Peru Expedition: Trek the Great Inca Road

enquire now 12 Days From NZD $5,670 pp twinshare
Small group
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Uncover the remote and remarkable Inca routes of northern Peru

You’ve heard of the Inca Trail, but what about the Great Inca Road? Made up of ancient Inca trade routes cutting through the Andes, the Great Inca Road is every bit as significant and special as its more famous counterpart – it just doesn’t have the crowds. On this 12-day trekking expedition you’ll join a local leader and traditional llama caravan to hike storied paths that few travellers have ever seen, visiting archaeological sites along the way. To get acclimatised to the altitude, you’ll spend time in the adventure hub of Huaraz, hiking the spectacular surrounding landscapes. You’ll soon find out it’s not called the Great Inca Road for nothing.

Why you’ll love this trip

  • Hike on the ancient and little-visited trade routes of the Great Inca Road, taking in seriously spectacular views of the Andes and visiting well preserved yet remote Inca outposts.
  • Get acclimatised to the altitude in the adventure hub of Huaraz, a low-key city surrounded by mountains, lakes and glaciers waiting to be explored on your included hikes.
  • You’ll not only be accompanied by a local leader on your adventure – a traditional llama caravan will join you on the Great Inca Road, meaning you only need to carry a daypack.
  • Your hiking journey comes to an end at the incredible Inca site of Huanuco Pampa, where you’ll meet a local guide for a private tour of these significant ancient ruins.
  • Visit the intriguing Caral-Supe archaeological site, left behind by a civilisation pre-dating the Inca and built at the same time as the first Egyptian pyramids.


Day 1: Lima

Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm where you’ll meet your local leader and fellow travellers and find out important information about your trip, including what to expect on the storied Great Inca Road. As this trip doesn’t spend much time in Lima, you may like to arrive a few days early – just get in touch ahead of time and we’ll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you do arrive with time to spare, there’s plenty to see and do in Peru’s capital. There’s the famous suburb of Miraflores, Kennedy Park and Lovers’ Park, and the 16th-century monastery of San Francisco with its catacombs of some 10,000 remains. There are also plenty of museums including the Museum of the Inquisition, the National Museum and the Gold Museum.

Day 2: Lima to Huaraz

Get ready to reach new heights (literally) as you say goodbye to Lima and drive to the city of Huaraz, sitting at an altitude of 3000m. Your drive will be broken up with plenty of stops and the everchanging scenery is sure to keep you occupied. Surrounded by mountains, lakes and a national park, Huaraz is considered the adventure capital of Peru, despite remaining relatively undiscovered by tourists. On arrival, stretch your legs with a walk through the low-key town, taking in view of the Cordillera Blanca, home to 17 mountain peaks that exceed 6000 meters/20,000ft, more than 500 lagoons, and 722 individual glaciers. Just be sure to take it slow today – it can take a while to adjust to the altitude.

Day 3: LLanganuco lakes & Laguna 69 hike

After breakfast, board a transfer to the Llanganuco Lakes in Huascaran National Park for your hike to the unbelievably blue Laguna 69 (Lake 69), sitting at 4600m/15,000ft above sea level. Your first hike will be fairly short, steep and slow – you’ll be taking it easy so you can adjust to the altitude. Start your hike on a flat path through an open meadow, taking in amazing views of the snow-capped peak behind you. Then the climb begins, zig zagging up a well-trodden path towards the lake. This is the most challenging part of the hike and your leader will set a safe pace. When you arrive to Laguna 69, you’ll see that the climb was so worth it – it’s one of the brightest, clearest and bluest lakes you’ll ever see. Take some time to soak it all in, then make your descent, returning back to Huaraz for the evening.

Day 4: Laguna Churup hike

Another day, another awe-inspiring hike. Today’s destination is Laguna Churup, a seriously spectacular turquoise lake at 4450m above sea level, surrounded by snow-dusted mountains. While not as well visited as Laguna 69, it’s every bit as beautiful. Still taking it easy to adjust to the altitude, begin your hike with a steep set of steps. Then it’s onto a path, from where you can take in views of the surrounding mountains, valley and waterfalls. The path can be steep and slippery at times, so sturdy footwear is an absolute must. The lake itself is often surrounded by mist, creating an eerily beautiful site on arrival. If the whole group is up for it, you can continue for another hour or so to a smaller and higher lake called Laguna Churupita. Make your descent then return to Huaraz for a chance to put your feet up.

Day 5: Pastoruri glacier hike

Travel south of Huaraz today to begin another super scenic hike. First, drive through Andean villages, seeing local shepherds and farmers working in the fields using traditional methods before entering the Huascaran National Park. While it doesn’t cover a huge distance, today’s hike is all about altitude, as you’ll be trekking towards the Pastoruri Glacier, sitting at an elevation of 5000 metres. But don’t worry, you won’t be climbing the whole way! Driving the winding road through the park takes you pretty high, then it’s a roughly 1 hour walk to the face of the glacier. Pastoruri is one of the few glaciers left in South America’s tropical areas and is expected to have retreated entirely in the next ten years. Follow a well-maintained path up to the glacier, stopping at a viewpoint to shoot some pictures of this disappearing beauty. You can visit a bright blue glacial lake nearby before heading back down and returning to Huaraz for an evening at leisure.

Day 6: Great Inca Road: Castillo to Soledad de Tambo

Now that you’ve had a chance to acclimatise to the altitude of the Andes, it’s time to say goodbye to Huaraz and drive to the little town of Castillo, where your Great Inca Road trek will begin. Far from the crowds of the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which hosts 25,000 hikers a year, the Great Inca Road is light on tourist traffic – in fact, you may not see any other travellers on your journey. But that doesn’t make this route less important. These trails are a remarkable example of the Inca’s preindustrial engineering and are strewn with the remains of ancient cities and outposts. As you hike, you’ll be accompanied by porters, as well as a team of llamas, just as the Inca were. Llamas are still extensively used in this part of Peru as they leave a light impact on the historic trails. Today you will hike up a section of the trail towards Soledad de Tambo, the site of ancient Inca ruins and your base for the night. You’ll arrive in time for lunch, so take the time to refuel and get to know your stunning surroundings. Check out the Inca ruins and chat to the local archaeologists to learn about its history. This evening, sit back and take in the starry sky of the Andes.

Day 7: Great Inca Road: Soledad de Tambo to Quenhuajirca

Lace up your boots and depart your camp in Soledad de Tambo, this time hitting a section of the Qhapaq Nan, an ancient Inca network of roads covering 30,000km from the Andes to the coast. The trails have been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO thanks to their social, political, architectural and engineering achievements. Spend the morning climbing Inca-made stone steps to the 4572m/15,000 foot pass at Wagapunta, where you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Andes. Here you will find apachetas; spiritual stone towers made by the Inca to communicate with a higher power. Arrive to your camp at Quenuajirca this afternoon. Here you will meet a master weaver to learn about his work and his life on the Great Inca Road, where his family have lived for generations.

Day 8: Great Inca Road: Quenhuajirca to Tambo Grande

After breakfast at camp, descend into the village of Ayash, coming across a wide stone staircase that proves just how advanced the Inca’s engineering was. After entering a pleasant valley, climb up another section of the Qhapaq Nan to the village of Huamanin. You’ll then follow the trail along the Taparaco river basin to Tambo Grande, your base for tonight. Tambos were stone structures built by the Inca for administrative or military purpose, so you’ll be sleeping in a piece of history tonight. After the sun goes down, be sure to look to the stars – you’ll soon understand why they played such a huge role in the society and religion of the Incas.

Day 9: Great Inca Road: Tambo Grande to Isco

Your journey along the Great Inca Road continues today as you follow the path beside the Taparaco river. This is one of the most impressive stretches of the trail thanks to the Inca’s brilliant engineering – you’ll see walls here that are in amazing condition despite their great age. By walking these roads, you’ll receive unparalleled insight into the life of the Incas in a way that few people ever experience. Arrive to your camp in San Lorenzo de Isco this afternoon.

Day 10: Great Inca Road: Huanco Pampa

Continue your hike towards Colpa, the point where the Taparaco and Vizcarra rivers meet. From here, you’ll climb to Huanuco Pampa, an incredibly significant archaeological site. Join a local guide for an in-depth tour. These vast ruins contain the remains of more than 1000 buildings and storehouses, making it easy to imagine what life here once looked like. At the centre of the site you’ll find an ushnu, a pyramid-shaped structure that was used by the Inca as a platform for their most important ceremonies. The ushnu at Huanuco Pampa is the largest remaining in Peru. Spend two hours exploring the site, then travel back to Huaraz where you’ll have the chance to relax and refresh after your big adventure.

Day 11: Huaraz to Lima

Buckle up for the journey back to Lima. It’s another long driving day, but it’s the perfect chance to kick back, watch the scenery and reflect on all you’ve seen and done over the course of your adventure. There’s still time for one more fascinating stop along the way – the Caral-Supe archaeological site. Before the rule of the Incas, the Caral civilisation flourished on Peru’s coast from 3000-1800 BCE – in fact, they’re the oldest civilisation in the Americas. The Caral left behind the enormous complex you’ll explore today, which was built at the same time as the first pyramids in Egypt. Discover circular plazas, a 28m-90ft high temple and residential dwellings, all incredibly well preserved. Tonight in Lima, perhaps gather your group for a final dinner together – your leader will have recommendations on places you can make the most of Lima’s vibrant food scene.

Day 12: Lima

With no activities planned for today, your adventure comes to an end after breakfast. If you’d like to spend some more time in Lima, just get in touch ahead of time and we’d be happy to arrange additional accommodation (subject to availability).




Images Courtesy of Intrepid Group