The republics of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru share a common heritage of exceptional value: the Qhapaq Ñan or Andean Road System.
For the past three years, the World Heritage Center has collaborated with these countries on a pioneering project: the preparation of a single nomination for the inclusion of Qhapaq Ñan on the World Heritage List with an original and innovative regional cooperation project.
The Qhapaq Ñan or andean road system, which in Quechua means “Great Inca Trail”, extends through territories of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. It was inscribed in 2014 on the UNESCO World Heritage list, in the category of cultural itinerary; In total, 780 kilometers were declared World Heritage, 250 kilometers of roads corresponding to Peru.
The Qhapaq Ñan also known as the principal Andean Road System, was the backbone of the political and economic power of the Inca Empire. The network of roads over 23,000 km long connected various production, administrative and ceremonial centers built in more than 2000 years of pre-Inca Andean culture.
The main axis of the road, also known as the Camino Real on the road that runs along the Andean peaks and is the most visible between Quito and Mendoza. Added to this spinal column on the highest peaks of the mountain range, other routes that run from north to south along the Pacific coast. The Inca Empire organized its road network on a continental scale; its paths are an invaluable expression of the organization and planning spirit of the available manpower and it was a key instrument in the unification of the Empire, physically and organizationally.
This route is the demonstration of a universal value on a large scale. Expert meetings have been held to identify the cultural significance and unit value of the entire network in order to consider options for inclusion on the World Heritage List through various forms of technical cooperation.
This road network, more than 60 thousand kilometers long, linked the entire Tahuantinsuyo and connected several production, administrative and ceremonial centers. The Qhapaq Ñan, without a doubt, constitutes an invaluable expression of how our ancestors organized and planned the workforce, vital for the development and unification of the Inca empire.
The largest network is located in Cusco, but there are also routes that pass by Lake Titicaca in Puno or the section between Vilcashuamán and Pisco. Near Lima you can see part of this path, from the central highlands to the archaeological site of Pachacamac.
This network of roads was the vital support of the Inca Empire and symbol of its strength and extension, having the Cordillera de los Andes as its backbone. It played an essential role in the communities, since it not only connected one town with the other, but the roads were used as a means to transfer knowledge, ideas, goods, customs and products; linking and integrating various ecological floors characteristic of the Andean region.
The bridges were created to unite the towns and the river with the Andes. There were four types of bridges that were built, some with heavier materials than others. An important part of this great road, built mainly of stone and earth, were the tambos, places that fulfilled functions of lodging and storage. These sites were separated by a distance of 20 to 30 kilometers and had basic resources such as water, food, and shelter.
It should be noted that the construction of these roads began with pre-Inca civilizations such as the Moches, Chimus, Waris and Tiahuanacos. But it was the Incas who finished and perfected a much more elaborate and organized system that was not only used for the communication of the peoples, but served as a defense in the Tahuantisuyo.
Qhapaq Ñan shows many sections in which there are two parallel roads in a trunk route. It is known that the Inca, his court and his armies would go through one of them, while the other was destined for the people and their merchants.
Of the more than 60 thousand kilometers that make up the Qhapaq Ñan, more than a third of them cover our territory; There are approximately 23 thousand km of roads found in Peru.
Our country harbors important vestiges of this great road network that has Cusco as its main axis, where the initial point is located, Huacaypata, the Plaza Mayor of Cusco today; the roads pass through the central highlands and cover part of our coast until we reach the Huaca Cabeza de Vaca in Tumbes.
Compared to other countries, the distribution is as follows:
Argentina. These roads extend through the provinces of Salta, Jujuy, Catamarca, Tucumán, Mendoza, San Juan, La Rioja and Santiago del Estero. In this region, the Incas demonstrated a military and cultural dominance of political borders, in addition to a unique religious tradition in the world.
Bolivia. Here the Qhapaq Ñan crosses the Desaguadero – Viacha section, which surrounds Lake Titicaca and crosses important ritual sites that even today are part of oral memory and are areas of ritual activity for the Aymara people who live on the Collao plateau.
Chile. This network covers the regions of Arica and Parinacota, Tarapacá, Antofagasta and Atacama. In 2000, it was discovered that there were two variants of the Inca trail that fell from the Aconcagua valley to meet near the San Cristóbal hill in Santiago.
Colombia. This country, the Qhapaq Ñan covers eight municipalities in the department of Nariño, from Ipiales (on the Guáitara river) to Pasto, passing through the towns of Potosí, Gualmatán, El Contadero, Funes, Yacuanquer and Tangua.
Ecuador. The walking route goes from the Nudo de Azuay to the north, past Cuenca and Quito, until reaching Pasto, in Colombia.
The Qhapaq Ñan in Perú comprises much of the history and magnitude of the Andean heritage. It is to understand how well organized our ancestors were and how, from this road network, contemporary peoples can still continue to weave a future of hope.
The Qhapaq Ñan in Perú is made up of a complex road system (pre-Inca and Inca roads) that during the XV century the Incas unified and built as part of a great political, military, ideological and administrative project that became known as Tawantinsuyu.
The Incas of Cuzco achieved the construction of this infrastructure with a unitary character in less than a century, making it functionally coherent and establishing additional centers of commerce, exchange, production and worship, adapting the production sectors to the topography and climate on each floor, ecological that is along the Camino. El Camino also expressed its harmonious relationship with its people and its adaptation to the complex Andean landscape. Today, the cultural landscape of the Qhapaq Ñan forms an exceptional backdrop, where Andean cultures continue to convey a universal message: the human ability to turn one of the harshest geographic settings on the American continent into a livable environment.
Communications between the two ends of the empire were carried out by messengers called chasquis. Through a system of posts, they transmitted the orders from one to another relay with great speed; a news story originating in Quito (Ecuador) could reach Cuzco (2,000 kilometers away) in less than 10 days.
The Inca, who was in the sacred Machu Picchu or in the capital Cuzco, could eat fresh fish that was brought to him in less than 24 hours from the coast, 200 kilometers away. It should be noted that the Inca roads are located throughout Tahuantinsuyo and in almost all Andean countries and that with the passage of time, the advance of civilization and technology have gradually deteriorated.
The Incas made roads that made up the entire empire, far and wide. Four main paths were created:
It came out of Cuzco, unites the towns of Palpa (Ica), Nazca (in central Peru), Lima, Huarmey, Reino Chimú, Los Tallanes (Piura), Ayabaca, Tumbes (on the Peru-Ecuador border), Quito (Ecuador), and up to the Ancasmayo or Pasto river (Colombia).
It leaves Cuzco, it joins the towns of Vilcashuaman, Jauja, Tarma, Huánuco, Pincosmarca, Huaritambo, Maraycalle, Tambo Real de Huancabamba, Piscobamba, Siguas, Conchuco, Andamarca, Huamachuco, Cajamarca, Chachapoyas, Tumibamba, Loja, Quito (Ecuador), and up to the Anacasmayo or Pasto river (Colombia).
It leaves Cuzco, unites the towns of Pisco, Nazca, Palpa, Ica, Tambo Colorado, Catarpe; Arica and Copiapó (Chile), Pampas of Tucumán (Argentina) and the Maule River (Chile).
It leaves Cuzco, unites the towns of Juliaca, Chucuito, Chuquiago, La Paz (Bolivia), pampas of Tucumán (Argentina) and Santiago (Chile).
The climate in the zone of the Inca trail is generally mild throughout the year. The best time for trekking is during the dry season (between April and October). June is the coldest month and August offers a more temperate and stable climate. From November to March, rains are frequent and the road can become dangerous and slippery muddy.
During the walk, it is dry in the first two days and humid in the third and fourth. And at night the first two camps are usually cold, but the third camp is temperate.
In a joint initiative, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have been making efforts to ensure that this great Inca road system was considered a Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Finally, in 2014, Unesco proclaimed the Qhapaq Ñam as a World Heritage Site.
Different organizations, such as Unesco, IUCN and Conservation International have started to work on the way, promoting emergency actions for their protection in collaboration with the six countries where the Great Inca Route passes.
Throughout the year, thousands of travelers from all over the planet embark on the Inca Trail from Cuzco to access the jungle of the Peruvian highlands, and the mysteries that still hold the stones of Machu Picchu.
Along the way there are several ruins of different fortifications in relatively good condition, which visually dominate all the valleys.
The tour begins in the town of Cori-huayra-china (in Quechua: Quri Wayrachina, ‘gold vent’) ?, at kilometer 88 of the Cuzco-Quillabamba railway, and takes between three and four days walking to reach Machu Picchu. On the journey, which crosses an impressive altitude slope, with climates and ecosystems as varied as the high Andean plateau and the cloud forests, two steps must be overcome at high altitude (the largest of them, Huarmihuañusca, 4200 meters high, also known as “Dead Woman’s Pass”) and ends with the entrance to Machu Picchu through the Inti Puncu or ‘Puerta del Sol’.
On the route, the walker will encounter a network of carved granite settlements along the way (Huiñay Huayna, Puyupatamarca), immersed in natural settings.
As an ideal complement, the tourist will also find an exuberant nature, with unique landscapes, hundreds of species of orchids and multicolored birds.
The Peruvian state has strictly limited the number of people allowed on the Inca Trail during 2010 to expeditions of 200 people and 300 porters, in order to conserve the flora and fauna of the place. It is recommended to make travel reservations several months in advance.