The Peruvian government has reversed a decision to allow flights over the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu after an outcry from environmental groups.I'm very relieved about this, even for purely selfish, touristy reasons. I can't imagine visiting the quiet splendor of Machu Picchu with the sounds of rotor blades overhead. And of course, there are more important issues at stake, as well.
Peru's Transport and Communications ministry has declared the area around the site a no-fly zone.
Environmentalists said a number of rare animals and plants would have been severely affected by the low-flying helicopter tours.
Machu Picchu, a world heritage site, is Peru's biggest tourist attraction.
Little more than a week after a licence was granted for helicopter tours over South America's most famous ruin, it was taken away again.
The Transport and Communications Ministry was forced to reverse its decision after complaints from environmentalists and archaeologists.
After a short meeting with Peru's departments of Culture and Natural Resources, the ministry declared a flight restriction in the whole area surrounding Machu Picchu.
Several leading environmentalists said the flights would have caused irreparable damage to the ruins and rare wildlife, such as spectacled bears and vicunas, would have been scared away.
Such flights had been allowed during the 1990s but were banned shortly afterwards.
Peru's Institute of Natural Resources said those flights led to the disappearance of a rare species of orchid and the Andean Condor from the area.
Machu Picchu is one of the best-preserved pre-Columbian ruins on the continent.
But experts say the Unesco World Heritage Site is being slowly damaged by the hordes of tourists which visit it every year.
Meanwhile, the Peruvian government says its investing in a campaign to make Machu Picchu one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
When UNESCO placed Machu Picchu on its list of World Heritage Sites, it estimated that the Incan ruins could support about 500 visitors per day without irreparable damage. In the height of the tourist season, more than 2500 visitors currently tramp through Machu Picchu.
UNESCO's Machu Picchu info here, and a small sample of our photos of it here. A friend of wmtc just booked his trip to Peru, perhaps partially inspired by our journey. (And when I went to his site to get the link, what do I see? Machu Picchu!)
Thanks to Alan With One L for the story.