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If your 2019 travel plans include a trip to the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, there’s an important change you need to know about. Travelers must purchase a timed ticket for access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and that pass is only valid for one hour.

The new ticket system, which went into effect on Jan. 1, will require travelers to opt for a specific entry time (hourly from 6am to 2pm), and the tickets expire after one hour. (If you have a 6am ticket, for example, you must enter the site by 7am.)

As part of the change, maximum stay times have been limited to four hours or less. Travelers will want to opt for an earlier entry time between 6am and noon, because the later slots (1pm and 2pm) still require visitors to exit the citadel by 5:30pm.

By staggering visitors, the government hopes to reduce wait times and overcrowding. (To encourage fewer people from arriving in the early morning, for example, incentives have been introduced for travelers who enter later in the day, such as free access to the on-site museum.) But it’s not quite clear how officials plan to enforce the four-hour window.

All tickets provide access to the two main circuits around Machu Picchu, but travelers interested in an alternative hike to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain will need to purchase timed tickets exclusively for these treks. Both include access to the citadel.

This is just the latest in a series of changes the Peruvian government has been slowly implementing in an effort to curb the tourism boom. Since July of 2017, for example, visitors have been required to enter Machu Picchu with an official guide. That’s when timed tickets were first trialed, too. Visitors could opt for either morning or afternoon sessions, each approximately six hours in duration.

At this time, ticket prices remain unchanged (152 sols person, or approximately $45; 200 sols per person or $60 for access to the citadel and either Machu Picchu mountain or Huayna Picchu), but according to the Peru Telegraph, early morning ticket prices could increase 20% in 2020 — meaning if Peru’s most famous attraction has been on your bucket list, now is definitely the right time to scratch it off.

Tickets can be purchased directly through Machu Picchu’s official website, and entry times and dates cannot be changed.

If all this seems a bit too structured for your liking, there are plenty of other ways to experience Peru’s famous Inca ruins. The so-called second sister to Machu Picchu, Choquequirao, is just starting to gain popularity with international travelers. But the strenuous multi-day hike required to see this equally impressive archaeological site is a strong deterrent.

Featured image by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos via Unsplash.

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