Machu Picchu Architecture

Interior of an Inca building, featuring trapezoidal windows
Photo by: Martin St-Amant, Creative Commons

Machu Picchu is an ancient Inca citadel found in the Urubamba valley in Peru. It was discovered a hundreds years ago, but the function of this pre-Columbian structure is still unknown. According to archaeologists, it was the residential palace of Inca Emperor, Pachucuti. The word Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain”. It is the older of the two mountains that is situated above the Urubamba Valley.

The other mountain is Huayna Picchu, which means “Young Mountain”. Machu Picchu was discovered by American Historian, Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu is believed to be a religious site. Its architecture is one of the most renowned creations of the world.


Machu Picchu is located on a mountain ridge of the Andean mountain, more than 8,000 ft above the sea level. The architectural style used in the construction of Machu Picchu is derived from Incan culture. Stone blocks and other building material from all around the area were used in constructing this beautiful site. Different shapes of polished dry stone walls that are precisely cut are used in the construction.

Ashlars Technique

Incans used their famous technique of construction called Ashlars technique, in which the blocks of stone are cut precisely so as to fit them together tightly without using mortar. During the Inca civilization, the wheel was not used to move the large granite blocks. It is believed that hundreds of men were used to push the stones.

Rooms, Terraces & Temples

This complex structure has more than 200 separate buildings, which is said to have been used for religious purposes. Ceremonial altars were built on the surrounding hills. This famous citadel is divided in to two different areas. One is the agricultural sector that consists of open spaces and terraces and in which different crops like maize and potatoes were planted. Another one is the urban sector that featured streets and residences, which can accommodated 1200 people.

The agricultural sector was built by transforming the slope of the mountain into stepped surface with flat terraces. A perimeter wall separates the urban sector from the agricultural area. A double stone doorway is the entryway to the urban sector. It also connects to the road of Cusco. There are 172 rooms made in different shapes and sizes and can be accessed using 109 stairways. The Temple of the Sun, a Mausoleum, the Sacred Rock, the Main Temple, the Street of the Fountains and the Intiguanata are some of the astonishing buildings of the structure.

Windows & More

Most of the buildings are one storey and the construction are mostly rectangular in shape with trapezoidal windows and doors. Rounded corners with L shaped blocks used to tie the outside corners are one of the subtle design technique used by Incans. This strong architectural beauty of Peru has endured many earthquakes and still remains standing, which demonstrates the strength of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu is one of the most extraordinary and enigmatic sites in the world. It is a beautiful example of combining natural beauty with the Incan city, which consists of a rich diversity of flora and fauna found in the Upper Amazon basin.

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