Inca Road to Ingapirca
Key information: Inca Road to Ingapirca
- This trail follows a stretch of the Inca road system to Incapirca for 3 days. There are some preserved paved sections of Inca road, but much of the way you will be on a 'normal' track on the course of the old road.
- You will be in high, remote country for most of the way, with lovely vegetation, Inca remains and (often) superb views to enjoy as you progress.
- Walkopedia rating91
- Natural interest15
- Human interest14
- Negative points2
- Total rating91
- Note: Negs: Altitude
- Length: 40 km (ish)
- 3 days
- Maximum Altitude: 4,400m
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
This walk description page is at an early stage of development, and will be expanded over time. Your comments on this walk, your experiences and tips, and your photos are very welcome.
The Incas ruled what is now Ecuador for a mere 50 years or so, yet they achieved so much. They had conquered the country by 1500, having defeated the Canari inhabitants around Cuenca in the 1490s. They were themselves overwhelmed by the Spanish in 1533.
The Canaris had been a loose federation of tribes in the south for hundreds of years, and had bitterly resisted the Incas and later allied themselves with the Spanish invaders against the Incas. Their capital in what is now Cuenca became the site of the Incas' new northern capital.
The Incas quickly built a complex of sites and roads across their new territory, including a remarkable complex at Incapirca, which had for perhaps 500 years been a Canari site. Incapira is a fascinating testament to the Incas' dynamism and sophistication (despite being illiterate). It is the finest surviving Inca site in Ecuador. (See our Inca Trails [link] page for more information.)
This trail follows a stretch of the Inca road system (from Quito to Cuenca to Cuzco), approaching Incapirca in 3 days. There are some preserved paved sections of Inca road, but much of the way you will be on a 'normal' track on the course of the old road, even if not visibly so.
You will be in high, remote country for most of the way, with lovely vegetation, Inca remains and (often) superb views to enjoy as you progress.
Start at Achupallas (at 3,350m), some 25km above dramatically sited Alausi on the Panamerican Highway (get there by 4WD/truck, possibly by bus).
There are various ways you can break up the journey, but here is the most commonly used version:
Day 1: Achupallas to Laguna Las Tres Cruces: a long, steady climb up a valley, from 3,350m to 4,250m. Fine scenery throughout and you will pass an Inca site. High-level (following the original road) or valley-bottom options. 5-7 hours.
Day 2: Laguna Las Tres Cruces to Paredones: climb to the high Cuchilla de Tres Cruces ridge at 4,400m, then, after a fine but in places exposed ridge with stunning views, descend to Paradones, a substantial Inca administrative centre, at 3,980m. You will encounter some well-preserved original Inca road, and cross a bridge on Inca foundations. 5 hours or less, so time to enjoy the superb area.
Day 3: Paredones to Incapirca: traverse high paramo, then descend through fields and isolated houses to Incapirca, a slightly bathetic finale: a reasonable-sized site with shops and carpark nearby, sitting on a low hilltop near a town, rather than the thrilling dawn arrival at vast Machu Picchu in all its remote mountainous glory. (Peru's Inca Trail this is not.)
You will need to camp and bring your own food, so come properly prepared. Beware of campsite thievery. Hiring a guide and horses would both add a lot to your knowledge and safety, and, at this altitude, to your pleasure unless you are thoroughly acclimatized.
You can walk a day on this trail, from Laguna Culebrias (accessible by 4WD/truck from El Tambo) to San Jose, some 9.8 km, crossing a pass at 4,080m. Inspect Paredones, enjoy some stunning landscape, sniff the tang of the trails.
While a popular hike, this is tough walking in remote mountains with uncertain weather, where altitude can cause problems. Come fully prepared, including proper acclimatization.
ANYONE GOT ANY GOOD PHOTOS? WE WOULD BE DELIGHTED TO POST THEM!
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
Books and Maps
Books on this walk
Ecuador Climbing and Hiking Guide – Viva/ Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber. THE book. But evidently out of print and vilely expensive second hand on Amazon as of end 2015. Available as an e–book. There is a Bradt predecessor from 2004, which is, obviously, out of date in places but much cheaper!
Trekking in the Central Andes – Lonely Planet – 2003, good on this walk but only 4 Ecuador treks in detail.
Trekking in Ecuador – Robert Kunstaetter – [2001. Good on day walks.
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Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands – Lonely Planet/Regis St Lois.
LIVE Travel Guide to Quito, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.[check]
Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador Footprint Handbook by Robert Kunstaetter and Daisy Kunstaetter
Ecuador and Galapagos, Viva Travel Guides by Lorraine Caputo and Chris Klassen
The Rough Guide to Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands by Melissa Graham and Harry Ades
Ecuador – Insight Guides
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Moon Handbooks. We have to say we were underwhelmed in 2015.
Travels Among the Great Andes of the Equator – the great C19 mountaineer Edward Whymper’s classic account. [more]
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands - Travellers’ Wildlife Guides – gorgeous, good illustrations.
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Maps aren’t great, but there are topographical maps (3 OF THE 1:50,000 SERIES) available and worth getting: a GPS is worth having as a result.
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
Lying across the Equator, Ecuador does not have seasons as those from temperate climates would understand them. The weather is amazingly different between areas of the Ecuadorean Andes. Late June to early September, and December and early January. February to May are the wettest months. [Ask Juan]
Very changeable. Even if you are there in the “dry” season, come prepared for both hot sun and rain.
[It often gets cloudy in the afternoons, so usually best to start early.] [check + J]
Alausi and Cuenca are the nearest substantial places.
Most people fly in to Quito or Guayaquil. You can fly internally in Ecuador. Skyscanner is an excellent (relatively new) site for finding the flights you need; otherwise try Lastminute.com, or look at what’s available on TripAdvisor.
There are plentiful buses in Ecuador, and it is viable to get to most places this way, but they can be crowded.
Car hire is reasonably easy, but driving isn’t straightforward, not least because of the lack of roadsigns. Local taxi services generally exist in the towns, can (eg) take to or pick you up from a roadhead, or transport luggage.
Those on organised expeditions will be transported from/to arranged points.
You can arrange a guide and pack animal. See below.
See Walk Summary above.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
· Altitude: acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
· Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Come prepared.
· Heat: and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
· Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
· This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies and help may be hard to get if things go wrong.
· Health risks: you may not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Potential problems can include malaria. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications in good time.
· Beware of dogs: carry a stick, or throw stones if they threaten, keep well clear if possibly rabid.
· Be sensitive about photographing people: don’t without permission. Ask permission if in doubt about whether they would mind.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have appropriate insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do this walk independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared.
Many people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Travelling here with a knowledgeable guide has real advantages. Choosing a suitable guide or company is of course vital, and the guidebooks contain good advice in this regard.
If hiring a guide locally, meet him/her and get comfortable before committing. Make sure all requirements are understood and agreed – including how you will eat and the importance of avoiding illness, as well as overnighting and, of course, remuneration!
Walkopedia used Juan Muñoz, email@example.com on the Camino Cañari [Link] and we were delighted. He will also arrange Inca Road treks.
Expedition organisers include:
Check TripAdvisor for some reviews of this walk and walk organisers which may prove helpful.
PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of – local or otherwise.
Camping is the only option once on the trail.
The guidebooks have a selection of local accommodation. There are various relevant accommodation websites.
See what the commentary on TripAdvisor is on possible places to stay – although do take their reviews with a pinch of salt, as they can be “interested”.
A good range of hotels can be found on the unimaginatively named but effective Hotels.com.
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
· South American Explorers (www.saexplores.org) in Quito is a fabulous non profit group with a clubhouse in Quito with a wealth of information (including on current status of safety/volcanic issues).
· www.wikipedia.org. As usual, a good starting place.
· see if http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/ has any relevant pages. It has travel maps.
· Have a look at TripAdvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on this walk and area.
· Wikiexplora is a useful site if you can read Spanish. The automated translation means it’s not ideal for non-Spanish speakers, but it does have some good trail maps.
· Our Inca Trails [link] page for more information on the Incas.
Other things to do in the area
Ecuador has a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be, in the mountains at least.
Mountain biking, climbing, some white water rafting, birdwatching.
Culture, history (Inca, other pre-Spanish, colonial) and people watching.
We are not a shopping website. But, there are beautiful and interesting things to be found, and anything bought from local people must be of some help to this poor area. So, wallets out! (And don’t try to extract the very last cent when bargaining…)
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more