Peru: protest shuts down Machu Picchu tourism for two days

Photo credit: El Comercio / Miguel Neyra

A protest by hundreds of residents of a village below Machu Picchu in southern Peru blocked a key railroad, preventing thousands of tourists from visiting the Inca ruins.

The Machupicchu district, also known as Aguas Calientes, in the southern state of Cusco’s Urubamba province is home to just over 8,000 people. The economy is driven entirely by its prime location at the entry point of Peru’s top tourist attraction, which receives over 3,000 visitors per day on average.

Over 500 residents of the area announced last week a 48-hour protest in which they would block a key railroad which brings tourists from the state capital of Cusco 50 miles away. While some tourists reach Machu Picchu by bus or hiking, the vast majority take the train operated by PeruRail. Blocking the rail line effectively brought visits to Peru’s top tourist attraction to just a few hundred per day.

The protesters have demanded concessions from both Peru Rail and Peru’s culture ministry. They want the railway company to reserve two passenger cars of each train for residents of Machupicchu, two for residents of the Urubamba, Anta and La Convencion provinces and two more for Peruvian nationals. They also want the company to stop selling lunches and souvenirs on the trains.

The protesters also demand that Peru’s culture ministry drop plans to build a $38-million museum outside Machu Picchu which they believe will attract hotels which compete for tourist purchases.

Other demands include ending the culture ministry’s policy of not allowing tour guides to sell entrance tickets to Machu Picchu, a revision by the Cusco state government of a local hotel operator’s license and better internet coverage from Telefonica.

Protesters announced after the two-day strike that they would extend the protest indefinitely until their demands were met. However they agreed to a 10-day truce on Thursday morning after government officials agreed to hold talks.

Machu Picchu is Peru’s top tourist attraction, accounting for over 40% of total entrances to official sites. The Inca citadel received more than 1 million annual visitors for the first time in 2013, and a record 1.2 million visited in 2015. Three quarters of Machu-Picchu visitors are foreign tourists.

Last year a Cusco labor union held a citywide strike which blocked the railroads, shutting down tourism to Machu Picchu in their demand to prevent a law which would allow private companies to restore and operate archaeological sites. The bill was ultimately repealed by Congress.

The protest comes as Peru is set to host the 28th edition of the APEC World Leaders Summit, the second time the 21-nation group meets in Peru. It is the second blow to Peru’s tourism after a fire killed four people at the Larcomar mall in Lima on Wednesday.


Machu Picchu recibió solo la mitad de turistas que acoge al día (El Comercio)

Moradores de Machu Picchu acatan paro de 48 horas (El Comercio)

Paro en Machupicchu se torna indefinido (La Republica)

Cusco: invertirán 130 millones de soles para nuevo centro turístico cerca a Machu Picchu (La Republica)

Machu Picchu Pueblo suspende paralización (Andina)


  • The demands should be discussed, as these residents are being negatively affected by tourists. They has to be a WIN-WIN arrangement available.

  • Missed it by less than week phew. It isn’t easy or cheap visiting machu pichu, so I do feel sorry for those caught up in it. I would urge tourists visiting Aguas Calientes to stay there as little as possible as it is a bit of a tourists trap with no access by road, only train. And apart from machu pichu, hotels, expesive restaurants and a market, there is little else there. Ollantaytambo seems a better alternative and just 1 train stop from aguas caliantas.

    • I think it would have been the perfect time to go as there were only a few hundred people there each day! I don’t think it’s all that difficult to visit (being one of the biggest attractions in all of SA) and it can be cheap if you avoid the train and enjoy the walk. I feel more sorry for the poor locals getting shafted by the train operation than the tourists that probably got refunds on train tickets.

      And you say you urge people to stay in Aguas Calientes for as little as possible but that is why there are these protests – lack of income! Peru Rail is privately owned and the locals are getting none of the money from its operation. The only money they can make with these large numbers of transient tourists (unless they stay overnight which you are suggesting against) is with souvenirs and food, both of which the railway are trying to cover as well.

      I understand those are your “travel tips” but I think you could have made a better choice of article to post them on given the current problems they are having.

      • The town of Aguas Calientes actually has one of the lowest rates of poverty in all of Peru because there is so much money in their location. In 2013 Peru’s statistical agency estimated the local poverty level at between 5% and 11.7%, compared to 24% nationally. That level placed Machupicchu / Aguas Calientes 1820th out of 1943 districts in terms of poverty, far below the average and comparable to Puno city or Barranco in Lima. More interesting is the town’s population explosion, which more than doubled from under 3,800 in 2000 to over 8,300 in 2015. Peru as a whole grew 20% over that same time period.

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