Inka Road Today

The Inka built roads everywhere to unite the villages of the world.
The road is a rope that binds communities and allows us to live as one family.

—Panfilo Sulca (Quechua), Sarhua, Ayacucho, Peru, 2010

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    Quechua women, Cusco, Peru, 2014. Photo by Doug McMains, NMAI.


The Inka Empire Changed the World

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    Select highlighted words to hear them spoken in Quechua.

    The Inka spoke the Quechua language, which is still spoken today in the Andes.


The Inka Empire has touched every one of us. What happened in Tawantinsuyu 500 years ago has shaped the world we live in. The Spanish invaders were looking for Inka gold, but Tawantinsuyu held other treasures that have been more important.

Potatoes, Corn, Quinoa

Andean foods changed the eating habits of the world. Corn, potatoes, and quinoa originated in the Andes but now grow everywhere. Potatoes thrived in cooler climates, such as northern Europe and the Himalayas, saving millions from starvation in bleak winters. The outside world has recently discovered quinoa, and the high demand is now depriving Andeans of a traditional food.


Andean people knew for thousands of years that the bark of the quina tree cured malaria. Catholic missionaries learned this in the 1600s, and quinine soon became a valuable export to Europe. It has saved countless lives.


Silver from the mines at Potosí, in present-day Bolivia, made Spain the richest nation on earth in the 1500s and 1600s. This wealth bankrolled Spanish expeditions of conquest around the world, a long series of wars in Europe, and a "golden age" of the arts in Spain. European history would be very different without Andean silver.

Engineered to Survive

Portions of the Qhapaq Ñan have withstood the test of time better than modern roads. The road offers important lessons about sustainability, use of local materials, and building in harmony with the environment.

Parts of the road have become the foundations of modern roads. Argentina's Route 40 and the Pan-American Highway, which extends through Peru and Chile, are built over the Inka Road.