February 3, 2016 on U.S. News Travel || Machu Picchu is the granddaddy of archeological sites. Set in the Andes Mountains, the site was once an estate for the Inca emperor, as well as a place of worship and education. When the Spanish conquered Peru, Machu Picchu was abandoned, and the colonists never learned of its existence. The site remained hidden in the Andes, shrouded by green mountains and clouds of mist, completely unknown to the outside world.

It wasn’t until Hiram Bingham III, a Yale historian and explorer (and the inspiration for the famous character Indiana Jones) uncovered the ancient site in 1911 that the world took notice.

And what notice it was. Machu Picchu’s visitor numbers grew quickly, as did its aura. It soon became Peru’s largest driver of tourism. Movies were made, books were written. Artifacts were taken, then returned. Machu Picchu was even recognized as one of the new seven wonders of the world, an honor that all but solidifies its place on the bucket lists of intrepid travelers around the world.

But all this popularity has taken a toll.

With 2,500 visitors per day wandering around the sacred stones, the temples are starting to topple. Structures that held for more than 500 years through earthquakes and landslides are coming apart. The site is under UNESCO protection, and in 2011 the Peruvian government limited the number of visitors allowed each day. Some have called for stricter rules, such as making areas off limits or requiring all visitors to stay with a guide. The future is unknown but one thing seems inevitable; it may not always be possible to visit the ancient city the way you can today. Here’s what you need to know to before visiting Machu Picchu.

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