Walk on a path full of history and meaning as you step in the Inca’s footsteps: the Qhapaq Ñan (Great Inca Trail)!
The Qhapaq Ñan is an impressive, historical network of trails spreading from Colombia over Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia to the southernmost parts of Argentina and Chile. It consists of different paths that the Incas connected to each other in the 15th century to create this massive trail system of 25.000 miles (40.230 km). At the time, the area covered by the Qhapaq Ñan was called Tahuantinsuyo; the empire of the Incas. In 2014, the Qhapaq Ñan has also been classified World Heritage. Is it definitely a place worth protecting for the sake of its cultural value and we want to be a part of this!
During this unique 5-day trek, you will be able to go back in time and walk a part of the Great Inca Trail in the Ancash region, close to Huaraz. This region is known for its impressive mountainous landscapes and white peaks. At the same time, you will get some more cultural insight into the rich country of Peru.
In this area’s local dialect, the Q’hapaq Ñan is known as “Inka Naani”. For five days you’ll traverse a remote, rugged and spectacular swath of Peru’s Northern Andes that very few tourists have ever visited. Actually, those few explorers that did hike the whole length (over 7.000 km) of the main Qhapaq Ñan, agree that this stretch is one of the most beautiful and best maintained. You will follow in the footsteps of the Incas – treading their great road, camping at ancient refuges and relying on llamas to carry your luggage – under the watchful guidance of an experienced local guide, chef, and porters.
Walking the Qhapaq Ñan is probably one of the most off-the-beaten-path experience you can get in Peru. Be among the first visitors who explore this still unknown part of the country! Did you know that co-founder Guido has walked this stretch numerous times? Read more about the time he worked with the communities as part of the first tourism initiatives here.
Are you a true hiking fan and impressed by this unique possibility to explore the Peruvian Andes? In that case, have a look at all of our Hiking Trips in Peru to get to know more pristine places of the country. If you like hiking with llamas on an ancient path at a lower price, we recommend our Llama Trek in the Cordillera Blanca: from Olleros to Chavin.
Today, your adventure begins. However, you will hike only little on your first day.
At 6 am, we will pick you up from your hotel in Huaraz and you will be taken to Chavín first. Here we will visit the impressive archaeological site of Chavín de Huántar: a temple complex that materialized the power and prosperity of the Chavín culture. Here, the Chavín also met the almighty Pachamama, representing all its levels:
Wander through the dark corridor system, make an imaginary sacrifice and learn about Andean cosmology in this nearly three-thousand-year-old complex. A must-see for lovers of archaeology and ancient cultures.
After visiting this highlight, we will continue to the small town of Castillo. Here, you will start to climb for three hours along the Inca Trail (Qhapaq Ñan) towards Soledad de Tambo. Tambos are constructions situated next to important trails that were used as a shelter by state officials traveling from one point to another.
The relics of Soledad de Tambo will be your camp for the evening, allowing you to explore the Inca ruins and speak with the archaeologists on site about their exciting new discoveries.
Camp altitude: 3.560 m (17.000 feet)
Hiking distance: 2.7 km (1.6 miles)
Today is the first day you will wake up surrounded by the mountains. Breathe in the fresh air in the morning and feel the spirit of the mountains to get motivated for your hike. When ready, you will continue the path of the Qhapaq Ñan.
You will follow a section of the path that reaches fifty feet in width, with amazing views of high Andean peaks. After that, you will climb up to the highest point of this trek; the Wagapunta pass, lying at 4.500 meters (15,000 feet). Having surpassed this pass, you arrive at camp at Quenhuajirca by the afternoon. Here, you get the chance visit a master weaver, to learn about his work and life on The Great Inca Trail, the home of his ancestors.
After this cultural experience in the midst of the Andes, you will most probably be glad to get some rest. Make sure you regain your strength for the next day!
Camp altitude: 4.400 m (14.450 feet)
Hiking distance: 16.9 km (10.5 miles)
The third day starts with a descent to the small town of Ayash. After that, you will start your climb to the high Andean puna at Huamanin. (“Puna” refers to those areas lying at more than 3.500 meters of altitude, where vegetation is scarce and the climate rough.)
The Great Inca Trail then goes along the Taparaco river basin until you reach Tambo Grande. Camp underneath the Southern skies illuminated by the Milky Way and surrounding stars. Such an experience allows you to understand how the Incas’ Cosmic vision defined their society and religion. Talk to your guides to find out more about this topic!
Camp altitude: 4.250 m (13.950 feet)
Hiking distance: 16.9 km (10.5 miles)
It’s an easy day, where nature, Inca engineering and mystical experiences come together. First, you’ll pass by the archaeological site of Taparaco; another important Tambo which up to a few decades ago still had running hot and cold water in the Baths of the Inca. This was an important site for the Inca leader to prepare for his arrival to Chinchaysuyo’s Capital: Huánuco Pampa.
Right after Taparaco you’ll get to a narrow part of the canyon where on the right, you’ll actually see the forms of a (petrified) llama and herder. This is the entrance to a cave system where, according to local legends, the Inca gold still lies under the protection of mystical spells. Ask your guide about the full story!
You will arrive to San Lorenzo de Isco by early afternoon, in time for lunch and afternoon tea.
Difference in altitude:
Hiking distance: 20.8 km (13 miles)
After arriving at Colpa (passing by one of the very few hairpins of the whole Inca Road network!), you will climb to Huánuco Pampa. This important Inca administrative center boasts thousands of constructions built around an impressive Ushnu and is an excellent example of imperial Inca architecture.
Here, you will also enjoy a cultural event, including the Rukus dance, a “despacho” (a traditional Andean ceremony that takes place at the Ushnu, a sacred stone platform used for rituals and ceremonies. In this ceremony, offerings are made to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and other spiritual entities.) and a Pachamanca lunch with Ally Puricheg, which is the community tourism project there. A Pachamanca is a traditional dish prepared in a stone oven.
After a two-hour tour of the site, you will go back to Huaraz in a private vehicle.
Camp altitude: 3.650 m (12.000 feet)
Hiking distance: 10.5 km (6.5 miles)
Llamas have been domesticated since many centuries. However, they are not pets. Especially in the first days, they will be wary of anyone coming close and might spit or even try to kick when they feel threatened by your presence. Your guide and the llama drivers will make sure to tell you when and how to approach the animals for a picture; but don’t expect a lot of hugging! Especially after the pandemic and political crisis, they need to readjust to having travelers around them again.
Yes, the distances are rather long, the altitude is high and some inclines are steep. There are no extreme climbs, technical passes or snowy passes involved. Most of the time, the path is in good condition but depending on the season there might be long muddy passages.
If you are well acclimatized and used to hiking for a few days in a row in high mountain areas, you should be fine.
Dates are exclusive and groups do not get mixed, so this excursion is always private.
No, all entrance fees are already included in the total price. However, you might want to bring some cash to give tips to the guides, for example.
On day two, you will get up to 4.500 meters of altitude (15. 000 feet), which is the highest you will get on this route. There are two high passes; on day 2 and day 3.
In any case, you should take your time to acclimatize before going on this hike. If you haven’t been to Cusco or another high-elevation destination before, make sure to acclimatize for at least two days in Huaraz, before going on this adventure.
Prepare for the typical Andean climate; when it’s sunny, it’s warm, when it’s cloudy, it’s cold. The rainy season is from December to April but occasional rains can occur anytime throughout the year. It can also get windy up there. From May to August night temperatures might go below freezing point.
Find more info about climates in Peru in our blog “Best Time to Travel to Peru“.
We recommend taking about $100 with you, mainly for tips and or purchasing textiles from the local family on day two (only if you want to, of course). Please bring the equivalent in Peruvian soles, in small notes.
…that Guido, one of the founding directors of Impactful Travel (formerly known as RESPONible Travel Peru), was involved in the first tourism development of this stretch of the Qhapaq Ñan? The “Inka Naani” project, named after the local expression for the Inca Road, was executed between 2004 and 2007 by NGO The Mountain Institute (TMI) and local non-profit Kuntur. As part of TMI’s team, Guido visited the communities numerous times and later continued working with them for years, selling and organizing Inka Naani expeditions. He even helped organize several scientific expeditions by the Smithsonian Institute in collaboration with the most recognized universities from around the world, to learn more about the Inca engineering.
“I find it incredible that after so many years, I can offer travelers the Inka Naani experience again! I have missed those places so dearly… For several years, the disastrous social consequences of mining in the area, inhibited us from organizing treks to the Inka Naani. But now, thanks to our partner Nick and his team, we can again offer this absolute gem to adventurous travelers who wish to experience authentic Peru and hike the country’s history! With TMI, we worked on recovering many ancient legends and now I’ll make sure that Nick and his excellent guides will be able to share them with you: on the spot where they happened. A mind-blowing experience, I tell you!”
Below we share some pictures of Guido’s years at the Inka Naani with you. Please click on the Gallery button to see many more!