The Inca Empire was a superpower that was centered on the western coast of South America. This prevailing civilization flourished between the 15th and 16th centuries, and at its height of power it extended from Quito, Ecuador, in the north, to Santiago, Chile in the south. The Inca Empire was the largest empire in the Americas, and one factor contributing to this was its complex road system, which is known as the royal highway, or qhapaq ñan.
The Vast Road Network
The roads of the Inca Empire have been estimated to cover a distance of over 40,000 km (24,854 miles), and can be found in modern countries that used to be part of this civilization, i.e. Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.
Machu Picchu and mountains and Inca roads seen from Wayna Picchu ruins. (Armando Frazão /Adobe Stock)
There were two main highways that traversed the empire from the north to the south. One of these followed the coastline, while the other was located further inland, and passed through the highlands of the Andes. In addition to these, there were also secondary roads, as well as some smaller trails.