After nearly two months of closure following a freak flood that left tourists stranded near the ancient Incan citadel, Machu Picchu will reopen to the public on April 1. Thousands of tourists got more than they bargained for when railway tracks and roads were washed away in heavy rains that caused the Urubamba River to jump bank. Some people were forced to spend the night among the ruins until helicopters arrived to airlift them off the mountain. Another 3,500 were stuck for several days in Aguas Calientes, the small village that sits below Machu Picchu, waiting for similar evacuations.
Sources estimate Peru has lost around $400 million in tourist dollars, and another $200 in infrastructure damages, but some good did come out of the whole debacle. 450 official tour guides seized the opportunity to receive additional colonial art, and archeology training during the hiatus. Experts who believe the number of people making the trek up to Machu Picchu each year, (roughly 850,000) has reached critical mass were also in agreement that the closure was much needed. According to some scientists, the mountain’s slopes are slipping at a rate of one centimeter per month, increasing the risk of landslides.
Though Peruvian tour operators and regional officials have long pushed the appeal of alternate sites like the Nasca Lines and Colca Canyon, nothing quite compares to the mystique of Machu Picchu. Come April 1, the city of Cusco will be bracing itself for an influx of tourists anxious to fulfill their dream of standing in the shadow of one of the world’s most famous ruins.
UPDATE: Yep, they reopened.