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How Many Tourists Visit Machu Picchu Every Year


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Elysia Glazier



Machu Picchu, located high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, is one of the most iconic and breathtaking archaeological sites in the world. This ancient Incan city, perched on a ridge between two peaks, attracts thousands of visitors each year, eager to explore its mysteries and marvel at its grandeur.


Known as the “Lost City of the Incas,” Machu Picchu was rediscovered in 1911 by American explorer Hiram Bingham. Since then, it has captivated the imaginations of people from around the globe, drawing tourists, historians, and archaeologists to its remarkable ruins.


The allure of Machu Picchu lies in its stunning location, architectural brilliance, and rich historical significance. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers visitors a glimpse into the remarkable achievements of the Inca civilization, showcasing their advanced engineering, sophisticated agricultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.


Beyond its historical importance, Machu Picchu is also famous for its breathtaking natural beauty. Surrounded by lush green mountains and nestled within the cloud forests, the site offers awe-inspiring views and a sense of tranquility that is both captivating and humbling.


As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Machu Picchu attracts visitors from all walks of life. From adventure seekers and history enthusiasts to nature lovers and spiritual seekers, people are drawn to this mystical place for a variety of reasons.


This article will delve into the fascinating world of Machu Picchu, exploring its historical significance, the factors that influence the number of visitors, the impact of tourism on the site and its conservation, as well as the challenges and management strategies in place to deal with the influx of tourists. By the end, you’ll have a deeper understanding of why Machu Picchu continues to captivate and enthrall visitors year after year.


Historical Background of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, believed to have been built in the mid-15th century, served as a royal estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. It was likely abandoned only a century later, during the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. However, due to its remote location and hidden nature, the city remained undiscovered and untouched by the Spanish colonizers.


The exact purpose of Machu Picchu remains a topic of debate among historians and archaeologists. Some speculate that it served as a sacred site, a retreat for Inca elites, or even a military stronghold. Regardless of its original function, it is clear that Machu Picchu was a significant cultural and architectural achievement.


The ancient city is comprised of more than 150 buildings, including houses, temples, terraces, and a sophisticated water management system. The precision of its construction, the intricate stone masonry, and the strategic positioning of the buildings all attest to the advanced engineering skills of the Inca civilization.


Interestingly, Machu Picchu stayed hidden from the world until its discovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Bingham, a Yale University professor, stumbled upon the site while searching for Vilcabamba, the “last city of the Incas.” He was amazed by the architectural wonders and the well-preserved state of the ruins.


Following Bingham’s discovery, Machu Picchu gained international attention and sparked a renewed interest in Inca history and culture. Excavations and research conducted over the years have shed light on the significance of the site and its place in the Incan world.


Today, Machu Picchu stands as a testament to the ingenuity and achievements of the Inca civilization. It is a symbol of their mastery over nature, their spiritual beliefs, and their ability to create awe-inspiring structures in harmony with the surrounding environment. The historical background of Machu Picchu continues to intrigue and captivate visitors, offering a glimpse into the ancient past and the vibrant cultural heritage of Peru.


Importance of Machu Picchu as a Tourist Destination

Machu Picchu’s significance as a tourist destination extends beyond its historical and archaeological value. It has become an emblematic symbol of Peru and a major contributor to the country’s tourism industry. Here’s why Machu Picchu holds such importance as a tourist destination:

  1. Historical and Cultural Significance: Machu Picchu offers a window into the fascinating world of the Inca civilization, allowing visitors to witness the architectural genius and advanced engineering skills of an ancient society. Exploring the ruins and learning about the customs and traditions of the Incas provides a valuable educational and cultural experience that draws tourists from around the world.
  2. Natural Beauty: Machu Picchu’s breathtaking surroundings, with its panoramic views of the Andes Mountains and enveloping cloud forests, make it a haven for nature lovers. The site is nestled in a unique ecological zone that is home to diverse flora and fauna, offering visitors the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the natural world.
  3. Adventure Tourism: Machu Picchu has become a mecca for adventure seekers, attracting hikers and trekkers from all over the globe. The famous Inca Trail, a four-day trek that culminates at Machu Picchu, offers a challenging and rewarding journey through stunning landscapes and Inca archaeological sites.
  4. Spiritual and Mystical Appeal: Machu Picchu’s ethereal atmosphere and remote location give it a mystical aura, making it a popular destination for spiritual seekers and those seeking a transformative experience. Many visitors are drawn to the site for its perceived energy, spiritual significance, and the opportunity to connect with ancient wisdom.
  5. Economic Impact: The tourism industry surrounding Machu Picchu provides valuable economic opportunities for the local communities. It generates employment, supports local businesses, and contributes to the overall development of the region.

Overall, Machu Picchu’s importance as a tourist destination cannot be overstated. It combines history, culture, nature, adventure, and spirituality into a unique and awe-inspiring experience. The allure of this ancient Incan city continues to draw visitors from all corners of the globe, creating a significant positive impact on Peru’s tourism industry and economy.


Factors Influencing the Number of Visitors to Machu Picchu

Several factors contribute to the number of visitors flocking to Machu Picchu each year. Understanding these factors helps us grasp the dynamics of tourism at this iconic site and the reasons behind its popularity:

  1. Historical and Cultural Appeal: The historical significance and architectural marvels of Machu Picchu draw history enthusiasts and culture seekers from all over the world. Its association with the Inca civilization and its mysterious allure make it a must-visit destination for those interested in ancient civilizations and archaeology.
  2. Natural Beauty and Scenic Surroundings: The picturesque and awe-inspiring setting of Machu Picchu, nestled amidst the majestic Andes Mountains and shrouded in lush cloud forests, attracts nature lovers and adventure enthusiasts. The combination of ancient ruins and stunning landscapes creates a truly unique and captivating experience.
  3. Recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site: Machu Picchu’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site adds to its appeal and increases its visibility on a global scale. This recognition emphasizes the site’s cultural and historical value, making it a desirable destination for travelers seeking unique and significant experiences.
  4. Accessibility and Infrastructure: The improved accessibility and infrastructure surrounding Machu Picchu have made it easier for tourists to reach the site. The availability of transportation options, such as trains and buses, and the presence of well-maintained trails, like the Inca Trail, have opened up the wonders of Machu Picchu to a wider range of visitors.
  5. Marketing and Promotion: Effective marketing campaigns and promotional efforts by the Peruvian government and tourism organizations have greatly contributed to the increase in visitors to Machu Picchu. These initiatives highlight the unique features and experiences offered by the site, enticing travelers to include it in their travel itineraries.
  6. Word-of-mouth and Recommendations: Machu Picchu’s reputation as an awe-inspiring destination has spread through word-of-mouth and recommendations from previous visitors. The tales of spectacular landscapes, rich history, and transformative experiences shared by others have piqued the interest and curiosity of potential visitors, further boosting its popularity.
  7. Limited Capacity and Regulations: To preserve the site’s integrity and protect its fragile infrastructure, the Peruvian government has implemented regulations to control the number of visitors allowed at Machu Picchu each day. This limitation creates a sense of exclusivity and adds to its allure.

These factors, combined with the timeless allure and mystique of Machu Picchu, contribute to the continuous flow of visitors seeking to delve into its history, bask in its natural beauty, and experience the magic of this remarkable ancient city.


Statistics on Tourist Arrival at Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu’s popularity as a tourist destination is reflected in the number of visitors it receives each year. Let’s explore some key statistics on tourist arrivals at Machu Picchu:

  • Total Visitors: According to the Ministry of Culture of Peru, in 2019, Machu Picchu welcomed a record-breaking number of visitors, with approximately 1.6 million people exploring the site. This number has been steadily increasing over the years, highlighting the growing interest in this archaeological wonder.
  • Visitor Nationalities: Machu Picchu attracts tourists from all corners of the globe. In 2019, the majority of visitors came from the United States, followed by visitors from within South America, particularly from neighboring countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. European nations, like the United Kingdom, Germany, and France, also contributed significantly to the visitor count.
  • Peak Season: The peak season for tourist arrivals at Machu Picchu typically falls between May and September, which coincides with the dry season in the region. During this period, visitor numbers can skyrocket, reaching their highest levels in June, July, and August. The pleasant weather and clearer views during these months make it an ideal time for travelers to explore the site.
  • Mode of Access: The majority of visitors access Machu Picchu via the city of Cusco, either by taking a train from Cusco or the nearby town of Ollantaytambo to the entry point of Aguas Calientes, or by partaking in multi-day treks such as the famous Inca Trail. The availability of transportation options and well-established trails make it easier for tourists to reach the site.
  • Daily Visitor Limit: To preserve Machu Picchu’s integrity and protect its delicate infrastructure, the Peruvian government implemented a daily visitor limit. Since 2019, the number of visitors per day has been capped at 2,500. This limitation ensures that the site is not overcrowded, allowing visitors to appreciate its beauty and historical significance without compromising its preservation.
  • Impact of COVID-19: Like many other tourist destinations around the world, Machu Picchu has been significantly affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The site was temporarily closed in March 2020 to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors and staff. As travel restrictions ease and visitor confidence gradually returns, efforts are being made to reopen Machu Picchu while implementing necessary health and safety protocols.

These statistics provide a glimpse into the popularity of Machu Picchu as a tourist destination and the steady increase in visitor numbers over the years. Despite temporary setbacks due to the pandemic, this ancient Incan city remains a sought-after site that continues to fascinate and attract travelers from around the world.


Impact of Tourism on Machu Picchu and its Conservation

The immense popularity of Machu Picchu as a tourist destination brings both benefits and challenges to the site and its conservation efforts. Let’s explore the impact of tourism on Machu Picchu:

  • Preservation and Maintenance: The revenue generated from tourism plays a crucial role in the preservation and maintenance of Machu Picchu. These funds support ongoing conservation efforts, including archaeological research, infrastructure maintenance, and site restoration projects. This ensures that future generations can continue to experience and appreciate the historical significance of the site.
  • Local Economy: Tourism at Machu Picchu stimulates the local economy and provides employment opportunities for the surrounding communities. The demand for accommodations, transportation, and other services creates jobs and generates income, contributing to the overall development of the region.
  • Cultural Exchange: The influx of visitors to Machu Picchu allows for cultural exchange between locals and tourists. This interaction promotes a deeper understanding and appreciation of Peruvian culture, traditions, and history, fostering a sense of cultural preservation and pride among the local population.
  • Education and Awareness: The exposure of Machu Picchu to a global audience through tourism raises awareness about the site’s historical and cultural significance. It encourages conversations about heritage preservation, sustainable tourism practices, and responsible travel, promoting a greater sense of environmental stewardship among visitors and the wider public.
  • Environmental Impact: The increase in visitor numbers can have environmental consequences if not managed properly. As tourists explore the site, they may inadvertently damage the delicate ecosystem and contribute to erosion. However, sustainable tourism initiatives, such as waste management systems and visitor education programs, are implemented to minimize the environmental impact and ensure the long-term preservation of the natural surroundings.
  • Visitor Experience: The large crowds can affect the visitor experience at Machu Picchu, particularly during peak seasons. It is important to strike a balance between managing the number of visitors and providing an immersive and fulfilling experience. Efforts are being made to regulate the flow of tourists, control access, and offer guided tours to enhance the visitor experience while protecting the site’s integrity.

Overall, tourism has both positive and negative implications for Machu Picchu and its conservation. It is crucial to implement sustainable practices, strike a balance between accessibility and preservation, and promote responsible tourism to ensure that Machu Picchu can be enjoyed by future generations while safeguarding its authenticity and cultural significance.


Challenges and Management of Tourist Influx at Machu Picchu

The increasing popularity of Machu Picchu as a tourist destination presents several challenges that require effective management strategies. Let’s explore some of the challenges and how they are being addressed:

  • Daily Visitor Limit: To prevent overcrowding and preserve the integrity of the site, the Peruvian government has implemented a daily visitor limit of 2,500 individuals. This helps manage the flow of tourists and ensures a more enjoyable experience for visitors while minimizing the impact on the archaeological remains.
  • Timed Entry: To further regulate visitor numbers, timed entry tickets have been introduced. Visitors are allocated specific entry times to control the flow of people and reduce congestion at the site’s entrance and main attractions. This system helps manage the influx of tourists and prevents overcrowding at any given time.
  • Improved Infrastructure: Continuous efforts are being made to improve the infrastructure around Machu Picchu. This includes enhancing transportation options, upgrading trails, and creating additional facilities to meet visitor needs. The aim is to provide a seamless and efficient experience for tourists while minimizing the impact on the site’s natural and cultural heritage.
  • Sustainable Tourism Practices: A strong emphasis is placed on promoting sustainable tourism practices. Initiatives include waste management systems, recycling programs, and environmental education for both visitors and local communities. These practices help minimize the ecological footprint of tourism and ensure the long-term conservation of the site.
  • Community Involvement: Engaging local communities is integral to the management of tourist influx. The government works closely with these communities, providing training and employment opportunities within the tourism industry. This not only benefits local livelihoods but also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the sustainable development and preservation of Machu Picchu.
  • Visitor Education: Creating awareness and educating visitors about Machu Picchu’s cultural and natural significance is essential. Interpretive signage, visitor centers, and guided tours are implemented to provide information about the site’s history, environmental importance, and responsible visitor behavior. This helps foster a greater appreciation for the site and encourages tourists to be more conscious of their impact.
  • Managing Peak Seasons: The peak tourist seasons, particularly from May to September, pose challenges in terms of overcrowding and strain on resources. Managing the flow of visitors during these periods involves strict control of entry, advanced reservation systems, and heightened operational readiness to ensure a smooth and organized experience for tourists.

By addressing these challenges through effective management strategies, Machu Picchu can continue to be enjoyed by visitors while safeguarding its cultural and natural heritage for future generations to experience and appreciate.



Machu Picchu, with its rich history, stunning architecture, and breathtaking surroundings, continues to captivate and enthrall visitors from around the world. The appeal of this ancient Inca city lies not only in its remarkable ruins but also in the sense of wonder and awe it evokes. From the historical enthusiasts and nature lovers to the adventure seekers and spiritual seekers, Machu Picchu offers something truly unique for everyone.


As a tourist destination, Machu Picchu holds immense importance. It sheds light on the achievements of the Inca civilization, promotes cultural exchange, and contributes to the local economy. The site’s recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site further emphasizes its cultural and historical significance.


However, the increasing number of visitors also poses challenges that need to be addressed. Striking a balance between accessibility and preservation, managing visitor influx, implementing sustainable practices, and engaging local communities are all vital in ensuring the long-term conservation of Machu Picchu.


It is encouraging to witness the efforts being made to manage the site’s popularity and impact. From visitor limits and timed entry systems to sustainable tourism initiatives and community involvement, these measures contribute to the protection and preservation of Machu Picchu for future generations.


Machu Picchu continues to be a place of wonder, inspiring awe and curiosity. It serves as a reminder of the ingenuity and beauty of ancient civilizations and the importance of preserving our cultural and natural heritage. As visitors and stewards of this remarkable site, it is our responsibility to appreciate and respect it, ensuring its legacy endures for generations to come.