Americas, Tourism, February 1 2019
PERU: Machu Picchu, the hugely popular Incan settlement in Peru, is finally wheelchair accessible thanks to a new tour.
Wheel the World, an accessible travel company set up so wheelchair users could enjoy bucket list experiences previously off limits to them, launched its first ever Machu Picchu itinerary a few months ago. The business was set up by best friends Alvaro Silberstein (a wheelchair user) and Camilo Navarro (who is able bodied), both from Chile.
They moved to the US where they studied business at UC Berkeley, before launching Wheel the World, creating tours in Chile and Mexico. Machu Picchu is their latest venture, and required the purchase of expensive specialised chairs to be able to access the site safely.
The chairs are designed with one wheel and two long sticks – it resembles “a wheelbarrow”, according to Navarro – and are made from lightweight aluminium and steel.
Users must be accompanied by a travel companion, however, as the wheelchairs can’t be self-propelled. The company partners with businesses which can donate the chairs and store them locally, so clients avoid the cost of having to purchase their own or transport them.
“Accessibility is a matter of being creative,” Navarro told CNN Travel.
“Sometimes we get phone calls from national parks saying they want us to come explore the place. But often, because of erosion concerns or restrictions about how ancient sites can be modified, it’s not always as simple as immediately building a wheelchair ramp.”
A four-day trip to Machu Picchu costs $1,500, including accommodation, excluding flights. The news of the tour comes after Machu Picchu recently changed its ticketing policy to make it even stricter.
As of 1 January, the Unesco World Heritage Site requires visitors to select specific time slots and arrive within one hour of them or risk being turned away. This means that travellers who book for a 10am time slot need to arrive before 11am. There’s also a strict four-hour time limit for each visit, plus all tourists must be out by 5.30pm.
The Incan citadel in the Peruvian Andes first introduced ticketing in 2017, after surging tourist numbers prompted Unesco to threaten to put the attraction on its list of world heritage sites in danger.