How to travel on the Qhapaq Ñan, the Royal Road of the Incas

How to travel on the Qhapaq Ñan, the Royal Road of the Incas

The Qhapaq Ñan, the Royal Road of the Incas, is a network of roads that linked the most vital points of the immense empire of the Incas. The Qhapaq Ñan is the most extensive road network left behind by our ancestors, for us as an inheritance. Over almost 100 years, the Incas managed to build roads that stretch across Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, and Argentina.

The network of trails was named Qhapaq Ñan which translates to “way of the king” or “way way of the powerful” in the Quechua language. Some parts of these roads remain in good condition, and stay preserved by the countries they pass through in South America. The Qhapaq Ñan has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site on June 21, 2014 because of its cultural importance.

Each path of the Qhapaq Ñan tells a story, holds a mystery, and a deep significance. Today, we can still appreciate its magnificence by touring one of the largest works of arts in America. Keep reading if you would like to learn more.

The History Behind The Great Inca Trail

The History Behind The Great Inca Trail - Qhapaq Ñan

The Qhapaq Ñan is the best proof of the development in civil engineering reached by the Incas. Also, consider that this network of roads was built on one of the most rocky, rugged and dangerous territories in the world. It was the most important road network in the Inca empire as it aimed to unite the people of Tawantinsuyu.

The road network stretched over a distance of approximately 60 000 kilometers, and was used to practice social and demographic control, also to facilitate the transport of services, goods, ideas, and people across the territory governed by the Incas. The purpose was to showcase a well-articulated and politically organized empire.

Cusco was the capital of the empire, in the main plaza – or Hawaypata in Quechua. It was the center of Inca government and the main place where decisions were made. It was also the point where all the roads were attached. The Qhapaq Ñan had four main directions that marked the territorial dimension of the Inca Empire namely Chinchaysuyu (North), Qollasuyu (South), Antisuyu (East) and Contisuyu (West).

Best Time to hike the Inca Trail

Best time to hike Inca Trail

The wettest time in the Andes is towards the end of February. During this period the Inca Trail is closed for essential maintenance. Machu Picchu still remains open during this time, and the trail reopens in March, though there may still be some rain in the highlands until early April.

The ideal months to trek the Inca Trail are from May to October as permits may sell out slightly less fast as in the high season. This period is also dry, and warmer than June, July and August.  June to August is considered the peak season, and promises dry, clear weather conditions – but it may be overcrowded during this time.

The wet season starts between November and December but it is still possible to trek the Inca Trail. Take note that this season attracts crowds over the holidays which means that prices may rise and it is recommended to book for the Inca Trail in advance.

The citadel of Machu Picchu, in and of itself, is amazing. Additionally, you will have the option of going on one of two great hikes up either of these two mountain peaks, Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Montaña.

Preparing for the Inca Trail Hike

Preparing for the inca trail

1. Know your Fitness Level

It is important to consider that you will be trekking on average about 12 kilometers per day, which includes recurring steep Inca stone steps, and high levels of altitude. You are the only one who knows your personal fitness level, so if you are already fairly fit, preparing for the Inca Trail will require you to slightly up your current training game.  It may be a good idea to do a few ten-kilometer hikes, with rocky terrains, in your hometown before you travel to Peru.

2. Get your head right!

Physical health and fitness is of utmost importance when taking on the famous Inca Trail, but even more important is the mental preparation which goes hand-on-hand. You would need to mentally prepare yourself, and cultivate the necessary endurance and stamina. This is what will help you push through these four days, which is very much mind over matter. There are some challenging parts in the trail, which will leave you gasping for your breath. The reward is priceless though!

3. Acclimatize to the altitude

Even though you may be one of the fittest people you know, do not underestimate the altitude of the Andes. You may feel short of breath sooner, experience constant headaches or even fall sick – if you do not acclimatize to the altitude properly. If you are not used to higher altitudes, you may want to bring some altitude sickness tablets which can help to prevent these issues kicking in. It is also wise to spend a few nights in a location with lower altitude when you arrive in Peru, to get accustomed to the altitude gradually.

4. Gear up!

To make the most out of your experience, it is important to pack the necessary gear which will provide you more comfort and ease during the trek. Remember to pack a thick, waterproof jacket, good walking shoes and thermals. The weather conditions can change suddenly from very hot to freezing temperatures at night.  Your number one priority though should be your shoes – as you will be walking most of the time. Invest in a good pair of waterproof, breathable high-top walking shoes – this will change your whole experience!

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with Kuoda

The inca trail

Exploring the mysterious history of the Incas by taking on the Qhapaq Ñan, or the Inca Trail as we mostly know it, should be on your bucket list of things to do in South America! The beauty and the rush of this magical land can be best experienced this way – by walking the same fields and hills as the ancient civilizations.

We at Kuoda understand that arranging an adventurous trip like this one in Peru, can be quite overwhelming. Especially if you have a busy schedule, and you do not have the time to research and explore the different traveling options and transportations.

Kuoda specializes in luxury travel in Peru, and we can arrange a perfectly planned itinerary for your trip. We can assure you a smooth journey, as it is our goal to provide you with everything that you require to promise a memorable journey for you and your family. Get in contact with us today and talk to one of our trip designers to talk more about your personal needs.