What are the Apus? The sacred mountains in Peru

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Are you planning a trip to Peru and would you like to visit the most beautiful local trails and the highest mountains? If you like myths, stories and would like to experience the culture and mystical beliefs in your own skin, Peru is the perfect destination for you.

You may hear the word Apu more than once during your trip – keep your eyes peeled and get ready to discover what it means!

What are the apus mountains?

The Incas were an extremely spiritual people, finding life in many elements of nature. In Inca mythology, Apu can be the unique name of the powerful spirits of the mountains that live on their summit, or of the solitary rocks and caves that protect the local people in the highlands.

The male Apu literally means “Lord” – it refers to strength and courage, while the female equivalent of Apu means “Mother” – nurturing and protective. However, sometimes the local people’s concept of Apus is also applied to defenders and important and wise people. To this day, the word is used to refer to mentors, leaders, and teachers.

Looking for the term Apu in Inca mythology, we find that the inhabitants of the Andean regions made offerings to the Apus mountains. These were mainly corn chicha and coca leaves, used today as a remedy for altitude sickness. However, there were also human sacrifices, which were a sign of helplessness and despair.

Machu Picchu tour banner

At that time, people wanted to protect the territories and crops that were essential for existence, they did everything possible to protect their area and their inventories. Today, mountain spirits still exist, but mostly among the local population and with some Catholic overtones.

The Apus Mountains

Peruvians who grew up in traditional Andean families believe in the power of the gods. They also believe that after throwing coca leaves on the ground, they can communicate with the gods of the mountains through the configuration of those leaves.

In Peru, the highest peaks are venerated because they are closer to the sky, which is why the Apus mountains are sacred to the Incas. The most popular mountains are the following.

Ausangate

Inca mythology affirms that in this mountain and its nearby lakes, the energy that fertilizes Mother Earth, the Pachamama, is born. It is said that after a long time, the water dies in the lakes and rivers of the Amazon to return in the form of stars every night.

Doing the Ausangate Trek is quite a challenge. The trail is made of rocks and at some time of the year, it is covered with snow and ice. It is a trek for brave people, hungry for adventure and a lover of the picturesque mountain landscape.

The total distance is 67 km spread over 5 days. Every year, the Qoyllur Rit’i festival is celebrated north of Ausangate, before the feast of Corpus Christi, during which thousands of Quechua pilgrimage to the temple of Sinkara.

ausangate mountain

Salkantay

If we translate Salkantay into the local language, we will find words like brutal, wild, and free. It is considered a powerful mountain that can regulate the weather, rain, and storms.

It is the highest of the Vilcabamba mountains. Salkantay is a steep peak. The route of the Salkantay trek is one of the top 25 in the world ranking of the National Geographic Adventure Travel magazine. It is a route with some difficulty but definitely worth it.

salkantay mountain

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is one of the most popular places in the world, and therefore, in the Apus Mountains. It is the best-preserved Inca city in the world and one of the seven wonders. To this day, thousands of people choose to visit Machu Picchu, and many say they feel the sacred energy and spirits of the Apus Mountains emanating from the rocks and buildings. We leave you here a brief summary of the history of Machu Picchu.

One of the most popular places in Machu Picchu where you can find this energy is the Intihuatana rock.

intihuatana rock in machu picchu

Huayna Picchu

It is the older sister of Machu Picchu. It has a temple of the Full Moon that is 1500 years old. It is believed that the caves were used to keep the mummies. As Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu are so close, priests came and went every morning to welcome the new day.

temple in huayna picchu

Now that you know what the Apus mountains are, you are ready to visit their sacred mountains and judge for yourself. Do you believe these stories? Would you like to see if the mountain spirits are still protecting Peruvians?

Lily

Lily is happy with a backpack on her back. Every year she travels through one country in Latin America and has repeated several times, especially Peru where she says she feels at home (although she says the same about Argentina, Chile and Bolivia).

She loves ceviche, hiking and Sunday picnics with her friends, although whenever you ask her, she's always planning her next destination.

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