Peruvian archaeologists decry new airport that would carry tourists directly to already fragile Inca citadel
The Machu Picchu complex is a Unesco world heritage site, and Peru’s most visited tourist attraction. Photograph: Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images
Among the Inca archeological sites that abound in Peru, none draw nearly as many tourists as the famed citadel of Machu Picchu. There were more than 1.5 million visitors in 2017, almost double the limit recommended by Unesco, putting a huge strain on the fragile ruins and local ecology.
Now, in a move that has drawn a mixture of horror and outrage from archaeologists, historians and locals, work has begun on clearing ground for a multibillion-dollar international airport, intended to jet tourists much closer to Machu Picchu.
Bulldozers are already scraping clear millions of tonnes of earth in Chinchero, a picturesque Inca town about 3,800 metres above sea level that is the gateway to the Sacred Valley. This area was once the heartland of a civilisation that stretched from modern-day Colombia to Argentina, and in the 15th century was the world’s largest empire.
“This is a built landscape; there are terraces and routes which were designed by the Incas,” says Natalia Majluf, a Peruvian art historian at Cambridge University who has organised a petition against the new airport. “Putting an airport here would destroy it.”