After severe flooding damaged the sole railroad to Machu Picchu in late January, shutting off access and stranding 4,000 tourists, tourism officials (and our savvy sources on the ground) are announcing the ancient site will reopen April 1. Fortunately, the citadel itself, perched high on a ridge in the Andean Mountains, was not damaged in the storm. While the train is not the only way to enter (you can fly in via helicopter or hike 28 miles through the jungle), it is the most convenient. Repairs to the railway are estimated to be complete early next month, with an alternative road-to-train route slated to open by the end of March. Though, be advised the latter will involve a bumpy, 12 hour drive from Cusco, located 50 miles south, to the station nearest the mountain (an additional 6 miles away).
Unfortunately, torrential rains continue to pummel the region to a deadly degree; two Australian tourists drowned while whitewater rafting in the area this week, and at least six locals were killed when a river flooded a village on Monday. But the Peruvian government remains on the offensive, campaigning to lure visitors to the region and highlight other hotspots while its main attraction is in limbo. Over the next few weeks, officials are promising up to 50 percent discounts on airfare to and hotels in Cusco, to coincide with Machu Picchu’s reopening, and are turning travelers' attention to other less well-known sites – like the Colca Canyons, which just south of Machu Picchu, are double the depth of our Grand Canyon. Plus, Spirit Airlines is offering enticing low fares between Los Angeles and Lima this summer, starting from $278 roundtrip, including taxes (fares for the same route typically run over twice that amount).