If you are a fan of architecture and history, South America has some jewels worth traveling for. The continent offers a vast and varied historical landscape where the ancient masonry work can make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
From the grandeur of Incan cities nestled in the Andean peaks to the intricacies of Spanish colonial architecture, these structures serve as a testament to the skill and artistry of our ancestors.
Each monument, each stone, carries with it a story waiting to be unraveled, blending the narratives of past civilizations with the present day. So pack your bags, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey through history with these top historic masonry-related structures in South America.
Coricancha, also known as the Temple of the Sun, is a majestic embodiment of Inca architectural prowess nestled in the shadows of the imposing Andes. This historic structure was the centerpiece of the powerful Inca Empire, its significance extending beyond religious reverence to influence city planning across South America. The city of Cusco, where Coricancha stands, served as the capital of the Inca Empire. Remarkably, despite the harsh Andean terrain and high altitude of 3400 meters, the Incas managed to construct this city, a testament to their engineering genius and indomitable willpower. As you explore Coricancha, you get to relive an era of grandeur framed by intricately laid masonry, echoing stories of a civilization that once blossomed in this rugged landscape.
Santuario de las Lajas, a stunning manifestation of neo-Gothic architecture, is a church unlike any other. Originally built in Europe, it was carefully transported across the Atlantic and reassembled in Colombia, nestled in a river gorge where verdant vegetation spills over the steep cliffs. The church appears almost suspended in the air, creating a striking juxtaposition between the man-made structure and the rugged natural landscape.
One of the features that make Santuario de las Lajas more than just an architectural marvel is its spiritual significance. Since the 18th century, it has drawn pilgrims from far and wide following reports of an apparition of the Virgin Mary on one of the ‘lajas’ – the flat stones that make up the gorge. This divine sighting has lent an additional layer of mystique to the site, making it not just a testament to human engineering, but also a beacon of faith. Here, amidst the awe-inspiring masonry, visitors have the chance to step into an otherworldly realm where the echoes of the past blend seamlessly with the spiritual energy of the present.
Machu Picchu is a World Heritage Site that likely needs no introduction, yet its allure is so irresistible that it undoubtedly deserves a mention. This stunning 15th-century Incan citadel perches on the ridge of mountains over 2,000 meters above sea level, its stone structures providing a stark contrast to the lush greenery surrounding it. Archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the emperor Pachacuti, but was left abandoned not long after due to the Spanish Conquest. The site features three primary structures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows, each a testament to the advanced masonry skills of the Incas. Despite being somewhat challenging to reach, the journey is undoubtedly worth it, for the views from this elevated citadel are unforgettable. Notably, in the past decade, this site has earned its place among the New Seven Wonders of the World, reinforcing its position as a must-see for anyone visiting South America.
Otherwise known as the Amazon Theatre, this stunning opera house is situated in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, in the city of Manaus, and within walking distance of the river’s banks. The unlikely presence of such a majestic structure in the midst of a dense rainforest heightens its beauty. Its architectural style is a testament to the Renaissance Revival period, showcasing beautifully intricate masonry work that still captivates visitors today. The theatre was constructed by affluent barons of the rubber trade, sparing no expense in employing Europe’s finest architects and craftsmen, a fact that is still evident today in the grandeur of the building.
After being closed for 70 years, it now houses the Amazonas Philharmonic Orchestra, serving as a vibrant cultural hub in the city. The theatre’s main hall is an artistry wonder, boasting ornately painted ceilings and a capacity to accommodate over 700 people. Regular concerts and operatic shows now bring life and music to this historic building, leaving audiences in awe not only of the performance but the surrounding architecture as well. It stands as a testament to the past’s grandeur, breathing life into the Amazon’s heart through its music and intricate masonry.
South America has long been a beacon of architectural and cultural heritage, the continent’s landscape dotted with ancient structures that make for captivating tourist destinations. From grandiose Incan citadels to ornately decorated opera houses, each structure is unique in its own way, providing an opportunity to get lost in history and marvel at the skill of our ancestors. So whether you’re a lover of masonry, architecture, or history, be sure to add one of these amazing sites to your South American travel itinerary and get ready for an unforgettable journey through time.