A Closed Machu Picchu Reopens Just Once For Stranded Young Tourist

Machu Picchu Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.0])

Most travelers dream of visiting the 15th-century Incan city of Machu Picchu. Traveler Jesse Katayama was excited to visit this UNESCO World Heritage site nestled 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes mountains, but it was closed to tourists due to the coronavirus pandemic. Months later—with the help of the Peruvian government—the young Japanese traveler finally got the chance to visit the famed site, which opened just for him.

As it turns out, 26-year-old Katayama arrived in Peru on March 14, 2020, just as the world was shutting down amidst the rise of COVID-19 cases. Machu Picchu practices advanced ticketing to limit crowds, and the Osaka native had already booked his visit for two days after his arrival. Unfortunately, the following lockdown destroyed his plans. Still hopeful he might be able to visit the ruins, Katayama rented a small room in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes. Teaching boxing and making friends with his new neighbors, he made the best of the global pandemic which stranded many travelers like himself.

After many months, Katayama knew he would have to return home soon as his funds dwindled. Luckily, a local tour company, Andean Roots Peru, and Peru's Ministry of Culture were not going to allow the traveler to leave without finally being able to visit Machu Picchu. The government granted Katayama special permission to visit the closed site virtually alone, accompanied by only photographers and the chief of the archeological site. Masked for safety, the young man finally got to explore the splendid site only days before his return to Japan.

Katayama posted images from his trip with an outpouring of gratitude for the special favor, as well as the hospitality during his long stay in Peru. “I will definitely cry,” he told CNN. “These seven months have been very special to me. I have discovered a new part of me.” Officials hope to soon open Machu Picchu to the general public at limited capacity. Until travel is possible once again, you can learn more cool facts about Machu Picchu, which is part of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Jesse Katayama, a 26-year old Japanese traveler, was stranded in Peru for months, unable to use his ticket to see Machu Pichhu. The site was closed due to the coronavirus.


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The Peruvian government and Andean Roots Peru, a local tour company, banded together to get Katayama a special opportunity to visit the site, free of its usual tourists.

Residential Quarters Andes Inca Building

Residential buildings at the Inca site. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

The grateful traveler returns to Japan soon but expressed that his seven-month-long stay in Peru was a life-changing experience.

View from Machu Picchu

The view from a partially-restored Inca building at Machu Picchu. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0])

h/t: [The Smithsonian]

Related Articles:

8 of the World’s Most Awe-Inspiring Ancient Ruins

Interview: Nomadic Couple Captures the Timeless Natural Beauty of Peru

Famous Landmarks Seen Through a Tilt Shift Perspective

7 Facts About Machu Picchu That Show How Incredible the Inca Empire Was

Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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