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Intriguing Machu Picchu Legends

There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the purpose and construction of the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu. Like the pyramids of Egypt, the citadel is an impressive feat of architecture for the age in which it was built. This fact, along with its air of intrigue and mystery, have inspired many myths and legends about Machu Picchu.

Laurel Thompson

Why was Machu Picchu built?

One of the biggest questions surrounding this ancient wonder of the world is: Why was Machu Picchu built? There are a great many theories including:

A place of sacrifice

The Incas were not opposed to human sacrifice and one of the most persistent Machu Picchu legends has it that it was a place where female virgins (ñustas in Quechua) were sacrificed. This is because there were a large number of human female bones found at the site.


An astronomical center

Anyone who has visited or made the trek to Machu Picchu can attest to the Inca’s incredible understanding of the cosmos. Throughout the site, there are large stones carved to perfection and perfectly aligned with the astronomical positions of the planets and stars. The Intihuatana stone is one such example. This has led to the Machu Picchu legend that the site was an astronomical center for the Incas.

A refuge for the Incas

Other speculative Machu Picchu legends hypothesize that it was built as a last refuge for the Incas. When the Spaniards arrived and began conquering Inca territories, it is believed that the Incas fled to the jungle and found refuge at Machu Picchu, where they may have resided with Augustinian monks.


How Was Machu Picchu built?

Another great mystery surrounding the citadel is: How was Machu Picchu built? How could the Incas move such large rocks before the invention of the wheel? There are some fairly far-out theories attempting to explain these mysteries. Judge for yourself if any of these Machu Picchu legends hold water during your own visit to this amazing place.



Others believe that the Incas prepared a special concoction of plants that weakened stone and made the material more malleable, thus enabling the Incas to achieve the formations you see today at Machu Picchu.


Because of the mysteries that still enshroud Machu Picchu, flocks of visitors from around the world trek to this ancient feat of architectural wonder year after year. While there are various Machu Picchu legends to try to explain its mysteries, its allure has persisted throughout the decades. A visit to Machu Picchu may help you to form your own opinions; or perhaps you will be content to bathe in the mysterious aura of this intriguing place with no need to understand it with your rational mind.

For more information about treks and tours to Machu Picchu, please contact us.

Plan exploreInca Trail to Machu Picchu
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