We haven’t received a lot of news about Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail this week, but the most recent reports are that the Peruvian Minister of Transportation, Mr. Enrique Cornejo, has confirmed that train service to Aguas Calientes / Machu Picchu will resume April 1. Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail will only reopen when the train service is operational, so they remain closed until April 1 (or whenever the train is ready).
The train will only run from Pisacucho at Km 82 to Aguas Calientes, as the track from Ollantaytambo to Pisacucho won’t be repaired until about June 1.
The route to Machu Picchu will be:
Cusco – Olantaytambo by bus (90 minutes)
Continue by bus on to Piscacucho, (50 minutes)
Board the train to Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu (70-80 minutes)
By June 1, or sometime in early June, the tracks between Ollantaytambo and Pisacucho should be repaired and train journeys from Cusco to Machu Picchu will resume operations.
One issue is that the Hiram Bingham train cars were in Cusco when the track was damaged, and they are trapped there until the railroad is repaired between Ollanataytambo and Pisacucho. Thus, the Hiram Bingham train won’t operate until June. In the meantime, a temporary Hiram Bingham/Vistadome train will run with some of the services and features of the Hiram Bingham train, but using the Vistadome cars.
The much touted emergency “back” route to Machu Picchu, via road to Santa Maria, Santa Teresa, and the hydroelectric station, then by train to Aguas Calientes, is also not open at this time. The railroad to the hydro station has been repaired, but the road is still out somewhere along the way to the hydro station. Work is ongoing, but won’t be done for at least a few weeks. Even when completed, it appears that Machu Picchu won’t be re-opened until April 1 at the earliest. This back route is a very rough road that takes at least 7 hours, so it is not suitable for most people wanting to visit Machu Picchu.
Finally, although there were a number of rumors flying about that helicopters would be allowed to transport tourists to and from Machu Picchu, this is not true. The National Institute of Culture (INC) of Peru has made it very clear that tourist visits to Machu Picchu by helicopter are not authorized. In a press release in early February the Peruvian agency declined the request of the Regional Directorate of Foreign Trade and Tourism of Cusco (DRCETC) to allow the use of helicopters for tourism to Machu Picchu. “The only helicopter operations that have been approved and remain in place are for the attention and care supply town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu), as a result of the emergency caused by natural phenomena,” the statement said.
The DRCETC had asked the INC to authorize a small flow of tourists to the Inca monument through helicopter flights (about 210 visitors per day), but the INC opposed this proposal considering that it does not ensure the evacuation of travelers by alternate routes in case of rough weather. “We are aware of the detriment in the income level that these natural events have caused in the area, but we must not forget that our primary responsibility is to safeguard the life and physical integrity of visitors,” the statement added.
So, there you have it. Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail are closed until April 1, or whevenever the train service is able to operate again.
Keep in mind, Peru is still very worth visiting even without a trip to Machu Picchu. Cusco and the Sacred Valley are filled with Inca ruins, history, and culture, and there is plenty to see and enjoy in the area.