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Inca architecture
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arquitectura inca en el camino inca

The Inca Trail lasts 4 days in which 39 kilometers are traveled along Inca trails that lead to Machu Picchu. Along the way, other archaeological sites can be seen that show an unequaled mastery of stone, the main characteristic of Inca architecture. These sites are: Llactapata, Runkurakay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca and Wiñayhuayna . Learn about each of these sites in the following article.

The architecture on the Inca Trail

Inca architecture is characterized by the dominance of stone . It seemed that the hard walls were molded to the whim of the Inca hands. They had advanced knowledge and a unique technique that ensured the existence of great constructions like Machupicchu.

The Inca Trail is a sample of the advanced Inca technique in the domain of stone. Each rock fits perfectly with the surrounding stones. It resembles a solid puzzle that has withstood many earthquakes.

Research indicates that the Incas used three types of hammers made of stronger stones . Many constructions that have very large blocks apparently were made taking advantage of the original erosion of the rock.

There were various types of Inca walls according to their function :

  • The cushioning : a style that makes it seem that the wall is protruding, that is, that it compresses the stone.
  • The inclined walls : in this style all Inca constructions have a slight inclination to reinforce their resistance in case of earthquakes.
  • The trapezoidal style : the trapezoidal style had an anti-seismic function as it gave greater resistance and stability to the wall.
  • The rustic style : also called ‘pirca’. These walls were made of small stones joined with mud.
  • The cell type : they called it that because it looked like a set of cells. There is always a large stone in the center and several small ones around it.
  • The setting style : horizontal lines formed by the union of blocks at various angles are presented in an orderly manner.
  • The imperial style : it is a wall assembled with medium-sized stones of the same size in horizontal rows, symmetrically assembling the wall.
  • The cyclopean style : it was so named because around huge rocks up to 9 meters, other rocks of regular size have been assembled.

The archaeological site of Llactapata

The archaeological site of Llactapata is located 5 kilometers in a straight line from Machu Picchu. It is the first archaeological complex visited on the Inca Trail. It is situated at 2,750 meters above sea level. It was discovered by the American explorer Hiram Bingham in 1912, shortly after finding Machupicchu.

Llactapata is a small Inca city that has terraces located on the edge of a ravine. Its enclosures are made in a rustic style. It is presumed that he had an important agricultural work. Due to its privileged location there are panoramic views of the entire Inca Trail. Even, from there, you can appreciate Machu Picchu.

Runkurakay archaeological site

The archaeological site of Runkurakay is located about 8 kilometers in a straight line from Machu Picchu, approximately. It is appreciated by tourists during the third day of the route on the Inca Trail. It is at an altitude of 3,800 meters above sea level. Its name comes from a Quechua word that means ‘basket shape’. The reason? Well, the semicircular architecture of this place resembles a basket.

Investigations indicate that Runkurakay was a checkpoint where food was probably stored. Due to its elevated location on the Vilcanota River, the place is often filled with mist, which gives it a mysterious appearance. Because it does not receive many visitors, there it is possible to appreciate the diversity of flora and fauna characteristic of the Inca Trail.

Sayacmarca archaeological site

The archaeological site of Sayacmarca is located about 8 kilometers in a straight line from the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu (only 1.7 kilometers from Runkurakay). On the third day of the Inca Trail, we visit this small citadel and ceremonial center. It is located at 3,600 meters above sea level. It is called as the ‘dominant town’ because from its heights it is possible to see the entire natural environment of the Historic Sanctuary of Machupicchu.

In 1915 Sayacmarca was discovered by Hiram Bingham who named the place as ‘Cedrobamba’ (later its name was modified). It is made up of a set of platforms, stairways and water channels that supply the small areas of the place. It was probably a citadel dedicated to agriculture. Like the other archaeological sites, the only way to visit it is through the Inca Trail.

Phuyupatamarca archaeological site

The archaeological site of Phuyupatamarca is located 5 kilometers in a straight line from Machu Picchu. The view to this place takes place on the third day of the Inca Trail. It is located 3,665 meters above sea level. Its discoverer, researcher Hiram Bingham, named it Qorywayrachina. It is also known as ‘Place above the clouds’ because the dense fogs usually cover with their white blanket in the mornings.

Phuyupatamarca was a citadel with platforms, buildings, squares, stairs, water channels and ceremonial baths . A viewpoint over a ravine stands out from where you can appreciate the entire natural environment of the place. According to research, the site was inhabited by one hundred people on average. During the Inca Trail, tourists usually camp near this place.

Wiñayhuayna archaeological site

The archaeological site of Wiñayhuayna is located just 3.4 kilometers from Machu Picchu. Its name refers to a type of orchid whose translation from Quechua to Spanish means: “eternally young”. Its height is 2,700 meters above sea level. It is the last archaeological site to be visited on the third day. There the last camp takes place. The fourth and last day, from there, you walk to Machu Picchu.

Wiñayhuayna has large and beautiful agricultural terraces. In addition there are minor and major buildings for the working class and nobility. Its main function was agricultural, such as the production of corn, potatoes, quinoa and even coca leaves. From there you have a privileged view of Machu Picchu. Tourists who do the 2-day Inca Trail also visit this site.


By Inca Trail Machu Picchu - Last updated, 30-09-2021

Interested in the Inca Trail? Know more about Archaeological sites!