UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has incorporated an extensive Inca road network — the Qapaq Ñan— into its World Heritage List. Selected for the social, political, architectural and engineering achievements of the network, the Qapaq Ñan is South America’s first serial property, crossing six countries across the continent
The Andean road system connected the length of the Inca Empire —Tahuantinusyo— in a network of 30,000 kilometers of roads and trails from Colombia through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and northern Chile and Argentina. The main highway is 6,000 km long.
Partly based on pre-Inca roads built over several centuries, the Incas consolidated the network in the 15th century, linking coastal desert sites to the snow-capped mountains and the high altiplano plains of the Andes as well as to the rainforest. Many of these trails are still used and parts of the roadways no longer used are still clearly visible in the desert or along Andean valleys and in the cloud forest.
In Peru, the World Heritage listing of the Qapaq Ñan or Inca Trail network —of which the most famous section leads to Machu Picchu— now includes 250 km of roads, 81 archaeological sites and 156 communities linked to the road system.
Peru’s minister of Culture, Diana Alvarez-Calderon, highlighted the work of archaeologists, anthropologists and government officials of all six countries working together over the past 10 years to achieve this recognition.
One of the benefits of being included in the Unesco listing is the possibility of international financing for conservation and restoration.
The World Heritage Committee is currently meeting in Doha, Qatar, to assess a broad range of heritage sites, both cultural and natural. Among other sites also selected on Saturday are the ancient Maya city of Calakmul and the Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey in Germany. In continuing meetings on Monday, a further nine natural and cultural sites were selected, including in India, Costa Rica, Russia, Vietnam and Denmark.