Stranded in Peru by COVID-19 pandemic, this tourist got to visit Machu Picchu all by himself

Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY
·2 min read

Jesse Katayama just experienced a major upside to being trapped in Peru for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic: a private tour of Machu Picchu.

The Japanese citizen, who had traveled to Peru in March to see the 500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site in the Andes mountains, had been stuck in the nearby town of Aguas Calientes since the world went into lockdown mode in March. But on Saturday, he finally got his wish.

“He had come to Peru with the dream of being able to enter,” Culture Minister Alejandro Neyra said in a virtual press conference Monday, according to wire service Reuters and British newspaper The Guardian. “The Japanese citizen has entered together with our head of the park so that he can do this before returning to his country.”

The first visitor to Machu Picchu in over seven months, Katayama posted Instagram photos of himself posing in a mask at the site. Neyra also shared a thank-you video in which Katayama proclaimed his visit "amazing."

Neyra also noted that the lush mountain citadel will reopen to domestic and international visitors in November but did not specify a date. Capacity will be capped at 30%, or about 200 people per day. Pre-pandemic, 675 people a day visited.

“We are still in the middle of a pandemic,” Neyra told reporters. “It will be done with all the necessary care.”

According to the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru has extended its national quarantine through Oct. 31, though it has begun to ease restrictions as part of Phase 4 of its reopening plan. Tourism businesses were allowed to resume operations at the beginning of the month.

Machu Picchu, a 500-year old moumtain fortress, has been closed to tourists since March.
Machu Picchu, a 500-year old moumtain fortress, has been closed to tourists since March.

However, the U.S. State Department's travel advisory for Peru is currently at a Level 4 ("Do no travel"), its most severe warning, due to COVID-19 and crime in some regions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also gives Peru its most severe warning, advising Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to the South American country.

According to World Health Organization data, Peru has had more than 849,000 total cases of COVID-19 with more than 3,000 new ones reported in the last 24 hours. Some 33,305 have died.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Machu Picchu: Peru opens famous site for one stranded Japanese tourist