If you had plans to visit Machu Picchu in Peru any time soon, you may not get that opportunity in light of recent events.

Violent political clashes have endangered the safety of locals and tourists in Peru. As a result, officials have closed the site until further notice.

This Inca marvel has mesmerized for years and is probably Peru’s most celebrated site. People have wandered through the ruins and climbed Machu Picchu mountain. Risk-takers have conquered the narrow, steep steps of Huayna Picchu mountain, otherwise known as “The Stairs of Death.”

“Machu Picchu was a royal estate or sacred religious site for Inca leaders,” explained History. “For hundreds of years, until the American archaeologist, Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it in 1911, only peasants living in the region knew of the abandoned citadel’s existence.”

The name means “Old Peak” or “Old Mountain” in the Quechua language. The Inca built it ages before the invention of cranes and other construction machines. Similar to the pyramids of Egypt, they managed to do it with baffling efficiency.

According to Machu Picchu Gateway, the Inca “set the stones to fit together without mortar, and you can’t even get a piece of paper between them.” Moreover, the stones are very heavy. This begs the question: how were they able to move them? The answer is lots of chiseling, sheer and almost superhuman strength.

Machu Picchu has drawn hundreds of tourists, willing to risk crowds and the elements for a chance to get that fantastic Instagram photo, especially when the sun casts a yellow, orange and red glow over the stone monuments or when the fog rolls in.

Here is everything you need to know about Machu Picchu and the civil unrest in Peru.

1. What Happened?

According to BBC, “the violent protests, which have seen dozens of people killed, began when Peru’s previous leader was ousted.”

Additionally, protesters damaged railway tracks, forcing authorities to suspend service.

Over 400 people “were left stranded at Machu Picchu,” according to Luis Fernando Helguero, the Peruvian tourism minister.

Those with tickets to Machu Picchu can get a refund or credit to use them. The credit is only valid for up to one month after the conclusion of the demonstrations.

2. Were Those Stranded Able To Get Out?

Yes, eventually.

The tourism ministry “announced that 148 foreigners and 250 Peruvians were safely evacuated on trains and buses.”

This is not the first time tourists and locals have been stranded owing to conflict in the country. In December, visitors stuck at Machu Picchu had to be airlifted out.


3. What's Happening Politically In Peru?

Locals responded angrily at the election of the new president, Dina Boluarte, who is the first woman in Peru to hold that office. Before becoming president, she was the vice president.

CNN reported on January 20 that Boluarte pleaded for an end to the violence, which mostly was happening in the capital city of Lima.

“Once again, I call for dialogue, I call on those political leaders to calm down,” she urged. “Have a more honest and objective look at the country; let’s talk.”

4. Protesters Are Not Moved

BBC reports that “demonstrators are demanding fresh elections and want Boluarte to stand down, which she has so far refused to do.”

They want former president Pedro Castillo released from prison.

BBC explains, “Castillo is in jail facing charges of rebellion and conspiracy, which he denies. He insists he is still Peru’s legitimate leader.”

According to some reports, police response has been ruthless. They’ve used tanks, helicopters and tear gas to bring the crowds to heel.

NPR interviewed one young man who said, “this outrages us. The only thing the government is doing with these detentions is worsen tensions. When the population finds out about this, they’re going to react in a more radical fashion.”