Why I Hate Machu Picchu

Why I Hate Machu Picchu

By: Mike Jerrard

It has been hailed as one of those “trips of a lifetime” but unfortunately for me I would have to suffer through it twice in my life. Making its place onto lists such as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Wonders of the World, there is no challenging that Machu Picchu is an incredible piece of Inca civilization. Sadly the Inca site Hiram Bingham brought to the world’s attention has been transformed into a theme park attraction.

The backdrop of Machu Picchu has become something like a “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign where tourists continue to take the monotonous iconic selfie in front of the long lost city which is now heavily dotted with the brightly colored clothing of tourists much like the lights on a Christmas tree. The whole Machu Picchu experience has sadly become no more authentic then shaking hands with Elvis in Sin City.

From overpriced mass produced”authentic” Peruvian souvenirs made in China to locals demanding monetary compensation from you if you so much even look like you might snap a photo of them, one would be hard pressed to find any culture around this overly crowded tourist spot. Those who run the businesses below the ruins in Aguas Calientes have become quite rude although understandably when you see in person what they have to deal with from tourists on a daily basis.

And then there are the waiting lines, lines that will leave you more depressed than lines of cocaine. Ticket purchase lines, bus lines, entry gate lines, an so on. By the time you actually manage to make it to the ruins, your patience and sanity will be left in ruins themselves. As for the site itself, Machu Picchu is an incredible piece of architecture and the surrounding views along with a hike up Huayna Picchu does produce some stunning scenery. If only these views weren’t constantly being interrupted by passing tourists, crying children who didn’t get the stuffed alpaca toy they wanted, or politely pausing for people who seem to use everything but an actual camera to take pictures of a place they traveled so far to see.

Then it’s back to the city of Aguas Calientes, a city which has become filthy with smells I wish to never know the origins of. Massive bags of trash pile up around the city, severely overburdened by the demands of western civilization. Stray dogs of every shape in size seem to breed like rabbits here which one hopes isn’t being served in restaurants being passed of as alpaca or cuy meat.

Make no mistake, Peru and its Andes are an incredible place and I have no doubt there are hidden pockets that will produce life changing experiences. The famous Inca trail that many hike as they make their pilgrimage towards Machu Picchu offers a much more authentic experience. It is just disappointing that instead of reaching Inca treasure a the end of the journey, they are instead left with fool’s good.

Machu Picchu is by far not the only world site that has been ruined by tourism and it will certainly not be the last. It is inevitable as our population continues to rise and worlds merge via the internet and modernization that culture and mystery will forever be lost. It is a blessing that in today’s day all of earth’s incredible places are becoming so accessible and a curse that they will therefore inevitably be set on course of destruction.

They say that “third times the charm” but as far as Machu Picchu goes, I think I will just count my losses and keep my visits to two.

Machu Picchu

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Author: Michael Jerrard

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39 Comments

  1. I haven’t been to Machu Picchu (yet), though it sounds to me like it’s similar to the experience at Chichen Itza. Sad.

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    • Sorry for late reply. Out of range for awhile. Yes sadly very similar to Chichen Itza and more of a hassle to get to. Amazed they let vendors within the gates and around the ruins at Chichen Itza. Coba is definitely the better alternative. Thanks for your comment.

    • If you don’t like it then go fix it! PS travel in the off season, duh.

    • Sadly it would be impossible to fix the many mistakes they have created at this Wonder of the World. I simply wish to educate people on what they can honestly expect to experience here and let them decide if that is indeed the picture they had in mind. While you can experience a little less tourism during the so called off-season (between October and February) travelers should note this time of the year can be quite rainy. with some areas closed of such as the Inca Trail during February. Traveling during the off-season also will not change the fact that this site has become extremely commercialized. Do yourself a favor and seek out a more authentic way to see the many fascinating cultures of Peru, because there are many if you do your research.

    • i could not agree more with this article the worst experience ever and the local take tourists for granted, the lack of order and respect made it just a terrible experience

    • Thanks Fred for your comment. I am sorry you had to endure a similar poor experience. I agree that many of the locals came off as disrespectful but I am sure they must deal with a lot of disrespect themselves. Sadly over-tourism not only negatively affects great historical landmarks such as this, but the local culture and people as well.

  2. I need to see it for myself and want to hike the Inca Trail but I’d love to do some of the less touristy treks there also for comparison.

    Post a Reply
    • Hiking the Inca Trail would definitely make for a greater experience of the region. Thanks for your comment.

  3. That really is sad especially since I haven’t been there yet, but if I do, I would definitely take precautions to try to visit during the shoulder season, but of course that makes for risky weather when visiting the site. No easy solutions.

    Post a Reply
    • There really isn’t a perfect solution for visiting such a destination as this. If only we could have seen it as Hiram Bingham had when he brought it to the world’s attention.

  4. You know I was supposed to go to Machu Picchu a while back, and I’m kinda glad I didn’t. I feel like everyone has the same photo I could bloody photoshop myself into, and it’s just filled with tourists. I bet you can find similar awesome sites that are empty of a single other person – that’s where I want to go!

    Post a Reply
    • I couldn’t agree more. For me, photography isn’t about the images themselves that you capture rather the memories they allow you to recall. If those memories are unfavorable, then what purpose does a photograph really serve for one personally?

  5. That’s such disappointing news! We are headed to South America next year and are still going to experience it for ourselves, but at least knowing this we won’t have overly high expectations! We felt similar feelings about Halong Bay, the way the tourism has taken over the place has just turned an incredible place into a hot mess. Although, because it is so beautiful it’s still worth a visit as long as you know you’re not going to get to enjoy the place like one might expect!

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    • I have heard that about Halong Bay as well. Hopefully your experience of Machu Picchu is better than how I view it.

  6. I have a completely different feel about Machu Pichu so can’t say I agree with most of this at all. Of course there are the obvious impacts of over-commercialism but this is something that unfortunately appears all over the world. We got up to MP very early, without the hordes and had an incredible experience, with no-one in our photos at all. Yeah sure our photos might be similar to others, but I can’t change the background. This is what I went here for. I agree with the fact that tourists are crucifying some of these places with rubbish etc, which just gives me more incentive to be a good traveller. Would I have missed going to MP – not for the world!

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you for your comments. Glad to hear some have had a far better experience than my two visits….it gives hope for those who have always dreamed of visiting.

  7. I understand what you say, not only Machu Pichu but there are some more sites on the verge of earning this reputation. Not sure who is to be blamed, the over enthusiastic tourists or the tourism officials for not being able to gear up to the situation. I will take this as a caution and not keep my expectations high!

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    • I am not sure if anyone is really to blame. I think it is just the fault of human nature. Everyone wants to see what others deem as important or a must. We just cannot be left out of the loop. Instead of making our own journeys and memories we follow in the steps of others and try to replicate their experiences. This sadly just creates sites that become overcrowded while hidden wonders remain undiscovered.

  8. Wow are you serious. I had Machu picchu on my bucket list but now I am having serious second thoughts – was it really that bad / commercialized? I hate when a place gets “too touristy” – this is when we need to look for something off-beat or find our spot in the crowd.

    Post a Reply
    • I really hate to discourage people from visiting places especially one held in such high regard as this. You may be able to come away with some good photos and that iconic selfie image to show your friends but for those hoping for a true cultural experience, I think Machu Picchu is limiting in that regard.

    • Please, don’t come. The fewer, the better, as long as it’s me there visiting such an incredible place!!

  9. If the ancient Incas could see it now, I wonder what they would think. I nearly made it to Machu Picchu on my last South America trip but decided to cut my trip short and save it for another time. I would still like to go.

    Post a Reply
    • As a fortress once built for a king I can confidently say the Incas would not be impressed by what has become of their citadel.

  10. Interesting insight. I’ve not been to Machu Picchu, but it’s on my long list of places to visit. I’m afraid I wouldn’t much like the commercialism part of visiting. Such a shame.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the comment. Hopefully should you get the chance to visit, your experience will be different than mine.

  11. Reading this made me really sad. I’ve seen many photos, blogs and vlogs about it and it looks stunning. Unfortunately, the fact that travelling is getting more and more accessible brings both good and bad things with it. One of it is that many places are crowded with so many people it takes away from the authenticity.

    Post a Reply
    • Like so many bloggers photos, blogs, and vlogs, the truth is often omitted or covered up to glamorize travel and destinations.

  12. How very unfortunate that so many of the world’s historical treasures are commercialised to the level of a theme park. I have seen it in many areas. It is nice to go on the road less travelled and find culture in a more natural environment.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the comment. Sadly we are all to blame, myself included and not sure one can stop the continued commercialization.

  13. Oh, bad to hear. I read another post which also said that visiting was not a great experience. I assume that many great places eventually will get overrun by tourists/travellers. I still would love to visit though.

    Post a Reply
    • It is interesting that we hear negative reviews of places but that still does not deter us from experiencing them for ourselves. There must be a psychological explanation behind that.

  14. I was in Peru for three weeks last Fall. While everyone tried talking me into visiting Machu Picchu, I ended up not going. It is too expensive, I had too many other places in my mind and Cuzco was out of my route. Then there were times I wonder if I will regret not visiting it. Now I know I won’t and your post just solifidy that.

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you for your comment Julie. I hate to give a destination bad press, but for the amount of time and cost it takes to get to Machu Picchu, I think it is important for people to understand what they can expect. At one point I am sure it was an incredible place, such as when Hiram Bingham first discovered it. Sadly it just isn’t the same place now.

  15. I 100% agree it was horrifically touristy and as busy as a music concert. It was part of my tour I was on. Granted the views are lovely And amazing and the history is interesting but I really didn’t think it was astounding the way people rave about it.

    The bus to ollytambo and train to Agua caliantes and 4am wake up and 3000tourists I had to stand in line with and see on the bus and the train and the merchandise and food that was overpriced by western standards ruined it. It combines horribly huge crowds and excessive pricing, 2 things I hate.

    My boyfriend said “so you wouldn’t go again with me again?”

    Pay $500 to go visit something I didn’t even have my heart set on the first time to suffer through that again. HELL NO. He can pay all my fees plus anextra $500 if I have to see it again.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for your comment Theresa. I am glad to know I am not the only one that feels this way. There are very few attractions which require so much expense and effort to get to…this is one of them and it just is not worth it unless you simply wish to say or tell others that you saw a Wonder of the World. Creating Wonders of the World lists was probably one of the worst things that could have happened as it created extreme hype and mass tourism to many once wonderful places and experiences around the world.

  16. Mike,

    While I respect your opinion and understand everyone’s take on a particular experience will be different, I could not help but find it very sad. I recently returned from Peru and found it to be an exciting, positive experience. I hope your next visit leaves you with a better impression.

    Good luck.

    Bryan

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  17. You’re hilarious thank you!

    I figured this is the case which is why i would never go. Going to Lima in a couple weeks and everyone asks if I’m going to MP, hell no, I’d rather go to Ayers Rock which you can’t pay me to go.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Danial. And now with Uluru closing down the climb, even one more reason to not go to yet another “wonder of the world”.

  18. I just enjoyed an amzing experience here in Aguas Calie tes and Machu Picchu. I’m right between the peak and wet seasons. I went up at 1pm, no lines, no crowds, no kids and only one hilariously self absorbed insta couple. Do you speak spanish? I believe that makes a huge difference with the locals. Comparing my experience to your experience, I imagine you find little happiness in anything except secreting negativity into your keyboard. I did notice North Americans seem to put their maladjusted high standards of excess on this place. Go with no expectations and you will have a great time.

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