is an international airport worth destroying machu picchu's fragile inca citadel ruins?

is an international airport worth destroying machu picchu's fragile inca citadel ruins?

peruvian archaeologists have condemned the development of a new airport which will fly tourists direct to machu picchu in peru. declared a UNESCO world heritage site almost forty years ago, critics fear low-flying planes would cause structural damages to inca ruins in the area, meanwhile construction could put a strain on already limited water supplies.


plans for the airport were first announced in 2012 by peru’s former president ollanta humala. seven years on construction has began in chinchero, a picturesque inca town about 3,800 meters above sea level that is the gateway to the sacred valley. now, as bulldozers in the area clear millions of tonnes of earth to make way for the new airport, the fragile inca citadel is increasingly under threat.

is an international airport worth destroying machu picchu's fragile inca citadel ruins? designboom
cover image © martin st-amant
all other images via lonely planet



chinchero was built six centuries ago as a royal estate for the inca ruler túpac inca yupanqui. a hotspot for tourists, experts say the site is already being slowly damaged by the hordes of tourists that visit it every year. in 2017, there were more than 1.5 million visitors to the area, almost double the limit recommended by UNESCO.


it seems the government’s priority does not align with that of the united nations who declared machu picchu a UNESCO world heritage site in 1983. while the specialized agency has asked peru to limit visitors to the famous site, the government’s plan will make it easier for people to access. 


the current nearest airport, which is located in cusco 75km (47 miles) away, is only accessible via train tracks and long winding paths travelled by foot. it ‘is limited to taking narrow-bodied aircraft on stopover flights from peru’s capital, lima, and nearby cities such as la paz, bolivia,’ according to the guardian.

is an international airport worth destroying machu picchu's fragile inca citadel ruins? designboom



a petition is circulating the internet asking the president and peruvian government to reconsider or relocate the airport from chinchero. it might seem like a long shot considering the plans were announced in 2012 but environmental groups were successful in pressuring the peruvian government to reverse a decision allowing flights over the inca ruins in 2006.


in 2017, unesco threatened to put the citadel on its list of world heritage sites in danger. in response the peruvian government has tightened entry requirements, introducing strict time slots for visitors and one-way circuits around the ruins.

  • Noooo

    Mariana O'Brien
  • First of all, I think it’s very bad that some journalists put up sensationalist titles just to get more readers.
    The new airport construction project is almost 90 km from the town of Aguas Calientes. And from Aguas Calientes to the archeological center of Machu Picchu is a distance of almost 10 km.
    Therefore, I do not understand how an airport 1 located 100 km away from an archaeological site can destroy it. It is totally false to indicate that the planes will arrive directly to Machu Picchu. Please do not be carried away by false news as many people depend on tourism in our country. If there were any aggression against Machu Picchu, we ourselves, the actors of tourism would condemn it.

  • Mass tourism is always predatory.
    Certain tourist spots in the world must have even roadblocks to prevent the hordes of tourists from harassing this sites simply for what is fashionable at the moment.
    In Brazil, there are places of exuberant nature, whose original striking experiences are being annihilated by the ecologically unprepared crowds that flock to these places … A devastation promoted by the financial interests of certain unscrupulous travel promoters and by the crowd impelled by the futility and ignorance of both.

    Sérgio Werneck de Figueiredo

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