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

  • More

    Alpaca-wool yarn, Chawaytiri, Peru, 2014. Photo by Doug McMains, NMAI.


Native Traditions Remain Vibrant

  • More

    Select highlighted words to hear them spoken in Quechua.

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


Quechua people throughout the Andes proudly cherish their Inka heritage. Throughout the year festivals and celebrations that blend Inka and Catholic traditions fill towns, villages, and valleys with sound, movement, and color.

Inti Raymi

Honoring Inti, the sun, this Inka festival survives in many parts of the Andes, especially in Cusco. It occurs at the winter solstice (June in the Southern Hemisphere) and involves rituals, processions, colorful costumes, dancing, and feasting.


Honoring the Pleiades, the constellation of stars that Andeans call Colca, this age-old festival unfolds on the slopes of Sinakara Mountain in the Peruvian Andes. Three days of music, dance, ritual, and pilgrimage mark the winter solstice and the Pleiades’ return to the night sky.

Ceremonies and Rituals

Throughout the Andes, the spiritual world continues to pervade daily life. Rituals are performed to ask for blessing, protection, and healing.

These modern objects, similar to those from Inka times, are still used in ceremonies and on long journeys.

Llama Herding and Caravans

Llama caravans still travel the Inka Road, but their numbers are fewer. Herdsmen lead caravans down from the highlands during the dry season, carrying wool, chuñu (freeze-dried potatoes), and charki (dried meat) to trade for fruits and vegetables in the valleys.

Ayni Survives

Villages of indigenous people are scattered throughout the Andes. In this rugged landscape, the age-old concept of ayni (reciprocity) is very much alive. Communities work together for the common good.

Ayni and the Qhapaq Ñan

The Qhapaq Ñan is still alive. Rural communities maintain portions of it, as they have since Inka times, in the spirit of ayni (reciprocity). A qollana (community leader) organizes teams to do the work for the benefit of the entire community.

Q’eswachaka Suspension Bridge

The Q’eswachaka suspension bridge has stretched across Peru’s Apurímac River for more than 500 years. Using traditional methods and plant materials, local people periodically rebuild the 28-meter (92-foot) span. It is the last surviving suspension bridge constructed with Inka techniques.

Reconstruction takes place in early June, involving villages on both sides of the river. At each end, a community leader acts as "bridge master." This specialized, highly respected job as qollana is usually passed from father to son.