A Tour of Machu Picchu: Who Built It and Why

Aug 01, 2023


The ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru was built by the Incas hundreds of years ago and lies high in the Andes Mountains. Visitors flock to it from all over the world, but few know its history or how it compares to similar sites such as Chichen Itza in Mexico or Stonehenge in England. Before you tour Machu Picchu, let’s learn a bit more about its builders and what makes it special.

The Inca Civilization And Its People

The Inca civilization emerged in Peru in approximately 1200 BCE and developed into a highly organized empire that spanned much of modern-day South America, including Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The people who made up their culture—known as Inca people—lived throughout these regions. These Andean people adopted many customs and practices from earlier societies, but they also created their own innovations such as an intricate road system that helped create one of South America's ancient largest empires. Although many questions about what life was like for these early inhabitants remain unanswered, archeologists have uncovered evidence of some details about how people lived during the Incan Empire. Most importantly, we know how beautiful and impressive Machu Picchu is today because it was built by Incan hands nearly 500 years ago.

How the Ruins Were Constructed

The impressive granite ruins that stand atop Peru’s Mountains of Mist are simply extraordinary. Construction on Machu Picchu began sometime in 1450, a full 50 years before Christopher Columbus set foot in America. But just how was it built? And by whom? The Incan ruler Pachacuti Yupanqui spearheaded construction efforts, but many have speculated that some or all of its construction was done by local workers under his leadership.  No one knows for sure. In fact, no one knows for sure why Machu Picchu was built at all—but historians can make educated guesses based on what we do know about Incan society and architecture. For example, according to Encyclopedia Britannica , Incans generally used only materials found within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of their city centers—this suggests that Machu Picchu may have been used as a sacred retreat where high-ranking leaders could be isolated from other populations during times of sickness or famine.

Different Styles of Buildings Found at Machu Picchu

Each of the buildings were made to fit a specific purpose. The most common buildings, such as houses and storage rooms, were constructed using local materials, including river rocks and mud bricks. Other buildings have intricate masonry work that is thought to have been created by expert stonemasons brought in from other parts of Peru. These building styles indicate that while many people lived at Machu Picchu. Some researchers believe that during its heyday, between 1450 and 1570 CE, there may have been between 200 and 400 residents living at Machu Picchu (the largest city in South America at that time). Others say there may have been as few as 50 residents living there during its prime.

The Worship Area at Machu Picchu

Every culture needs a place to worship its gods. At Machu Picchu, you can find these religious buildings throughout the site in an area locals call the Sacred District. The Spanish explorers who first arrived at Machu Picchu were fascinated by these religious structures, seeing them as houses for idols. Historians know that some Incas worshipped nature, but there are still many mysteries surrounding religious beliefs during ancient times.

Our Iconic Peru tour will take you on an unforgettable tour of Machu Picchu as well as other highlights of the country.