Machu Picchu: An Endangered Species?

The majestic ruins of Machu Picchu sprawl along the edge of a cliff overlooking the Urubamba Valley in Peru, dominating the landscape and proving the site’s prowess as one of the most sought-after locations for travelers. Included on almost every “Top 100 Things to See in Your Lifetime” list, the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu are shrouded in mystery and elegance. However, according to the World Monument Foundation, this locale in Peru is in danger of crumbling down the cliff.

The World Monument Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has composed a list of 93 at-risk sites across 47 countries. WMF helps to raise money to protect cultural heritage sites around the world in an effort to preserve sites for generations to come. According to WMF, this international treasure is slowly being damaged by the unchecked and unmanaged tourism. In total, there are over 2,500 visitors to this location daily, creating a strain on the structures that have withstood the test of time. This once isolated retreat can be accessed by foot, train, and bus, and the local government has put plans in motion to make Machu Picchu even more easily accessible without increasing protection to the site.

With the urbanization of the surrounding area, including the spreading of Cusco, Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins within the area are being eroded by the constant influx of visitors. Stone structures and platforms that have survived wars, earthquakes, and foul weather are being threatened by sightseers. However, Jorge Zegarra, the head of the National Institute of Culture located in Cusco, Peru, has stated that UNESCO is the only organization that can declare a monument at risk. Zegarra claims that the visitors and plans to expand the entrance to Machu Picchu pose no threat to the conservation of the region.

Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand the impact of every step you take as a traveler on the surrounding environment. When traveling to places such as the ancient Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, be sure to research what influence your trip will have on the culture, people, and environment. Research and book a trip with an adventure company that gives back to local conservation efforts like Mountain Lodges of Peru. Using local operators, environmentally friendly lodges, and sustainable tourism methods, MLP ensures that each traveler has a minimal impact in order to keep Machu Picchu and the beautiful landscapes of Peru in good condition for years to come.

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