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The Khipu Blog

A collection of news, insights and travel stories from Peru, Bolivia and the Galapagos Islands, as well as from other destinations in South America and around the world. Sharing the sheer variety and abundance of our region and recounting our personal travel experiences.

JAN 2011 28

Peru Travel Insights: The Inca Empire and the Wheel

by Simon

Aracari’s Weekly Insight

Although the Incas were very advanced and did in fact know about the concept of the wheel, they never developed it in practice, This was, quite simply put, because their empire spanned the world’s second highest mountain range.

In it’s heyday – right at the time of the Spanish Conquest in the 1530’s – the Inca Empire stretched all the way from northern Argentina to Southern Colombia, an area defined chiefly by high peaks, narrow valleys and barren rocky terrain. Carrying goods was thus far more convenient by porters and on pack animals, such as llamas, who were well attuned to traversing tricky mountain slopes with heavy loads…. far easier than dragging a wagon up a mountain I’m sure you’ll agree!

Llamas, Trekking in the Andes, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

In order to make travel by foot easier, the Incas developed an extensive and complex system of roads for transportation and communications, which they called Khapaq Ñan. This covered the vast majority of their  Empire, the total length of road incorporated is thought to have been around 25,000 miles, the same as the Earth’s diameter. The most famous stretch of road is, of course, The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Porters, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Trekking in the Andes

We here at Aracari encourage you to try out the time-honoured tradition of navigating the Andes by foot. Have a look at our Trekking in the Andes page for some more ideas.

This fantastic map of the Inca road system comes from Wikipedia:

Inca roads, Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Trekking in the Andes


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