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Take physic, pomp

Machu Picchu is not real

it’s that photo again. Click to enlarge, it’s a hi-res and
gets very big….you can almost see the hotdog stands

Best-selling travel writer Bill Bryson has a new book out called “The Road Less Travelled” which checks out a thousand places to visit that are off the beaten track. But part of the book is devoted to the world’s five most over-rated tourist sites and Peru’s Machu Picchu makes that list. Here’s the UK Times’ report on that section of his book (note £100= U$160, more or less).

MACHU PICCHU, PERU

THE BUILD-UP There’s no doubt that Machu Picchu holds its own as a premier tourist stop. Possibly South America’s most-promoted destination, it has held the top spot for travellers eager to see the majesty of the Inca for several years.

THE REALITY The journey to Machu Picchu is not pleasant, and the entrance fee has risen to more than £25. Add to this the round-trip train fare to the village at the foot of the mountain (the most common means of transport from Cusco), the bus fare from here to the site, plus the food and water you’ll need during the day, and you’re well above £100 before you’ve even set foot in Machu Picchu. . .that is if you fall within the number of people allowed in daily.

And y’know what? It’s true. For one thing Machu Picchu is over-rated as a destination. For another, there are other places less well-known that are steeped in just as much history in the ex-Inca (and pre-Inca) regions of the Andes. Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia all have their historical jewels to offer. Machu Picchu is the touchstone place and people travelling 10,000km or more to get to South America feel obliged to make it a stop-off on their way. Yes, the place is well-tended. Yes, the tour guides are very knowledgeable and professional. Yes, it’s a tourist trap, and an expensive captive-audience one at that. Want to pay Tokyo prices for mediocre goods and services in the middle of smalltown South America? Aguas Calientes is the place for you. Want to buy a genuine Inca ballpoint pen? Cuzco’s Plaza de Armas awaits with open arms. Machu Picchu (and Cusco for that matter) is another great location covering itself with plastic and pretending to be something it isn’t. Man, gimme La Paz (Bolivia), Medellín (Colombia), Tucumán (Argentina) or Asunción (Paraguay) any day of the week. Real places, beautiful places, places not trying to fake themselves to conform to an image created for outsiders.

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