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How Dangerous Is It to Travel to Machu Picchu?

Where: Cusco, Peru
March 8, 2013 at 12:52 PM | by | Comments (0)

Airfares from the US to Lima, Peru have been shockingly low lately—we're talking $500 roundtrip on a route that's typically at least $800—and some of the reason is likely due to a (now lifted) travel warning from the US Embassy in Peru to Americans traveling in the Machu Picchu/Cusco area.

This week that warning ended, after a couple feared to have been kidnapped was actually found, happily traveling still, just through areas with no internet access. There is a rebel group (named Shining Path) still threatening the area in general, but the situation is once again safe for tourism.

Was it really dangerous these past few weeks? Having recently returned from the remote, bucket list destination that is Machu Picchu, we have some thoughts on the matter:

· In terms of normal walking around the neighborhoods where tourists are found, we felt far more confident in Cusco than in Lima. If you do at all feel uncomfortable in Cusco, there's this beautiful Starbucks right on the Plaza de Armas. It's kind of a foreigner embassy on its own.
· We never once encountered any anti-American sentiments during a week in Peru, split between Lima and Cusco.
· Though we can't say that the chance of crime or kidnapping at the Machu Picchu site is impossible, it's nearly so. You see, the site is perched on a mountaintop, with very regulated, bottleneck entrances paroled by site officials, not to mention a constant flow of thousands of tourists and tour guides. Reaching this point can only be accomplished by official bus from the bustling town of Aguas Calientes, after arriving there by Peru Rail trains from Cusco/Poroy. Thus, from Cusco all the way to the Machu Picchu site it's one regulated, highly trafficked path. Unless you decide to hike it and It's this last way, traveling on foot, where we could imagine something possibly occurring.
· It's still a good idea to stay aware of your surroundings and read up on the latest State Department travel advice, but we wouldn't shelve your dream trip.

Have a look at our guide to visiting Machu Picchu before setting off, if only to doublecheck that you've got the correct documents. Sometimes it's bureaucracy that most threatens an enjoyable trip.

[Photo: Jaunted]

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