Apus: mountain spirits

Apus: mountain spirits

Apus: the spirits of the mountains.

During your 4-day trek on the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trek or even on your visit by train to Machu Picchu. You will hear very constantly, that the tour guides mention the word: “Apus mountain spirits“.

The Apus, for the people of the Peruvian Andes; they are the mountain spirits. The rites and offerings to the Apus are a religious belief that dates back to Inca times; and that today is still practiced in the highlands of Peru.


What are the Apus?

  • Apu: it is a quechua word that means “Lord”. The Incas used it to name the mountains and peaks of great importance and height, in a certain region.
  • There are local and regional Apus. The local ones, are the most significant mountains of a hamlet, village or town; while the regional ones would be, the highest and most imposing mountains of a city or a region.
  • An Apu is a main ancestor, for many Andean tribes.
  • An Apu protects humans and animals from disease and natural disasters.
  • The Apus are the gods of water, and they are in charge of supplying it constantly; if the villagers have behaved correctly.
  • The Incas believed that the taller the “Apus” were, the greater their importance and power.
Apus: the spirits of the mountains.

What kind of mountains could be considered Apus?

  1. The highest mountains of a hamlet, town or region.
  2. Mountains covered by perpetual snow.
  3. Mounts with a high content of minerals such as: gold, silver, copper, etc.
  4. Mountains with water sources, such as: springs.
  5. Mountains with peculiar, strange or beautiful characteristics.
Apus: the spirits of the mountains.

Examples of types of Apus in the empire of the Incas:

  • Apu Ausangate and Apu Salkantay; both are the two highest snow-capped mountains with perpetual snow in the Cusco region. The first is located to the southeast; while the second to the northwest.
  • Apu Potosi, in Bolivia: it is a mountain that has huge amounts of silver; that have been exploited by the Incas, Spaniards and nowadays.
  • Apu Machu Picchu, located south of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu; this mountain has a very good quality water spring.
  • Apu Vinicunca, or better known as Rainbow Mountain; a beautiful mountain with stripes of more than 6 colors.
Apus: the spirits of the mountains.

How do we show respect to the Apus mountain spirits

  • In the time of the Incas, the capacocha was made; rituals where boys and girls were sacrificed in the highest mountains of the empire (how was the capacocha performed?).
  • Every first of August, it is placed on a hole made in the earth: flowers, coca leaves and llama tallow; which are burned and buried.
  • The Tinka is performed, which consists of ceremonially spreading on the ground the Chicha with the thumb and index finger (what is Chicha?).
  • Kintu is performed, which consists of gathering three coca leaves in each hand; and hold them with the thumb and forefinger. To then blow in the form of thanks, to the most important Apus; in the 4 magnetic points of the area where you are.
  • Make an Apacheta, which is a mound of stones; as a sign of permission and reverence to the spirits of the mountains.
Kintu, sacred inca trilogy

In which hikes can we observe the most important Apus of Cusco?

machu picchu salkantay trek


Whatever trek you make to Machu Picchu; you will be rewarded with the sight, of an impressive apus mountain spirits.

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