Just Hold Off on Booking a Trip to Machu Picchu

Hundreds of tourists are stranded as Peru closes down landmark amid anti-government protests
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 23, 2023 8:21 AM CST
As Deadly Protests Rage, Famed Landmark Is Shuttered
Police talk to a neighbor who was harassed by anti-government protesters outside San Marcos University in Lima, Peru, on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Peru indefinitely shut the famed ancient ruins of Machu Picchu on Saturday in the latest sign that anti-government protests that began last month are increasingly engulfing the South American country. The Culture Ministry said it had closed the country's most famous tourist attraction, as well as the Inca Trail leading up to the site, "to protect the safety of tourists and the population in general," per the AP. There were 417 visitors stuck at Machu Picchu and unable to get out, more than 300 of them foreigners, Tourism Minister Luis Fernando Helguero said at a news conference. The closure of the Incan citadel that dates to the 15th century and is often referred to as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World comes as protesters have descended on Lima, many of them traveling to the capital from remote Andean regions, to demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte.

Until recently, the protests had been concentrated in the country's south. They began last month after then-President Pedro Castillo, Peru's first leader with a rural Andean background, was impeached and imprisoned for trying to dissolve Congress. Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of Boluarte, the former vice president sworn into office Dec. 7 to replace Castillo. They also want Congress dissolved and new elections held. Castillo is currently detained on charges of rebellion. More than 55 people have died in the ensuing unrest. Cusco, where Machu Picchu is located, has been the site of some of the most intense clashes, leading to significant loss of tourism revenue. The Cusco airport was briefly shut down this week after protesters tried to storm it. Train service to Machu Picchu has been closed since Thursday due to damage to the tracks.

Some stranded tourists have chosen to leave by walking to Piscacucho, the nearest village, Helguero said, "but that involves a walk of six, seven hours or more, and only a few people are able to do it." Tourists who'd already bought tickets for Machu Picchu from Saturday until one month after whenever the protests end will be able to obtain a full refund, the Culture Ministry said. Also Saturday, police raided the National University of San Marcos, Peru's most important public university in Lima, using a small tank to burst in and evict protesters being housed at the campus while participating in demonstrations. More than 100 people were detained, Interior Minister Vicente Romero said. The university issued a release saying the police raid took place after protesters "assaulted" security personnel. "The only thing the government is doing with these detentions is worsen tensions," one protester noted.

(More Machu Picchu stories.)

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