As with any renowned destination, considerations surrounding safety and preservation have emerged, prompting travelers to ponder: Is Machu Picchu safe?
Since its rediscovery by American historian and explorer, Hiram Bingham, in 1911, Machu Picchu’s international fame has grown exponentially.
Annually attracting millions from around the world, it has become synonymous with adventure, history, and cultural exploration.
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983 and voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu’s global appeal is undeniable.
The combination of its breathtaking panoramic views, intricate ancient ruins, and the enigmatic history propels Machu Picchu to the top of many travelers’ bucket lists.
Here’s everything you need to know about travel safety in Machu Picchu.
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🙋🏽 Is Machu Picchu safe?
ABSOLUTELY! As one of the world’s most visited archaeological sites, it has a comprehensive system in place to ensure the safety of travelers and its visitors.
You really don’t have to worry about safety in Machu Picchu as it is a well-traveled path. Every year, Machu Picchu is visited by 1.2 million tourists which makes it one of the safest places to visit in the world.
The only safety precaution that you will have to worry about is the terrain, the weather conditions for hiking, and your physical ability to hike Machu Picchu.
Peru has experienced political challenges and some instability this year. The country saw frequent changes in its political leadership over the preceding years and faced economic and social challenges.
There have been notable political developments and protests in Peru, which greatly improved tourism in Peru.
💃🏽 Is it safe to travel to Machu Picchu alone?
YES! I traveled alone to Machu Picchu a lot and have always met fellow travelers. I never felt alone and I always had people to hike with!
As a solo traveler, one of the top things you need to do for your safety in Machu Picchu is preparation. Ensure you are well-prepared, with a clear understanding of the routes, train schedules, and necessary permits.
When hiking for days, keep your friends or family updated about your itinerary and whereabouts.
If you are unsure about navigating alone, joining a guided group tour can be an excellent way to experience Machu Picchu safely. Guides are knowledgeable about the area and can provide context about the historical site.
Respecting local customs and being culturally sensitive can go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip to Machu Picchu.
Lastly, listen to locals. Local residents and workers often have the best knowledge about current conditions and safety. If advised not to trek a particular path or visit an area, it’s wise to heed that advice.
⛰️ Terrain and hiking risks at Machu Picchu
There are many trails leading to Machu Picchu and you can choose whatever fits your schedule, budget and physical ability.
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and the paths within the citadel itself are relics of ancient Incan engineering. Some characteristics to be aware of include:
Many sections of the trails are steep climbs or descents. Proper footing is essential to prevent slips or falls.
Certain stretches, especially on mountain edges, are notably narrow, requiring travelers to proceed single-file and with caution.
While many parts of the trail are well-preserved, others can be rugged and uneven, demanding close attention to where one steps.
😵💫 Altitude Sickness in Machu Picchu
Altitude sickness arises when travelers ascend to great heights quickly, preventing the body from adjusting to the lower oxygen levels.
Symptoms can range from headaches, dizziness, and nausea to more severe issues like difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.
To reduce the risk, spend a day or two in a lower-altitude area like Cusco or the Sacred Valley before heading to Machu Picchu.
Drinking plenty of water, avoiding alcohol, and considering altitude sickness pills under medical supervision can also be beneficial.
🚌 Transportation Safety in Machu Picchu
Buses ferry tourists up the winding mountain road from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. While the road is narrow and can be intimidating for some, the drivers are experienced, and the buses are regularly maintained.
Travelers should remain seated during the journey and be aware that, particularly during the rainy season, the road might be wet and muddy, affecting driving conditions.
☔ Machu Picchu weather safety
Machu Picchu receives the bulk of its rain between November and March. Rain can make the trails slippery and muddy.
While the site remains open year-round, it’s essential to have waterproof gear, tread carefully, and be prepared for potential mudslides or pathway obstructions during these months.
At high altitudes, the sun’s rays are more potent, increasing the risk of sunburn. Use a high SPF sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and lightweight long-sleeved clothing to shield against harmful UV rays.
🎒 Pickpocketing in Machu Picchu
As with any famous destination all over the world, pickpocketing can happen in Machu Picchu.
Stay vigilant, especially in crowded areas, always be aware of your surroundings and anyone who might be getting uncomfortably close.
Use anti-theft bags with lockable zippers or hidden pockets can deter potential pickpockets. Only carry what you need for the day. Leave non-essential items and excess cash in a safe at your accommodation.
Instead of keeping all valuables in one place, distribute them among various pockets or pouches.
Drawing attention with flashy jewelry or electronics can make you a target. It’s best to keep such items discreet or leave them behind.
In the rare event that someone tries to distract you or gets too close, remain calm but assertive, and always keep a hand on your belongings.
🧭 Trusted and safe Machu Picchu tour operators
To ensure your safety in Machu Picchu, you should choose reputable tour companies.
Established companies tend to adhere to international and local safety standards, ensuring that tours are conducted safely.
Choose guides with knowledge and training. Reputable guides are often well-trained, not only in the history and significance of the site but also in first-aid and emergency response.
Guides are often updated about any changes, restrictions, or areas of the site that might be currently unsafe due to maintenance or other factors.
A good guide can also educate tourists on local customs and etiquette, ensuring respectful and safe interactions with the local community.
Check the legitimacy of the tour agency! There’s a risk of scams or subpar experiences with less established operators. Choosing a reputable company ensures that you get the experience you pay for.
Also, join group tours especially if you are a solo traveler! There’s safety in numbers. Being in a group, especially with an experienced guide, can deter potential pickpockets or scammers.
🦙 Wildlife Encounters in Machu Picchu
The rich biodiversity of the region means travelers may encounter various species. Common animals include chinchillas, vizcachas, and the iconic Andean condor.
While many are harmless, it’s essential to remember they are wild animals.
Avoid feeding or attempting to touch any wildlife. This not only protects you but also ensures the animals’ well-being.
Maintain a safe distance. Even seemingly docile animals can become aggressive when threatened. Be especially wary of larger birds and mammals that may feel threatened by human presence.
Observing from a distance with binoculars or a camera lens is the safest way to appreciate these magnificent creatures.
♿ Machu Picchu Infrastructure and Facilities
Machu Picchu, while an ancient citadel, is supported by a range of modern infrastructure and facilities to ensure the safety and convenience of its millions of visitors.
To maintain the integrity of the site, regular maintenance and restoration work is undertaken. This involves stabilizing structures, conserving original stonework, and monitoring environmental impacts.
While these efforts ensure that Machu Picchu remains in the best possible condition for future generations, it may mean that certain areas are cordoned off from tourists at times to facilitate this work.
🚑 Medical emergencies in Machu Picchu
The closest significant medical facilities are in Cusco, which is several hours away. It’s essential to be aware of this, especially if one has health conditions that might require immediate attention.
There are basic first-aid services available at Machu Picchu to handle minor injuries or illnesses. Staff is trained to assist in case of emergencies, and for more severe cases, evacuations can be coordinated to larger medical facilities.
✨ Machu Picchu travel safety tips
To ensure this experience is as seamless and safe as possible, you can benefit from some preparatory measures and mindful practices. Here are some key travel safety tips to Machu Picchu:
Pre-travel Health Preparations
Consult your doctor or a travel clinic to ensure you have all recommended vaccinations for Peru.
Machu Picchu is at a high altitude, and some visitors might experience altitude sickness. Acclimatizing in Cusco, taking altitude sickness medication, and staying hydrated can help in prevention.
Ensure your travel insurance covers any potential health issues or accidents that might occur during the trip.
Some parts of Machu Picchu, especially if you plan to hike mountains like Huayna Picchu, require a good level of fitness. Engage in some preparatory exercises before the trip.
Essential items to pack for Machu Picchu
- Sturdy Footwear: Given the uneven and sometimes steep terrains, a pair of comfortable hiking shoes is a must.
- Water and Snacks: While there are places to purchase these near the entrance, it’s always a good idea to carry your own, especially if venturing further into the site.
- Weather Appropriate Clothing: The weather can be unpredictable, so layers, a rain jacket, and sun protection are essential.
- First Aid Kit: A basic kit with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers can be handy.
Best times to Visit Machu Picchu
- Dry Season (May to September): While this is the peak tourist season due to favorable weather, it’s also the busiest. Plan to arrive early to beat the crowds.
- Shoulder Months (April and October): These months offer a balance between decent weather and fewer tourists.
- Rainy Season (November to March): While there are fewer crowds, be prepared for rain, and some trails may be slippery.
Group vs. Solo Travel to Machu Picchu
Traveling in a group can provide a sense of safety, shared experiences, and often logistical convenience as many details are taken care of by tour operators.
Solo travel offers flexibility, personal growth, and the chance for introspection. However, solo travelers should be especially vigilant about their belongings and safety.
Whether in a group or solo, always be respectful and considerate when interacting with locals. Solo travelers, in particular, may find it easier to form genuine connections with locals and fellow travelers.
Interaction with Local Communities
Dress appropriately. Understand the local norms for dressing, especially if you’re visiting sacred or culturally significant sites. Modesty can go a long way in building bridges of respect.
Take the time to listen to local narratives, stories, and histories. It provides a deeper understanding and appreciation of the place you’re visiting.
Whether it’s taking a photograph or entering a community space, always ask for permission. It’s a simple gesture that showcases respect.
Consider buying handmade crafts, goods, or local services, ensuring that tourism benefits trickle down to the community.
Simple actions, like greeting locals in their language or being patient, can enhance the interaction between tourists and the community.
Importance of Leaving No Trace
Carry out what you bring in. Whether it’s wrappers, bottles, or any other form of trash, ensure you take it with you and dispose of it properly.
Stick to designated paths! Straying off the marked paths can cause soil erosion and damage delicate ecosystems. Stay on trails to protect the site and for personal safety.
Avoid disturbing wildlife and respect the fauna of the region. Maintain a safe distance and avoid feeding or trying to touch any animals.
Use water sparingly, and turn off lights or any other utilities when not in use to minimize your environmental footprint.
Sustainable Tourism Efforts in the Region
Support eco-friendly establishments and choose accommodations or services that practice sustainable methods, from waste management to sourcing local produce.
Educate yourself! Join tours or workshops that focus on sustainable initiatives in the region, be it reforestation projects or community outreach programs.
Lastly, promote responsible travel. Share your experiences and learnings about sustainability with fellow travelers. A collective effort can amplify the impact.
✨ FAQ: Is Machu Picchu safe?
Trisha Velarmino is the Global Editor-in-Chief of the Insider Media Group operating in Europe, Asia, and North America. She lived in Peru for 1.5 years and has helped thousands of expats, digital nomads, and solo travelers easily visit Peru. Trisha has traveled Peru extensively from North to South.