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Peruvian authorities recently unveiled an updated ticketing system for visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage site in an effort to address overcrowding.

More than 30 years ago, UNESCO added Machu Picchu to its World Heritage collection, calling the Incan sanctuary in Peru “among the greatest artistic, architectural, and land use achievements anywhere.” But the inundation of tourist crowds to the ancient citadel has taken a heavy toll on the site and its conservation. As a result, tourist access to this popular destination is becoming more limited than ever.

As of January 1, travelers planning to visit Machu Picchu are required to purchase tickets not just for entry on a specific date, but also at a specific hour.

The new rules, explained

The updated measures, which were introduced by Cuzco’s Ministry of Culture, outline three time blocks within which travelers can book hour-specific entry to Machu Picchu: “early morning” (between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.), “morning” (between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.), and “afternoon” (between 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.).

No visitor will be permitted to enter the site earlier than the hour assigned at purchase (which will be printed on each ticket), and all tickets will expire after one hour. This means that if you have a 9 a.m. reservation, you cannot enter the citadel complex before that designated hour, but you must enter by 10 a.m. at the latest. In addition, maximum stay times have now been limited to four hours or less at Machu Picchu.

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Although ticket prices will remain the same (PEN152, or US$45, for non-Peruvian adults) and will not differ between time slots, there will be added incentives for travelers to book entry times within the “morning” and “afternoon” time periods. According to Peru Telegraph, those who book morning slot visits will get free access to Machu Picchu’s on-site museum, and anyone accessing the site in the afternoon hours will be granted free entry to Raqch’i, another significant Inca archaelogical site in Peru’s Cuzco region.

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This isn’t the first time strict ticketing policies have been introduced at the world-famous landmark. In 2017, Peruvian authorities announced new measures requiring that all foreign visitors to Machu Picchu hire an official guide, follow one of three designated routes through the complex, and prepurchase tickets granting entry for a given time period between 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

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When those rules were first implemented (reportedly under pressure from UNESCO), CEO of the Latin American Travel Association Tony Mason described the changes as part of an effort to “regulate the flow of travelers entering the site,” explaining that the new system was intended to “help preserve the authenticity of this national treasure.” 

The Cuzco Ministry of Culture’s recent announcement of an even stricter ticketing system appears as part of the continued effort to preserve Peru’s most treasured archaeological site. And these measures likely won’t be the last—Peruvian officials hinted that travelers to Machu Picchu should expect more change to come in 2020, so stay tuned.

This article originally appeared online in July 2017; it was updated on January 14, 2019, to include current information.

>>Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to Peru