu on November 5th with a group of friends. All but one had never visited Machu Picchu before, though all of them have sat through more than seven months of isolation, quarantine and lockdown in Cusco. I was so happy to be able to join them for their first time at this amazing UNESCO World Heritage site, especially since it was free! The Peruvian government opened both the Inca Trail from KM104 and Machu Picchu for free the first two weeks of November, with a very limited number of permits and tickets. Initially, the government announced that both would be free to November 15th, but that has now been extended through mid-December. The full Inca Trail, starting at KM82, is still closed while the Ministry of Tourism and park rangers try to figure out how to safely open campgrounds during a global pandemic.

As part of reopening, there are tons
Social distancing on the Inca TrailSocial distancing on the Inca TrailSocial distancing on the Inca Trail

Starting the Inca Trail at KM104, there are new flags along the entrance to show you how far apart to wait as you approach the first checkpoint. The full Inca Trail from KM82 is still closed as the Ministry of Tourism works on how to operate the campgrounds during a pandemic.
of new restrictions and Covid protocols. Nothing went smoothly and it seemed to me that they were using the first couple weeks to try to iron out the issues with their new systems. Having done both the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu before several times, the difference was impressive. New Covid protocols have changed almost every aspect of both the Inca Trail hike and the Machu Picchu tour.

This blog is mostly photos, so scroll down or click on a photo to scroll through each one and read my captions about how the new Covid regulations have changed the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu.

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 23


Sustainable tourism with a maskSustainable tourism with a mask
Sustainable tourism with a mask

Sanitary protocols for tourism in Natural Protected Areas: all four protocols are the usual environmental recommendations for not littering and respecting flora and fauna. The new signs are different in that they show tourists wearing masks and remind people to wash their hands.
Social distancing at archeological sitesSocial distancing at archeological sites
Social distancing at archeological sites

The first archeological site that you visit on the Inca Trail, near KM104 is Chachabamba. With park rangers watching, we keep our masks on and stood as far apart as possible while we listened to information about the site.
New Covid protocols on the trailNew Covid protocols on the trail
New Covid protocols on the trail

All along the Inca Trail, at each resting point, there are new signs about how to stay safe during the pandemic. Hikers are instructed to wear masks and always maintain social distancing during the hike.
Abandoned Wiñay WaynaAbandoned Wiñay Wayna
Abandoned Wiñay Wayna

Uncovered in the 1980s, after centuries of being hidden by the jungle, the archeological site of Wiñay Wayna is by far my favorite place along the Inca Trail. We were the only people there, besides a park ranger. I imagined that this is must be what it was like, when it was abandoned in the 1500s but before it was covered by the jungle.
Wiñay Wayna checkpointWiñay Wayna checkpoint
Wiñay Wayna checkpoint

The park rangers were waiting for us at the checkpoint and informed us that we were the third and last group of the day. We had been taking our sweet time on purpose, trying to spend as much time as possible on the Inca Trail and they had been waiting for us for hours.
Getting closer to Machu PicchuGetting closer to Machu Picchu
Getting closer to Machu Picchu

Between the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu, there are several important archeological sites that I've never before had time to stop at. With the trail all to ourselves, we could spread out and learn about places like this, where Hiram Bingham found the mummy of a woman buried with her dog.
Arriving at Machu PicchuArriving at Machu Picchu
Arriving at Machu Picchu

Though we hiked the trail on Wednesday, we saved our Machu Picchu tickets for Thursday morning, when we would have more time to visit the citadel. At the entrance to Machu Picchu are signs for the new regulations: you must wear both mask and face shield, no eating or drinking, don't touch surfaces and if you cough or sneeze you should cover your mouth with your elbow.
The shuttle between Machu Picchu and Aguas CalientesThe shuttle between Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes
The shuttle between Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes

Like all transportation in Peru, new Covid regulations prohibit people from sitting together on public transportation. Consettur is the shuttle bus company that takes people up and down from the town of Aguas Calientes to the Machu Picchu citadel.
The new Aguas Calientes hospitalThe new Aguas Calientes hospital
The new Aguas Calientes hospital

The Peruvian government wanted to open Machu Picchu months ago, but the people of Aguas Calientes protested because they had no clinic or hospital. Aguas Calientes is only accessible by train, there are no roads. Anybody who needs to be evacuated can only leave by train or helicopter. The hospital isn't finished, but at least they started it before they opened Machu Picchu.
No really, where are the tourists?No really, where are the tourists?
No really, where are the tourists?

With Machu Picchu tickets free the first two weeks of November, I did expect to see other people there. Instead, my group of friends were they only ones there. The entrance to Machu Picchu is usually so crowded that it's hard to push through the crowds.
The first photo opThe first photo op
The first photo op

Walking up from the entrance, this is the first place people usually stop to take photos. When I was here in February with my friend Amanda, we had to wait in line to get pictures standing by this reconstructed building.
The house of the guardianThe house of the guardian
The house of the guardian

This little building has a great view over the whole Machu Picchu complex. It is usually covered with people, waiting their turn to stand at the edge and get their picture taken with the archeological area spread out below them. Nobody besides my group was there when we visited.
Where's Waldo?Where's Waldo?
Where's Waldo?

The open sandy area at the bottom of the photo is usually so covered with tourists that you can't see the ground. In this shot, I only captured one of the usual hoard of hundreds of tourists. Can you see the pink spot?
New distancing enforcementNew distancing enforcement
New distancing enforcement

Even though we were the only group there, park rangers instructed us to sit on the new circles of white stones while we listened to the history of Machu Picchu. This terrace is usually packed and the new circles of stones are carefully placed to enforce social distancing, for whenever the tourists do come back.
Empty Machu PicchuEmpty Machu Picchu
Empty Machu Picchu

Even though I've visited Machu Picchu several times, this day was completely different. Even during my visits in the rainy season, early in the morning or late in the afternoon, I've never seen Machu Picchu so completely empty.
The entrance to the citadelThe entrance to the citadel
The entrance to the citadel

This doorway is the entrance to the section of Machu Picchu that has houses, through the wall that separates the "urban" part from the agricultural terraces. There is usually a long line of people waiting to have their photo taken in the doorway, with hundreds of people on the path behind.
The effect of seven months of closed bordersThe effect of seven months of closed borders
The effect of seven months of closed borders

The Peruvian government closed borders and all tourist attractions on March 15th, 2020. This is the fourth day that Machu Picchu has been open again, but Covid regulations still prevent most people from visiting.
Lonely llamasLonely llamas
Lonely llamas

The llamas of Machu Picchu are famous and few people come through here without a few selfies with llamas. Their real purpose is to mow and fertilize the grassy terraces and I wonder if they will be even more shy than usual, when people do return to Machu Picchu and want their pictures taken with the llamas.
Classic doorway shotsClassic doorway shots
Classic doorway shots

I just couldn't get over the sight of every crowded choke point at Machu Picchu completely deserted.

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