The Spiritual Heritage of the Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is a 2-5 day trek that takes keen explorers across a gorgeous stretch of the ancient Incan empire, ultimately arriving at one of the best known landmarks of the Incan civilization: Machu Picchu. Taking in the trail is said to be an experience of incomparable spiritual wealth, and modern day adventurers aren’t the first people to think so – the Incans used to make their own pilgrimages to Machu Picchu, and although historians disagree as to the exact purpose for the ancient settlement, they all agree that travelling there was a matter of great spiritual importance. Here are some of the most exciting spiritual ruins to catch on the Inca Trail.

Inti Punku

Inti Punku inca trail

Photo courtesy of flickr

Inti Punku: The Sun Gate. This is one of the spectacular ruins that you can expect to see if you take the voyage to Machu Picchu. Inti was the name given to the Incan Sun God, and they believed that worshipping him would allow the rains to fall and the crops to grow. The gate perfectly frames the mountain that sits behind it and at dawn, as the sun rises, the whole scene is bathed in light: it’s no wonder that such a glorious landmark bares the Sun God’s name. Arriving here after a long day’s hiking, weary travellers – whether modern tourists or the Incans originally treading the route – get their first sight of Machu Picchu.

The Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun inca trail

Photo courtesy of enjoy machu picchu

Within Machu Picchu itself you will find more ruins dedicated to Inti. This is testament to the great importance that the Incans placed on their worship of the sun; the high priest of the sun, or ‘Willaq Umu’, would be the most important person in the empire after the ruler. It is believed that this temple could have served as an astronomical observatory. The Temple of the Sun was artfully constructed for worship, and on the summer and winter solstices the sun streams through the temple windows and illuminates a ceremonial stone.

The Temple of the Condor

The Temple of the Condor inca trail

Photo courtesy of hotel club

Whether or not you agree that the shape of the rocks resemble a Condor in flight, it’s difficult to argue that this is one of the most exquisite of the Machu Picchu ruins. Spiritually, it balances out the sun worship of our previous landmarks with a much darker history: this is believed to have been the site of an Incan prison, and possibly even a torture chamber. The stone in the centre could be used for sacrifices – although historians still disagree as to whether the victims would be humans or animals.

The Intihuatana Stone

The Intihuatana Stone inca trail

Photo courtesy of sacred sites

Perhaps the most sacred relic to be found at Machu Picchu is the Intihuatana Stone. The Intihuatana Stone, or ‘Hitching Post of the Sun’, was used as part of the Incan calendar, determining the dates of the two equinoxes. As it was never discovered by the Spanish conquerors it remained untouched when others of its kind were systematically destroyed. Incans believed that when these stones were destroyed, the deities associated with them would die or depart the earth. This stone still stands as a token of the ceremonies that would have taken place there in Incan times.

Have you had experience hiking the Incan Trail, or is the journey still on your bucket list? Either way let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear which Incan ruins you think are the most breath-taking!

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