Machu Picchu Travel Tips: 11 Essential Ecotourism DOs & DON’Ts

Help preserve the ancient ruins, customs, and ecosystem of Machu Picchu with this expert's 11 eco-friendly travel tips.
Preserving Machu Picchu means future generations can enjoy the Inca citadel. Photo by YoTuT / Flickr

Machu Picchu is one of those places that makes the top 10 of almost every bucket list. It’s not just the ruins that call curious travelers from nearly every corner of the world, but also the robust culture, beautiful landscapes and endless sense of adventure.

But, with millions of travelers visiting every single year, Machu Picchu and the surrounding area are at risk, both environmentally and culturally speaking.

That’s why we at Peru for Less sat down with our resident Machu Picchu expert, Fabricio Ortiz, to get tips and tricks on what steps visitors can take to preserve Machu Picchu, along with the ecosystem, customs and lesser-known ruins that surround the Inca citadel.

DON’T get naked

Over the past decade, Machu Picchu and Cusco have become havens for traveler from all over the world, and in some cases there have been visitors who have been less than respectful of the sacred ruins. In March of 2014, a number of young tourists decided to strip naked and expose themselves during their visit to Machu Picchu as part of the “naked tourism” fad. While streaking in some parts of the world can make for a good story and interesting pictures, doing it in Peru can make for some serious trouble, especially now that the government is cracking down on those who expose their cracks. Their obscene act ended in detainment and eviction from Cusco.

DO stay on the trail

The trail that winds through Machu Picchu not only protects the ruins, but also the people visiting. At more than five centuries old, some of the structure is worn, cracked and deteriorating. Meandering from the set path could not only further damage the walls and flooring, but also lead to a visitor hurting themselves. After all, the citadel is on the side of a mountain and it’s a long way to the bottom.

DON’T touch the ruins

While it’s tempting to touch the massive rocks chiseled by the hands of the Incas, it’s a bad idea. Lotions, sunscreens and bug sprays all contain chemicals that can damaged the rock surface. Additionally, thousands visit Machu Picchu every single day; imagine the wear and tear that would take place if each of them dragged their fingers along the citadel’s surfaces.

The walls of Machu Picchu ruins, PeruHelp preserve Machu Picchu by not touching the walls of the ancient citadel.
Photo by Peru For Less

DO keep distance from the llamas

Although they are cute, snuggly looking and incredibly used to humans, llamas are known to spit, charge and even bite if they feel threatened. The llamas, who the Incas openly worshiped, call Machu Picchu home — be sure to respect them on their turf. On top of that, they aren’t always the cleanest animals and carry disease, fleas and mites.

keep distance from llamasWhile Llamas are known for being cute, their cleanliness is questionable.
Photo by B Rosen / Flickr

DON’T pollute

This not only goes for waste pollution, such as bags and bottles, but also noise pollution. It not only disturbs the plant and animal life, but also the experience for other travelers. Many of them have traveled great distances to experience Machu Picchu, and some even view the sacred site as a spiritual one.

DO keep the entrance ticket

Watching the sun appear over the horizon, followed by the fog and clouds dissipating into thin air and finally, witnessing the sun set into the majestic mountains makes for a very long day at Machu Picchu. Eating and going to the bathroom inside the ruins are strictly prohibited. Luckily, there are a couple of restaurant choices and clean restrooms just outside the gates. Head there to relieve hunger (or yourself). Keeping the ticket ensures re-entrance.

DON’T litter

This goes for not only items like plastic bottles and wrappers, but also fruit and vegetable waste like apple cores, as well as cigarette butts and chewing gum. Don’t throw anything on the ground of Machu Picchu that you wouldn’t want on the floor of your own home.

DO bring a reusable water bottle.

All trash, including plastic drinking bottles, has to be shipped from Machu Picchu to Cusco City via train. Help reduce waste by carrying water in a bottle that doesn’t get tossed when emptied.

reusable water bottleWhen millions of people visit a place, the garbage can really add up.
Photo by Ryan Hyde / Flickr

DON’T buy products made from protected animals

Peru is home to dozens of endangered or protected plant and animal species, including jaguars, pumas, caymans and monkeys. Never buy a product made of a threatened plant or animal species.

DO respect locals

Make sure you are asking for permission before snapping a shot of the locals clad in intricately sewn outfits or of government workers like soldiers and police officers. Additionally, locals follow Catholicism, Pachamama (Mother Earth) or a hybrid of the two. Observe the sanctity of their religion. When the town are celebrating their patron saint or other religious festivals, make sure to be respectful during the street processions and moments of silence.

DON’T steal

This goes for pieces of the ruins and the natural flora and fauna that call them home.

LEARN MORE about this region of Peru. Browse our complete Cusco Travel Guide!

Begin planning your trip to Machu Picchu. Trip itineraries and different travel preferences are important variables to consider when figuring our the trip. Let our team of experts at Peru for Less help you! Talk to a travel advisor today.