UJ Explorer

Qhapaq Ñan: the living Inca treasure

Published 10 May 2017

Written by: Ximena Arrieta

When we think of ancient trails in Peru, the first one that comes to people’s mind is the Inca Trail, as if it was the only road that leads to Machu Picchu. However, there is much more to it.

That section of 40 kilometres is actually part of the Qhapaq Ñan, a network of roads of almost 50,000 kilometres that united the Tahuantinsuyo. This path, considered one of the most important engineering monument in the world, passes throw the actual countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. It’s because of its historical relevance and cultural inheritance that it was declared World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2014.

There’s something unique about the Qhapaq Ñan ‘Royal Road’ in Quechua: it’s a living legacy. Unlike the archaeological sites that can be visited with certain restrictions, many parts of this network continue to be used by the communities living in the Andes. Centuries of history and ancestral traditions are to be discovered walking these paths.

We have 25,379 kilometres of roads and 3,901 archaeological remains in Peru, but not all of them have been deeply studied. In our eagerness to know more about the country and promote research, LimaTours decided to be part of an ambitious project: The Great Inca Trail Expedition.

For five months, a group of explorers are walking 3,200 kilometres from Ingapirca in Ecuador to Cusco, Peru. The main objective is to promote the historic heritage of the Qhapaq Ñan and show Peruvians and the world its importance, as well as developing new routes that will allow adventure travellers to walk the steps of the Incas in these millenary roads.

During their adventure, the team shared their experiences and findings on social media. After over 100 days of journey, they are about to reach their goal and arrive in Cusco. With this, a first stage is over and programs will soon be available that will incentivize tourism through the Qhapaq Ñan in a sustainable and responsible way.