I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2009. At that time, it was rumored that the Inca Trail would soon shut down and be closed to tourists. It never was – but now (5 years later, ) the rumors still exist.
The truth is, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu will only close in the event of an emergency or maintenance. For example, in recent years heavy floods causing landslides have forced Peru to close off the trail. This is because in those conditions the trail becomes extremely hazardous to hike (not to mention, havoc for the locals who live in the Andes), and the main rail line that connects Cuzco to Aguas Calientes gets washed out – as do roads that offer bus transportation for tourists. For maintenance, the Inca Trail is closed every February to give crews time and space to maintain the trails, tidy up camp sites, etc.
Are these types of “closures” what kick-start the rumor mills and spread news of permanent closure? Likely not. Personally, I believe those connected to the Peru Tourism industry are doing a fantastic job of supporting disinformation that convinces tourists that they’d better hurry up and visit Machu Picchu before it’s too late.
Naturally, climate change and millions of boots on the ground will take its toll on the new World-wonder. However, nearly 1,000,000 tourists visit Machu Picchu each year and 175,000 local people make their livings directly from Machu Picchu tourism (so says National Geographic). Peru would never, ever, pull the plug on Machu Picchu. Instead, they invest in preservation and encourage eco-friendly tourism. Since 2008, UNESCO and the Peruvian government have spent millions on preserving the ruins and beefing up security – including the implementation of a more controlled entry ticket method.
Have people been denied access to the Inca Trail? Yes. This is because tickets that grant access to the trail are rationed to prevent congestion on the trail. All the more reason you’ll want to hire a reputable guide (check out SAS Travel) to guaranteed your entry. Last I checked, only 200 tickets are issued per day.
Closing either the Inca Trail or Machu Picchu would be a devastating blow to Peru’s economy. In 2010, surprise flooding forced the closure of Machu Picchu and Peru’s Minister of Tourism at the time claimed the closure cause d $185 million in lost revenues. As HowToPeru.com puts it, “You don’t cook the goose that lays the golden eggs”. Peru wants and needs tourists flocking to Machu Picchu. They will never, ever, permanently close it.