Qhapaq Nan




Built over many centuries, Qhapaq Nan was a system of roads covering in excess of 30,000 kilometers linking the Pacific Coast to the Amazon Basin.  Forming the backbone of the Inca Empire’s political and cultural power, the roads wound their way through mountains, tropical rainforests, valleys and deserts, running through what are now Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador and Peru.  While parts of it are still preserved, a large part is covered in vegetation. Much of route was located at an altitude of between 3500 and 5000 meters, connecting populated areas, administrative centers, agricultural and mining zones and ceremonial centers.  The Qhapaq Nan system united the multi-cultural Inca empire into a well-organized political system of power with the roads used for communication, trade and defense.


The trails varied in size, being eight meters across on the coast, while only one meter wide in the ferociously steep Andes mountains.  In order to facilitate the difficult travel on the mountains, the Incas travelled the route with their llamas, which were able to carry heavy loads and provide them with food, fuel and wool. 


In its designation of the site, UNESCO called it an engineering wonder that must be restored and preserved, naming 291 archeological sites throughout the system. “The cultural landscapes of Qhapaq Nan form an exceptional backdrop on which living Andean cultures continue to convey a universal message:  the human ability to turn one of the harshest geographical contexts of the American continent into an environment for life.


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